WP Perspectives Issue 15: The Price of Software Used on WebTNG and Two New Dynamic Data Options
In this issue I look at the pricing of the premium theme and plugins used on the WebTNG website. In terms of dynamic WordPress, I discuss two new entrants into the dynamic data arena. I also share recent WebTNG walk-throughs and some good resources for WordPress site builders.
On the Topic of WordPress Pricing and Some Real World WebTNG Data
The Premium Plugins I’m Using
What can we learn from looking at the premium software used on the WebTNG website today? First, the WebTNG website is in a transition stage as I’ve just started the update process. I plan to cut down on the number of plugins installed, but as a snapshot, here is the list of premium plugins installed right now:
- 301 Redirect Pro
- Advanced Database Cleaner Pro
- All in One WP Migration – Pcloud
- BBQ Pro
- Fluent Forms Pro
- Kadence Blocks Pro & Kadence Themes Pro
- BlogVault & MalCare
- Ninja Tables Pro
- SeoPress Pro
- Thrive Comments
The Annual Price Today
WebTNG is not a membership site, nor does it have a WooCommerce store. Lets call WebTNG a “professional blog” and lets agree that for the most part the theme and plugins I’m using are either the best in class or at least the top tier. I was curious what a one site annual subscription for these would total up to, so I did my best to find the annual price. Note that 301 Redirect Pro, Advanced Database Cleaner Pro, and WPCodebox are currently only available as lifetime, so their lowest price is shown. Here is what I came up with:
Wow, $974, or almost a thousand dollars a year. That’s very surprising.
Lets pretend I am a freelancer and need licensing for 100 sites. This is what I came up with when checking the annual pricing for 100 sites:
Well, $4,645 a year is a lot, but if I had 100 clients on maintenance, that is only $46.45 per site, which seems pretty reasonable. Of course in reality it is a false assumption to jump to the full number of sites. I could have any number of active sites, say 70 and the price per site would be higher, so it would be wishful thinking to go with the maximum number, but you get the idea.
But They Were All Purchased As Lifetime Packages!
The funny thing is, when I look at this list of all of the premium software installed, I actually purchased every item as a lifetime package. The package sizes ranged from 5 sites to unlimited sites. Reconstructing what I paid, the total comes to $1,628 (which includes $99 a year for BlogVault). The lifetime total compared to today’s annual cost is also surprising.
The first lifetime package was Toolset, purchased in 2014, and the most recent is WPCodeBox which was purchased last year. When I divide the number of years I’ve used the software by the lifetime price, I get the 2022 calculated total:
That comes out to a calculated total of $681.29 for 2022, which is a lot, but I’m using all of these items on more than one site and, of course, the calculated amount goes down each year. For example, the 2023 calculated total will be $502.
Not all of the items I purchased on lifetime “back when” are available on lifetime now, only about half of them. While there are still a few great values, like BBQ Pro, today the prices for a single site are similar to the prices I previously paid for multiple or unlimited sites. These products are still available on lifetime:
- 301 Redirect Pro
- Advanced Database Cleaner Pro
- BBQ Pro
- Fluent Forms Pro
- Kadence Blocks Pro & Kadence Themes Pro
- Ninja Tables Pro
If I Was Starting Out Today What Would I Use?
Contrary to what you might imagine, I don’t make much money as a blogger, and there is no way I could justify spending ~$1,000 a year for plugins and a theme. Of course I, like everyone else, would prefer to go with the top tier, but realistically that is not always possible. The builder used is probably not that important for a simple site, but for a site using dynamic data or with any sophistication the builder will be the central pillar. This is true whether using a traditional page builder or a Gutenberg-based solution.
It has been a few years since I last redid the WebTNG site. At that time I chose the Kadence suite and Toolset. Kadence was new, but Toolset was a tried and true solution. This was before the Kadence Theme Pro got its theme builder (“Elements”) functionality. Kadence alone is not sufficient because I need dynamic date range conditionals, and Kadence blocks don’t support that yet. Since the last rebuild, I’ve found Kadence to be a very happy choice, but Toolset less so.
If I was just starting out today I would use Bricks or Cwicly as the main premium builder. I think I could recreate all of the core functionality of the WebTNG website using one of those builders. Yes, builders today are much more capable than what was available even just a few years ago. Bricks is the most powerful page builder and Cwicly the most powerful Gutenberg addon. Neither of those options were available a few years ago. Another reason to go with one of those builders is that I could cut down on the number of plugins used. I use these items to work in various ways with dynamic data: Toolset Types and Toolset Blocks, Ninja Tables and Ninja Tables Pro, Kadence Theme and Kadence Theme Pro, as well as Kadence Blocks free and Kadence Blocks Pro. Those could perhaps be replaced with Bricks, CPT-UI, and ACF or the Cwickly Theme, Cwicly plugin, CPT-UI and ACF Pro.
If just starting out, I would use more free plugins, in place of some of the premium ones. I’ve always thought that when using free options, instead of premium plugins and themes, you are spending time to customize and extend in place of money. You are trading effort for cash, which is what you have to do when starting out. In addition to taking longer when using free options, I’d also be losing some functionality and stepping down from “top tier” to “good options.”
Having access to reasonably priced lifetime packages “back then” made it possible for me to use higher quality solutions with better features today. It is frequently the case that new WordPress plugins and themes launch with a lifetime package. Whether or not a lifetime package is offered long term, there are a lot of advantages for the developer in offering one initially: getting feedback on the early versions, building up a user base which helps to establish the legitimacy of the solution, happy users who will leave good reviews and recommend the solution to their friends, a community of users who can inspire and support each other, and so on. On the other end, I think the WebTNG data I’ve shared shows the advantage of reasonably priced lifetime packages for the customer.
I purchased the Toolset lifetime unlimited sites package 8 years ago for $265. Today the annual license for unlimited sites is $299. Yes, prices have gone up. While that makes it harder to users just starting out to use the “top tier,” as we will see in the next topic, higher prices opens up opportunities for new products in the same niche.
What are your thoughts? Is your experience similar to mine? Do you think spending $974 in annual subscriptions for a blogging site is reasonable? Would you take a different approach to starting out?
Dynamic WordPress: Two New Dynamic Data Options
Recently there have been two new entrants into the dynamic data space, ACPT and CubeWP. With ACF, Meta Box, Pods, Toolset, and JetEngine, people may wonder if there is room for another player. It seems some entrepreneur developers think there is an opportunity here. Similarly, both ACPT and CubeWP want to provide a “full solution”, that is the ability to create Custom Post Types, custom fields, and taxonomies, in addition to other features. However, after that they part ways and take different approaches.
The ACPT Approach
ACPT is built on its own brand of custom fields, comes with the ability to create Custom Post Types, taxonomies, and assign custom field groups to post types. It also has the ability to create templates. ACPT is still available on AppSumo for an attractive low price. The developer Mauro Cassani is the creator and sole developer of ACPT. He is very dedicated and working hard on the project. There is a lite version in the WordPress plugin directory and the monetization plan is to sell the premium version that has more features. Currently the developer is working to get support for ACPT custom fields by the main page builders.
One thing that has happened over time is that the pricing for ACF, Meta Box and the others has risen so much, especially when you look at the pricing for higher packages, that there is plenty of room for new options. For example, here is the ACF pricing, where $249 a year is significant for solopreneurs and freelancers.
And here is the Meta Box pricing, where $699 for lifetime is a high price, which incidentally they do not include when there are sales.
So you can see that there is plenty of room for ACPT to reasonably price itself below ACF and Meta Box. If the developer can continue to add features and integrations and build up a user base, then there is a good opportunity for success. ACPT is on AppSumo now, but their regular pricing is:
The CubeWP Approach
CubeWP is the other new entrant, but it has a different approach. The free version of CubeWP provides the ability to create Custom Post Types, taxonomies, and custom fields. It also has a good integration with Elementor free and pro. Their monetizing strategy is to provide the basic tools for free and then sell premium extensions. They already have three premium extensions: one for creating frontend forms, one for taking payments, and one for onsite messaging. CubeWP has a team behind it and ambitious plans. It is clever of the CubeWP team to offer a free full solution as that will be very attractive to users. If they can sustain development and support, and if they can build up a compelling set of extensions, then they may have a good chance to succeed.
There is an interaction between low prices, attracting lots of loyal users, who ask for integrations with other products, which then allows the developer to eventually increase their prices or sell more extensions. ACF was $100 for lifetime unlimited for many years and that, together with a good free version, was a major factor in its growth and popularity. Meta Box picked up steam by offering large sales on their lifetime packages, coupled with adding more ease of use UI features, leading to users asking page builders and Gutenberg block collections to support Meta Box. Today ACF no longer has a lifetime option and Meta Box has a high price on their lifetime packages.
Of course, there are some advantages to rolling your own version of custom fields. You have design freedom. You don’t need to account for other third parties. You aren’t dependent on a larger, more popular core that you have no control over. However, being able to create Custom Post Types, taxonomies, and custom fields, is just half of the equation. People also need to be able to display the values on the frontend.
Simple types of fields, like text or numbers, may work with any builder, but the implementation of images, dates, checkboxes, radio buttons, selects, relationships, and repeaters, among others, can be different enough that they require intentional implementation. It is a large and ongoing task to get the developers of the various page builders and Gutenberg block collections to add support. If you do not have support from other tools then you need to supply your own builder. However, builders today have many advanced features and it will be a lot of effort to create a new builder that is on the level most people are used to and expect. I’m not sure the developers of ACPT or CubeWP fully understood that initially.
In any event, the success and rising prices of the established solutions have, as one might expect, opened up space for competition and new entrants. I think it will be a challenge for the ACPT and CubeWP teams, but just a couple of years ago we thought there was no room for any more page builders, and today there a several new ones showing the old established ones how it is done.
- ACPT Wants to Be Your Complete Dynamic Data Solution – A walk-through and review of ACPT when it was first released.
- First Look at SureMembers: The Modern Way to Protect Site Content – SureMembers is a simple, straightforward membership plugin. The video shows how it works.
- Greenshift Unique WordPress Full Site Page Builder – Greenshift is the new big player in the blocks arena. It works in the Site Editor and also in the content editor. It has advanced query / dynamic data and animation functionality.
- Is the Astra Growth Bundle a Good Deal? – People sometimes ask which package to get and if the growth bundle is worth the price. Here is my take on it.
- Blogging Blocks and the Entrepreneurial Opportunities of Kadence Cloud – This is a cool project built on top of Kadence theme and blocks.
- First Look at the CubeWP Framework – This is a look at the core framework which provides a lot of features for working with dynamic data for free.
- CubeWP Frontend Pro Extension – This is a walk-through of the frontend form builder built on top of the core CubeWP framework.
- First Look at FluentAuth: A New WordPress Security Plugin – A new security plugin from the ManageNinja team.
From Around the Web
- Spice up your WordPress content with Block Styles – Block styles are a little used Gutenberg feature and this article shows how to use them.
- Post-Black Friday with Katie Keith, Lesley Sim and Mark Westguard – I found this an interesting discussion that covered a lot of ground from how people see discounts, how to do sales, and some of the issues that come up when doing a sale.
- Create Custom Dynamic WordPress Blocks the Easy Way – Rob Ruiz has started a great tutorial series on building Gutenberg blocks. It is a good combination of how to keep it simple while building native Gutenberg blocks.
- Meta Box Tutorials – The Meta Box team added a very nice tutorial section to their website.
- WordPress Plugin Development Best Practices: Template Files – An excellent article by Iaian Poulson looking at how the theme hierarchy works and how plugins can provide templates.
Here is what’s hot!
- I’m a big fan of the BBQ Pro plugin. You can get 30% off using coupon code DYNAMICWP.
- Cwicly is still on AppSumo. It is the most powerful Gutenberg addon.
- ACPT is also on AppSumo until about the end of the year. This is a new option for working with dynamic data.
What’s Up Next
Whether in the newsletter or as a regular article, I want to take another look at Freemius. Also, Kadence has a new version of their blocks plugin coming out soon.
Thank you for reading. I’d like to hear what you have to say about the newsletter content and what you are excited about. Feel free to comment or send me an email through the contact form.
I totally agree, David. Folks will tell you that WordPress is free, and it is, but the ancillary costs. including hosting, put it in the same category as a SaaS CMS like SquareSpace, Wix, Shopify, etc. You pay nearly $1K/year, and you still have to count in your maintenance time. Because viruses and vulnerabilities.
Anymore, I try to steer the smaller web owner to a Wix, SS, etc, because it is a better value for their limited budgets.
The simplicity of Wix is appealing. My daughter prefers it and just doesn’t need the advanced flexibility of WordPress. If we get a good lifetime product that we will use then we are fortunate.