Add-on Support Visualised

4 March 2014

Lately I’ve become more aware of a pat­tern that seems to be quite com­mon among soft­ware with­in the Expres­sion­En­gine com­munity, and it not only appears with­in third-party add-ons but stems all the way from the core product itself.

Sales support post visualisation

The pat­tern is that a right-of point release, for example 2.x, is quickly fol­lowed by a flurry of pan­icky bug reports and sup­port requests. It is gen­er­ally fol­lowed swiftly by a 2.x.1 release which fixes the major bugs and resolves the crit­ic­al issues dis­covered by the software’s user base. Sub­sequently a 2.x.2 ver­sion is released to cov­er any remain­ing issues that were over­looked and patch any secur­ity holes.

This is not a cri­ti­cism of Expres­sion­En­gine, so please don’t take it that way, it is simply a pat­tern that seems to be quite wide­spread and nat­ur­al with­in our industry. I myself have exper­i­enced this first-hand with my com­mer­cial add-ons and recently had the idea of put­ting togeth­er a little graph that would show this release trend in my add-ons.

Ori­gin­ally I wanted to cre­ate a graph of how I ima­gined” sup­port requests would jump in volume right after a major release and slowly decrease as minor ver­sions were released to address issues. But my love of data visu­al­isa­tions told me that I should do some actu­al research to col­lect real data and accur­ately visu­al­ise it on an graph.

So I ended up writ­ing some PHP code that would scrape all of the sup­port requests I have received for my add-ons on the sup­port for­ums on devot-ee. By the way, this might be a good oppor­tun­ity to remind you that as great as hos­ted third-party ser­vices that help you run your busi­ness are, they have one major dis­ad­vant­age and that is that you don’t actu­ally own” the data that you pub­lish. I’m sure Ryan Mas­uga would have been happy to help me get the data I needed, but I saw it as a strange chal­lenge of sorts.

So after scrap­ing close to a thou­sand pages on devot-ee (if you saw a sud­den spike in traffic then that was me Ryan!!) I had the data I needed. I threw it into a Google Chart and voila, unre­cog­nis­able data instantly beau­ti­fied into an mean­ing­ful visualisation.

The res­ult is below, and I’ve annot­ated it with what may be pos­sible explan­a­tions of the indi­vidu­al peaks (these are mildly edu­cated guesses). The blue line rep­res­ents the total num­ber of sup­port for­um posts by month over the past 2 years and the col­oured lines rep­res­ent posts for the indi­vidu­al com­mer­cial add-ons (Snaptcha, Expresso, Fire­Mail and the Sitemap Module).

Visualisation

At first I just thought of this as a simple exper­i­ment but the more I looked at the visu­al­ised data, the more I real­ised that there were insights to be gained from it. So I went back to the data and cor­rel­ated it with my com­mer­cial add-on sales fig­ures and came up with some fas­cin­at­ing visualisations.

The chart below visu­al­ises total sales and sup­port over the past 2 years. The blue line rep­res­ents the num­ber of add-ons sold and the red line rep­res­ents the num­ber of sup­port for­um posts in any giv­en month.

Even though com­mon sense tells me that this is what I should expect, I was stunned to see just how closely related the lines are. You can see how the peaks and troughs of sup­port for­um posts come just after those of sales, and even the Christ­mas sea­son down-time is vis­ible in both lines.

Visualisation

Con­clu­sion: as add-on sales increase, expect to receive more sup­port requests

The second chart visu­al­ises sales and sup­port fig­ures for indi­vidu­al add-ons. The y‑axis rep­res­ents income from add-ons sales and the x‑axis rep­res­ents the num­ber of sup­port for­um posts per add-on. The size of the bubble rep­res­ents the price of the add-on.

So as we can see below, the Sitemap Mod­ule brings in the largest amount of income and also requires the least amount of sup­port. At the oth­er end of the spec­trum, Expresso brings in the least amount of income and requires the most sup­port of all, where­as Snaptcha and Fire­Mail share the middle ground.

Visualisation

Con­clu­sion: the best selling add-ons are often those that just work and need the least amount of support

I sense that visu­al­ising data like this could get quite addict­ive once you’ve gathered the data. I’m very pleas­antly sur­prised at how insight­ful these visu­al­isa­tions, as well as oth­ers that I have pro­duced, are prov­ing to be, and I hightly recom­mend visu­al­ising your data in order to bet­ter under­stand your business.