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.
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:
- ExpressionEngine 1.6.8 Commercial License: $249.95
- Playa: $69.00
- Structure: $65.00
- Super Search: $84.95
- Wygwam: $29.00
- Total License Costs: $497.90
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.