Last night I threw my three cents worth of opinions into the pot. Upon reflection I’d like to ante another nickle to this discussion. I’ve been involved business startu-ps and business expansion over the years and I certainly understand where WebAssist is coming from with the development of the Solution Packs.
You have a great line of extensions for Dreamweaver that help developers build better and or quicker websites. Unfortunately this market is limited and only so much growth is possible. To take your products further and allow for greater growth you have to open up new markets which is what I believe the solution packs are designed to do. The Solution Packs are a great idea and time saver for developers, offering prebuilt templates for a content management system, store, and a few other things. In theory a developer should be able to create this from scratch but it is time consuming and a prebuilt solution is a great help.
But developers are not your ultimate market for these products. That’s easy to tell by your own marketing programs which promote the Solution Packs as ready to use, easy to install, no coding experience necessary, opening the market to non developers. The problem is that you cannot sell into the non developer market using the same license as to developers and this is creating a lot of concern and problems as can be seen by this and other threads.
Looking at the big picture you could also be opening yourselves up to another set of problems. You market the Solution Packs as easy to use, no experience necessary products, but you are used to dealing with developers who have some familiarity with coding. Lets face it your products have a pretty steep learning curve made worse by the lack of thorough documentation. Your documents are designed for experienced coders not the guy off the street who sees an ad and says, “Hey I can do this myself.” This is made obvious by the number and types of issues filling the support forums. The do-it-yourselvers are complaining about the lack of documentation and the difficulties they are having getting their easy-to-use product working. I empathize with them.
The truth is that your products are not easy to use for the novice although they are getting better. Before committing myself to your products I checked out the forums to get the general feeling. There are a lot of negative replies on the adobe forums mostly on the lack of documentation and that fact that the products are not as easy to use as advertised. I went ahead anyway because I’m not a total novice and because I saw that you provide good support. However the more you open up to the non developers the greater this problem becomes.
I fully support your desires to expand your base and open new markets for your products but if you don’t keep your existing customers happy you could end up self destructing, which I would not like to see. One of the problems that may surface is among the experienced users who provide a lot of support help in these forums. What if they see this change of licensing in a negative way, and they are, and pull their support from the forums. If they decide to wash their hands of all solution packs and no longer provide additional support it would be a great loss for all. I for one would certainly miss the wonderful help they provide.
I have seen many suggestions being offered but there is no one easy solution to this, however a start might be with this forum. Anyone can search the forums and find help even if they are not a registered user. Maybe you need to lock the forums down. If you buy or license a product you can then log into the respective forum and read or request support. Non users do not get to see. For an ISP like the one who co-opted your product, deny them all support. If they have to build and support the product themselves they will soon find it not worth the cost.
This might be a good step in controlling support costs and make the product unattractive to ISP’s who want to buy one and sell many. And it may open the door to you maintaining a developers license. Perhaps you should consider a dual marketing strategy. Have a more complete solution pack, ready to go and easier to install, really designed for the complete novice. Market these under a different brand and give them a different support forum. That will help you to know exactly where your support costs lie. Then offer stripped down versions for the developers, with a developers license. Developers are going to be doing custom setup anyway so they (we) don’t need as comprehensive a package as the store bought version.
I had another idea on how to offset costs and continue to offer a developers license but erased it because I don't want to be slammed but my point is a little thinking and discussion on this issue may allow for something other than a knee jerk reaction to being taken to the cleaners from one bad guy.