Can you build a successful SaaS business powered by WordPress?
Yes, you certainly can.
There are already hundreds of companies which have successfully done it.
But should YOU do it?
The answer is YES, but only if your business model meets certain criteria.
Before we go into pros and cons of building your SaaS on WordPress, let’s first take a quick look at the success stories.
Page.ly and Pressable.com – Managed WordPress Hosting
Besides hosting, they take care of all core and plugin updates, security and backups.
The business idea here is to take care of all critical issues for you, but you still can do whatever you like with your theme, plugins and customize your site as you wish.
WPengine.com, another good example of WordPress SaaS hosting, does not offer updates, but they have backups, security features and will fix your WordPress free of charge if it gets hacked.
Edublogs.org, Happytables.com, and Restaurantengine.com: WordPress-based site-builders, site platforms
Instead of building a proprietary CMS, these companies have built on WordPress.
One of the best examples in this WordPress Saas category is Edublogs.org.
Edublogs.org runs over 3 million blogs for universities, schools, teachers and students.
Edublogs.org targets very specific niche (students and teaches) and includes into its WordPress based SaaS platform various themes and plugins, managed hosting and customized dashboard.
The almighty WordPress.com itself is in this WordPress SaaS category.
Besides blogging platforms, there have been other incredibly successful companies in this area.
They offer an ideal solution if you run a restaurant. You can take orders and reservations online.
You do not need to worry about design, coding a menu and customizing food items. Just add them from your WordPress dashboard and hit publish.
By the way, there are still plenty of free niches: real estate, lawyers, doctors, artists, you name it…
Managewp.com – tools to manage multiple WordPress powered sites
This is another incredibly successful WordPress SaaS category.
For example, Managewp.com has over 5000 customers which manage thousands of WordPress sites.
The service gives you a possibility to manage all your WordPress sites from one place.
It is more than just a WordPress multi-site service.
All managed sites can be hosted on different servers and belong to different users. But you still will be able to manage them from one dashboard.
You can run updates, backups, fix security issues, publish posts and pages all from one place.
The service saves lots of time for developers and companies which run many sites.
Some of the leading companies in this SaaS category are
Akismet.com, Gravityforms.com and 100s of other companies – WordPress plugins as SaaS
Akismet is ubiquitous.
And it is a classical SaaS tool. To unlock all features, you have to subscribe to one of the monthly plans.
There are hundreds of WordPress plugins which are typical SaaS solutions.
Pressbooks.com – Publishing and content production
Pressbooks.com is a book production software that allows you to create PDFs and ebooks from one interface.
You don’t have to design and develop your ebook. Just fill in the content on their platform and publish. The platform is WordPress based.
Contentcloudhq.com is another good example from content production field.
It offers a team collaboration platform for planning, production and distribution of content.
There are certainly many more excellent companies which have their SaaS business powered by WordPress.
But the main question is what are the benefits and is it worth doing?
Pros of using WordPress for your SaaS
WordPress has a vast array of inbuilt functionality, extendability, and adaptability:
- Sound membership and authentication system
- Amazing selection of plugins and themes
- It is easy to use
- You can quickly put together an MVP of your product
- In case a user wants to stop using your product, or perhaps it needs to be discontinued, all data can be easily exported
The cons of building on WordPress
WordPress is fantastic and can do many things. But it can’t do everything.
It is great for rapid prototypes, but you can quickly run into deployment and scaling issues:
- You can not customize everything what you want
- You start on a bloated system
- You might encounter security and speed issues
- Hard to scale beyond a certain point
- Hard to acquire customers who use other CMSs
So, what should you do?
Follow these guidelines:
WordPress is great for an MVP
If you are familiar with WordPress then don’t waste your time on learning anything else, launch on WordPress.
After your business gets some traction, you can always replace WordPress with a more suitable solution.
Just like Groupon did after the first year in business.
Groupon started as a very basic WordPress blog. They would publish offers instead of posts.
After the idea caught up, they have built a decent site.
Choose WordPress as your long term SaaS solution
- If your SaaS offers what WordPress does best: services around publishing, content management and distribution. Just look at the examples above. So far, all successful WordPress powered SaaS companies have focused on content management and creation.
- If you have a lot of potential customers who already know and use WordPress then stick with WordPress. Focus on what your customers already know and use, it will be so much easier to sell.
- Go for WordPress if you know it, use it and like it.
WordPress can be successfully used as a platform for all kinds of apps, but often it will require so much custom code you might as well build it from scratch right away.
In my previous company, we have built a recruiting service on WordPress.
To be exact, we have started building on WordPress.
But after a lot of work and customization we ended up with a WordPress blog and a separate PHP engine which powered the recruiting service.
We might as well started with PHP right away and would save a lot of time and headaches.
As a final thought, users don’t care what you built it with as long as it runs fast and accomplishes what they want.
Focus on making the most money possible and spending the least to get there.