Sell Software In An Hour

  • Posted on: 4 June 2014
  • By: Shawn DeWolfe
Let the smackdown commence!

I use Drupal a lot. This blog is built with Drupal. I have done the majority of my CMS web development in Drupal. In the last while, I have been working on a WordPress plugin-- the first of many to be released. I plan to release each one as a FOSS version and a tricked out premium version that will go up for sale. I want to try to build my own store to sell my good before I go to Code Canyon and see if I can get them to peddle my wares. As a Drupal aficionado, I wanted this storefront to be built in Drupal. Instead, it’s built in WordPress.

The key element in the shop is the licensing system. I want something that will allow for downloads, it will retain the user’s purchases coupled to their account. More than that, it will allow my system to auto-generate a license key. The license key can be used to verify the registration. Of the premium plugins I have purchased, few of them have license keys. I’m on the honour system about whether I used something once or a hundred times.

I started looking at Drupal. Drupal’s Ubercart has had some bumps. In Drupal 6, Ubercart had a lot of love and a lot of support. With Drupal 7, Ubercart didn’t see all of its modules upgraded to Drupal 7. I have launched a couple sites in Drupal 6 solely because the combo of modules was only available in Drupal 6. The Golden Boy of Drupal 7’s e-commerce is Drupal Commerce. It’s concise, it’s full featured, it’s versatile. When you use it, you inadvertently end up in one of three pathways:

  • Use the Commerce Kickstarter profile. There are a lot of features that are tied into Features. Take them, leave them, or start to tinker with the Features to make them work.
  • Use Commerce and collect the modules you need, then configure them.
  • Don’t use Commerce and opt for Ubercart or another contender.
Drupal 6 had a module with a license system that didn’t entirely work. Drupal 7 had a couple modules for Drupal Commerce, but neither one auto generated a license key. I was left thinking, “what good is that?” Drupal modules have a real problem with packing in a lot of functionality, but leaving something out. Like a lighting system that doesn’t have an off switch.

I begrudgingly looked to WordPress. I knew that the best game in town for e-commerce was Woo Commerce. Woo Commerce has an excellent base product that is free to use. It’s popular-- 12% of the e-commerce deployments you will see out there on the Internet were built with Woo Commerce. If you want to trick it out, you have to pay. Their extensions run from almost free to deep into the hundreds. I built a custom plugin for a client last year-- it was so complex that it was more like a fork of Woo Commerce. In the end, it worked, but it made me long for Drupal Commerce’s rules based system for handling the purchase workflow.

All that aside, Woo Commerce is so very useful. Unlike Drupal Commerce, so much comes ready out of the box. I use Paypal; and I wanted to ship digital products (plug-ins, apps, e-books, images, etc.). Woo Commerce was ready to go almost out of the box. i had to fill in some inevitable fields (address, Paypal login, etc.) and I was well on my way.

Here’s a rundown of what Woo Commerce ships with:
Sell Anything
T-shirts, music files or software. Even affiliated products from a marketplace.
Handle Payments
Bundled with PayPal (for accepting credit card & PayPal account payments), BACS, and Cash on Delivery.
Shipping
Set up shop with the options of offering free shipping, or flat rate shipping. Cater for specific distribution logistics, like table rate shipping, through a variety of shipping extensions.
Tax
Tax is the last thing you want to think about when opening a shop. Configure tax settings with tax classes & local tax rates.
Inventory
Easily manage your digital or physical products with an intuitive WP UI.
Reporting
Keep a birds-eye view of incoming sales & reviews, stock levels & general store performance, all from your WordPress backend.
Marketing
Run complex coupon campaigns offering a range of discount options, usage limits & product / user restrictions as well as free shipping.

I looked for license key plugins and extension. I found a free one that integrated with Woo Commerce. Despite the claims, it too did not auto generate license keys and associate them to orders.

I had a record scratch moment. I thought, “hey-- I’m a developer and I’ve developed for Woo Commerce!” I tinkered for about three hours. I knew I wasn’t close enough that another hour was going to get me to the finish line. I thought, “screw this too” and plunked down a $130 for the “Software Add-on” extension. It will generate keys and has some nice additional configs.

Inside of an hour, I had Woo Commerce with the Software Add-on deployed, populated and tested. It worked like a charm. My next piece is to add a licensing element to my own plug-ins to allow for license validation with the Software Add-on API. The API is in place, I just have to tie it in to my system and away we go!

Whoa-- Slow Down There Brainiac!

Since writing this, a lot of people have said that it's over their head. I'll grant you that. But challenge that mindset with a counter: e-commerce and digital good sales used to be as achievable as a moonshot. I have had to build e-commerce systems from scratch. What a pain. The Woo Commerce steps are almost turn key. So you don't want to turn that key? I get that. What you can take away is that the low barrier should down into being a low barrier task that you pay someone to accomplish for you. If you can color inside the lines, a Woo Commerce deployment with some bells and a few whistles should cost under $1000 and take less than a day in turn around, providing you know what you want, you pay for that discovery and you execute what works (and chiefly what works). Out of the box deployments are usually a speedy affair. Custom coding is time consuming and expensive. If you can live without a bunch of introduced eccentricities, you do this yourself, or pay someone only little bit to do for you.

If this is all over your head, but you want to sell digital goods (software, photos, music, ebooks, etc.), let's talk!

When it comes time to market your software, I have some thoughts on that..

Last updated date

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 02:07