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ExpressionEngine Add-On Pricing


Written on December 30th, 2009 by Erik Reagan

ExpressionEngine Add-On Pricing

There is an interesting thing going on in the ExpressionEngine community right now. More developers are realizing that they should actually get paid for their public add-on development. I'd venture to say that most developers who release public add-ons got their start by fulfilling a need for a specific client project. I know that was the case for me. I needed a few features in EE that weren't available any other way, 1st or 3rd party (hey! what ever happened to the 2nd party and why don't we ever mention them). Considering that detail, most add-on developers were originally paid for their development. Somewhere along the way these add-ons, not just for ExpressionEngine but for software in general, became commonly distributed freely. Don't get me wrong, I love free software. I love using it and certainly enjoy creating and sharing it. That said, we all have mouths to feed. Some of us more than others.

Commercial Add-ons

There are plenty of commercial add-ons for ExpressionEngine already. It's very simple to see the scope of cost as well since many of them are gaining popularity. Lately I've seen a number of EE users voice their opinion on add-on pricing as it pertains to client projects and that has led me to think hard about how I license my soon-to-be-released software. The common theme is the rising cost of a "base install" of ExpressionEngine. Here's an example for a site with just a few commercial add-ons:

From what I gather, the argument is that it's a hard sell to clients when the "total package" cost around $500 just for licenses. Personally I disagree with the mindset of this argument. Add-ons should only be installed to fill a need and if it is filling a need then the client should understand paying for it. It would be up to you to present it to them that way. It is also up to you to determine whether or not they truly need this particular add-on. The reality is that we all serve different clients. We, as a community, serve clients who would pay anywhere from $1,500 to $25,000 for the same exact website.

If you aren't sure if you really need to install a particular add-on, just go ask Mike Boyink (Train-ee) and he'll set you straight I'm sure. :)

Pricing Model

With all of this in mind I am leaning toward selling my add-ons with the following structure:

  • A free "lite" version (on some, not all commercial add-ons)
  • A single domain license
  • A multiple domain license
  • A developer license

Lite version
This can be seen in an add-on I have already released called Redirect Helper Lite. If one of my commercial add-ons can also be distributed with some of the core functionality as a free product it will be deemed the "lite" version. Lite versions of my add-ons will have the same license and support as my other free add-ons (which is still being determined).

Single Site License
This one is simple. It's for a single domain. Period. Upgrades would likely only cost on larger "dot oh" upgrades. Support will be via email, chat and possibly through a 3rd party service like Get Satisfaction.

Mult-Site License
This is for people powering multiple domains with a single install of ExpressionEngine. It doesn't matter if it's through the EllisLab supported method of using MSM or through your own method. If a single installation of ExpressionEngine on your server is powering multiple domains, this is the license you would use. Upgrades and support would be the same as the single site license.

Developer License
This license would be what a firm/freelancer would buy if they intend to use the add-on for multiple client projects. By nature it will be the most expensive option because it is for an unlimited number of domains. The upgrade path might vary slightly for this license but I haven't given it a lot of thought yet. Support would be the same as the site/mult-site support but would only be provided to the developer who purchased, not the client on whose project it was used.

Your Thoughts

So I've shared my plans/ideas of ExpressionEngine add-on licensing. Now I'd like to hear what you think. Keep in mind none of these details should be considered final until I release my first commercial add-on next month. I'd love your input as I shape this pricing model so let me know in the comments below! Thanks.

Edit: The discussion below has steered more towards the general idea of add-ons being commercial. Please note after reading the comments that, while I'm thrilled to have discussion about commercial add-ons in general, I'm still very interesting in your thoughts of the different license options I mentioned above. Thanks!

Edit 2: After the great discussion below I've come to a conclusion on my pricing structure. You can read about it here.


When I was thinking how to set up the license for Low Variables, I decided to take the approach that made the most sense to me—one license per install. Different licensing might be appropriate in some cases, but it could also cause confusion, so I prefer to keep things as simple and transparent as possible; one license, one price. Basically, it comes down to: do you need an EE license? Then you need one for my add-on, too.

Lodewijk Schutte on Dec 30th, 2009 at 2:23 pm

From Twitter, I said “I want more developer pricing (set it at 10x the single price). I hate single domain pricing makes MSM a pain. 1 install 1 price”. Erik wanted me to post here too, so here goes.

I wish more (any?) add-ons had developer pricing. Or had the mentality that Ellislab does, with volume pricing, providing discounts after your 20th copy of LG Better Meta.

If you’re not going with developer/volume pricing, I’d appreciate one-install pricing, instead of single domain pricing. (I’m looking at you Leevi Graham) For a multi-lingual site, done with subdomains, purchasing 5 copies of LG Multi-Language, seems ridiculous, especially since you could work around it with and you’d only need one license.

I’m sure many other developers get sick of purchasing many copies of the same, and would rather receive some sort of discount when purchasing on behalf of clients.

I look forward to seeing what the rest of you all think.

AJP on Dec 30th, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Erik this is something that I think every developer has to figure out on their own. I am in the same situation right now. I have developed add-ons for clients in the past and have released them to a few individuals that I have seen on the forums or twitter but for the most part I have not released add-ons to the general public because I did not have the time to support them. As I am transitioning to 100% web development I am having to figure out what my plans are for my add-ons.

A free version with limited support is great to get people to try out your add-ons and hopefully get them to upgrade to paid versions. A single paid license would of course be the easiest way for you to go but that doesn’t mean that it is the best option.  I had never thought of Multi-Site license in the sense of something like MSM but personally I think of it as multiple domain names running off of separate EE instals (but that is up for you to decide as the developer). A Developers license is a great idea and personally I think it would be great to only have to maintain one license for each of the add-ons that I use. Another option would be to do something like EllisLab does in their own store with offering a discount depending on how many license someone has bought.

I dunno what is the best option but good luck on figuring out.

Justin Long on Dec 30th, 2009 at 3:13 pm

I agree with both Low & AJP points. Make licensing simple to lesson the confusion. It would be great to see other add-on developers to start offering the same sort of pricing model as EllisLab, with volume discounts and one year support. That way devs still get their residual income, but also help out their returning customers for supporting their add-on.

Siebird on Dec 30th, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Interesting one.
First up, I do think that if someones put time and effort into developing something they should be paid for it in some form or another. The alternative to this is a nasty place where clients feel they can rip us off, pushing for more work from us with no more pay - time is precious and has a value when this is your profession and you have bills to pay.

My only concern is what you described as the rising cost of the licences… it does feel like as i add up all the modules that go into most builds these days it gets a bit expensive.

I’ve then gone back over the past few quotes we’ve done and the cost of the EE license and all the add-ons comes to around 3-6% of the total quote price.

When put like that, I can’t really complain for what I ultimately charge a client for a site - a few hundred pounds worth of license is not a lot compared to a quote over £6k!!

Andy Marshall on Dec 30th, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Thanks, Erik, for the great post. The cost of the software is trivial for my company - no problem. The cost of managing the licenses, compliance, and keeping everything straight is a much bigger problem. Every developer has a different rationale and different scheme.

I would love for the add-on developers to come up with a shared licensing nomenclature and practice. It would be great if Ellis lab nudged them this way by offering certification or another carrot to entice them to a standard licensing practice. (Note, they could charge whatever they want - I’m just arguing that EL encourage them to standardize tiers and renewal practices.)

Dan Lovejoy on Dec 30th, 2009 at 3:29 pm

In addition to my previous notes, I’ve got a bit more to add.

I really dont’ care what the pricing is. If it’s a good add on, I’ll pay it.
So, I’m not nit-picking about spending $500 total, I’m glad to do that.

Just frustrating remembering my accounts, for brandon /structure (download codes), leevi (EE account), HCC (ee account) and more. Not that I want to see masuga open an add-on store on devot-ee, but a single one-stop shop would be great.

Hopefuly EllisLab gets certification up and running.

AJP on Dec 30th, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Thanks for your thoughts. Simplicity is certainly beneficial but in the case of this software I’m willing to juggle the potential confusion for what I think might be friendlier long-term licensing

I’m pretty certain I’m going with a developer license to some degree. The uncertainty now resides in the multi-domain option. Thanks for sharing!

@justin and @siebird
I’ve toyed with the idea of volume discounting but it’s never really stuck with me. Still an option though…

yeah 3-6% is not a big deal in the scope of things.

Personally I think that’s a fantastic idea. Let’s all email Leslie now.

@Dan and @ajp
I feel the same way about the management of accounts and licenses. My current solution is just a spreadsheet with the data. It would be interesting to see what other freelancers/businesses do to organize their licenses

Erik Reagan on Dec 30th, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I’ve watched with alarm as the cost of my standard EE install has increased over the past few months.  For example, I used to be an LG TinyMCE user, but after using (and loving) Playa, I decided to give Wygwam a try. At the same time I made Wygwam a standard install, Structure went from free to $65. 

Granted, it’s my choice to use these extras (just like it’s my choice to use EE), but it would be nice if there was a Developer License option on all of the top addons. 

I would gladly pay Brandon Kelly $100/year for unlimited Wygwam installs and Travis Schmeisser $250/year for the unlimited Structure installs.

It’s fairly easy to talk clients into a $250 license for EE.  It’s getting more challenging to convince them that they need to pay $497.

as far as the argument over whether or not an add-on is needed ... as far as I’m concerned, Playa, Structure and Wygwam all make the content management and administration of a site light years easier.  I need them in my base install.  No client has ever asked me for them & therefore, have never passed along the cost. I have, however, used and passed along the cost for Solspace User, LG Better Meta, LG Polls to name a few.

Dave Fravel on Dec 30th, 2009 at 3:43 pm

I agree with Siebird. Discounts on bulk purchases should be available.

I’ve been thinking about some of these prices lately, and honestly I think the price points are too high. $50+ for a single add-on is a bit much. Lets put it into perspective… if EE is selling the entire package for $300, and providing daily maintenance, support and paying numerous staff, and an EE add-on written by someone who spends 5 hours a week on support sells for $50 to me that is saying “my add-on provides 1/6th the amount of functionality that EE provides, and I’m providing 1/6th the amount of maintenance that EllisLab puts into EE each week”. EllisLab is also supporting a much, much larger code base than what any add-on out there has. So an add-on developer is also saying that a $50 add-on with 5,000 lines of code is worth as much as EE which has (I’m guessing here) probably 50,000+ lines of code.

Add-ons should be in the $5 to $25 range.

Will this stop me from buying add-ons? For personal projects, you betcha. Projects for my company on the other hand could be a tougher sell. Like you mentioned, it’s getting near $500 for a good EE package. Structure should just be part of the EE core, I can’t imagine doing a site without it now. Playa is also key on many projects. What worries me is a year from now, when EE 2.0 is more prolific and a flood of CI developers start selling add-ons. It’s true not every project requires all these add-ons, but when the game changers like Structure or Playa come out, the cost will just keep increasing. What if 2-3 more game changers come out this year and a solid EE install costs nearly $1000? Sure those add-ons might save me 20 hours of development time, but client’s don’t always get that. Even if a client is spending $25,000+ on a site it can be a tough sell when they know that Drupal, Wordpress, Concrete5, Joomla et al are available.

I love EE, and I love the community. I just hope add-on developers keep things in check and don’t get too greedy.

Brian Litzinger on Dec 30th, 2009 at 3:49 pm

I agree that some add-ons are over priced. I also think that Apple’s LED monitor is overpriced. I don’t buy items that are overpriced (in my eyes) unless there’s a necessity for them. Like you they don’t make it into my personal (and many non-profit) projects.

I disagree with your bracket for pricing however. As far as value goes there are add-ons far more valuable than $50. It all comes back to our clients and how skilled we are at defining value in (“selling”) software. From a business perspective, how many sales does it take to make up the cost of something. Eg: Most of my clients are businesses who sell products or services. If their target audience needs better/simpler use of member templates in order to achieve a higher conversion rate, then purchasing User (by Solspace) for $89.95 is worth it easily.

Erik Reagan on Dec 30th, 2009 at 4:00 pm

The one thing about your logic, which in most circumstances is pretty sound, is that we’re talking about a fairly small community. I know that Travis and I couldn’t support Structure with the level of support we do with the features we’ve got planned if we were making $5 per license. I’d be better off working at Walmart, unfortunately.

Everyone who uses ExpressionEngine has an EE license (except for the Core version and of course, pirates), but only a small percentage of those buy addons, and those that do don’t make it a standard on each site. Sure some use it more than others, but not 100% of their will use your addon. So, EllisLab makes a sale for EVERY site, but Structure may only get 2% of that market, for 1/4% - 1/6% of the price.

Now another point that was made is: “Hey, you already got paid for that for a client’s site, why not just release it for free?”. This definitely makes sense on the surface, but those who have developed addons know that there’s a HUGE difference between a single use addon and commercial release. You need to test every use case, write clean documentation, be available for support from potentially hundreds of people, build a site with e-commerce of some sort to deliver the files….—not just a single client with a single implementation.

All in all, I LOVE being an addon developer, ExpressionEngine and the community is by far the best out there, and i hope to bring more than just Structure out there! (well there was that one…Boomerang….but let’s not go there.)

Jack McDade on Dec 30th, 2009 at 4:11 pm

That’s a great point about who buys the add-ons. Thank you for also mentioning some of the “behind the scenes” things that some add-on purchasers may have not thought of yet. Good thoughts

Erik Reagan on Dec 30th, 2009 at 4:14 pm

“Add-ons should be in the $5 to $25 range.”
I do kinda agree with this, altho i would set an upper limit of maybe $50 - any add-on that costs over $50 I would very carefully think about if it’s really worth it. To my knowledge, I haven’t yet bought a add-on over $50….

Andy Marshall on Dec 30th, 2009 at 4:17 pm

I’ve always been a big proponent of commercial add-ons and have privately encouraged developers to sell their add-ons and get paid for their work. It’s good to see that is not up for debate (like it is in other communities). :)

There has been a lot of great discussion so far so I only want to touch on a few issues.

First, I’m curious about the developer license. Who would not be a developer? It seems like a developer license would apply to, well, almost everyone. As Erik indicated, the developer license would have to be the most expensive; it would have to be prohibitively expensive enough that only those people who would truly use it would buy it.

Then, of course, the add-on sellers would have the overhead of deciding who is and isn’t a developer. I’d prefer they just spend time with support and development. The best approach for this, I think, is to contact developers privately and plead your case for a special arrangement. My guess is there are very few people who would fall into this category.

Secondly, $500 for a base software setup is not much. In fact, you shouldn’t think about it in terms of “Will my client pay?” but instead “Could I build this for less?” I think you know the answer to the last question.

If your client wants a site with functionality that requires $500 in software and doesn’t want to pay for it, this isn’t a problem with the add-on developers. I’d guess this is a problem with desired scope and available budget.

As Erik said, there is a wide array of client budgets, but at some point we have to respect the work of the developers and not expect them to work for cheaper because our clients won’t pony up the equivalent two nights in the Marriott downtown.

Ryan Irelan on Dec 30th, 2009 at 4:23 pm

I don’t think Structure should be $5. It’s definitely worth more than that. The point I’m trying to make is if everyone just slaps a $50+ price on their add-on it’ll be harder to sell and the standard “package” that people use with will get expensive. I may not need add-on A for months, but if the time comes that I need it, and I try it, then realize, “holy shit this is awesome” I may add it to my package. I’m just concerned with how many times that could happen, then we end up with a rusty $600 1988 Lincoln with $3000 bling bling rims.

I see your point with the 1% or 2% of the market thing. Touche.

In the Drupal world (shudder) putting 20 add-ons in your package doesn’t cost a thing, other than the headaches that come from incompatibilities and crappy code.

(Not that EE is a rusty 1988 Lincoln. You know what I mean ;)

Brian Litzinger on Dec 30th, 2009 at 4:25 pm

“Secondly, $500 for a base software setup is not much. In fact, you shouldn’t think about it in terms of “Will my client pay?” but instead “Could I build this for less?” I think you know the answer to the last question.”

Good point. Perhaps it’s more a matter of just not telling the client the cost of the CMS and rolling it into the overall budget, or giving them better wording so they don’t freak out at a miscellaneous $300 charge. Right now we mention that the CMS costs $250, and may need to purchase additional add-ons when the cost of the add-on is cheaper than the development cost.

Brian Litzinger on Dec 30th, 2009 at 4:30 pm

I appreciate your question about who a developer is by definition. I suppose if that type of license was an option it would merit a better, clearer name. The difference between license types would be like a web development firm buying a “developer license” versus an organization with an in-house team buying a “single/multi-domain license”.

Our clients don’t see a breakdown upon initial estimate. We do (in Freshbooks) but they only get the cost breakdown if they ask for it typically. I don’t need to know how much the breaks cost in my new car, I just need to know that my new car can break if I need it to.

Erik Reagan on Dec 30th, 2009 at 4:35 pm

@Brian: I think that’s a great approach.

Ryan Irelan on Dec 30th, 2009 at 4:36 pm

D’oh.  Called out.  In yellow highlight even..;)

I think I’ve got a bit of a rep that isn’t entirely accurate.  I DO use 3rd party add-ons.  I’ve just been very careful about them - I don’t have a bunch of them in a “standard install” - it’s very much a case of use as needed.

Add-ons - like any commercial product from toasters to snuggies - should be priced based on the value they provide and what the market will support.  Honestly - in terms of CMS’s EE has been underpriced for the value it provides. 

Yes - I’ll say that again.  I think EE has been too cheap for what it delivers.  I’ve worked on other projects where the CMS was > $10K alone just in licensing.  Back in my corporate days (sounding like the old man I am..;) we used Vignette - over $100K and it didn’t have a “control panel” - we had to build that too.  And we wrote code uphill both ways…;)

We’ve been spoiled with EE’s pricing - so now suggesting that add-ons need to be priced as a percentage of EE’s selling price isn’t fair to the add-on developers, or to EllisLab.

Maybe I’ve just been lucky - the clients I’ve had have all known the value of their time.  If something like Structure or Playa will save them hours of content management time over the lifetime of their site (or add functionality they didn’t have before) they can immediately see the value for the $. 

Having said all of that—we’re at a bit of a transition or growth point with EE, both in the types of clients and sites who will use it and the number of commercial 3rd party pieces that are out there.  We’re sure to see the market be a bit turbulent for a while while we all get it figured out - but eventually the forces of any capital market will come to play.  People will pay for value.  Companies and products will succeed on quality and customer support.  Some will fail. 

And all of us web-heads will get an education in business while going for the ride..;)

Boyink on Dec 30th, 2009 at 5:01 pm

You just said the exact reason I used your name, “it’s very much a case of use as needed.” That’s how I think we should all choose to use any software out there. I also agree the EE is underpriced. Thanks for chiming in :)

Erik Reagan on Dec 30th, 2009 at 5:11 pm

As Ryan and Boyink said, $500 is not expensive at all for a quality CMS. Quite often the issue is selling the value of both your work and the software. If your project is budget-conscience just explain to them the value and why it’s important. As with any project, if they can’t afford or don’t want to additional functionality, then they don’t get it. You get what you pay for and clients need to be educated on this where needed. Most reasonable people can be explained the benefits and get it. For some reason this is a foreign concept to clients, but nothing a little talking can’t get through.

As a matter of fact, I feel surprised quite often how many people INSIDE the development world don’t get this. People spend a lot of time on add-ons. Why should they be free or cheaper than their value? Just because it’s software? We all need to eat and have our time compensated. Sometimes, we can do things free or help in the forums to give back, but something of the magnitude of major add-ons can’t be written off without financial help or it will not continue to be developed. More expensive ones are usually more complex and require more support and development.

One thing to remember before hammering people about pricing is all the work it takes to get that add-on into your hands. There are countless hours of development, design and support before you get the final product and as the add-on grows so do all of those items.

To those not wanting to pay - do you build websites and applications for free? Do you offer cut rates to clients that don’t want to pay your rate?

Travis Schmeisser on Dec 30th, 2009 at 5:27 pm


The thing that you have to remember when you buy an add-on that is much more then just the initial cost of the add-on. It comes down to making it easier for the client. Sure almost anyone that knows PHP/jQuery/EE could develop any add-on that they need. If I had the time I could of build something like FieldFrame or Playa or Structure. But what is the cost breakout for me. Playa cost $70, works great, is being actively developed and expanded on without me having to spend anytime on it. If I live under a rock for the next year I can come back and there will be a recent updated release of Playa. When I buy an add-on I ask myself will I be able to put something together that will do what I need for about the same cost. Most of the time it is cheaper for me to buy the add-on and just go from there. I would spend $100 - $200 for Playa if Brandon decided to raise the price (I am not recommending that he does) just because of the value it adds to an EE install.
My only caveat to that statement is that it needs to be properly supported. I hate buying an add-on to find out that it has incomplete docs (you know who I am talking about Solspace) or it takes forever to hear back from the developer. If an add-on has little support or poor docs I would not spend more then $20 where if the same add-on was released with good support and docs I can see spending 10x more

Justin Long on Dec 30th, 2009 at 5:32 pm

I don’t bat an eye at spending $1,000+ for Adobe Creative Suite (if I need to), and I don’t argue that it should be cheaper even if OSX is *only* $129 (give or take).

If the project requires a WYSIWYG interface, then I’ll pay for wygwam. Visual site hierarchy, then structure. Multiple relations? Playa here I come.

But first, before bitching about the cost of “all these addons”, make sure you actually NEED them in your installs. I don’t need Playa everywhere, so no need for it. When I need it, $70 is pocket change to pay for those requirements.

If the project required it, $250 would be ok too. (please don’t raise your already perfect pricing brandon).

AJP on Dec 30th, 2009 at 5:38 pm

I’m all for paying for add-ons and have purchased some add-ons for client sites. but sometimes I don’t really know if the add-on will work for me or the site I’m working on without trying it out. It’s a tough sell to buy an add-on that may not work for me without being able to somehow try it out first. I realize that it’s not easy to set something like that up and that many developers do not want to offer refunds on software purchases due to their being no guarantee that the software is not being used anymore.

In anycase I would much prefer that some of the bigger developers offer a feature reduced version for free. I’m not sure how feasible that is, but it would definitely help out in trying out some of the more expensive add-ons.

It’s also been 2+ years of no new features/add-ons for EE from EllisLab due to transitioning to 2.0 - Now that 2.0 is here, I’m wondering if EllisLab will step up the development of first party add-ons some of which I would expect to be included in the price of EE and some of which like MSM and the Forum Module would cost extra.

Sean on Dec 30th, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Perhaps one should try quoting for the development time needed to create addons like Structure or Playa, then quote again using those addons. The difference will run into the thousands.

I’m more than happy to pay the costs of commercial addons. Just think what it costs them each time you bug them for half an hour of their time.

I don’t bother putting addons separately in a quote, instead I just add them to the development costs.

Hambo on Dec 30th, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Many developers offer 30 day money-back guarantee’s for their software. It’s not quite as good as a free trial, but still gives you an opportunity to not lose money in the long run if the software doesn’t fit your needs.

That’s a good suggestion for anyone who might find themselves in a position to sell an add-on to a client. It will help put it in perspective for them. I’m with you though, it’s just lumped into the project estimate/cost if it’s an up-front need.

Thank you for all of your thoughts on this. I certainly didn’t expect 20+ comments to come from this in 8 hours. It’s great that we are hearing from both add-on developers and those who just use the add-ons. Keep the comments coming and send some others this way to keep discussing it.

Erik Reagan on Dec 30th, 2009 at 8:30 pm

This is a great discussion. I think the best points are what Mike Boyink and Travis Schmeisser said: “use only as needed” and “if they can’t afford or don’t want to additional functionality, then they don’t get it.” Surprise! You can say NO to your clients if they want the moon for the price of cheese.

Like Hambo, regarding whether I’d purchase a commercial add-on or not depends on time and budget. Structure is $65, which is less than what most of us here bill for ONE hour worth of work, to get some of us SEVERAL hours less of headache. I think that’s really half the problem here: designers and developers not thinking enough in business or sales terms. If it’s _needed_ functionality, most clients could be sold over the time and money savings versus custom development.

I do, however, wish there was an “App store” like people are hinting above.

Lea on Dec 30th, 2009 at 8:57 pm

I can see it now…
“Does ExpressionEngine do this?”
“There’s an app for that”

Erik Reagan on Dec 30th, 2009 at 9:09 pm

I have no problem paying for add-ons. You guys make expression engine sell-able and much easier to use for the end-user. So i think all the prices are perfect as-is, hell if anything i would suggest some of you guys offer a lifetime license, i would def pay.

My clients are blown away how easy it is for them to manage their site.

Rock on guys and thank you!

illustrationdan on Dec 30th, 2009 at 9:09 pm

I like the idea of an add-on store provided it keeps track of licenses and provides a notes option so that you could easily remember which add-on is used with which client/domain.

Sean on Dec 30th, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Today I downloaded, installed and configured Super Search by Solspace to do something in 2 hours that we previously did not even thing ExpressionEngine could do. Was it worth the $60. Damn skippy it was. Same thing goes for a lot of the other add-ons that are floating around (LG Better Meta comes to mind).

As for my situation I have kicked around the idea of moving to a membership based model where people have access to all of my templates but depending on their level of membership can only install it on 3 domains, 6 domains or unlimited domains much like what you find in the Wordpress or Joomla community. The only thing that keeps me from doing this is the level of work involved in rebuilding my own site. I just can’t see spending a month dedicated to rebuilding it to do that (would probably have to switch to AMember).

I would imagine that the problem with Developer pricing is similar. SCM does not really allow you the flexibility needed to offer multiple license for a single item. So until someone comes up with a store module that is geared towards selling downloadable products with license key generation, link masking, expiring links, membership or single download choices and multiple types of licenses then I guess emailing the dev is about as close as you can get to striking a deal.

And I think we need to remember that most sites don’t require all add-ons. While we would like them cause we know the benefit they provide it may not be a necessity. But the reason why I moved to this community from the Open Source community was because people can charge for their add-ons (which are equal to hours). I hated what I saw in the Joomla community and what I am starting to see in the Wordpress community where devs are blackballed because of the commercial status of some of their products. And it seems silly that allowing a fee for download vs allowing a fee for licensing is enough to get some people off of the hook. Semantics of a different sort.

Anyway, great discussion. Great group. You all rock!

Marcus Neto on Dec 30th, 2009 at 9:58 pm

Just to say, as it was mentioned earlier on, that we do tell clients up front what they’re paying in CMS license costs. We don’t break down what the individual add-ons are etc, but they can see 2 figures - what goes into admin, design, html, CMS development, content, deployment, and what goes into the license costs.
The main reason for this is the fact we charge everything in pounds sterling, and licenses cost dollars, so we need to make it clear that its dependent on exchange rates how much that element will come to in a month or two down the line when we actually buy them.

Also, I do agree that the cost of a few add-ons that do get used as well as the EE itself isn’t normally massive, especially when compared to the cost of developing it all from scratch - that one really is a no brainer, and the flip side that would say a developer should be able to sell on a module that they developed for a past client is also a good one.
My only concern is that while I may look at Boomerang for example, and go “Wow, that it an amazing add-on. $95 is not exactly cheap but considering what goes into it, I can completely understand that price point”, a client may look at it and go “$95?! What does EE do natively? Or Mailchimp - thats free.” They tend not to understand the value of the modules compared to how long it would take for a developer to make it from scratch.
So maybe there is a case for not telling the client what the modules cost and just package the lot together as an undisclosed sum….

Very interesting discussion!

Andy Marshall on Dec 31st, 2009 at 3:40 am

What about pricing addons based on the size of the project budget?

When working on a web project with a healthy budget - spending $500 for EE + addons is an absolute no-brainer. But for those projects that have tiny budgets (small local companies, pro-bono work, etc) - it can be hard to spend the $250 for EE let alone the addons.

This would require integrity from the EE community… but all you software sellers already rely on that.


Mark Terpstra on Dec 31st, 2009 at 6:57 am

That’s great! Thanks for sharing your encouraging feedback.

You hit on the key piece I have yet to finish, the actually purchase process. Before I get that bit together I’ll have to decide what I want to do with licenses because that will shape my approach. I can almost guarantee you that if someone released a module that helped sell licenses for software and it only supported the one license per install approach I probably would have just run with that.

Hmm, I’m not sure I like that idea too much. Could you imagine suggesting to someone like Adobe or Apple that they should price their software based on our budgets? It’s a really messy scenario from the developer’s eyes. Personally I fell like you work with the room you have in a given budget. If you can’t afford something you don’t buy it.

One thing to consider, though, is that if you’re working on a non-profit site you should directly contact the developer of the add-on in which you are interested. Most commercial add-on web sites don’t mention anything about a non-profit price (though I feel like they should) but I’ve received a few licenses 100% free for non-profit work (as recently as yesterday as a matter of fact).

Thanks for your thoughts Mark!

Erik Reagan on Dec 31st, 2009 at 7:21 am

Heh…can I use that approach at the car dealer?  “Yes, I’m small and local so would only like to pay $10K for that new Suburban”....;)

No - this is simple to me.  If a project can’t afford EE plus addons, then it doesn’t get EE plus addons.  If you’re doing the pro-bono work and want the addon, then you buy it.  It’s not fair to the developers to shift the responsibility of philanthropy to them for causes they may not be interested in.

While I don’t sell addons - some of my training materials are in the same price range, require the same intial time investment, and the business model of selling and support them is roughly the same.

If I had to spend even 1/2 hour evaluating someone’s budget or cause just to make a $25 sale then it’s not a valid business model.  The attraction of this type of business is to spend the time once doing the development work and then make a return on that investment with a certain volume of sales that don’t require an additional time investment for each one.

No - at that point EE just isn’t the right solution, and the site owner may not get the coolest CMS implementation or front end design out there, but there are plenty of other low-cost options to still have a site where they can manage their content.

Boyink on Dec 31st, 2009 at 7:24 am

“If you’re doing the pro-bono work and want the addon, then you buy it.  It’s not fair to the developers to shift the responsibility of philanthropy to them for causes they may not be interested in.”
Very well said. That’s why I prefer to just email the developers directly and so far 92% of the emails have been responded with something like “I’ll send over a free license now” which is very kind of them and completely their decision. When we build non-profit sites we tend to eat the license costs that arise.

Erik Reagan on Dec 31st, 2009 at 7:28 am

from boyink—> “this is simple to me.  If a project can’t afford EE plus addons, then it doesn’t get EE plus addons”

this is perfectly stated, and it’s up to us to decide if a project can/can’t afford EE with all of our individual, specific, “required” addons.  Even with a license package approaching $500, EE will continue to be my goto solution for nearly every project.  However, if the client has a tight budget, or is looking for a (very) simple solution, I might suggest a WordPress or ModX installation instead.  There is no magic number for this - it’s up to us to decide on a project by project basis.

Dave Fravel on Dec 31st, 2009 at 7:47 am

Thanks for the quick shoot-down @boyink and @erik… I guess I’ll have to try a little harder to make a case. ;)

@boyink - You can certainly bargain with a car seller…within reason. A budget-sensitive car buyer can tell the seller that all I can only afford is X. The seller will then make a decision on whether or not that would be a profitable deal. And shoppers can go to auction sites and name your price for many different products. I would say that this model makes less sense for your training materials since that is more a one-time purchase and not something I buy for each small project.

@erik - If your software is priced at $100 but all I can swing is $50 for this project - would you turn it down? If you had 1,000 of those types of situations in a year, thats $50,000 of revenue either in your pocket or left on the table. That’s not philanthropy!

Maybe you could have a “Name Your Price” button next to the regular Buy Now button. And perhaps there’s a way to mostly automate the approval or rejection of those offers.

(Small Print Disclaimer: Granted there is a risk of diminishing the perceived value of your software, or a risk of people taking advantage, or a risk that it could be messy to manage. There’s also a risk that I might realize this is ONLY a good idea for me the buyer and not for the seller. But hey, it might be worth the risk.)

Mark Terpstra on Dec 31st, 2009 at 8:12 am

Yeah - cars were a bad example.  They are big-ticket items and the market is known for and used to negotiation (although percentage-wise the price variation across all finalized sales is probably in the single-digits) .  There’s enough margin to pay for sales people to negotiate sales - with a $50 add-on that isn’t going to be the case.

Getting $50 for a $100 addon could be viewed as either getting $$ you wouldn’t have otherwise, or losing some from a percentage of buyers who would come up with the $100 anyway.  Half empty…or half full? ;)

For me - it needs to stay simple.  I create something, put a price on it, and put it out there.  If people find value in it they buy it.  If sales volumes aren’t what I want then either I need to put more value in for the $$, or lower the price.  Anything more complex with pricing and it becomes too much of a hassle and I might as well just take on more project work.

Boyink on Dec 31st, 2009 at 8:27 am

It seems to me that software pricing is so arbitrary - based on the developer’s best guess on what the market will bare. And tiered pricing is not new - but it’s usually just based on the number of installs (users, sites, etc) or whether it’s commercial or non-profit. I think there’s room for price testing and innovation here.

Side Note: There are times when the price I would have paid was higher than the published price for the addon - typically when the project budget can bare it and when the value of the addon to the project is high.

Mark Terpstra on Dec 31st, 2009 at 8:48 am

This is a superb debate on an issue that affects us all in some way.

There’s one more income model for developers that I haven’t seen discussed, and that’s annual subscriptions. The idea would be to give access to all the devs code for 12 months, and in that time the subscriber could licence addons for as many sites as needed.

As many have said, spending $500 on an EE licence and a few addons is relatively nothing if you’re on a big budget site, but for many designers those $1500-$2000 projects are their bread and butter. Sure, you don’t have to use EE, but my point is that I can see a time where the cost of entry to using EE for a site becomes so restrictive that the product will become more exclusive to big budget sites. The end result could even reflect negatively on Ellislab with far fewer new licences sold… that would be bad for everyone!

Bluedreamer on Dec 31st, 2009 at 9:01 am

You probably find the same thing in most products that are created solely on hours (minimal overhead). The price is determined by supply/demand/competitive market.

You mention the bread and butter being $1500-$2000 projects for many designers. What about the developer’s bread and butter? Can it not be the $65 add-on or the $84.95 add-on? Brandon Kelly recently announced he’s going into full-time add-on development. At that point you and I become his main source of income and he deserves to be paid for his fantastic work.

The cost of entry to use EE will rarely appear to exceed the actual license for EE itself. Very few people enter into the EE world knowing the ins and outs of free vs. commercial add-ons and by the time they learn, they are aware of how wonderful a system ExpressionEngine is. I don’t see this negatively affecting EllisLab.

Erik Reagan on Dec 31st, 2009 at 10:04 am

Personally, my fees outlined in an EE build invoice are for services rendered + a single EE license. I don’t name a single add-on for the client’s install in the quote - the delivered site just does what the requirements specification says.

If you bring add-on pricing into the equation, you’ll soon see how anal the bean counters can be over $50 when the project budget is in excess of 20 to 100 times that.
Don’t go there.

iain on Dec 31st, 2009 at 10:48 am

@iain : I totally agree and follow the same practice, it’s not necessary for them to see those costs. Personally, I don’t have any issues with selling the client on 3rd party add-ons because of this. What they don’t know, won’t hurt them ;)

Siebird on Dec 31st, 2009 at 11:26 am

Yes of course addon devs need to earn a living as well, I’ll be the last one to dispute that! I’m just trying to look at the broader picture.

For the most part, as you say, adding $250 worth of addons to a site isn’t a problem for regular users, but at first sight that may “appear” to be expensive and deter new designers/developers from using EE in the first place. The point here is that without a regular stream of new EE sites built by recent “EE converts”, either choosing it or migrating from another system, the market for addons won’t grow as fast as it might.

Bluedreamer on Dec 31st, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Frequently, if an add-on gets released in the middle of a project, where it would save me at least 2 hours of coding or troubleshooting or training, I won’t even bother tacking it on to the final invoice.  Write off the expense as if I were buying physical equipment for the company. On fixed price jobs, it’s like getting free money. And on hourly ones, it’s generally a fraction of the overall budget.

I’ve built membership pages with the built in templating system and it takes. so. Much. LONGER. Of course I wish it was built into EE, but $90 for User is an investment in time better spent on more rewarding activities. Plus we all benefit from the success of independent developers, at least just successful enough that they don’t retire early. ;)

Seamus on Dec 31st, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Yeah! There’s my man Seamus. I was waiting for you to show up before commenting on this thread!

We’ve found, at Solspace, that we need to charge for value. We try to ignore calculations based on percentages of the EE license. We try to ignore calculations based on our development, QA and support time. The sweet spot is to charge for value. We could charge more for User. The market would bear it. We could charge less and reduce the complaints we get about the high cost. But we have sought to find the sweet spot and charge for value. Those who can justify the cost with their clients are our customers. Those who think it should be sold for $5 are not. That’s our reality.

There are some really gifted developers out there who combine excellent coding with a great eye for and understanding of the market. It’s really exciting that these people are coming online. We’re moving into a new phase of EE add-on development. I think it’s going to be one where the equation above has to include the competition factor.


Mitchell Kimbrough on Dec 31st, 2009 at 4:03 pm

“What Mitchell said” above about competitive value, with the caveat that those who have carved out a monopolistic niche (e.g., Structure and, perhaps Playa or User) can call their own pricing tune.

I predict that competition for an ever-growing set of addon customers will bring initially perhaps-too-high prices gradually downward. Likewise, prices can come down as developers spread dev/support costs across a larger number of sales.

Related: while a sensible, community-wide pricing rationale would be a big win, we most likely won’t and shouldn’t see that during this (multi)year transition phase. No one knows enough yet. However, tacit agreement about the real value of different types (plugins .... modules) and scopes of addons is bound to emerge based purely on what we-all spend actual money on (or don’t).

Though I am still hobbyist-ing, I used to do this full-time for years. The equation was so simple, as some have stated above:

Will ‘x’ addon cost me less on this project than spending my own time on the same task?

If yes, buy it. No brainer.  If no, don’t buy it. No brainer.

For non-profit projects, same calculus, just a question of whether I, charitably, or the project will bear the cost.

addendum .... documentation is a big factor for me calculating cost-to-value. I would have spent $200 more on Solspace stuff if the documentation of products was given fair respect. Lack of documentation will ALWAYS cost me hard-to-calculate, costly hours figuring stuff out. Failure to document professionally makes me very nervous about the quality of the code too, fairly or no.)

Russell Lipton on Dec 31st, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Thanks for taking the time to share. It’s apparent from your prices that you focus more on value and I appreciate that. I also am right there with you in regard to who your/our clients are as add-on developers.

I completely agree with your note on documentation. I’ve chosen against buying a couple of add-ons based on documentation (or lack thereof) in the past.

Erik Reagan on Dec 31st, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Thanks for starting this, much needed debate Erik.

What I would like to see is to have options. Your approach of offering Lite, Single, Multi and Dev licence is quite appealing. I think the workload in creating such environment and keeping it up is a bit of an issue for most developers. That brings us to the need for one stop shop for all add-ons - I’m sure Ryan is already working on this :)

As for pricing, if it’s saving you few hours of your project time its worth buying even though I feel like some of the existing add-ons are bit overpriced.

Overall EE is still new in terms of commercial add-on scene. Give it a year or two, with the help of CI Devs and gaining popularity will create more competition which will bring prices down.

Happy new year everyone and keep up the discussion.

Cem Meric on Jan 1st, 2010 at 1:21 am

Generally I don’t tell the client individual costs of add-ons. It all goes in development costs. It depends on the client but most of them have no interest in it, they just want to know that their site will do what they want it to do and how much the overall cost will be.

It’s up to me to decide the best and most cost effective method for doing what they need. If an add-on is the quickest and best way then the cost is part of my development time.

I wouldn’t worry about overpriced add-ons, the market will sort out the successes and failures there. Value for money is king.

Tim Print on Jan 1st, 2010 at 6:00 am

@Mitchell—So why all the loose changed tacked on the end of the prices? ;) $31.94, $51.37…. just round it up, it’s fine by me!

Jack McDade on Jan 1st, 2010 at 9:43 am

@Jack, Seems silly to me too. The coder in me wants human psychology to be logical and coherent, but the business person in me knows better.


Mitchell Kimbrough on Jan 1st, 2010 at 1:15 pm

So, rather than offering my 2 (two) cents in an opinion, I will do better to make it just my 2.95 or even my 1.98 cents. And, for special sales, I could make it available for .99 cents.

(Speaking of illogical, I threw my own personal pennies at the weird Structure end-of-year sale price of 51.94. I thought PayPal would be smart enough to forbid such irrationality, but nooo. Nice going there, Travis and Jack.)

Russell Lipton on Jan 1st, 2010 at 1:33 pm

@Russell—come on man, it’s 20.09% off! We could have evened it out, but where’s the fun in that? ;)

Jack McDade on Jan 1st, 2010 at 9:03 pm

As a user of add-ons rather than a developer of them I would like to give my view.

One of the reasons I started using EE was because it wasn’t free. This raises the bar and keeps the standard of contributions in the forums (and add-ons) to a more business like attitude. The community seems more developer/designer based and they are happy to help others out by sharing their knowledge & experience. Providing free plugins to fill in the gaps in a basic EE install has been part of that process.

Extensions & modules are much bigger consumers of development time and so I am more inclined to pay for those. My problem comes from the fact that most of my sites are for non-profit (orienteering clubs/associations), many I do as a volunteer, others for a small fee. I use a few things regularly and have sent small donations to the developers ( I usually pay those out of my own pocket as it saved me development time), but I frequently change/update ways of doing things. So keeping track of licenses for each use would be a pain, as sometimes I plan to use something on one site, buy a license then change my mind or find a better solution.

I have resisted trying out some things if the payment is up front and I’m not sure if it’s what I need. The comments above about documentation are particularly valid for me. I suspect I might have tried more of Solspace’s add-ons in the past if the documentation had been more detailed (it is much better now). But I also accept that documentation takes time, and if you are giving away the code you can’t afford the time.

So if I’m paying I would like to see detailed documentation and timely support. There are some great add-ons that obviously get a lot of use, but have pages of questions on the forums and not much or any replies from the developer.

I tend to be involved in the management and ongoing development of a lot of my sites, so I am looking for longer term reliability, updates and support. Will it work with the next EE build let alone version?

Paul Frost on Jan 2nd, 2010 at 6:13 am

Any shortcomings in Solspace’s docs (Not that there are many) are more than made up by their prompt forum support.

Most commercial ExpressionEngine addon on devs/companies follow EllisLab in this way.

Hambo on Jan 3rd, 2010 at 8:41 am

Just a quick note that I intended my comment about Solspace in a friendly spirit. They do great, innovative work for EE/community. My comments about docs should be read as indicative of my desire to give them lots more of my money as soon as feasible ;-). I’m very bummed I can’t put out the hundredS of dollars to grab all their stuff and learn how to use it.

(Plug: for near-zero cost developer-site usage only so designers can scope out addon advantages/tradeoffs for actual/prospective clients .... I intuit this would drive much more revenue overall for addon market as well as legitimize commercial addons themselves big-time. It is telling that Leslie says that a very large percentage - 75%? - of users don’t employ any addons at all. I found this very surprising.)

As for the core of this thread, I have been conceiving a graphical picture in my head of some of the axes of a somewhat rational addon pricing system (commercial-free/EE-thirdparties/profit-nonprofit/domain-MSM-developerCorporatewide ....).

Granting many vexing details and unknowns, working towards the goal of even just a partly specified ‘way’ of looking at addon pricing will help everyone make more money - because customers will have reasonable clarity. Some informal support (e.g., wisdom) from EllisLabs along the way will be a great help, since they have the only global view of EE users, past, present and (we hope) future.

Erik, did you share your own specific view on your own thread? I got the ‘lite’ versus ‘pro’ versions but can you offer a bit more insight per your hoped-for solution?

Russell Lipton on Jan 3rd, 2010 at 3:02 pm

The comments actually took the blog post in a direction that was not fully intended. This is perfectly fine since the discussion has been great, however my real purpose for the post was to get some feedback on the license options I actually mentioned in the post (you can read them above). The options I discuss are what I am currently considering as my approach.

I don’t really hope for a single solution since that would be too limiting to developers and somewhat unrealistic actually. The license options will likely always be up to developers. My goal was just to see what people thought about my ideas for licenses. That’s about all the insight I can offer toward my “hoped-for solution.” Make sense?

Erik Reagan on Jan 3rd, 2010 at 3:21 pm


I contributed to getting this thread off track. I’ll try and do my part to address your main question.

We’ve found that ‘free’ is generally a bad licensing model for us at Solspace. We end up attracting customers that we are not very well equipped to serve. We also find that ‘free’ does not bring out the best in us as a vendor. We want to take pride in our work. In our case we do better work when we are paid for it. I would suggest against a free / lite license for these reasons.

I would also suggest against a multiple domain license where that means someone has to buy a license from you for each MSM site they are running. That sounds inconvenient for you and your customers. That sort of inconvenience is like drag on the bottom of a boat; every little bit adds up to slow things down.

I do like the notion of a developer license and have tried to address that in some way in my own thinking about this. I think developers would like to pay a subscription fee to have some sort of unfettered access to a store. Or pay a yearly fee to use a given add-on as much as they care to. In my case, that would mean that such a fee would be quite high. This has been requested in the past and it usually comes with the request to offer a deep discount on such an approach. I haven’t found this to be fruitful, but I’m still open to it.

I find this to be easiest, “One license grants the right to perform one installation of the Software.”

Really I think my point here is that we, as developers, should try and spend our time coding and not so much on maintaining and supporting an array of licensing variations and business processes.

What excites me here is that there are enough profit minded EE developers out there to
produce an active thread such as this one. I’ve been looking forward to the day that more and more developers build businesses around EE add-ons and further legitimize the platform. That cycle will increase and improve my own business, serve the community well, and create more legitimate and honorable income opportunities for other skilled developers.


Mitchell Kimbrough on Jan 3rd, 2010 at 5:34 pm

My perspective as a occasional website developer: I use EE rather than e.g. MODx because EE lets me get the job done quicker, if I charge for my time then the free solution would probably cost much, much more. I would use a plugin or extension if that too let me get the job done quicker. On a commercial job that gets passed onto the client without being itemised. Compare your hourly rate for buying a plugin vs DIY, which makes best use of your time and has best impact on price/profitability?

My reaction to people wanting discounts or freebies because they say they are working for or on behalf of a non-profit is to ask for an officer of the charity to make the request using official stationary. So far none has, your mileage may vary.

For me, developer or bulk pricing has it’s attraction, e.g. buy 10 licenses at once get x% discount, it’s not like supporting 10 different people so the support burden doesn’t rise with the number of licenses.

Ed on Jan 3rd, 2010 at 6:53 pm

I wasn’t saying that non-profits should necessarily get a discount, but that the budget to pay for add-ons is often tight. I think the line should be drawn as EllisLabs have done, is it commercial (business) or not (non-profit/personal).

I think the previous practise of EllisLabs to give increasing discounts as you bought more & more licenses was effective, as it encourages you to use EE for more projects. As Ed mentions, the support burden doesn’t increase that much, perhaps even reduces as the users will already know how to use it. I accept that the purchase process may be harder to implement though.

If you are going to have price based on use (commercial/non-profit) you probably have to just go on trust, as it is not worth your time to check. People won’t know that you aren’t checking though so they will probably be honest.

Paul Frost on Jan 3rd, 2010 at 7:36 pm

A little late to this useful discussion, but here are my thoughts.

Complex pricing models are complex. As Lodewijk says, “keep things as simple and transparent as possible”.

I like Mark Terpstra’s idea of suggest-a-price , but I think the reality of that is a lower return than a set fee. I’m fairly sure Leevi and others will have some trenchant observations to make on this topic. Most people don’t donate even though they’re given the opportunity to do so. I’d certainly like to see more innovation in pricing models though.

I have misgivings over Lite versions. This often seems to end up in things having being hobbled in some way. Even if they’re not I think as a developer you need to factor in the additional overhead of managing what would I expect become increasingly divergent products.

The problem with a Developer license is that the initial outlay can be too large to stomach at the outset. I’m more in favour of discounts on repeat purchase so that loyalty and bulk sales are rewarded on a cumulative basis.

Most third party addons are produced by single developers and that means that they are output in addition to other fee-paying work. There aren’t many people that work solely on addons. This means they need to balance that other work with the addon’s development, maintenance and support which, by the nature of the relationship: one on one, is often personal. The red tape of the business-side of things all feels like a distraction, but it needs to be cut through so that management your end is easier. Documentation, forums etc. can obviously help steer support more to a one to many relationship.

I think this headache is one of the reasons why many developers want to keep pricing things simple. The other, of course, is to make it easier for the customer to digest. The more options the customer is presented with, the more decisions they need to make, the less likely they are to make it in your favour. You need to hit a sweet spot between complexity and simplicity so that all is clear and straight-forward to them, but so that you also maximise your revenue opportunity and satisfy people’s differing needs - a tricky balancing act.

A market is evolving. It’ll be interesting to see how things go and whether developers work out that there is a benefit in working more together rather than separately. There aren’t many addon teams yet.

Developers look to pricing models of other developers as they are part of an ecosystem, but they should be aware of and price on value as Mitchell and others suggest. Selecting a price point is a difficult one as you have very little idea of the scale of your market until you dip your toes into it and that naturally affects any projection of your likely ROI and economies of scale.

Competition is going to be an interesting one going forward. Generally developers seem to have been keen not to step on others’ toes. This (in addition to first mover advantage) has meant that whoever gets their addon out the gate first usually then owns that area. People have been more keen to cooperate and give back than go head to head. I look forward to more profit-minded developers and the benefits of competition, but I hope that the good things about community aren’t sacrificed along the way.

MarmaladeToday on Jan 4th, 2010 at 9:14 am

Wow, what a long discussion thread :-)
Don’t have much to add…
1) As mentioned earlier, I wish we as developers could install add-ons locally for free to use to learn and for client demo purposes. “Oh, you need to do that, well there’s an add-on and here’s how it works”
2) With less and less being added to EE core and the lack of new features being filled by add-ons everything starts getting messy, somewhat like managing all the plugins on a Wordpress site - updates/licensing/etc. (Don’t get me wrong, thank god for you add-on developers). Don’t have an answer other than EE stepping up their new features (especially long-standing requests) or potentially buying some key add-ons from you guys so they are part of the core.
3) Price isn’t really an issue for most sites I do or consult on BUT, the free alternatives (Drupal & Wordpress mostly) do come up and client employees/developers/coders never look at “their” salary as a development expense so no matter their time spent, the free do look free vs EE and it’s associated costs.
4) Even though I understand that a developer will sell fewer add-ons and therefor needs to charge to make up for dev time/expense, add-on prices do look out of line when compared to EE itself - A perception issue for sure but I’m more than likely that keeps many from buying add-ons or even EE.
5) Is there any way for developers to get together and offer add-on bundles for the most popular add-on groups?
I’m sure I could come up with more but it off to meetings for me.

PXLated on Jan 4th, 2010 at 1:05 pm

A framework for pricing addons: start at bottom (just below) and work up.

4. Global developer license (install anywhere) OR corporate site-wide license @ TBD

3. Purchase 5- 10- 25-pack discounts @ TBD

2. MSM (e.g, single EE install) @ 100% of list price

1. Addon for developer/designer use-only OR single-site non-profit @ 50% of list price.


The OR is not an AND ;-). Same price at the given level, but for two different types of licensees.

Discount packs to be purchased at same time, not with per-copy calculations (e.g., buy a 5-pack of an addon, not 1 copy + 1 copy + 2 + 1 at different times.

A non-profit that needs MSM would be charged like a commercial MSM.

As much simplicity as possible (same pricing across similar classes of user) while retaining a reasonably rich set of sell options.

Seed-incent the vast majority of non-addon EE designers with a one-off for-your-use at half-price.

Provide a meaningful ‘nod’ to single, *small* non-profits (half-price) while keeping the accounting complexity to a minimum.

caveat emptor:
It does seem desirable for addon developers (with a formal EE “great idea” imprimateur) to converge on a non-coercive pricing model attractive enough for a (large) majority of addon devs to adopt. The devil is in the detail word: ‘attractive’ .... to entice opinionated, entrepreneurial, self-confident geeks.

Uh. Oh. ;-).

Russell Lipton on Jan 7th, 2010 at 12:10 am

Missing addendum.

Not all addons would necessarily apply all pricing levels, especially at launch.

For instance, Structure or Playa or Users would benefit (?) from large dollar-sales to a corporate site. A smaller addon might set their initial pricing policy to halt at a 5-copy discount.

The key to any pricing ‘compact’ would be the general consistency of any framework chosen freely across many addon developers.

Russell Lipton on Jan 7th, 2010 at 12:17 am

For anyone interested I’ve made some decisions on how I will approach pricing. You can read about them here:

Erik Reagan on Jan 8th, 2010 at 8:04 pm

I just found this discussion and wanted to say thanks to everybody for a great thread. I pass along the costs of add-ons whenever I quote a project, but I also pass along the productivity savings they represent by speeding my deliverables.

For most projects, I can contrive solutions that make every page of a site completely flexible, but at the cost of many billable hours of fiddling with custom queries and tags and PHP. Playa gets that stuff done so much faster that I can over-deliver somewhere else.

I’d also like to add that the EE add-on market is NOTHING like the widgets people build for Joomla and WordPress and other non-commercial CMS kits. If it ever became the case that one of my clients was hacked because I used commercial code from Solspace or Brandon Kelly or Leevi Graham, I think I’d know where to go for relief. And that peace of mind is worth a lot more than most of these fellows are charging.

Bob Sutton on Jan 20th, 2010 at 1:12 pm

simple, I want a license for life for unlimited sites that include bundles… you know when go to buy the ee license more options of related partnerts show it for optional buy with discounts.

so what price expect for a unlimited sites? $1000? $2500? more? I dont know but Im sure that I pay it.

Andrew on Apr 2nd, 2010 at 4:08 pm

I personally think it is a good thing to charge for Add-Ons. It is much more cost effective to buy an add-on than to develop it from scratch. By charging, developers have more incentive to continue supporting the add-on, not to mention the praise for their hard work and time.

Also by charging for add-on’s this should hopefully maintain a high level of quality. Nothing worse than finding out your site has been hacked because an add-on has security vulnerabilities.

Rob on Jun 14th, 2010 at 9:43 am

Great article here. Having only been a designer for less than 12 months, I’m in a difficult position. I cannot get the jobs which pay enough to make the 500 $ setup costs viable, yet I HOPE to do be able to do so in the future. For this I need to learn EE and also get practice with some of the key addons.

It’s interesting to see here the views of different people. Developers and designers at different ends of the spectrum.

I for one, fully support the commercial nature of EE. The web business is moving in a very open source direction and it will become harder and harder to make a living doing what I do.

In much the same way I choose to work on a Mac, ideally I would choose EE over Wordpress or even C5. I would prefer to pay for the polish and the high-end support and see my work improve as a result.

I fully support the commercial nature of these addons, it just can be difficult for those starting out in the business, with small projects to afford them. But that’s what I’ll try to do.

Andre on Aug 29th, 2011 at 4:59 am

Your Words of Wisdom

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