I want to use this blog post to pass along our vision and goal for Webiny. It’s not always easy to show and make somebody feel the same energy and enthusiasm that we currently have within our team, but I'll do my best.
The story started 5-6 years ago, when both, my co-founder Goran, and I, were approached by an acquaintance, to create a content management platform, with many different features and addons for a moderately big website. At the same time, another person approached us with a requirement for a booking engine, and then, couple of additional projects came along that required some specific web application development.
We looked at several platforms, like Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla and similar. We used them before on several projects. But this time requirements were a bit higher. Most of them suffered from a really bad and unscalable architecture, some were still having parts of legacy code from the early PHP versions, some were just not up to the task. Most of them had real big issues that they tended to break your custom modules after an update. Not to talk about security and performance, that would just get worse after some time, leaving your system slow and exposed.
At this point we knew we had to build something of our own.
In our first attempt, we’ve built a system that had many features, could handle most of the required tasks and was faster than the current products on the market.
At that point we had a great idea, why not sell this system to others in a SaaS model….Right?!
Wrong! We have created couple of free themes for the platform and made a one click setup on our cloud hosting. We decided to go with a freemium model and couple of paid packages. We turned on Google AdWords and immediately got over 3.000 customers in 2 weeks. Which was a great thing, it proved that the market wanted such a solution…well kind of. All the users were using the free packages and weren't really active on their account. Basically after a 2-3 months, most of the users stopped using the system, and the conversion to paid model was below 1%.
What we knew at this point…a solution is needed, our was not good :)
There were a couple of mistakes we identified:
- the user interfaces had too much options
- users wanted a simpler solution that could be customized
- we didn’t properly onboard the user
- there was no self-hosted option to play around
- lean startup - we didn't know what that was, at the time
Tending the wounds
At this point we stopped all the development, and started to dig deeper into what users want, what do they like about the current solutions on the market, which business models work and how to approach the market in a better way, so we don't spend all our money on buying the traffic.
This period was going on for about 6 months, to be honest, it could have been less, but we were in no rush. The project was funded by our own money, and we wanted to be careful and not to make another mistake, we wanted to do it right the next time.
The main features that were identified in our research were:
- users, especially designers and developers, want an open source solution
- website owners often complain that they cannot find anybody that can help them with smaller changes on their website
- management of multiple websites
- maintenance of the website, updates and slowdown problems
- larger clients require scalability and ability to add custom features
- security, a lot of outdated websites get hacked
- speed, especially for eCommerce solutions
So, we knew what are the requirements. But, we wanted to create a platform, not a system.
We wanted to build the platform for the future of web development.
The difference is that a platform provides much more than the technology, it also provides a way to grow and scale your business, it provides access to customers and revenue and it provides access to the community and jobs.
In order to achieve that, we knew a lot of work and effort needs to be invested. A lot of people, along the way, told us that if we manage to pull it off, it's going to be BIG. Others just told us not to do it….pff would you imagine that :P
Anyway, we identified 3 main components of our solution:
- The Framework
- The Platform
- The Store
The overall concept
You can compare our overall concept to Apple's and Google's mobile platforms. Our framework is the Xcode or the Android SDK. The platform is the actual mobile device, like iPhone and it comes only with the bare essentials. Finally, the Store is the Google Play or iTunes store, where you actually get the extensions for the platform.
We immediately knew that developing something so complex would require an underlying framework we need to have the full control of. This technology should also be open sourced, so that other developers can use it to develop their own solutions. Which automatically implies documentation, versioning, tutorials and all that. If you want to know why we didn't pick any of the current frameworks on the market, please read our project update and the what is Webiny Framework, blog post.
At this point the framework and the documentation are completed and can be downloaded from our GitHub repository. We are just starting to release some of the first tutorials.
This is the base-line solution. If features only a small subset of features, but it is meant to be expanded and modified to support any solution you require. It should also be secure, have auto-update and backup mechanisms. It should provide out-of the-box testing environment and the website should not break, if one of the extensions fails to load.
We are currently working on the platform in the background. We hope to release some of the code to the public in the next month or so.
Store is the distribution platform for the free, paid and subscription based content, for the Platform. It will support themes, application, plugins and much more. In future iterations it will also be expanded with a job board so that users have access to professionals that can help them and are willing to offer their services.
We want to make sure, that all our code, is available for free, to anybody who wishes to use it. Therefore we will license our platform and the framework under the MIT license. Basically it means that you are free to download our code, change it and distribute it as you wish. In that sense, we don't want to be closed anywhere near as Apple is with around their platform.
The community will decide if the product is good and if it will really be the future of web development. We want to work with all the designers and developers interested in our platform, we want to receive and implement their feedback, and the needs they have. In the end, we want to give them an awesome product they will enjoy to use.
We are frustrated with the state of web development today, how it affects the designers, developers and the companies making those websites, not having a proper tools and foundation to base their business upon. There is also the penetration of mobile devices, and the only thing the web has done around that, is responsive design … but is this really enough, can't we do more? I say yes, we can! But we need to start building things from ground up, and inventing new and better solutions, not just upgrading the current ones.
This is where I want to end this post … I hope I managed to picture the work we are doing and the problem we want to solve. If you think you can also contribute with some feedback and ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
Image by Robert Ball