Interview with Simon Goodchild – Creator of WP Symposium Pro

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Simon Goodchild- Developer, WP Symposium Pro

WP Symposium Pro is a social networking plugin for WordPress. Wait! Let me rephrase that. WP Symposium Pro is a great social networking plugin for WordPress. Having compared it with BuddyPress, I can honestly say, it weighs up well, owing to its great support, helpful shortcodes and seamless theme integration.

This week, I had the privilege to interview Simon Goodchild, the author of the WP Symposium Pro plugin. Simon shares his plugin development experiences and advice for those looking to create a Social Networking website. 

Let’s take a look.


Tell us something about yourself, and about how you got started with WordPress.

I have been a developer for about 28 years, and started coding before that at a much younger age on a Sinclair ZX81! During my career, I watched as content management systems have been developed, and even developed my own, but about 5 years ago I made the decision that I should use a stable platform on which I could develop extra functionality. I tested many, but fell in love with WordPress and never regretted choosing it as the platform on which to develop. I recently launch the Suffolk WordPress User Group (UK).


What prompted you to build the WP Symposium Pro plugin?

About 4 years ago, I needed a forum, so I looked at what was on offer and felt they all looked a bit “techie”. I wanted a simple, attractive forum. Failing to find one I created one and put it on the WordPress repository, not really expecting much. But people starting using it and suggested features to improve it, and also for extras, like a profile page. Well one thing led to another and a suite of features become the original WP Symposium.

However, a little over a year ago, having learned so much developing plugins, I recognized that WP Symposium could be written better – cleaner, with no custom tables, etc. Which is why WP Symposium Pro was produced, essentially the same end result, but much better coded, cleaner, can be extended and easier to support. Just better all round. So WP Symposium was re-written from the ground up, resulting in WP Symposium Pro.



Based on your experience in the Social Networking domain what are your recommendations for those looking to create a Social Networking website?

Don’t underestimate hosting! Any social network plugin will be doing a lot of database queries and calls to get a great deal of information, sometimes on a single page. If your social network is going to be successful (hopefully), then the better the hosting (server and database) the better your site will run. On smaller sites, a shared hosting solution is fine, but when you have thousands of members, don’t underestimate the value of good hosting.


What is the USP of WP Symposium Pro over other Social Networking plugins?

We pride ourselves on support, we are always there, via the forums, live chat, Skype, phone, email and TeamSpeak. We love helping people out! But also, the hidden power behind the shortcodes that are used for WP Symposium Pro that allows you to create a unique layout of your social network site. The shortcodes will “just work”, but there are hundreds of options available to customize how they work, all documented in a “Complete Guide to WP Symposium Pro online book.



What would be your recommendations for a first time premium plugin developer- 1) on the phases which should be part of the development cycle- and – 2) on selling the plugin independently or in a marketplace?

  1. Never underestimate the value and need for support. Developing the plugin is the easy bit. But the chances are that it will be used on sites and in circumstances that you could never dream of! That I can guarantee! So, set a purpose for the plugin, identify users, test/test/test, engage with users and listen to them. And offer the best support you can, after all, the users of your plugin are unpaid testers, don’t under-value that!!
  2. The core functionality of WP Symposium Pro is offered for free via the repository – it’s a great way to get it known about, and found. We then offer an optional Extensions plugin sold privately through the WP Symposium Pro website to those that want more. Remember, the WP repository cannot be used to “sell”.



What should WP Symposium Pro users be looking out for in the coming future?

We are driven by user suggestions in the user community, so it’s often a surprise to me what’s coming up next! And always a welcome surprise!! However, more integration with social networks, in addition to Facebook that exists now, is a must.


Rank the following in order of importance – Users, Revenue, Popularity, Quality

  • Users – We do this because I love it and the fact it’s used is the drive.
  • Quality – I have high standards regarding quality, sometimes it’s the small things that makes it better. If it doesn’t work well, users will quite rightly not use the plugin.
  • Revenue – Servers, support staff all have to be paid so although I’d love to avoid the need, it is needed. If I was a millionaire, I’d still do it for free. But I’m not, so we do need to raise an income.
  • Popularity – I don’t monitor usage stats, happy customers is the goal. Whether that’s 1 or 1,000,000!

Thank-you Simon for taking the time to talk to us. We wish you, and WP Symposium Pro all the luck. Your ideologies and effort are sure to make the plugin a great success!



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