Finally, finally someone has done it. They've combined the power of self-hosted WordPress with the ease of hosted WordPress.com.
Evermore is WordPress for everyone. It comes with “the most important functionality built in.”
There aren't loads of tiny upsells like other hosted services (I'm looking at you, WordPress.com), and there are only two plans. It is not free. You can pay $50 per month, or $75 per month, and each plan comes with a 10x setup fee.
But the result is exactly what you'd hope for: a very powerful, functional, easy-to-use website.
If I had to give Evermore a competitor, I'd say it's much closer to Squarespace than WordPress.com. But it's built on WordPress, meaning you can leave Evermore any time and take your install with you.
In fact, they sell the ability to leave Evermore as a feature. Because they should.
Evermore offers you true portability and freedom: as your needs outgrow it, we'll help you move to another service by giving you all the files and instructions you need. We'll even suggest new hosts that will take care of you and your site.
I just love that. It reminds me of Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street sending people to another store instead of trying to side-sell them what they don't want. Little will help establish my loyalty to a service like the ease one offers me to leave it.
I have no desire to take WordPress and try to hijack the open source process and make people feel like they're closed into another product system.
Who is behind Evermore?
Kyle is an accountant and avid WordPress fan who has invested heavily in the concerns of WordPress users. In our interview, Cliff accounts many Evermore decisions to Kyle's attunement to the end user.
Together they make Evermore, a service that represents exactly three clients — or a 50% increase since I interviewed Cliff. 😉
Yes, Evermore is a new service. But I haven't been this excited about a relatively generic WordPress product in a long time.
For one, I think Cliff is a great developer. He's the type of guy that will work through the difficult technical challenges a hosted service will inevitably face. For instance, he helped work on the ability to symlink plugins in WordPress 3.9 before launching Evermore so he could more easily share directories between sites.
Second, I love that Kyle has recently faced some of the same concerns as many of their future customers face. This allows him to be empathetic to their needs and better serve them. His business savvy as a self-described “recovering CPA” probably won't hurt either.
Why a hosted solution?
More than Cliff and Kyle's qualifications to operate a service like Evermore, I just like their motivations.
Cliff and Kyle felt that there was a gap in the market for web design, development, and maintenance services. They would run into users and site owners with common frustrations: frustrations with getting their initial site setup, managing their hosting and updates, finding the right plugins to use for particular functionality, and more.
They decided they had an opportunity, and they wanted to see if they could fill the gap.
Evermore is a multi-stage process. First, there's a setup fee. With this fee ($500 for the base plan, $750 for the secondary plan), they'll walk you through getting a new domain or using your own, choosing a theme and setting up your site with demo content, including sample menus and widgets.
The setup period is currently 24 hours, since they haven't automated every aspect of it. They are going to force themselves to scale in this arena, versus automating things that don't need it yet. They also want to have that time to do the kind of individual site testing they want to do with early customers.
Once you get setup, they have some generic guides for helping clients manage their site. But for the most part, they don't have an interest in massively changing the admin. They want people to feel like they are in WordPress.
Evermore is baked with a number of features. Some highlights:
- Google Analytics
- An events calendar
- A slider
- Podcasting functionality
They are also willing to add functionality over time to enable customers to do more with Evermore.
However, you will never be able to add your own plugins on Evermore. It is restricted in that sense just like other hosted website solutions. This is for support and maintainability reasons.
You have to have this critical mass of knowledge to operate — even the best CMS out there. So, instead what we've chosen to do is say, curate themes and plugins for you. Especially with plugins, we've gone through and combined some of the best plugins specific to features.
The plugins they use are a blend of commercial plugins they pay for and free plugins from WordPress.org; but importantly they curate the plugins and are able to manage them at a network level to benefit their users. For commercial plugins Evermore uses their own licensing, so site owners don't need to own their own versions or manage license keys or anything else.
Evermore currently has 35 themes to choose from. Some are the WordPress default themes, many are from Genesis and StudioPress, and others are free or commercial options from a variety of locations.
The $50 per month (and $500 setup fee) for Evermore gets users a website setup with a commercial theme, and up to 50,000 monthly visits. The deal is for one website and includes a free domain registration.
The $75 option (and $750 setup fee) includes mostly the same features, but includes support for up to 100,000 monthly visits and the option to enable eCommerce.
Regarding the pricing, Cliff calls their choices, “a best guess” based on a year of research he and Kyle have done, to fit in the market that includes a variety of different styles of managed WordPress hosting and support solutions.
As far as the setup fee goes as well, that's an attempt to kind of cover for us as well; because there is nothing stopping you from signing up for a day, getting your website back and asking for the dump and then leaving. … And so much of that setup is the difficult part. So much of that expertise, and automation, manual labor and things like that come at the beginning.
Nearly impossible to fail
Another aspect I really enjoyed about our talk was that no matter how Evermore turns out, Cliff wouldn't see it as a failure. They aren't trying to scale a free product. They definitely have some up-front investments in Evermore, but more importantly, it equips them to better serve their own service clients both now and in the future.
Additionally, honestly I'm really tired of seeing people launch, sort of, products and SaaS products and things like that and not be able to support anything long term. They have to shut down in six months because they didn't have enough money to keep it going.
If other people don't think it's a great idea, then they will be happy with it as a service even for just a few people. They can live with that. There isn't a “runway” to consider, as so often motivates the startup culture. Worst case scenario, Evermore stops taking new customers and just maintains existing customers as long as they are happy. And as Cliff notes, customers have little risk.
No matter what, there's no way to get locked into a bad business decision [as a customer], because you can always leave, and you always have that information, and it's always yours to begin with.
Going generic versus a niche
They basically didn't see anyone looking for the market in same way they are.
We're trying to explore whether we're in the right place or not. … Instead of trying to pick a niche and go for it directly — we want to see if we can create some awareness in this space. Can we begin solving a problem?
Even if it ends up that other people come and take the exact idea and target them and “run them out of town”, they'll still be happy because they'll have helped drive the market forward.
While they think multiple people can work in the market together, and that they can do well even with competition, they would love to see the hosted WordPress space evolve.
The evolution of the hosted WordPress space
While I think Evermore is going to need to rely on slow growth — since organic search will be competitive and hard to come by without a niche — I think they can still strike a chord and make some noise in the hosted space by referral and leveraging the power of WordPress as their platform.
I agree with Cliff. I think there is room for dozens of Evermores. Maybe hundreds of them.
It wouldn't surprise me if many theme shops start creating a seamless theme purchase to hosted website transition for quick setups. Whether that works through white-labeling services with hosts, fully automated hosted solutions, or some kind of hybrid, I think it's coming.
I also think that the framing of Evermore as a springboard to the greater WordPress experience shouldn't be understated. As a WordPress consultant that often struggles with whether to recommend my friends to WordPress.com or self-hosted WordPress, something like Evermore sounds like exactly the type of service I'd love to refer people to.
Do I think Evermore is perfect? No, of course not. It's a brand new service and product, and I'm sure they'll learn a ton as they onboard new users. But I'm incredibly excited to see that something like Evermore even exists, and that people like Cliff and Kyle are thinking of these kinds of problems to solve. I really look forward to following up with them in a year to see what they've learned and how Evermore has evolved.
If you enjoyed this post and interview, I'd really appreciate it if you share it. These type of posts take more effort than any other, with hours of research, interviews, processing, and writing. I love doing them, and also love seeing them shared on all your favorite social networks! Also check out Chris Lema's post on Evermore, which compliments this one well.