Today I’m chatting to Jennifer Bourn of Bourn Creative, a full service design agency.

Jennifer is the Creative Director and Lead Designer of Bourn Creative. Her husband of 14 years, Brian Bourn, runs the company and is the Lead Developer.

Jennifer and Brian are also co-organizers of the Sacramento WordPress Meetup. They:

…feel blessed to have been able to build a successful business and life with WordPress, so we love to give back and help others whenever we can.

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

Brian and Jennifer Bourn of Bourn CreativeI’ve been working as a designer since 1997, Founded Bourn Creative in 2005, and while I love design, there was one part of the design process—one part of websites that I hated. Revisions. At the time we were building HTML sites and provided maintenance services as well, but I seriously detested making content revisions.

I was dabbling with some private content management systems to empower my clients to make their own revisions, but didn’t love any of them.

Then at an event, I heard about WordPress and figured out that it would allow us to build sites for clients they could maintain themselves and edit to their heart’s content. I realized I wouldn’t have to make content revisions ever again, the clouds parted, the sun shined down, I fell in love, and never looked back.

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

Twitter. The Twitter WordPress community is active and vibrant—and there is so much content to discover. I leverage public and private Twitter lists of people, WordCamps, podcasts, and WordPress news sites, etc.—and through those lists, I have access to awesome blogs, sites, and resources. I’m slowly getting into Google+ as well, because the community there is strong too.

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

Developers always get the love. So I’d like to give a shout out and some love to all the designers that work on site strategy and the look and feel of the sites. I’d like to say kudos to those who design not just the look, but the movement of a user through a site to taking a desired action.

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

Um, host your site with WP Engine!

Besides that, we operate with the belief that while there is no such thing as too many plugins, one bad plugin can create a mess or break your site.

It’s important to not just read one blog post and then install a plugin on your live site. You must do your due diligence and research the plugin first to make sure it is supported, current, and the right choice.

Then we recommend backing up your site, then installing and testing the plugin in a staging area first to make sure there are no issues or conflicts. Only then should you use it on your live domain.

Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?

Oh this is embarrassing! When I first discovered WordPress in 2008, I sold a site to a new client and I had no idea what I was doing. I was still learning WordPress and didn’t really understand the concept of the widgets, so almost everything but the main content area was hard-coded. (Yikes!)

Five years later that same client called wanting to know how to take advantage of the newest WordPress features with her theme. I seriously cringed and had to tell her she’d have to get a new theme or have her theme rebuilt.

Luckily I read somewhere that if you don’t look at your past work and feel at least a little embarrassed about it, you’re not trying hard enough to improve and grow—and that made me feel much better!

If you were going to spend this weekend creating a plugin that doesn’t exist, what would it be?

We use Infusionsoft and it’s very powerful, but it lacks any decent integration with WordPress like Aweber and MailChimp do.

So, I’d create a plugin that would add Infusionsoft integration to WordPress. One that would allow visitors to sign up for an email newsletter when they leave a comment or register, without having to fill out a separate web form.

I’d also want it to have Infusionsoft integration with comment forms, registration forms, Contact Form 7, and membership login forms.

Jennifer of Bourn Creative Presenting at WordCamp Phoenix

What’s your favorite theme or theme framework? Why?

While we’ve been building WordPress sites since 2008, in 2010 we made the decision to only build with the Genesis Framework and are official Genesis recommended developers.

The framework offers a platform we can trust, a community of amazing people, a rock solid code base, and incredible flexibility for design. Plus it’s killer for performance, security, and SEO.

Do you use Themes & Child Themes, Roll your own, or both?

We typically work with clients on branding, email marketing and social media design, as well as their marketing materials design. So their WordPress site is just a part of what we do. Our clients don’t like their vision and imagination to be limited in any way by the confines of an existing theme, so about 90% of our web work is creating custom, one-off WordPress sites built as Genesis child themes. Going the custom theme route, gives us the flexibility to bring their vision to life and design and build anything the client needs.

As Genesis recommended developers we do also work with clients who want to use and customize one of the StudioPress child themes. We offer extensive customization services for the themes and with the release of the PRO themes, look forward to working with them more.

We’ll also be moving into commercial themes in 2014.

Favorite plugin?

Love WordPress SEO by Yoast, Tweet Old Post, and Genesis Simple Sidebars.

Least favorite plugin?

Hello Dolly—including it in every install is irritating, and OptimizePress—it’s over-hyped.

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

My favorite thing we’ve ever done with custom post types is our portfolio. I love the design of it, all the different colors on hover, everything. I still sometimes visit the page and just move my mouse around and watch the colors change. The hover color, title, and description are set as custom fields, and portfolio posts use a custom pagination element in the upper right.

What is the biggest challenge that WordPress consultants will face in 2014? 

I think the biggest challenge that WordPress consultants face today and will in the coming year is the consumer expectation that everything should be free or cheap—and the industry has done it to itself by creating awesome plugins, feature-rich themes, valuable tools, and high-end services, and then giving it away for free, or at ridiculously cheap prices.

I have watched people approach a developer about specific functionality, and then ask them to create the plugin for it for free. You wouldn’t expect a landscaper to landscape your backyard for free, so why do people think a developer should work for free?

WordPress consultants of all types have to battle consumer perception—perception created by the guy on Craigslist offering WordPress web design for $500, the newbie designer offering in-depth theme customizations for $10 an hour, the Virtual Assistant offering WordPress services but doesn’t understand how it actually works, the theme developers selling premium themes for less than premium prices, the “teachers” selling WordPress courses on how to never need a designer or developer again…

These people may not be your direct competition, but they do affect your industry and the overall consumer beliefs about the value of WordPress-related products, programs, and services, and the prices you can charge.

It’s up to us, to you, and to the whole community to:

  • Educate our clients, customers, prospects, and audiences
  • Communicate the value of our experience, talents, and skills
  • Price our products, programs, and service appropriately

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

Right now the one thing that is driving me nuts, is that the title tag is stripped out of the code for images when inserting them into pages and posts. So I have to manually add it every time I add an image. Grrrr.

As for one thing I’d like to change? The widget screen was a big one, but it’s definitely getting better!

Where do you see WordPress going in the next 2-3 years?

As consumers become more savvy with WordPress, I think we’ll see those who jumped on the “offer-WordPress-services-for-quick-cash” bandwagon ferreted out, and those who really deliver value and operate with integrity enjoy more success.

I think that as the web gets more and more cluttered with websites crammed full of stuff, design will become much more important, and that great design—design that is pretty, clean, highly-focused, AND strategic—will increase in value.

There are ridiculously smart designers and developers doing amazing things with WordPress already—things you would never even think of, and I hope we’re going to see more of that on a larger scale.

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

We have some clients who really like to tinker on their own sites, and they sometimes seriously mess them up! One has called us with the “white screen of death” more than a couple times. Luckily these clients took our advice and host with WP Engine, so with the one-click restore, their freak outs and tears turn into happiness very quickly!

Another time recently, a member of a mastermind group I am in reached out in a panic on the morning of her biggest product launch ever. Her virtual assistant, while making changes, accidentally wiped out a huge portion of the sales page. Luckily, I was able to log in, find some bad HTML and fix it quickly.

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

The misconception we encounter most is that “WordPress can’t do that.” Or “WordPress isn’t for serious businesses.”

The reality is that WordPress can support pretty much anything you want to do online. Brilliant people around the world are proving that WordPress can be used in ways most people can’t even imagine. So WordPress doesn’t limit what you can do, it expands it.

Unfortunately, there are service providers who answer requests they don’t know how to handle with, “You can’t do that with WordPress,” instead of, “Yes, that can be done, but I don’t know how.”

When we encounter these misconceptions, we educate them about the wide range of businesses and brands using WordPress, from micro businesses to Disney, and share some stories about unique implementations of WordPress. We also explain to them that WordPress is really just software that gets integrated into their website to give them more power and control over their business online.

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

Why WordPress? What’s the one thing you’d change about WordPress that would make your daily life coding sites easier? What WordPress blogs do you read or follow? What’s the latest project you worked on that got you really excited and what was it that got you fired up?

For a designer: The first question is “What’s your philosophy on design?” Every designer had a point of view, and belief about the role design plays in the whole globally, in communication, and in business—and that point of view can tell you a lot about them.

What did I miss? Here’s your chance to fill in the blanks and add something you want people to know about you!

I LOVE WORDPRESS! Seriously, never have I ever witnessed something so completely unique and amazing as the WordPress community as a whole.

Competitors help each other and give each a hand, and often work side by side to better the community. People share knowledge, resources, tools, code, and more via social media, and speakers, organizers, and volunteers give whole-heartedly and relentlessly without expecting anything in return at WordCamps and meet up groups.

It’s truly inspiring to be part of a generous community that pushes, supports, and encouragers people at all levels, and truly believes in the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats—and I hope that in our own way, we’ve been able to help others as well.

Thank you so much for the honor of sharing my thoughts here, and for supporting Bourn Creative!