Beginning Again

8 June 2015

What is this? What are we doing? Where did everything go?

TL;DR — We’re starting over with Barley. We’re going back to it’s roots and making it dead simple for the average person or small business to have and edit a beautiful, responsive web site. And we’re going to share our progress every single weekday with you while we do it. Follow along on Twitter, here on our site, or via email (see bottom of any page on our site).

Read on for much more background;

When we started working on Barley it wasn’t even called Barley. Kyle and I started hacking on something we then called 1Pager which was to be a dead simple tool for people to sell “nice things” (think: yachts, classic cars) in a way that looked much nicer than Craigslist. We also had an idea to build it so that the user never had to see a form or complex admin. Just tap something you want to edit and type.

Once we saw it in action we fell in love with inline editing — that ability to simply tap on something, edit it exactly as you see it, and save automatically. That love turned into a bit of a passion. Fast forward a few months and we started a company called Plain, raised some money, built an amazing small team, and we were building a much more ambitious version of our idea called Barley.

Barley was going to help “normal people”, designers, and developers build web sites by removing the admin, giving an excellent inline editing experience, and quite possibly the best site template language ever — pure HTML. It was going to be everything WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, etc. were not — simple.

So we launched in 2013 to a fair amount of buzz. Hundreds of thousands of people came, checked it out, but only hundreds ended up paying for it.

So we scrambled in all the wrong ways. We built versions of our product for other platforms like Drupal and WordPress which brought in some revenue but far more support headaches than we could ever keep up with. We built features without listening to feedback. We punted on support. And we pretty nearly threw in the towel on Barley.

We ran out of money, had to lay off most of our team (only Kyle and I remain), and refocus our company on doing client work to pay the bills and keep the lights on.

All of this was our fault; both Kyle and I. We grew a bit too quickly, spent a bit too much, and didn’t find the market fit for our product before trying to scale it. To top it off, without our team — whom we loved — we were left with far less capacity and just as much of a product to keep up with.

Why not raise more money? We could have. In fact, we had an offer on the table. But we got a bit gun-shy — we didn’t want to raise more money because we already didn’t like some of the investors we were talking to and we didn’t want to give up more of our company. We want to own Plain forever because we have big plans for our little company. So we decided not to pay ourselves, to find clients, do good work, get paid, and figure out what to do later.

That is exactly what we did. We have pulled Plain back from the brink, did some excellent work with some great clients and are now profitable and nearly out of debt. Cha-ching!

We could have shut everything down. Some would likely say that we should have shut everything down. But we love our company and our product too much.

That is why we are going to sharpen our product’s focus by starting over and we’re going to ask that you follow along with us as we figure out who Barley 2 is going to be for, what it needs to do for them, and where we go from there. It is going to be an amazingly fun ride as we work on our most favorite product in the world; our own.

Any questions? 

Thanks, Colin and Kyle.

PS. We’ll Be Right Back.

Some questions you may have:

What is going to happen to current customers? Nothing. You may continue to use Barley exactly as you have and pay the same amount as you have been. We’re not taking a single thing away from you.

Can I still sign up to Barley? We’re not going to accept new sign ups for a little while. Just while we reconfigure some things. But we plan on bringing this back very soon. If you already have an account, you can log in.

Will Barley 2 be for developers? Not likely. We’ve chatted about this a lot and we honestly think Barley 2 should help small business owners to have a beautiful, simple web sites and have one that they can edit on their own quickly and easily.

Will Barley 2 be for designers? Someday, perhaps, in the future we’d love for designers to submit templates for Barley. And many designers may want to use Barley 2 to provide basic sites for their customers or for their projects or their own portfolios.

Will you ever bring back Barley for WordPress or Barley for Drupal? No. Current customers of those products can still download the latest version by logging into their accounts and we still try to support it as best as we can. However, we have no plans of selling it again.

Will Dropbox syncing still be possible? Current customers with the ability to sync their site templates to Dropbox will be able to do so in perpetuity. And, in the future, we may bring back this rather advanced feature. But Barley 2 will not have Dropbox syncing out of the box.

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