Hearing the buzz around Dunked, the new product launched by the WP champion Orman Clark, I was keen to find out more about the project and was lucky enough to sit down for a chat with the man himself in a new episode of Inspired Talks:
What is Dunked and what does it do?
Dunked is a free, simple-to-use tool which allows creative people to build an online portfolio. You can do so without having to touch a single line of code (unless you want to) and in a matter of mere minutes. Did I mention it was free?
You’re a super successful WP themes ninja, how did you get the idea to expand into such a different direction, as building your own “CMS”?
Needless to say, WordPress has been good to me over the years, and I fully intend to keep on working with the platform going forward. In fact, we’ve got a couple of themes currently in development over at ThemeZilla right now. As for Dunked, I’ve had the itch to build a stand alone product for quite some time – maybe 18 months or so. When it came down to it, I never truly felt I was in a position to dedicate as much time and energy into a new project as I would like. At the end of 2012, I made the deliberate decision to take some time out from WordPress and to finally put my ideas into practice.
In working with WordPress over the years, I have learned some of its strengths and weaknesses. As a blogging platform, WordPress is second to none. However, for a lot of people, WordPress is just too much software. In providing support for my portfolio based themes, I’ve seen a vast amount of customers who would benefit from a simpler, less complex system. I believe that there is a need for a simpler solution to online portfolios, and that’s where Dunked comes into play. Dunked is focused on one thing and one thing only, and that’s showcasing work.
What do you usually tell people who say “yeah but it’s such a busy market”? how are you differentiate yourself etc
A busy market doesn’t faze me in the slightest, it’s competition that drives innovation and ultimately leads to better products. We’re used to heavy competition, we’re in the theme business after all. The theme market is pretty busy its own right, some might even say completely saturated, and I think we have done okay for ourselves.
We recognise that we are entering a busy market with Dunked, however, we felt we could offer an online portfolio solution which would be both beautiful and ridiculously easy to use. I honestly believe that we have delivered on that goal. Simplicity is at the core of everything we do, and as such we’ve got no interest in becoming a Swiss Army knife type application. If you’re into simple, Dunked is for you. We’re also doing a few things that the others aren’t doing just yet, such as having fully responsive and retina ready templates straight out of the box. That being said, we’re not interested in competing on features. We’ll gladly compete on overall user experience.
Do you find it difficult to market a stand alone product vs addons (as WP themes can be viewed)?
Generally speaking, marketing is hard work. You can build a great product, but if no one knows about it, you fail. In most cases, time spent marketing, is time well spent. Sometimes you can get lucky and ride a viral wave to success, however, viral successes are few and far between. For us, marketing has been, and always will be, a constant work in progress. Internally, we are constantly pitching each other ideas or different avenues we can pursue. Personally, I do quite a bit of reading on different marketing techniques/approaches, and am always considering ways to mix new ideas into the way we are currently doing things. The most important part of marketing however, is to have a stellar product.
With themes, we have built up quite a bit of steam, so we don’t market them initially as much as we probably should. With Dunked we cannot take anything for granted. We’re starting from scratch, so there is a lot more initial marketing work that has to be done. We have got to build an audience again. We’ve been doing an okay job so far, but we have got quite a bit of work ahead of us. So I would have to say right now, marketing Dunked is much more difficult.
How big is your development team?
Currently, there are three of us working on Dunked. I’m designer, support guy, administrator, marketer, and budding developer. Gilbert Pellegrom is the architect. He’s responsible for the majority of the code within the Dunked ecosystem. Without Gilbert, Dunked wouldn’t be in its current state. Mark Southard is the builder and general glue guy taking on support, admin, and marketing tasks. He builds the templates, making sure they work regardless of user content.
What advice would you offer to young wantrepreneurs in the web design / dev space?
I would say first of all that working for someone or in a company is incredibly beneficial. You’re going to learn a lot of valuable lessons, even if you don’t realise it at the time. Don’t be too eager to plot off on your own right away. Having someone else worrying about getting customers/clients so that you can focus on honing your skills is a great luxury. Not having to worry about money is also a great luxury as it’s unlikely you’re going to make a huge amount of income from a young product.
However, if you are lucky enough to be in a position where you can create and build your own product, even if that’s just in the evenings and at weekends, then you need to do it. You’ve got to recognise that building your own product requires a great deal of work and dedication. And like laundry, it usually takes a lot longer than you expect. Unlike laundry, it’s quite a bit of fun.
I’ve found that you’re going to learn a ton and be better for it, even if the product fails. Building and shipping Dunked has been very enjoyable and rewarding, and the whole team continues to learn something new each and every single day.
What are some of the portfolios on dunked that you like best? (links / comments)
My current favourites are on the Dunked homepage, I pick out some of my personal favourites and add them there. It’s a surreal feeling seeing the quality of work on top of a template/app that I’ve had a hand in crafting. We’re still young, and we’re looking forward to seeing users really push the boundaries of what can be done through CSS. It’s a bit like CSS Zen Garden, and we’re eager to see what users can do.
What’s next for Dunked?
We’re continuing to build out new features, whilst smoothing out any rough edges. Right now we’re working on adding a new template which should be available very soon. Once we’re out of beta, we’ll be looking at some of our more popular feature requests such as custom domain support.