Visual Layouts Banner

Here’s a bit of a post-mortem on Isotope and Visual Layouts. This was a WordPress plugin which did great things for your layout, without changing your theme.

Background

Carpi Diem - I was reading about grid based frameworks and came across masonry layouts. I realised, that people would have to change their website theme to take advantage of them - which most people won’t easily do. So I thought the same could be achieved with an extension / plugin that required no coding - but gave a great result.

Extending Isotope Visual Layouts

The plugin was removed from the WordPress site - due to licence incompatibility - So I built my own webshop and extended the plugin. I implemented what was called Twitter Bootstrap

Isotope with Bootstrap

and did a lot of work to build a good UI on the backend …

Isotope Admin Interface

What Did I Learn from this

Technically, this set me up professionally with experience in PHP, CSS and Scripts - along with CI/CD and automated testing.

Setting up a shop to sell my plugins was something unexpected - finding customers, selling, then supporting them. WordPress and e-commerce was still novel and hadn’t boomed. Development teams were just starting to make it easy to launch your own store. eCommerce was quiet limited and integration still hard, Stripe had just launched.

I had several thousand downloads of this one plugin through my shop and it also propelled me to build out email marketing, product updates etc to help build engagement.

So What Killed it? Why?

I knew that potential customers wanted great features, easy to use plugins that worked out of the of the box and for free. While I wasn’t in it for the money, a ‘free’ passion project wasn’t going to work. My background is not in frontend development and my CSS skills were never that great.

One of my best plugins also had (still does) an unclear licence around free for personal use - which meant I couldn’t have it in the WordPress plugin library.

I stopped developing it in 2014, due to changes in my life and work. I was buying a house, I took a full-time job and was travelling every week for work.

Status

8 years on … I am surprised to find the Isotope are still maintained and active today … I’m actually looking to create a theme component for my own website and will see if I can share that with other Hugo users.