Cutting right to the chase, my big news today is that we’ve just launched our new mini CMS product, Perch. It’s a really little content management system for when you want to have your client edit content on their site, but don’t need the full scale or complexity of a big CMS product.
As a web development agency, we know content management pretty well. We have our own full scale CMS platform that is multi-site, has versioning and workflow control and all those big CMS features, but were also seeing the need for something much smaller. Something that took almost no time to set up and just did the basics of making content editable for otherwise mostly static sites.
I thought it would be pretty cool to be able to just drop a placeholder into a file where you wanted content to be editable, and just have the CMS pick it up and take it from there. No “add new” this or that. Just have it appear. So that’s what we did with Perch. You build your pages, and then create editable regions with a simple PHP
. The first time you reload the page, Perch adds the Main heading region to the database and you’re off.
Boom! You’re an ISV!
Whilst content management is something we know well, becoming an independent software vendor is fairly new territory. I’d say in the process of having the idea, to development, to actually having the product on sale online, the product development bit has to be less than 40% of the effort. That means that 60% was spent on supporting development of the tools to sell the product, managing our very helpful beta testers (thanks guys!), writing up marketing stuff, researching VAT, writing documentation, getting out and talking to people about what we’re doing and so on.
Of course, we’ve been trying to make use of existing tools and services as much as possible. Payment is through PayPal, we used MOO for our discount-code cards that I’ve been giving out at events, and all out customer support is being handled through Tender.
We had initially intended to develop our own web forum / lightweight ticket system for supporting Perch, but mainly because I wasn’t really aware that the market for hosting support solutions really existed. After asking on Twitter and being recommended to have a look at Tender, it became clear that we could outsource this part of our infrastructure. I’m really pleased that we did. It’s early days yet, but I really love how Tender works, and it has the bonus of a clever yet simple authentication technique that means I can log people into our support.grabaperch.com at the same time they log into their regular customer account. Simply put, it means that customers don’t need two accounts, just one. Getting the authentication working was utterly simple in PHP.
As I say, it’s early days yet. We’ve got a long way to go on the marketing side of things (our website doesn’t have as much info as it needs yet), but it’s great to have the product out there.