#500 WP-Tonic Show With Special Guest Zack Katz Founder of GravityView

We Discuss All Things Connected to Gravity Forms

Zack Katz Founder of GravityView  has been developing WordPress plugins since 2008 and has been a huge Gravity Forms fan from the start. He lives with his wife and cat in Denver, Colorado, and can’t wait for the next episode of ATP.

This Show’s Sponsors

Kinsta: https://kinsta.com

WPFusion: https://wpfusion.com/

which I never thought I would reach. I’ve lost a lot of my hair. I’ve got a bit wide. So it’s been a winding road for the past few years. You stay stayed with me, listeners and viewers the WP tonic tribe has grown. And you like what you hear, the numbers are growing and I’ve got great co-host and we’ve got a great guest. We’ve got Zach Katz.

Zack: Katz, like the Neo kitties.

Jonathon: He’s the founder of Gravity View. It’s a great plugin and we’re going to be discussing why he started it. So, and also got my great Cohost agent with me. So, Zach, what do you like to just have a quick introduction, who you are just like to just a quick snippet?

Zack: Sure. My name is Zach Katz and I have been working in WordPress since about 2008 and I started developing plugins as needed for clients when I was doing client work and client websites. And every time they came across a problem that WordPress didn’t have a solution, too. I would think to myself, well, I can just create a plugin for this and, put it on the plugin directory. And I have something like 38 plugins on there right now that are horribly poorly maintained at the moment. But, that’s how I got into WordPress and [inaudible], it’s been a wonderful platform and a great community. And it’s how I know most of my people now.

Jonathon: Alright. And I’ve got a great cohost agent, Adrian, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?

Adrian: Everybody. My name’s Adrian. I’m the CEO and founder of Groundhog and we help small businesses launch their email marketing funnels.

Jonathon: There’s a great product. I just want to talk about a couple of our sponsors that enabled me to continue to show and provide great guests like Zach to you, listeners and viewers. And it starts off with Kinsta. Kinsta has been a major supporting, hosting partner for the past couple of years. Well, we host the WP tonic website with them. I only specialize in WordPress hosting and it’s really quality WordPress hosted. If you’ve got a site, a word commerce or learning management website, for yourself, or for clients, you really want to look at Kinsta as your possible hosting. I use Google cloud. So some of the best hosting technology on the market at the present moment, but they provide a totally unique interface.

Jonathon: Like when I go to other clients’ websites and have to use other hosting provider’s interfaces. I think to myself straight away, I couldn’t go back to the old systems after using Kinsta. Also, you get some of the best 24/7 support. I really mean that, whenever I’ve had a problem with a client’s website, that’s hosted on Kinsta or my own websites.

The person that I’ve started the conversation has been able to deal with the problem and deal with it on the spot, which is quite different. So, a lot of hosting providers can provide. So if that really sounds interesting go over to Kinsta. And buy one of their packages and tell them, but you heard about them on the WP tonic show. We got a new second, sponsor, its WP fusion and WP fusion has sponsored the short show. A number of times it’s a great product.

Jonathon: It’s one of the most powerful products on the market at the present moment, when it comes to functionality. Basically enables you to do a lot of things with word commerce and with learning management systems. And it’s the kind of email that enables you to communicate with your external CRM’s, like drip, like active campaign. And you can, as a developer you can do amazing things with your clients, with WP fusion and your other stack of software that you rely on. I suggest you go over and look at what WP fusion has to offer, like to say, if you decide to buy, tell them, that you heard about them on the WP tonic show. So Zach you said you just thought, building plugins. What did you have a soft ground or software background? You had any kind of formal education when you started playing around with WordPress?

Zack: My formal education was using tools like blogger and trying to customize the HTML. I don’t really have any formal education. Behind code I did go to school to learn how to use illustrator and to learn how to use flash and tools like that. But I taught myself how to code with a PHP and my Sequel book. And that got me started. I just get my highlighter.

Jonathon: Well, you said you’re a determined man. So what led to starting Gravity View? What was the process and why did you start? I’m plugging them the business.

Zack: I had a client who I, whenever I set up a client website, the first thing I do is, I installed gravity forms because it’s the best form of plugin out there. And every time I would install gravity forms for the different clients, the client needed something else. So I created the constant contact add on, for example, and things like that to integrate with different services. This one client ran an animal welfare.

Nonprofit and they needed a way to display a directory of people who helped animals. And I said, well, you have this intake form. And this intake form has people entering all their information already. Why not power the directory using gravity forms, data itself. And so that led to the creation of the gravity forms, add on plugin, which eventually turned into gravity view my premium plugin.

Jonathon: All right. When was it your first premium?

Zack: It was, yeah. Well actually, I don’t know. I have a real estate plugin that didn’t go too hot, but it was my first premium plugin.

Jonathon: Over to you Adrian.

Adrian: So, how old exactly is gravity view?

Zack: It was launched in 2014 in July. So it’s about six years old.

Adrian: Six years old? That’s funny. That’s, probably about the same time that I actually entered the WordPress community.

Zack: Nice.

Adrian: So it’s been around for a long time. It’s obviously like the most plugin you’re well known for at this point. And, I’m curious to know. Well, give us some of your early days, trials and tribulations of trying to grow this plugin. I am in the early days, I actually launched a new plugin yesterday and I’m kind of a year and a half into another one. So I’m curious to know over six years, some of the cool things that you’ve learned about trying to scale up a premium. Because there’s no freemium, there’s no free version for gravity, correct?

Zack: No.

Zack: www.goodhump.com for free. If people want to check out the code, but that doesn’t include support and updates and things.

Adrian: So, unlike a lot of like plugins in the WordPress space, you didn’t go to the freemium road. So there are a couple of questions in there. So let’s talk about why you didn’t choose freemium like so many other WordPress companies. Because that is an interesting conversation.

Zack: Sure, well having so many plugins on wordpress.org, I was wary of providing support for free. I knew that support would be the biggest cost that the company would have. And it is the, the costs of development. Oh, well are probably got the same as support, but the development and support are the two biggest costs. And if we can make it so that only people who pay get support. Then, we can control the amount of support that we provide and limit their overhead.

And the plugin business itself has zero marginal costs. You put software up there and people can download it. And, and that all runs in the background on a server for 40 bucks a month, right? Like it runs itself in terms of the actual infrastructure of the downloads. What matters is, can you pay for development? Can we pay for support? And support is the most important thing for our product. And we have a great support team at gravity. We’re really proud of that. And we can afford that because we’ve charged for support all this time. And that’s what we charge for.

Adrian: So, going back six years, you’re kind of just starting to sell gravity view and build the brand and all of that stuff. Give us your top three kind of hurdles that you had to overcome in terms of, I don’t know, placement branding et cetera, that that just made it super difficult or maybe it was super easy. I don’t know. You can tell me

Zack: It was easier than I think I expected because gravity forums is such an amazing partner. And because people already had a product that they knew, they wanted a feature for the gravity view solved that problem. They already were paying for gravity forms. So they were used to paying for software, which is a hurdle right then in the WordPress space. A gravity view as a premium add-on it’s a lot easier when people are already paying for the parent product. So, okay.

Being built on top of something, people are already paying for it and really love and really need a functionality for that’s a really, that was really a good idea, it turns out. One of the things that was amazing for me, the day that we launched. Was, we got like 2000 something dollars in sales. I think.

Adrian: On day one? That’s pretty good.

Jonathon: And the reason we got that was because I had set up a mailing list and advance and I spent a lot of time actually trying to build that mailing list. Now, it’s amazing how, when you run a business, you keep on forgetting all the good things that you’ve done. But this is one of the things that I want to remind myself, you know. When you launch a product, tell people about it. When you’re trying to gain the interest in a product, promote it before it’s launched. Like these are things that are really intensive in terms of the amount of time.

Jonathon: A lot of people worry about that. Don’t know, they worry that somebody else is going to take their idea, somebody before them, but that’s very unlikely,

Zack: Yeah. And, the idea, you know, it’s all about the execution. Everybody can have the same idea and implement it in different ways and whoever has the better mailing lists, you know, is going to have a better start. Right.

Jonathon: So you said about this mailing list, you know, it’s easier said than done, but maybe specific target audience may agree with the types. So you said you, what was your mythology around building the mailing list then?

Zack: I used a landing page I’ve registered the domain. I created some graphics to build, and excitement around it.

Adrian: The illustrator, knowledge coming in handy.

Jonathon: Exactly. Very, very important illustrator.

Zack: And, I had a plugin on wordpress.org based on the site for the client that I did. So that free plugin was being used as a driver. And I hadn’t…information in the plugin settings page and said. Come here and sign up for a way better plugin. That is going to blow your mind. So the lead generation of.org was really important in the launch success.

Jonathon: So how far were you in your WordPress? Aren’t you at that stage, to get some people to help you?

Zack: Yeah. I actually didn’t develop most of the backend of gravity view. , I hired somebody to do it and, Luis Godhino in Portugal did most of the, backend of gravity view and, I was more concerned about the user interface and the user experience that I was helping guide that process. And I was.as I think a lot of people are, I’m never confident in my code skills, but then I look back and I think, well. I was better than I thought. And right now I’m better than I thought. I think I am. So I’m always wondering like, am I, you know, should I hire this out or should I do it myself?

Zack: And my code is fine. I know best practices in WordPress forward and backward by this point. So, it’s all a matter of perspective. I think in terms of the confidence I have in my own coding ability.

Jonathon: We’re going to go for a break. When we come back, we’re going to delve some more in gravity view. We’ll be back in a few moments, folks.

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Jonathon: Welcome back. Its episode 500 folks. I think that’s quite an achievement. Most people burn out well before that

Adrian: I have a few good questions, actually. So there’s something I want to talk about. And that’s the music video, the gravity view music video. I’m not sure if anybody else has seen this gravity V music video, but it is a work of art and super catchy. And I just want to know the backstory about how that came to being and why. You woke up one day, like, you know, it’d be a great idea music to do a video. So can you, can you explain to us that process?

Zack: Sure. Well, I knew that floaty in the background here, is our mascot for gravity view.

Adrian: Did you design floaty with your illustrator skills, by the way?

Zack: I did not. I hired that out 99 designs actually. But once I saw floaty, I knew that he was a little one because he’s so cute. And I thought to myself, you know, how can you future? How can you promote a brand and promote a product that isn’t a boring explainer video. That it’s more interesting and still kind of gets the idea across and leaves people wanting to know more. And one of my favorite podcasts is accidental tech podcast and it has a theme song that was done by Jonathan Mann. And in the show notes of accidental tech podcast, they say a song by Jonathan Mann. So I contacted him and he’s an amazing guy.

Zack: He’s really, a great person to work with. He is really nice person. And he’s an amazing artist. And, I said, hey, are you willing to do this? And he said, absolutely. I let them know all about floaty. You know, his favorite day is Tuesday. It lives on the space station and, alone he know about our product and what kind of things the product can do and what it should well it’s best to use for. And he came back with lyrics and he created the video and he did, all the dance moves himself, and he is an amazing person to work with. So I’m blessed that he was so talented and helped create that, experience for Gravity. And if you haven’t listened to it, check Google Gravity view music video.

Adrian: Cause that’s right. Isn’t it right on the homepage at the moment?

Zack: Well, we actually hired Jonathan to do an explainer video. Instead we did a split test and it turns out the music video didn’t convey as much.

Adrian: Oh, no, it was, I mean, it did go viral for like a few days there. It got viral.

Zack: I launched the music video a few days before the PressNomics conference and it was really fun to show up at PressNomics. it was the first time I’d ever gone to PressNomics and it felt like it was an entree into a world, I wasn’t familiar with because everybody was singing the gravity view music video. That’s the guy that did that,

Adrian: That’s fun, but it turns out not as effective as just your good old fashioned generic, get her done explainer video.

Zack: Turns out that creating a script that targets your audience. And what they’re trying to accomplish with your software is probably a little better, but it’s not as much fun and it doesn’t get stuck in your head for days. So that the whole idea of advertising jingles, I think is, is definitely do you do for a comeback

Jonathon: Do send me the link and I’ll make sure it’s in the show notes. The side of the views can expose themselves to it. So, you know, I understand, a lot of people, they find a main plugin and they build a really strong business on the foundations of another plugin, but also it’s got its risks. I think one of the things about gravity forms, their relationship with third party developers that have built kind of semi business on the core has been handled reasonably well. But did you have some substantial fears about building this? Because you know, you said it was easier, but it has got its risks. Isn’t it? Zack?

Zack: It does. They’re a really good team to work with at gravity forums and rocket genius. And, it turns out when I finished building the plugin and launched it, I found this forum article on our forum topic on gravity forms, his forum that said, yeah, we were actually working on something along these lines and we stopped because it turns out Gravity View does it? Yeah, really well. And I felt a big sense of relief because, you know, it would have definitely hindered the growth of gravity view. But at this point, Gravity View has so much functionality. It would take anybody, took a lot of time to build out the… I’m not a functional high.

Adrian: Functionality, takes six years.

Jonathon: You might say it would take six years. And, you know, I think that gravity forms see the value in a strong third party developer community. And they, while they are doing a lot to enhance their own plugin, they also leave niche, a functionality to third party developers to implement and create a good ecosystem around the plugin because they know that we’re brand ambassadors and that we’re advertising gravity forms. There promoting us in turn. So I think that that’s a really healthy, a relationship.

Adrian: Is there an official relationship between gravity views in gravity forms? That’s more than just, affiliate links per se.

Zack: We’re working on that, but I can’t, I can’t really talk about it. It’s something that will probably be… short answer. No. Right. Like long answer, you know, they’re probably going to be announced. So something in the next, you know, a few months that, related to the community and not gravity views specifically,

Adrian: But more or more kind of like third party developers organization type deal

Zack: Possibly.

Adrian: Possibly. Okay. Well, we’re going to keep an eye out for that. Maybe a, future Friday panel conversation, Jonathan.

Jonathon: Sure. Where, do you in the next year, what are some of the, if you’ve got some goals for gravity views, some functionality that you might be able to discuss a night. I know It’s tricky because some things you can’t discuss, but are there any, roadways that you want to take the present product?

Zack: Sure. One of the things that we have been waiting for a long time is the Gutenberg functionality to get catch up to what we need it to be. So that we can support a builder interface that for our layouts that is like a page builder but we don’t have to develop it ourselves. So, the ability to have columns, that’s still kind of working, but it’s kind of still in beta in Gutenberg. So we’re waiting for a little more functionality so that people on the front end of gravity view can actually build the view dynamically and see how it will look and preview everything in, in place. And, rework the entire user interface essentially.

Jonathon: And have you considered doing that with some of the leading page builders like Elamites or…

Zack: We’ve looked into that, and if we might actually end up going that way still we have some blocks and short codes that are designed to integrate with page builders. If the Gutenberg angle doesn’t work out, in terms of our development.

Jonathon: Well, probably will in the end, but I meant more in business terms because, you know, I think Elamites has got over 6 million users now. So that’s a substantial market that you can’t just dismiss where it is, huh Zack?

Zack: Yes.

Adrian: Well, it’s also like the, it’s the intersection of gravity forms, people in elementary, which is probably a little bit smaller than 6 million, but it’s still substantial.

Jonathon: Yeah.

Adrian: It is just for people who, you know, that maybe we have a lot of people who probably don’t never heard of gravity forums, so use it. And have you heard of gravity view? I mean, those they’re out there despite, you know, their massive like brand dominance. So what would be the ideal use case, or an example use case of, of a type of person that would seriously benefit from a gravity Forbes and gravity view implementation?

Zack: Sure. There are so many use cases, so there are unlimited different ways to set up a forum and there are unlimited different ways to display that form data using gravity view. So it really varies, but here’s an example. if you have a teacher that is collecting grades or like, collecting, submissions from students, and then just wanting the student to see their own submissions and their own grades live on the website, that’s, just a form and gravity view away. If you have member directories and, profile pages where you want to show. You know, information that the person has submitted, like you can log in and see, all the forms that you’ve submitted, that kind of functionality is a breeze to set up with gravity view.

Adrian: So, just, that installs gravity forms. And then you installed the gravity view and there’s some sort of like integration happening there. Yep. Yeah.

Zack: We have a lot of people who, during the Covid crisis, turn to gravity forms and gravity view to display a list of resources. For example, for here are people who are offering help and here are people who have resources that they can share, with the community, for example, like this person has, masks to donate and, this person, needs help with childcare. And so you can have forms that are set up and displaying this publicly moderated, easily using gravity forms in the backend or gravity view on the front end.

Just a great way to collect data from users and display that to the world without having to worry about setting up custom post types and doing all the WordPress finagling. It could be the way that you would do it. Yeah, exactly. It’s a way that you can do all that stuff and create applications without having to use WordPress custom post types and like maybe, advanced custom fields, for example.

Adrian: Wow. Super cool. Thank you. Oh, cool.

Jonathon: We use gravity forms, me and my agency, for quite a while now. My criticism of gravity forms is the email. I don’t have to deal with it now because I’ve got a couple of developers that work for me, but their support system. They had a forum and then they dropped it and then it’s just direct ticketing. And then, but Google, you still have these, very old forum posts that are like seven years old. I just do not understand the logic, why they did that. What was your fault?

Zack: Well, the good news is the community forums are back and they’re better than ever. They, they moved to discourse, which is awesome. I’m really glad that they chose to make it public again. Cause it really, wasn’t a huge resource for people. And they’re actively maintaining it and actively responding to requests. And they’re really they’re doing a great job with fair forum. So you’ll be glad to hear that it’s back in action.

Jonathon: They needed to do that. So, you’re okay. Staying on for another 10, 12 minutes, we quit bonus content. But we’re going to wrap up the podcast part of the show. So it’s like, what’s the best way for people to find out more about you and your plugin?

Zack: Oh, you can find me at Zack Katz, Z a C K K a T Z on Twitter. And you can find out about gravity view at gravityview.co. Don’t worry about the .co as .com goes there too. So gravity view.com works as well.

Jonathon: And Adrian? How can people find out more about you and your company and what you’re up to?

Adrian: So if you’re a business that needs help with building a list, in order to send people to a gravity form so they can look at a wonderful gravity view built paints, then you can go to Groundhog with two G’s.io. To get a free list building tool and CRM tool kit.

Jonathon: Yep. And if you really want to support WP Tonic, join our monthly newsletter. If you go to the WP Tonic website, it’s really easy. You can download one of our lead magnets. , it’s on the side bar, in the header there’s loads of places to sign up. And what it does is receive a great, newsletter that we’ve revised that has our latest posts, their latest recommendations from the WP tonic round table show. It has a lot of value and it really does help the show that you join the newsletter. So if that’s something you could do, I would really appreciate you signing up. We will be back next week with another great guest or an internal discussion. We will see you soon. Thanks. Bye


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