My name is Jasond Johnston. I am the co-founder of a web development agency based in South Africa called Robot Dwarf(Admin Order Modifier). From a young age, I was fascinated by technology and was always curious about how the internet and the web worked.
I was first introduced to programming in high school and opted to pursue a university degree in Multimedia. My time at university exposed me to a variety of disciplines including software engineering, web development, and game design, as well as artificial intelligence and interaction design.
In 2012 I was working as a software developer at a logistics company when a good friend of mine approached me to join him as a director in a web development agency he had founded and I’ve been doing that ever since.
The Journey Began
My first attempt at web development was in the mid-2000s when I launched a Geocities site for a youth club. While I had no idea how to code back then, the bug had bitten, and I knew I wanted to make a career out of it.
WordPress had already been around for several years but I had never personally worked with it. That all changed in 2009 when I was given a course assignment to submit a fix to an issue on an open-source project of my choosing.
I somehow chose WordPress and although I was still very new to PHP, I perused the open tickets and after some trial and error I submitted an attempted fix for handling leap years in the post scheduler.
While the core team was very kind in their response, it was evident my “fix” was rather amateurish and quite rightly would not be merged.
More importantly, though, I passed the course, received my degree and a year later I was working on my first WordPress website, and in 2012 I became the co-founder at Robot Dwarf, the web development agency I still manage today.
The Need for “Admin Order Modifier”
A lot of what we do at Robot Dwarf involves finding solutions for client’s specific needs, whether that involves sourcing apps or extensions to provide that functionality or developing custom solutions where none exist already.
We assisted a client using WooCommerce who often needs to adjust order item pricing after orders have been placed. Like many stores, they enter their product pricing inclusive of tax and let WooCommerce work out the tax-exclusive amounts.
The problem is that on the admin order edit screen, all pricing is shown exclusive of tax and it can be a challenge to work out adjusted pricing or discounts when you work with tax-inclusive pricing.
While searching for an existing solution, I came across many requests for this same functionality and realised that there was a real need for this functionality.
I had never attempted releasing a plugin to the WordPress repository, and I remembered how poorly my previous attempt at contributing something to WordPress had gone.
However, I was now a lot more experienced in web development and I also thought about all the free plugins that had been beneficial to me over the years and that this was a fantastic opportunity to both learn how to write and submit a plugin as well as put something out there that could benefit others in the WooCommerce community and with that I got to work.
Several months later, version 1.00 of the RD Order Modifier for WooCommerce plugin was released for free on the WordPress plugin repository.
I had no idea if or how the plugin would be discovered or used but within a couple of days the first users began downloading it and I was soon overwhelmed by the response, people around the world were not only downloading the plugin but were also finding it useful and were providing feedback and feature requests!
It quickly became evident that a more feature-rich version would need to be built. I set out to develop a premium version of the plugin, but it was crucial that the free version should remain a completely viable solution for many stores and that it should continue to receive regular support and updates.
Deciding where and how to sell the plugin was also a big decision. I opted to sign up as a vendor on the Woo Marketplace and release the premium version there as well as sell it directly through Lemon Squeezy.
After several months of development and a thorough review process, I launched my first premium WooCommerce plugin, Admin Order Modifier.
Myself with my Brilliant Team
There is nothing like a good brainstorming session! Here I am with my trusty whiteboard marker, mapping out a process flow with my best friend and co-founder John.
It is hard to build anything, and it is even harder doing it alone, I am thankful to have people I can learn from and bounce ideas off of and who support each other.
Jasond with co-founder John
Advice for Business Owners
When starting a business, the best advice I can give is to not be afraid to fail and don’t try to force success at all costs.
I know there are many stories of people who gave up just before hitting the jackpot, and of perseverance with the odds stacked against you. However with business ownership, the odds are always stacked against you, and many unseen factors can influence your business and its success.
There are sadly a myriad of stories of detrimental business failures because founders did not quit or pivot early enough.
Failure can teach and guide you, and while pushing through, in the beginning, can work, there is less risk in pivoting or choosing a new direction early on and putting your efforts into that than doubling down on a failing idea or venture.
WordPress is a great platform for testing ideas, you can try your hand at theme development which can be used as a portfolio for agency work or if you have a great idea for a tool to sell, build your prototype as a WordPress plugin can be a quicker, cheaper and potentially lower risk endeavour than developing an entire app or SaaS from scratch.
Stay in Touch
WordPress & Beyond
I have learned a great deal from the experience of building, launching, and maintaining Admin Order Modifier.
I believe that WordPress plugins have and will continue to have a significant role to play in the popularity and flexibility of WordPress as a content management solution for a variety of websites and applications.
I have planned to build on the foundation of Admin Order Modifier by developing more plugins such as the recently launched Enhanced Order Modifier for WooCommerce plugin.
From a purely business standpoint, while there is always the consideration of platform risk, I feel that for the foreseeable future, WordPress, and indeed WooCommerce, will continue to remain a safer bet than many contemporary platforms.
I feel this is due both to the popularity and the distributed nature of the WordPress platform.
This is true of plugins as well and I have found that premium plugin development tends to sit in an interesting space in that the software is not necessarily a service and hosted on a single, controlled instance but is installed and distributed on a variety of platforms and systems.
This can mean more planning needs to go into the development of the software and the developer has considerably less control over how the software is used, but there is also a lot less overhead when it comes to resource management, hosting, data security, and privacy.
This is also why I think WordPress has several advantages over competitors and I do not see a significant threat to its survival in the near future.
There should also be some distinction made in that I feel WordPress.com and its commercial interests are more the target of competition than the open-source WordPress.org framework.
I do see more threat of competition on the plugin level though as competitor platforms can compete on elements of WordPress or a particular feature set. This competition can occur within the WordPress ecosystem or via another unrelated platform or system.
WooCommerce and its direct competitors are an example of this.
My Love for the WordPress Community
I have unfortunately yet to attend a meetup or a WordCamp, but one of my 2024 resolutions is to get more involved with my local WordPress community because I know I am missing out on some good conversation and I can learn a lot from others.
In just my limited interactions with the online WordPress community, I have seen that there are some incredible people out there.
I have been following other plugin developers both within and outside the Woo marketplace community and have already learned a great deal from the likes of Kathy Darling, Rodolfo Melogli and Remkus de Vries, to name a few.
How I Keep Myself Updated
I think it is always a good idea to keep up with the latest developments and trends in WordPress and WooCommerce as well as stay informed about what other founders are up to.
I follow several official accounts on Twitter / X and I have subscribed to several newsletters as well. I am also a member of both the Make WordPress and Woo community Slack groups, and make sure to catch the State of the Word every year, as well as the Do The Woo podcast every week.
I Have a Life Other Than the Work
There is a quote that Matt Mullenweg posted on his blog some years ago now which speaks of finding three hobbies in life, one that makes you money, one that keeps you in shape, and one to be creative. While not a strict philosophy, it is a notion that has resonated somewhat with me.
In addition to the hobby of coding which thankfully also pays the bills, I have always had an interest in music and enjoy playing piano and guitar in my free time I feel that this really helps me focus, relax, and also invites creativity.
So while that covers money and the mind, for a long time I lacked a hobby for keeping fit, but I have recently started jogging and I am trying to remain consistent in that, wish me luck!
I Reward Myself by
When I feel I’ve achieved something work-related, I try to take a break, catch my breath, and just try and switch off for a little while.
I might also celebrate a success or achievement with family and friends over a pizza. For me, it is important to just take a moment and absorb what has been accomplished, and then move on to the next thing. Onwards and upwards!
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