A History of WP Presenter Pro

Posted by Ronald Huereca / January 4, 2020 /

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WP Presenter began as a theme created by Chris Wiegman and others. I forget where he asked… perhaps it was Twitter or Facebook. But he wanted to transfer the development of the theme over to someone who could take it over and modernize it. I asked for access and he gratefully transferred the GitHub repository over to me.

Then it stagnated. Life intervened. I promised Chris that I would get back to it, but I simply didn’t have the time to give it the life that Chris wanted. He understood, however. He’s a developer, too, and like me, had other projects with a higher priority.

Enter Gutenberg

When Gutenberg was released and I started developing blocks for it, bells started ringing. What if I could turn what was originally a theme for presentations into a slide builder using Gutenberg? I pushed all projects to the side (except for paying client work) and began working on it as a plugin instead of a theme.

The original 1.0.0 version was category based and required Advanced Custom Fields. Each slide was, well, a slide. If you wanted to view the presentation, you viewed the presentation category. This presented a slew of architectural problems. For one, having to have users rely on ACF was a huge drawback. Likewise, the ordering of the slides could easily get out of whack and hard to manage with a ton of slides and categories.

I decided to release it anyway. I figured the issues could work themselves out in time. I announced the project release on this blog and was blown away by the lack of response. And it was behind a paywall, so it wasn’t free. It didn’t matter how many blocks it had or how many demos I displayed on Twitter. People didn’t seem to want to pay for self-hosted presentations. Others had questions: why self-host presentations when there are so many other well-hosted alternatives?

WordCamp U.S. 2019

I found out through Twitter that Matt Mullenweg had used a new plugin called Slides and Presentations by Ella van Durpe. The main concern in my head was, why would he not use WP Presenter Pro? Why is there another slide plugin out there? I raised my prices and doubled-down. I even offered free versions to people in the WordPress community in hopes of a review or testimonial. Nobody was using my tool, and I kinda gave up on the project.

WordPress 5.3 Released

With WordPress 5.3, adding sidebars to your Gutenberg plugin became insanely easier. It’s still not perfect, but it has a lot of promise. I began researching how to add sidebars to WP Presenter Pro. I then tried out my competition: Slides and Presentations.

I really liked how the plugin chose a single slide (presentation) as the overall presentation. Meaning, it wasn’t category based. I decided to work on WP Presenter Pro 2.0.0 and take inspiration from Slides and Presentations regarding their sidebar and concept that each post was indeed a presentation.

WP Presenter Pro 2.0.0

I struggled to get a sidebar working in WP Presenter Pro 2.0.0 so that it didn’t need to rely on Advanced Custom Fields for customization. I re-worked the slide templates so that each slide was its own presentation.

I added more curated blocks within the WP Presenter Pro source code and also limited it to blocks from other third-party services.

Fonts, which are a huge deal, were re-worked. I added Adobe Font support through a third-party plugin. I also added in filters so third-party developers could add their own fonts through Google Fonts or some other service.

I decided to go with curated blocks that I knew would work well with the presentations. I also added an option so third-party developers could add to that curated block list, or choose to just enable all blocks (which I consider use-at-your-own-risk). I combed through the blocks of Atomic Blocks and CoBlocks to see which blocks made sense in the context of a presentation. I added support for Yoast SEO.

I took inspiration from the Slides and Presentations plugin and re-worked speaker notes. I also managed to get vertical slides to work seamlessly in what I consider a user-friendly way.

The Decision to Release for Free

The decision to release for free was easy. Nobody had purchased a paywalled copy. I was free to do with WP Presenter Pro as I wished. I decided that free is better than paid, and even after all the coding work that went into it, perhaps I could use it to boost my freelance business. Everything is still up in the air and the 2.0.0 version is still so new; who knows what will happen.

Feedback

So far there’s been bits and pieces of feedback. One user mentioned that the plugin seemed better polished than others. When I announced the plugin on Twitter, it had a huge reception.

It was even mentioned in Gutenberg Times:

I’m still waiting for feedback from people who have tried the new plugin and am curious as to what types of presentations they can create using the plugin. The strategy at the moment is to wait for user feedback to help improve the plugin.

Conclusion

WP Presenter began as a theme. It was then coded into a Gutenberg plugin and released as a premium plugin. With no sales and free competition, I kinda gave up on the project. Taking inspiration from Slides and Presentations, I decided to re-work the architectural issues and release the plugin for free.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave any feedback or comments below. You can also check out WP Presenter Pro below:

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Developer at MediaRon
Ronald Huereca is the CEO of MediaRon LLC and enjoys WordPress plugin and theme development.

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