Finely Tuned Consultants - Spry Media
Today, we’re doing a double feature. We’re featuring the design and dev double-threat behind Spyr Media, Dave LaTulippe (design) and Jeff Sarris (development). These two make up the amazing folks behind the killer Spyr portfolio. I came across some of their work a few months ago, and reached out for an interview, and we decided to go ahead and get them both in on the fun.

Dave is a designer and entrepreneur from birth. He started his first company, custom art on blank Hanes t-shirts, when he was 10. His design work blossomed and found a good fit with WordPress in 2006. When Dave met Jeff, their skills rounded one another’s out, and the company was born.

Jeff started developing sites in high school, and got into branding shortly after (Spyr loves creating brands) when he was designing accessories for his wedding (normal wedding stuff like guitar picks and pint glasses). In the process, he built the site on WordPress, and never looked back.

In their own words:

For our clients our main focus is visual branding through web design, but the best part of running our own agency is that we’ve consciously built a brand image for ourselves that allows us to be ourselves. People come to us because they like our work, but they also know right up front that we’re not into business mumbo jumbo or pretending to be something that we’re not.

Now onto Dave and Jeff’s answers!

When was the first time that you really got excited about WordPress and at what point did you decide to make it your career?

Could you use career in a sentence?

Hmmm, well I suppose it became a ‘career’ when we started making money with it. We got excited about WordPress when we realized it would take a huge chunk of the work out of our process, as compared to building HTML sites. It’s really the creative process that we get amped about and WordPress is the rapid development tool that we use to create. It speeds up our creation process and that is hugely valuable.

Where do you go first to get your WordPress news, insights, and updates?

To be honest, we don’t actually follow the WordPress community very closely. We also don’t follow the design community. So we’re a design and development company who has no connection whatsoever with design and development communities. Awesome!

This may sound ridiculous but by not being overly concerned with what others are doing, we stay blissfully ignorant of limitations. Basically, we have no idea what we can’t do so we just assume we can do anything.

What WordPress consultants deserve more love than they get? Who should we be paying attention to?

What is a WordPress consultant? This is a good question. We’d love to know what the community thinks, let us know in the comments who you think we should be on the look out for.

What performance tips would you give to other pros (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?

Don’t neglect the legs, without squats and deadlifts, the rest of the body can only get so strong. #SPYRperformanceTips (Context: The guys also started a paleo cookbook company.)

If you’re referring to WordPress specifically then we’d say build, build, build, build. The more you build, the better you get at figuring out what works and what doesn’t. There’s no substitute for trial and error.

Some fundamental points to consider would be:

  • Build on Genesis and use a good host.
  • Keep backups, and don’t use crappy plugins. If it doesn’t exist, build your own.
  • Use image sprites and icon fonts when possible to limit the use of images.
  • Vet stuff before you use it, don’t just install any plugin willy-nilly.

Confess to us your biggest moment of WordPress fail?

It may sound cliche but we don’t believe in failure. When you hit a wall, you push through until you figure it out, well unless you really physically ran into a wall (then please don’t take that advice to push through).

If we had to spot a failure it would be in underestimating the scope of a project, that ends up adding up and complicating life.

Do you use Themes & Child Themes, Roll your own, or both? What’s your favorite theme or theme framework? Why?

We build everything custom from the ground up and use Genesis because it’s the best framework out there. Once upon a time, Jeff used a different framework and was going to build his own that fit our needs more precisely but then Genesis came around and that was it from then on out. And what’s even better is Genesis is backed by some great people.

Favorite plugin?

We wouldn’t say that there’s one single plugin that tops our list, but we choose to use the following on nearly every site we build:

  • WordPress SEO by Yoast
  • Gravity Forms
  • JetPack

Least favorite plugin?

Plugins that add seasonal overlay animations are definitely our least favorite. And yes, we know Jetpack has this feature. Tsk Tsk.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done with Custom Post Types?

We went bungee jumping together at the Grand Canyon. Epic! Aside from that weekend we use Custom Post Types for a lot of things and there isn’t one specific project that comes to mind that was more exciting than the rest. Whenever this interview goes live there’s a 99.9% chance that our latest project will be the coolest thing we’ve ever done with Custom Post Types.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that WordPress consultants will face in 2013?

Carpal Tunnel probably.

After that, I’d say it’s understanding and managing the expectations of end users and learning how to create bigger and better experiences online.

Another big challenge is child theme development and the associated value. Child themes have been terribly devalued over the years to the point where $45 is considered expensive. It’s not. Child themes can take months to design and develop and offer end users HUGE benefits. It’s time people start recognizing the true value and that begins with education…and a significant price increase on good work.

SPYR is actually launching a new Genesis theme store called BYLT in an effort to educate users and to give developers a platform where they can charge what they deserve. Correcting this warped sense of value will be a big challenge but one we’re excited to be a part of.

If you could change one thing today about WordPress, what would it be?

The visual editor! There’s so much potential for an improved solution, though rumor has it the eventual successor will be quite slick. Fingers crossed!

Tell us a story where you saved the WordPress day for yourself or on a client project. What made the difference for you?

We use WP for every project and without it we’d always be starting from scratch. In one year we built over 100 client sites. Without WordPress, SPYR would be a flattened mess on a sidewalk somewhere after jumping off a building. So it’s WordPress that saves the day.

What’s the biggest misconception you encounter about WordPress, and how do you clear it up for your clients?

Misconception numero uno: that WordPress is merely a blogging platform.

If you were interviewing another WordPress developer for a job, what is the first question you would ask and why?

We would have to ask:

  1. Where can we see your portfolio?
  2. How many WordPress sites have you built? As with many things quantity often leads to quality.
  3. And most importantly, do you develop websites that were designed by a designer? This question is important because developing work *you* design is much easier because you’re designing with your own development limitations in mind. When you work with a designer, you have to develop *his* vision and that’s a whole other ball game.

Thanks dudes!

Mosey on over to to check out the work the team has put together, what they’re up to these days, and to see if they can help you put an amazing brand together!