Chris Hammond

DotNetNuke Upgrade and Consulting specialist

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Looking for DotNetNuke Modules? (minor rant, hopefully an informative post)

I’m going to start this blog post off with a minor rant about purchasing DNN modules, and had intended to follow that up with a discussion on the evolution of the DotNetNuke ecosystem customer, but both topics have grown larger than initially planned so I will break them up into two separate posts. So here goes the ranting, followed by what I hope will be an informative blog post.

This post is directed to potential purchasers of third party DNN modules with the goal of making the lives of module developers easier, and ultimately your lives and projects better as well. When you purchase a module for DotNetNuke, please take responsibility and do some research about the modules you are thinking about purchasing prior to purchase. Module developers take a lot of time and effort putting together functionality that they believe will provide function to other users.

A lot of these developers also spend quite a bit of time setting up demo sites, marketing materials and a lot of other information about the modules. When you are looking for a module to purchase to fit a need, you should do you research to figure out if the module meets your needs before purchasing the module. Should it be responsibility of the developer to refund your money if you figure out after purchasing the module that it doesn’t meet your needs?

Here are 5 simple ways to figure out if a module will meet your needs prior to purchase (these will not always guarantee a good module purchase, but should help to weed out many bad purchases):

  1. Check out the module’s documentation and marketing site
  2. Check out the module’s demo website
  3. If available test a trial version
  4. Post in the module developer’s forums or on DotNetNuke.com asking if anyone else has used the module before
  5. Ask the module developer if the module provides specific functionality that you require.

I will be the first to admit that not all modules have every feature and implementation scenario documented. Most developers are willing to help you get your needs met, instructing you how to meet a need with particular functionality in a module. One thing to keep in mind is how much you are actually spending on a module, most modules out there are extremely cheap (pennies on the dollar) considering the amount of time and effort put into the development and support of those modules.

I honestly don’t know how this blog post will come across to users, it is not intended to be offensive. I actually enjoy assisting customers who purchase our modules to configure them to meet their specific needs. It is an interesting position to be in to see different project needs being met by a simple application that was made by some crazy Canadian back in December 2002. I hope that users looking for modules find this post to be useful.

What are your thoughts on this topic? If you don’t want to post a comment here on the blog but have some feedback be sure to find me at OpenForce in Las Vegas in two weeks!

Comments

Rob Chartier said:

Hey Chris,

The licensing for your purchase must also be addressed.   Limits on the number of installs, number of unique portals, unique sites, reseller agreements, etc.. all should be sorted out prior to purchase.

The support issue is a big one for me.  99% of the time I will attempt to open a support ticket with the software vendor on (hopefully) a valid issue.  Some of the time I had to resort to use generic/silly questions, but the end result is I attempt determine:

a) Are they responsive.  Zero response == deal breaker

b) Is their ability to handle the support call up to my standards?  Much of the time there are language barriers

c) Are they willing to help address the issue? Now or in the future

-Rob

# October 28, 2008 11:06 PM

Chris Hammond said:

Rob, definitely good feedback! Thanks for the comment

# October 28, 2008 11:52 PM

Bruce Chapman said:

Chris

I'm like you in that I feel this is an important topic but find it hard to express my opinions without sounding negative.  I also enjoy creating products and genuinely like helping people get the most out of the software I have written.

My comment is probably directed at fellow module developers as well as customers : I feel that a lot of developers are undercharging for their products.  A quick scan of snowcovered will turn up lots of modules under $20. This is how much I pay to get my hair cut - which takes 15 minutes of work and a few hundred bucks worth of clippers and scissors.

A great product at an artificially low price quickly generates a lot of sales, but at the expense of support.  The developer can get overwhelmed with support requests, decide it's not worth the effort for the amount of money and gradually withdraws both support and future development.  The result is that the DNN community misses out on further releases of the product.  It also teaches the customers to trust module vendors less, and to also expect a lot of module for little money.

On the customer side, I think it's important for people to realise the writing, selling and supporting software is a time consuming business, and paying that little bit extra for a module will go towards making sure the vendor is still there when you need a problem solved or an upgrade performed.  Every time a module gets orphaned it leaves a bad experience for everyone involved.  I don't think any DNN developers have bought private islands (I do know of one with a Corvette!), so I don't think there's any price gouging going on.

Of course, there should always be free versions of functionality wherever possible within DNN, given it's open source and community based development. I personally distribute more free modules than I do paid ones. But customers obtaining free software expect far less than one who has paid even $10 for it - and that's my point.  If you're to the point where someone has their credit card out, they're probably happy to pay more - it's better for the customer (better long term support) and it's better for the vendor (a more sustainable business model), and it's better for DNN as a whole (less orphaned modules == more trust to all vendors).

I don't have all the answers but I hope a rational discussion can get going on the topic you've started.  It's in nobodies interest to see DNN end up the 'low rent' solution of the CMS/Website platform world, when it clearly is a best-of-breed, world class application.

# October 29, 2008 2:09 AM

Robb Bryn said:

I'll be the first to tell someone that there are *alot* of good modules out there on the market, but I'll also be the first to tell you that there are *alot* of bad ones too.  

We've purchased about 50 different modules in the past 2 years from different vendors and the one lesson I have learned is that it is almost always better to look for a module that has regular updates than it is to buy one that is a first time release or was released once in 2007 and never changed.

-Robb

# October 29, 2008 8:30 AM

Brian Swanson said:

Great post Chris, I think those that don't actually do development often trvialize the effort that goes into providing all the information that a consumer should need to make an informed purchase.  

I also think that a lot of them see the "money back guarantee" and see it as a no lose situation for themselves.

# October 29, 2008 8:52 AM

Tom said:

DNN is far from being a world-class, best-of-breed application.

The text/html editor/provider is very broken and cannot deliver true WYSYWYG editing, not to mention inserting extra tags unbeknownst to people.

The blog module is so poorly done that non-IT people cannot use it.

So many things in DNN require hundreds of clicks to do that I can't even remember them all.

It was only recently that one could even call JavaScript/CSS in a skin without special programming etc.

No, DNN has a long way to go before it becomes best-of-breed.

# October 29, 2008 8:59 AM

Chris Hammond said:

So we're getting a lot of good comments, then we get that comment from Tom which actually has no actual relation to the topic at hand.... Thanks Tom

# October 29, 2008 9:27 AM

Chris Hammond said:

Bruce, the Corvette you refer to has moved on to a different owner :(. I sold it and the new owner took delivery of it while I was out of the country recently. I wasn't making enough money off module sales to justify the payments ;)

# October 29, 2008 9:29 AM

jeff@zina.com said:

One thing that doesn't always seem to hold true in the DNN add-on module world is that you get waht you pay for.  There are quite a few times I've been surprised by how much I got for so little.  And other times I'm amazed that such a high expense delivers such a low return.

Normally the market would weed out the bad and enforce the good.  But it seems like there are always enough new buyers that the bad can stay in business.  It's a shame that some customers will be disillusioned by one wrong purchase.

On the other hand, there are probably a dozen module developers that continually receive praise in the forums.  Checking the forums will get a buyer a very good indication of the overall quality of the developer and module.

# October 29, 2008 10:55 AM

mark said:

As strictly a consumer for personal and business purposes I have to add that the developers who have moved to a subscription plan with regular updates have become more and more attractive.  Sure I might be paying as much as $120 a year for a subscription but this gives access to modules I might not have considered before, along with priority support, access to the latest build, input on the modules future development.

Hmm.. come to think about it this sounds alot like DotNetNuke sponsor program.

# October 29, 2008 3:41 PM

tony2005 said:

And some DNN developers really suck! Yeah.. let me name one. The developer of Portal Store at http://www.dnn-modules.com. No demo store on his site. No trial version to download. Did not reply to my email. Did not reply to my question at Snowcovered.  I wanted to ask the  single reviewer on SnowCovered how did she base her purchase decision.

How does he expect people to purchase his products!?

# October 29, 2008 6:20 PM

Peter Donker said:

I'm completely with you Chris and Bruce spoke my mind. Just some additions from my part:

Shops

Snowcovered is a very fuzzy shop. It is hard to see what you'll get, despite efforts from them with reviews and the like. I have found that once off the TOP 10 you're off the edge (i.e. your sales end up in free fall). That would lead me to believe that buyers go to SC and fail to find what they're looking for. So your advice is welcome to these people. I do sincerely hope that the review program of DNN will get a new lease of life soon. I could imagine it to be extended to cover some other aspects you've mentioned.

Prices

I wholeheartedly agree that the pricepoint of the vast majority of modules is the single biggest threat to the future of the ecosystem. At 200 USD I sell something that would cost that many times over outside the DNN zone. I have tried a module very briefly at 10 USD and quickly realized that that was not sustainable. I pulled it and offered it for free instead.

Customers

I love my customers and I know the majority realize that paying for my module keeps me being able to put bread on the table for my family and motivated to continue developing. But you've quite rightly pointed out that our market is also full of customers that expect everything under the sun for 25 dollars. The major misconception on their part is probably the size of the DNN market. We're not selling 1000's of modules a day (at whatever price point). The market is good, but not that good.

# October 30, 2008 6:18 AM

Joe Craig said:

I do like the subscription model.  And, as one who is using modules in a business setting, I don't have problems paying several hundred dollars a year (or sometimes more!) for quality modules.  Where there are important or critical requirements, we've also "sponsored" the development of specific features at a much higher price.  These prices are, though, much lower than it would cost us to do the same thing.

The additional benefit of the subscription model is the (not so) subtle encouragement to the module developer to make the next versions sufficiently attractive that people will subscribe when the first subscription expires.

For me, too, support is a really big issue.  Most of the modules that I've purchased over a couple of years have been from developers with excellent support.  Again, the modules have got to cost enough that developers can afford to provide support.

# October 30, 2008 10:12 AM

Dave Amphlett said:

So true and well articulated.

I've been 'hacking' modules together for use on my own website business, with the background idea of producing some 'shrink-wrapped' modules for commercial release.

My experience of purchasing (many hundreds of dollars worth of) modules has been almost entirely negative. Most of the cheaper modules are rather sad affairs. Most of the expensive modules are at least functional, but rate very low on usability and require an overly heavy investment of time to get anywhere with.

The pricing on SnowCovered does put me off producing shrink-wrapped modules. To produce something that I'd be comfortable releasing to 'represent me' would take significantly longer than the return I would expect from looking at comprably functional modules.

One is left wondering whether delivering a reasonably polished product that is pleasant to use would be enough benefit for the module to stand out from the crowd. I suspect that will require more accessible 'magazine' style DNN content websites that review, comment and 'reward' (award?) quality module developers.

# October 30, 2008 12:23 PM

Bruce Chapman said:

You sold it? Boo!

Oh well, back to the Nissans for you!

# November 2, 2008 12:33 AM

Phil Speth said:

Hey Chris,

It takes some guts to throw out topics like this and not a small degree of empathy to strike a balance.  Nice post.

The comments here made me feel that a very cool topic for a blog post and even better a short book would be a covering the basics for would be DNN Developers and consultants.

Covering the business model, an insiders view of the real costs of support and maintenance etc.

I could go on about the details but I know you would do a better job.

Perhaps if you start with a blog post and ask vendors who may comment to identify themselves as vendors.  This would be a great read.

As a purchaser I have been burned many times but have had some really great surprises.  Some of my longshot purchases have paid off too.

I don't think that I think like many others so I really do end up with quite a few modification requests.  When I can though I offer to sponsor the changes since I believe enhancing a good product and supporting a good vendor is a great way to support this spectacular ecosystem.

# June 6, 2009 1:32 PM