167 – How I use Agile and WordPress to launch a minimal viable product with Marius Vetrici

Interview – How I use Agile and WordPress to launch a minimal viable product with Marius Vetrici

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Today we stray into waters that we don’t often swim in. We’re talking about Agile development and launching a Minimal Viable Product, and the person I’m talking to is Marius Vetrici.

Marius is a WordPress developer and runs an agency of twelve people… so he’s got to have all his processes in place to ensure that his business is profitable and that his clients are happy.

This discussion centres around a long post that Marius wrote entitles “Agile WordPress Development: How To Maximize The ROI Of Your MVP Website“. In that post we learn that Marius had to learn to have processes in place because of a $200,000 project that just got out of hand. The product that he launched did not have the research done properly before the work started, and as such there was no real understanding of exactly what it was that they were trying to build. Turns out that this knowledge is crucial as subsequent decisions about how to adapt and develop the product need to take into account what the end goal is. No end goal? No real idea of what adaptations are worthwhile and which are pointless for the longer term health of the product.

We start the conversation looking at a Venn diagram, and it’s worth looking at before you move on. It shows you the classic way we ought to be thinking about building anything online, whether that’s a WordPress website or a more complex SaaS app. You’ll three areas that you need to consider:

  1. What you think the market needs
  2. What your market actually needs
  3. What you can afford

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It’s all too easy to miss this step and get caught up in an idea that you had in a moment of inspiration. You just know a problem that you have is being replicated millions of times over and your solution is bound to be a good fit; such a good in fact that people will part with their money to use your solution.

Mmm… Perhaps you’re right, but before you sink your hard earned cash into this idea, perhaps it would be useful to ask other people what they think. Do they need this? Are your pains the same as theirs? Would they be prepared to spend money on this solution? The list will be much longer than this, but you get the point.

Where your ideas meet other people ideas within a budget that you can afford to spend… that’s your MVP. Perhaps by now you know whether to build this product or just move on.

From there we talk about Marius’ approach to this: Agile. No, being a freelancer, I’m no expert this area. I have a notional understanding of what it is and how it works, so we chat from this perspective.

We talk about how you decide what work should be included in your short sprints. These sprints are basically blocks of work hours that your client can buy in which you will work on specific tasks aimed at achieving specific goals.

These goals can be thought of as “User Stories”, and they always sound like this:

As a [user role], I want to [goal/desire] so that [benefit].

So, “As a Customer, I want to push the “Add to favorites” button on the Product page so that I can save this product for later reviewing or buying“. Or, “As a Customer, I want to see on the Product page a tab named “Technical Specifications” which will contain a simple text so that I can read all the technical details of this product“.

So we’re working on very defined tasks in a very defined order. These User Stories should be put in order, and Marius likes to make sure that the ones that have best ROI (Return On Investment) float to the top. In other words the tasks that are worked on in the 2, 3, 4 week sprint have been carefully sifted to ensure that they’re offering the client to best chance of a return, and therefore are adding something back to their business.

It all sounds complex, but it’s really not and Marius explains it very carefully.

Marius thinks that WordPress is an ideal platform from which to launch an MVP because of the plugin architecture that it has. In other words, imagine that a client comes to you and says, I want a clone of Uber building for my town… Well, you could offer to build that all from scratch and it would cost mighty dollars. Or you could find some trusted and well maintained plugins in the WordPress ecosystem and use those to build a site with many of the features that they need. You might need to spend time building your own plugins, or modifying existing ones, but the point is that you might get 80% of the features that they requested for a fraction of the price that it would have been had you started from scratch.

Then, let that run for a while. See if it gets adopted. See if people use it. If they do, great, get feedback and iterate upon it. If people don’t use it, it was cheap way to fail!

Marius has several examples of this from his own agency and you can find them in the article linked below. Sites that used WordPress for the MVP successfully. Some of them went on to be rewritten with no WordPress in sight. Others stayed with WordPress. Still others failed and disappeared from the internet. But the point is that WordPress is a good way to start.

It’s a lovely chat which I think was just getting started when we had to end it! Perhaps we’ll pick this up another day…

Mentioned in this episode:

MVP Venn diagram

Marius’ Agile WordPress development article

Marius’ Get Success with your MVP eBook

Nine inspiring recurring revenue business ideas

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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Nathan Wrigley: [00:00:00] Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Welcome your host, David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.
Hello there, and welcome to this, the WP Builds weekly WordPress podcast. This is number 167 in titled, how are you use agile and WordPress to launch a minimal viable product with Marius Vetrici. it was published on Thursday the 20th of February, 2020. My name is Nathan Wrigley. And before we begin, I would like to point you to a few bits and pieces that WP Builds do throughout the week.
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Okay. Let's get to the podcast proper, shall we? It's episode number 167 it's a chat with Marius for treaty and it's all about agile development. I chatted with Marius on a different podcast that I do as you'll find out, and we got into the subject of whether he should come on to WP Builds and talk about the work that he does with his agency.
He's got a sizable agency and he's had some horror stories in the past in which he's basically . Made for work and agreed to do it and then had complete disasters cause he didn't really have a grip on the process. And so now he's using agile to make all of that happen. So we talk about the usual things.
We talk about the sprints and the user journeys and how the whole methodology can be deployed very effectively with WordPress as a simple, cheap way of getting a minimum viable product together. It's not something we've really talked about before and I definitely learned a lot. And so. Without further ado, I hope you enjoy the podcast.
Hello there. Welcome to the WP Builds podcast. One small. Thanks for getting to the the interview part. I'm talking today to Marius Vetrici. hi there. Marius.
Marius Vetrici: [00:04:18] Hello? Hello?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:04:20] Yeah, thanks. Thanks for coming on. Mary's is going to be an interesting chat. Marius and I have actually talked about a really very different subject over on a different podcasts that I do the, the WP and UP podcast.
And over there we talked for, Oh, I don't know, maybe 45 minutes about, meditation. And after we'd had that chat, we, we decided it would be nice to. To do something, let's say a little bit more word Pressy. So he's come onto WP Builds today, but we've probably been talking for about 40 minutes prior to this, and the conversation was enormously rangy.
We talked about all sorts, nothing to do with WordPress, and all sorts of things to do with WordPress. So. We, we really don't know where this conversation is going to go, but Mary is strikes me as a very thoughtful, contemplative kind of chap. And, so hopefully we'll, we'll get into some real interesting stuff, but ostensibly we are going to be talking about, agile work.
Press development. we hopefully give you some practical, sort of case studies for some of the things that Marius has built in the recent past and so on. and then also we might guide you towards a page where you can find out more from Marius. He's got, an ebook which you can download, and maybe if you're the conversation.
Peaks your interest. you can, you can find out more about that as well. But, so Mary's, let's begin. You've got this post called agile WordPress development. How to maximize the return on investment or ROI on your MVP website. Do you want to tell us what it was that inspired you to write this, this lengthy post.
Marius Vetrici: [00:05:50] Yeah. It was pain, Nathan. It was the pain of spending a ton of money building the wrong thing.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:06:00] Yeah. The first line is some. Yeah, it's a, it's a jaw-dropping amount of money. I might as well just say it. You spent $200,000 on a product that never took off. That is quite galling, isn't it?
Marius Vetrici: [00:06:12] Yes. Yeah, it is.
Well, it was in my twenties when, if you do outsourcing, your living costs are very low, and, and you're working as a developer earning money than is a come easy go, you know? But I wish, I, I knew 15 years ago what, what I know now about, About listening to customers, listening to prospects, understanding and empathizing with what they need with their struggles.
learning to choose what is a viable idea. And. What is just an idea that you have when you are having a shower in the morning and so on.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:06:56] Just just to give it some context, just to lend a bit of, well, I suppose just to, to understand what it was that went wrong. So you spent $200,000 building a product that never took off John, and give us some very brief insight into what it was that you built and why it didn't take off.
And now that you've got a, you know, a little bit of time between you and it.
Marius Vetrici: [00:07:16] Yeah, sure. I was working on an inventory management software. the problem that that I had is that we've been building this software as anything to everybody. One day after a couple of. Months. Yeah. I think even years of working on it, I looked at all our customers that are using, the, the software, and we had literally 77, zero different verticals.
So there was no focus, no, no specialization on anything. We've been literally, they, we've been literally all over. The place, too many features. no focus, no clear messaging. So yeah, everybody would just say, yeah, nice software, user friendly interface, but this is not for me because it was like a Swiss knife.
It was just too general.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:08:18] And was this, was this largely born out of the fact that you, you didn't, you didn't have a methodology, or was it simply that you were kind of reacting to customer requests requesting, Oh, we need this feature, and so you would then scurry away and build it and, Oh, and now we need this feature from a different customer.
And so you didn't have that kind of oversight over it or process?
Marius Vetrici: [00:08:40] That's precisely, that's precisely how it's went. we were, and I was very reactive. to, to the requests, the requirements that were coming from our customers and without a lack of, of, without a vision, with a lack of a vision, without knowing exactly where do I want to take this product?
It was impossible to say if this request was legit or not, do we want to do it or not? And. With, with a strategy problem because we had a, clearly we had a business strategy problem. Everything else is super hard. Marketing is impossible. Sales are very hard to do because you don't know whom are you targeting?
support was a nightmare. We had like literally hundreds of pages of, of. Power meters for how to configure this feature, that feature. And, and again, I, I'm strict and I cannot stress the importance of this unless I have a. Very good business strategy in place. Everything else is just going to be very hard.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:09:51] Yeah. I suppose the bottom line is that if you don't know where you're going or what the direction of travel is, or where you'd like to end up, let's put it that way, you're going to find it very hard to decline feature requests because you're not sure that the product shouldn't end up like that. Well, that seems like a reasonable request.
Let's make the product like that as opposed to, no, no, no, no, no, no. That's not what we're trying to do here. no know we're not going to. Add that feature in just yet. We'll stick it on the back burner somewhere, but we're not doing that because we're trying to get to this place instead. Without that oversight and that knowledge, I can imagine that things can easily get out of hand.
Marius Vetrici: [00:10:28] That's Alice in Wonderland. Yes. If you don't know where you're going, any road rotation,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:10:34] that's a great way of describing it. So, after this, this sort of calamity, let's describe it as in your life, you decided to, to write this article, to give, give people the benefit of your hindsight. So let's go through it then.
I suppose that if we're building. So this could equally apply to our website as it could to, I don't know, a SaaS app or something like that. What, what are the, what are the stages then that you would guide us through? If we're about to launch something, we're thinking about launching something, or as you said, we're seeing standing in the shower and under the kernel of an idea pops into our head, where should we begin on this journey?
Marius Vetrici: [00:11:12] So that idea, and. you, you will find the link, here at the bottom of the podcast to, to, diagram. It's a Venn diagram. This idea is part of the circle. it's a bluish circle what I think the market needs. but where I would proactively start now is. I would meet with five to seven people, then interview them and just have a chit chat with them about this particular struggle that I think they have all that ISO they have because I want to confirm.
I want to personally understand that. How that challenge evolves. What is the daily routine when that challenge occurs, what that person is doing before the challenge, of course, what the person is doing while this changing occurs. Is that person with somebody else or alone? Is that at home while driving?
So specifically in, in, in what context? without personally knowing three to five or seven people that have this, this challenge, I just wouldn't embark nowadays on a new business idea.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:12:30] So is the idea here. You're trying to disassociate the problem that you have and the experience that you have and you're trying to get an audience of people who've you believe have got the same problem and then tease out of them what the, what the actual problem is.
Not, not what you think it is, the way you experience it, but the way collectively you all experience it. Find some sort of common
Marius Vetrici: [00:12:49] ground. Correct. And there's something like 20 years of research done on this topic by a very smart guy called Clayton Christiansen. He is the one behind the disrupt disrupting innovation theory.
But the one I'm mentioning today, it's, it's called the jobs to be done theory. So essentially, while interviewing these people. I should be now looking at the new product or service and looking at it as if that product or service, it's a person that's being hard to do a job, to fulfill a specific job in a specific context.
So for example, people would hire, I watch for various jobs. Some might hire them just. Check their time, but some would hire them for status, for self image, and that's a completely different job to be done. The other Somali, some other people would hire an iWatch for getting notified. They need to be on top of their agenda.
And, and so on. And there's a very famous example from his research about the milkshakes. So he discovered that McDonald's milkshakes were hired, by single people walking in around 8:00 AM. And, and then just quickly going out. And what they've discovered is people would use these milkshakes, while morning commutes because they are super boring and they need to spice up and to sweeten up the morning coming.
So this is a very unique job to be done. Hmm. Yeah. Compared, I need to have this compare to the same products, seemingly the same physical product, but which is bought by a father walking in during the weekend with his kid in that particular moment. The job to be done is the father wants to build a relationship with his kid, but then those milkshakes need to be smaller.
Compared to that telecommuting milkshake because the father or the mother don't want to feel guilty about it. So, coming back to that, to your question, I'm looking for jobs to be done, looking for specific areas where people would employ employed that, that service or product. So that would be the next step.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:15:19] Yeah. Yep. I'm following on. Yup.
Marius Vetrici: [00:15:20] Yup. The other thing, very important, and that's the third circle is what can I afford to build. Depending on the personal resources that that one has. And by the way, too much money is not always a good idea,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:15:40] as you can demonstrate. Yes.
Marius Vetrici: [00:15:42] Yeah. I'm a living. Sample. but again, it's important to, to know what kind of budget do you want to invest in that.
So that would be the sir, the third circle, and the intersection of those three circles. What I think the market needs, what the market actually needs and what they can afford to build. I am calling that small part in minimum viable product and MVP. So basically in an MVP. It's, it's a very simple version of the future product.
This very simple version is focusing on just one job to be done and it, it's doing it well and it allows my target market to actually test it and see if this is what they really want.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:16:30] So the idea is that you're, you're comparing what you think this product needs, what the other people think this product needs, and finally balancing out with what you can actually afford to spend on it.
And those three things combined, reveal a much smaller. Product than you initially began with, or at least that would be the intention. Something much smaller, much more confined, much more limited in scope. And that is where you should begin, not the other way around. You shouldn't start building this product until you've got those valuable bits of data under your belt.
Marius Vetrici: [00:17:04] Yeah, and I've got some figures from Fox we are working with and doing product strategy advisory for them. They are saying product coding. Itself, it's around 30% of the effort. The rest is marketing and product strategy too.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:17:26] Interesting.
Marius Vetrici: [00:17:27] So what I'm saying here is if this part. With with like coding. The coding part is, well, yeah.
Well, it's complex. It's engineering. It's, Oh my God. Well, wait until the next step until you actually need to, to ensure you have a business. And not demeanor product.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:17:50] So where does this fit? where does this fit that into to WordPress, if you like. So does this exact same philosophy that you've got here, this, this MVP, and the Venn diagram, which probably by the way, you should pause this and go and look at the Venn diagram because it's hard to, hard to understand what we're talking about unless you've seen that.
And very simple to understand. Have had you have seen it. The, this could apply to the a website, for example, that you're building. Obviously, you know, if it's a simple brochure website with two pages, perhaps this is a bit overkill, but if your, if you're going to be building something complicated, maybe a complicated eCommerce store or a, a something brand new that the internet has never seen before, you're suggesting that that WordPress is WordPress, excuse me, is a good place to be with this because it affords you.
the ability to build things much more quickly than if you start from scratch because of the, it's plugin architecture.
Marius Vetrici: [00:18:47] Yes, I think a WordPress, it's a gold jam. it's a, he, it has a huge opportunity as a, as, platform for quickly building and launching a new sauce, a new MVP of a new SAS. A software as a service or an online service, people are using WordPress.
there's already, a way of people using WordPress to build clones, niche clones, niche clones of Airbnb, or fewer or few, any pop work and so on. But instead of spending millions. Like those big companies did. You can launch something very quickly in just 60 days by leveraging the WordPress plugin ecosystem.
So this combination between the WordPress ecosystem and the very lean and agile approach, this is what they duct, agile workforce development.
so in your case, you have direct experience of this. You, you have in fact built, platforms, which in the end, I've got nothing to do with WordPress. An example which comes to mind, and I can't remember which one it is, but there was one where you, you used WordPress to, to, to launch, to get feedback, to put a minimum set of features out using off the shelf plugins.
Maybe premium may be free. I don't know. And then after you'd gain that feedback, it then gave you a starting point where you, you began building it, I think it was Lara that you mentioned. And so WordPress at that point was, was no longer required, but it gave you the, the data that you needed, the, the feedback that you needed to judge whether this was a goer or not.
They are. They are. That's, that's a good example. You can, you can start with WordPress and I would, I would suggest, looking at this project work was based projects for a time window of one to two years. In one or two years. There's enough time to test the idea to get some traction and most importantly to start making some money.
When, when the business is taking off and, and you are able to reinvest it, then you can reevaluate, based on where business is going. is worker's still a good solution and it might be a still a good solution? There are. Very, very large websites that are running WordPress after years and years. Or you might want to switch to a custom based, solution and more low level technology.
It could be Laravel, but it console could be.net or Java.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:21:37] Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting because you, you . On the article that I'm going to link to first we talk about how to, how are an MVP will maximize your return on investment. So that's all the stuff that we've talked about thus far. And then you give three examples, which are presuming or examples that you, that you, yourself and your company have built.
One was a website called a care giver, careers.com where it started out on WordPress. and then. If you put in WooCommerce subscriptions didn't take a lot of time, but, but this was a successful business and then it went on to use WordPress for the website, but the subscriptions went over to infusion soft.
So that was, an example where it, it all works swimmingly. Then there was another one where you have luxury buys today. Dot com social CRM website. You built it off WordPress. Just for a fast launch, again, got lots of data, and then it was decided to move that project over to, to Laravel. So you know, by that point, you've gathered all the features that you need and you've decided what you don't need and so on.
And then also, interestingly, you mentioned one called Baba BA B a. Dot. Me, which was a WordPress powered concierge concierge service. And quite, quite interestingly, that one just simply didn't work. There was no traction, and so it was shut down. Before the spend got too much. This is the, I guess the, the, the, you know, the, what you messed up, what you talked about right at the beginning about the $200.
This is the, the, the, the message to learn here. This one just, it's not working. We've spent a very small amount of money on it. We've used WordPress to do that. It's not working. Let's shut it down, move on, come up with a different idea. So that's three solid examples that you can point to that you've been involved in, to justify this as a, as an approach.
Marius Vetrici: [00:23:20] Yeah, and well, the figures are there. Around seven or eight out of 10 new business tools will fail within the first five years. So why? Why not fail fast and as convenient as possible.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:23:35] That's a good way of describing it. Yeah.
Marius Vetrici: [00:23:37] But to give, to give for our listeners more inspiration. Let's look at those businesses that are still alive and kicking.
And by the way, the MVP approach Naja WordPress development approach is going very well, hand in hand with recurring revenue businesses. And there are so many business interesting business models out there. And, There's another article, that, that lists, I think nine case stylists. for example, one of them, it's a clone of uni where a piano teacher is teaching piano lessons online.
It's a French website. So the lessons are taught in French, but nevertheless, it's, it's alive and kicking and, and there are recurring subscriptions. Being paid, by, by all those who want to learn. And then there is a very interesting example called S with a S K, ask edenic.com this is an online platform that connects teachers to students.
It's like an Uber for teachers and students. I WordPress, WordPress powering. And then there's, A very interesting membership, website. But this one is more similar to team Treehouse where you come in and learn stuff. But these guys, the guys from beauty coach.com, they are educating makeup artists and stylists on the latest techniques, or latest beauty and makeup techniques.
Yeah. then there are job, job websites, like clones of monster. Then we have, there's a real boom of, of marketplaces, clones, of, of, of all where, or fiber of Upwork we, you, you will find in the article, the Joe outer. Dot. and, and so on. and yeah, last but not least, you've probably heard about the dollar shave club.com.
So basically websites that are delivering, on a regular basis, some physical stuff to your door. And we have here an example that would deliver your coffee from first coffee.com. in the past we've worked on a website, which would deliver. Toothbrushes.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:26:03] Wow. That's really niche.
Marius Vetrici: [00:26:05] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
And then there's, the niche for dog food and dog treats being delivered to your door. Yeah. Yeah, it's, it's very interesting.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:26:16] So you, you believe that WordPress is a good place to start these things out. by the way, I will link down in the show notes to the, the nine resources that Arius has just been talking about.
They're all laid bare. in an article that he's written, and a subscription comes through very strongly, but you believe that, in certain situations, WordPress is the perfect place to begin this journey because of its, plugin architecture and the fact that a lot of the code has been written for you because as you said, although it's not.
All of the costs. It is a significant amount. Maybe 30% will be, during the product's lifecycle. It might be on coding, but you also sound some alarm bells because clearly if you're using plugins, you're not necessarily going to get everything that you want out of it because it's not designed specifically for your exact platform, the, the needs that you need may or may not be in there.
But also you, you sound the alarm that some plugins are well. To be blunt about it better than others.
Marius Vetrici: [00:27:16] Yeah. Some plugins are more equal than than others. because plugins have been written by human beings with various degrees of skills and, and knowledge. So, yeah, by, by levering journal or leveraging the plugin ecosystem.
We can think about it as, as offer Lego. If you have a Lego for assembling a plane and the Lego for assembling an a Lego set for assembling a helicopter, you can probably assemble maybe a rockets or something along the lines if you're a kid and they like to play with that, but if you do try to maybe assemble.
I dunno, something like,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:28:08] Oh, I'm going to say The Millenium Falcon.
Marius Vetrici: [00:28:10] Yeah. The Millenium Falcon, it might be a bit further, and then you might need a bit of, of paper and glue and other things. So, exploring this metaphor, it's about using and choosing the right plugins. And I'll get back to that in a second, but.
Besides the right plugins, you need to wire them up every business. Obviously every business is unique and those plugins are, are solving some general patterns, some general jobs to be done in. In your particular case, you, you'll use plugin a, B, C, for example. You'll use WooCommerce subscriptions and we'll commerce memberships, but then you want the lessons, and that's a very specific examples.
You want the lessons, your lessons on your membership website to be published. Even if, if you've signed up during the month, that a lesson was published, but you've signed it after the lesson was published, well, maybe you would like to give access to all the lessons that have been public during that year.
Just as an incentive. So these kinds of small things, small variations in your business process, will require some, some custom plugin development. Some for this, you will need a WordPress expert that will, will be knowledgeable, that will have some credentials, that will respect the workers coding standards, and that will create a new plugin.
In no case, he should change the code of existing plugins. That's a big no. So, he will create a new plug in, new custom plugin that will basically wire up together, glue up together. Those, those, features that you already have.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:30:00] and have you found this approach to be very successful then you've, you've used WordPress and you, I guess the answer's yes because you're, you know, you're writing these articles about it, but you, you still do this.
If somebody comes with a very elaborate plan, your first port of call is WordPress and a trusted bank of plugins that you found to be reliable, stable, easy to work with, highly updated, and so on.
Marius Vetrici: [00:30:25] Could you please repeat your question? Yeah,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:30:27] no, that's fine. So I was just saying this, this is something that you still do to this day. and what I mean by that is you've, you've written this article, you know, about doing it this way. You still espouse this. You still think this is the way to do it.
Begin with WordPress just because there's a value at a saving in it, because you get that part for free. Use some cheap plugins. this, this is always the solution. I think that's basically my question. Is this always the way that you begin or are there any situations where you say, look, forget it. Just start with Laravel start by coding it from scratch.
are there any situations where WordPress maybe isn't the right fit.
Marius Vetrici: [00:31:04] so WordPress as any other tool, it is. It is good to a certain extent. And if your particular project is a very custom super custom project and there is no blogging that would remotely resemble what are you trying to do, then maybe, maybe you just want to to hand code that from scratch because a customizing an existing plug in would probably take you.
Oh as much time as it would take you to build it from scratch.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:31:42] Mmm. Mmm. So you reckon the two years is a decent amount of time for this MVP website to be up and running before you decide what to do in your experience after that two years as past? I mean, it seems that some people carry on using WordPress.
Other people, there's clearly an economic advantage to keeping this service going. I suppose at that point you just have to look at the data and work out whether the, the cost of having it built from scratch at that point is actually worth it. Or can we sort of muddle through with, with WordPress, rather than having something utterly, completely bespoke.
Marius Vetrici: [00:32:19] Yeah. As the numbers, the numbers we'll, we'll show you, Oh, what would be the best decision at that moment? One thing that needs to be taken into account with WordPress, and that's, I might say a shady and dark side of WordPress, and I still want to, we talk about this with our customers is. Yeah, very nice.
You have a quick, and quickly rising curve of launching this product using WordPress, but the more plugins you will add to your website and the more paper and glue you, you would add to your website, the harder down the round road it will be to maintain that website. And by that, what I mean is. If you in in plain words, if you have five plugins on your website and one custom plugin that's doing them up together, and then you need to update those plugins, it will be one effort to make sure the website is still working after the update.
But if you got forbid, have 50 plugins, five zero and you update. you update all the plugins, then chances that something will break up chances that there will be an incompatibility between those plugins down the road are very, very high. And that reality shows that, it's, it's. It's a good KPI to, to look at the number of, of WordPress plugins that you have, so that if, if you probably hit more than a number of more than, I would say just from, from out of my head, more than 20 you should probably.
thinking seriously about reducing the number or switching to, to, more custom approach, which could involve, which could involve taking out five or seven plugins and just coding your own plugin, coding, only a, a set of those features for your own use so that you don't have to constantly update those.
Yeah. Or you might consider a full rewrite. Well, a full rewrite. It's, it's, risky in itself. It has. It's some risks, but again, based on the numbers that and the profitability that you have, that might make sense.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:34:52] Let's turn the conversation around a little bit and talk about the, the, the notion of agile.
This is a, this is a term which crops up all the time and the, the audience that we have, I'm sure many people will have a deep and very, granular understanding of what agile development means, whether that's with WordPress or anything else. But, I'm sure there are many people who are freelance who just build websites with WordPress for themselves and perhaps never encountered this apart from hearing about it.
So I was wondering if you wouldn't mind explaining your understanding of what agile development means in the specific context of, of WordPress, I suppose.
Marius Vetrici: [00:35:30] Sure. it's a methodology that we put up together, by getting inspiration from, from scrum methodology, with, with Kanban. essentially, being a gyro in, in my view, means to work in short sprints.
And to deliver tangible results at the end of every sprint. A sprint is essentially a bucket of men hours. it's a budget of, of man hours that somebody is allocating a sprint. Could be . Anything between two weeks, maybe four weeks. It's not recommended to go with more. And basically for every sprint, B you need to decide, what features, what more specifically user stories.
What would you like to have? And the user stories have a very specific, format. They user story is like a thin sliced feature describing what has to be achieved. for example, as as I'm registered visitor, I want to filter the events by starting date and end date. Because that will allow me to quickly find the events they want to go to.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:37:06] Does it always follow that, that exact, that pattern, the sentence is always the same? I, I can't exactly repeat it to you, but because, because I am such and such, I want to do this because it is always that exact way of phrasing it.
Marius Vetrici: [00:37:21] There's a reason for this recommendation. the first component of this sentence is the role.
And when I'm saying the role, I mean the user role, there could be anonymous users, there could be registered users. That could be, for example, it could be, it could be teachers as a role on a platform. They could be admins and there could be pupils or on another platform they could be doctors and patients.
Okay. So as a user role. Then I want to, that's the goal, the desire, so that the benefit, the benefit is important because it's, it, it allows one to connect with a job to be done. And the broader view, the higher purpose of, of, of this seemingly tiny feature, once specific, characteristic of a user stories.
I'm repeating myself. But it's important to make it theme sliced. So you imagine you, you have a multilayered cake, a real cake with chocolate, with cream, with strawberries, and then you are cutting from top to bottom, a thin slice of these features. So these layers are all the layers from the user interface going to the data layer.
Oh, which is the, the cream between the, the Kate layer and going as far as down as to the database fields, which are the strawberries at the bottom of the cake. So very important user story ad it doesn't add a new page. It won't add a huge feature an entire calendar. I use story, we'll just add a new field, one or two fields, but from top to bottom across the entire system.
Why is this important? Because after a user story is delivered, it needs to be able, it should be testable. It needs to be deployable. So you could potentially put it. life and lets your users test it and why it's important. Again, you know, the ask why ask why three times, to get to the root cause.
This is important because it's so easy. To get delusion. I'm delusional about what your market actually needs, and the faster you can get real feedback, the faster you can connect with the reality with real people, real needs, the better your decisions will be. So. That's how they reinforce each other.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:40:15] So is the idea then to collect, a whole bunch of these user stories, with, as you say, very thinly sliced, you know, nothing too transformational, just a little tiny, amendment that we could make, phrase it in this correct way and then gather up a dozen, half a dozen, 20, 30, whatever that number might be of these user journeys.
And then in some way, kind of prioritize them and see. See what, what's gonna deliver the most, the most value back to the platform. That might be, I suppose, in terms of a return, financial return or ease of use or whatever it might be. And then in some way, order them, put them in, you know, number one, number two, number three, number four, and so on, and then work on the one which somehow manages to float to the top.
Marius Vetrici: [00:41:00] Nobody has an infinite budget. Even though who think they have an infinite budget, they better set a cap. They would better set a limit on it and what you're, what are what you're saying now? It's called a product backlog. In my early years, I was doing just the way you would describe it, I would collect everything there.
Any idea that would pop up. Well that would come from a customer. I would just collect it on our product backlog, and then when we would plan the next sprint, we would, we would choose just the right amount of features that would go into the sprint backlog. This is very similar to having a rucksack or a backpack and trying to fill it with, with rocks.
Imagine you have a huge pile of rocks and you just need to take. Just the right amount of rocks in order to maximize the volume, the carrying capacity of that book cycle, that backpack. It's a classical, computer science, challenge and problem. coming back to, to a general discussion, Nowadays, and probably more inspired from from day's camps methodology and their new book, which by the way, really recommend you read. It's called shape up. These guys would filter even even their product backlog through their vision. So something. Won't even landing there for the backlog. If they know they are not going to implement that thing ever.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:42:44] Right. That's just to keep it off the table. Keeping you, keep your mental bandwidth available
Marius Vetrici: [00:42:49] They're keeping it in the memory of their customers. Right. that's, that's, that is to say if something is really important for enough customers, it will keep getting back and getting back to us. And then. Which we will look at it through the jobs to be done, Lance, and see if there's a job that needs to be fixed there.
But otherwise, otherwise, yeah. collecting, user stories on your product backlog is healthy. Just filter them through your product vision. Where do we want to take this product in one or two, two years? And then. Before a sprint would start. Obviously one needs to feel in the Rook, sag the backpack with, with rocks.
So we need to choose just the right amount of features that would go into that sprint. And the way, the way we help, our customers do that is we ask them. This, this one question, which is, how much money do you think this feature will bring you within the next 12 months? And then they would rank, the amount of money from, with something like one to 10.
And that is the, the value that they will be getting now. As a next step, we come in and we say, we labeled, we basically rank the features, by, by indicating if this feature is so low complexity, medium or high complexity feature. And we can even assign some monetary value. So low, medium, and high. But essentially, when you, when you see a list of user stories.
with these two fields, low, medium, high being the first one. So the complexity and the other one being the, the value that they will be getting, you can easily spot, and you can even even sword. those features, which would return the maximum value, but will require the least amount of effort.
Obviously, if you have a membership website and you think, Oh, it would be great to add a one on one coaching feature, For, for, for, our members to, to use, to get some coaching and to pay for it. And if that's a high complexity feature that would take 10 grants to, to build, but then the return on investment for that feature is.
Within the next year, probably around three out of 10. Then you would probably be better off with a fiveK feature, which will be 10 out of 10 in terms of return on investment. This is like a very quick tool that helps separate the waters. what goes to the level, it goes to the right, what goes into the next sprint, what, what stays full later.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:45:48] Yeah. I mean, it's, it's really, it's, it's like an ingenious method. I was just wondering if the, the return on the investment against the complexity is. In your experience, is that always the best way of filtering these things? Or sometimes is there another factor other than return on investment? So for example, I don't know the, the, the convenience that it might bring or the time spent on the website might increase as a result of this particular action?
Or do you always in your setup, do you always judge it against actual dollars
Marius Vetrici: [00:46:22] returned? I encourage the customers to think about dollars. The return dollars because even if there is an intermediate goal, like time on websites or lower bones rate or a lower churn user churn rate at the end of the day, that will still translate into a monetary value.
The library. Like it or not, these people are doing a business. They are taking some money out of their family, their kids, their investors, their banks, and investing every feature. That might sound obvious, but every feature that you are building will mean some dollars. Every dollar you would save. We'll go into your profit.
If you'll save $5 on this feature, at the end of the year, we'll have $5 extra profit. This is like a very simple and obvious thing, but me personally, maybe some others, we tend to forget about this from time to time.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:47:33] So you w when you're doing this, you, you advise, fairly short sprints, anywhere between, I can't remember what you said, was it, you know, a few weeks up to possibly a month or so.
Marius Vetrici: [00:47:44] It could be between, we are doing sprints of five days. It could be sprints of two weeks or maybe one month. Why not go with more than one month.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:47:53] Okay. And is there any, is there any scope for doing things concurrently? So for example, are you, are you lining up the next sprint as you're approaching the end of the current sprint, or do you always reach the end of the sprint before you will even begin work on the next one?
Marius Vetrici: [00:48:12] We are collecting the ideas into the backlog if they are worth keeping worth collecting. But other than that, we focus on the current sprint because it's so easily to get distracted by shiny things.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:48:26] Yeah. Yeah. I was just wondering if you, if you had any. Obviously you've, you've just come up with a lot of this stuff that works for you, but presumably at various points along your journey, discovering how all this works for you, you've taken some insights from other people.
I'm wondering if you could point us in the direction of maybe some author, apart from you mentioned base camp and all the work that they do, but maybe some author or resource, website, whatever it might be. Where we could find out more. Obviously we'll be linking to your own articles [email protected] but something aside from that.
Marius Vetrici: [00:49:01] Sure. actually no, we are going to publish a series of articles. They are based on some learning practical stuff and research and books. first thing first, I would recommend Adele Revelle as book buyer personas because she is literally giving out. scripts, methodology, texts, phone calls, how to approach customers, prospect customers, and how to understand what type of pathology, what persona, those customers.
then, as a next step, I would go with Clayton Christiansen book, competing against the luck. Which goes into great details about, the jobs to be done. Theory. And I will, I will give you links to that. Yeah. the next thing, once, once, you know, whom are you talking to and what problem. Do you want to fix for them?
The next thing I would focus on is, clarify the StoryBrand book with a subtitle. Clarify your message so customers would listen.
Okay. That sounds good.
Story brand book. It's by Miller Donald Miller.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:50:26] Okay.
Marius Vetrici: [00:50:28] And lastly, there's a very, very good, research paper about business strategy. Would they find, find it's very practical.
I will give you the link. It's a research paper entitled in a very suggestive wait, are you sure you have a strategy? And, yeah. There will be, again, a, an article of, as part of this, business and product strategy a serious, that's, I will, I will boast on down the, under the podcast, but essentially, a strategy has five components.
Number one, economic logic. How are we going to make money or what job are we going to to serve, to fulfill? That's my addition with the link with the jobs to be done, but I see the jobs to be done at the core of the strategy. And then. Is where the arenas where, where are we going to compete? That is what kind of categories, segments, geographical areas, product types.
Next, we need to think about the verticals. That's the next component. so the verticals will. Tell us, how do we get there? The channels, do we go through franchises? Do we go through partnerships? Do you go directly and so on? The next one, very important is the differentiators. And essentially that's the answer to the question.
How am I going to win there at that game? And lastly, the staging, the staging shows how fast should I go there to that market or in what, in what steps. It's not all the businesses want you to go everywhere at once. For example, Uber, they've launched initially in USA and they went to this country and then to that country.
But some companies. I know from some specific case studies, they just failed because they went too fast or too many countries. So they had a good strategy, but they lacked that they were wake of the staging part.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:52:41] Mmm Mmm. It's a really fascinating area. I know that sadly, you've got, you've got to go in a couple of minutes, so we are going to have to wrap things up.
But, as a freelancer, it's not something that I've particularly delved into a great deal. You know, I've, I've read a few of the, the things that you're mentioning and try to get a grip on it and what have you, but I'm sure that for a lot of our audience, this will be just. Just really an intriguing, an intriguing discussion and those people who obviously are doing this stuff on a day to day basis, you know, maybe some of those books that you've mentioned in articles and new to them, where can we, where can we actually find you though, should somebody be interested in chatting to you and following up something that you've just mentioned?
Have you got an, am you got any Twitter handles or website contact forms that you want to point us to.
Marius Vetrici: [00:53:28] Yeah. Thanks for asking. So I can be, I can be [email protected]. That's in one word. It's the, the agency I'm running, it's a 12 people agency and we, we are doing advanced warp as development projects, and then I can be found on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Just Google. Well my name.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:53:51] Okay. Okay. Marius, fascinating. I feel like we've just begun this chat and yet we're having to end it. So I have a million more questions, things that I could talk about, but for now that's, that's really all that you, both you and I have got time for. So, thanks for joining us today and I hope that people will get in touch and follow up, follow you up in some way, shape, or form, and keep the conversation going.
Thanks a lot.
Marius Vetrici: [00:54:17] Thanks for having me and I wish you a lot of success with, with launching you and new businesses and new platforms.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:54:24] Well, there you go. I hope you enjoyed that episode. I certainly learned an awful lot. I have to say, this is not an area that I would rate myself as in any way, an expert. So it was nice chatting to Marius all about this kind of stuff under, like I say, I learned a lot.
He's very calm and he delivers his solutions in a really clear, thoughtful way. The WP Builds podcast is brought to you today by WP and UP one in four of us will be directly affected by mental health related illness, WP and UP supports and promotes positive mental health within the WordPress community.
This is achieved through mentorship, events, training, and counseling. Please help enable WP and UP by visiting WP and UP.org forward slash give. Okay. As I said at the top of the podcast, please head over to WP build.com our website over there, you're going to find a ton of information about the stuff that we do, so there's the podcast that you're listening to, two things on a Monday, the news and the live news and all sorts of other things in between.
I'm going to fade in some cheesy music as I always do, and hopefully we'll see you at some point this week. And if not, I'll see you next week. Bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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