Finely Tuned Consultant – Josh Vickers
Today, I’m hanging out with Josh Vickers, the founder of Direction 1 Media, and one of the premiere WordPress developers in the Bay Area. He’s done work for folks like Lennar Home Builders, Cooley Law Firm,
Vooza, Bloody Disgusting, Onboardly, Awe.sm, and plenty of other premium brands, including the Obama for America Creative Advisory Board. He’s also recently launched a product called Fantasktic that was featured on PandoDaily yesterday. Fantastkic is a service where anyone can get fixes and tweaks made to their WordPress site for a flat $99.
Josh is a veteran of the SF startup scene who has discovered the the WordPress Community. He’s quietly riding the new wave of the business of WordPress, and experimenting with building scalable businesses on top of the software platform. When Josh isn’t developing killer WordPress sites and starting companies, he’s spending time with his family, or reading books on philosophy.
In Josh’s Own Words
I’ve been hustling heads down in the trenches ever since startin WordPress work in 2005. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with some unbelievable organizations, including being asked by Obama for America to be on their Creative Advisory Board this last election. I work strictly off close referrals – so relationships are everything to me. Nothing is more important than being sure anyone I work with wants to tell their friends what an awesome job we did for them. I love pushing hard on all fronts of what can be done with WordPress – I think there is so much opportunity to be had in some very niche markets with so many creative ways to monetize.
Now onto Josh’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?
I think it was 2005 when I built my first WordPress site. I remember I had dabbled with expression engine, drupal, custom aspx builds, which was a .NET framework. I remember seeing WordPress from a friend of mine who I think definitely had a crystal ball. I remember him telling me “this thing is going to be big time man.” And I remember getting super excited about how awesome the community was.
It’s funny, I started off pretty much right out the gates building full sites with WordPress and really never thinking of it as a “blogging” platform.
I started doing web full time in 2007 and remember at the time no one really cared about WordPress. So in 2007-2008, nobody cared about WordPress, so we struggled for a bit when it was still cool to do everything and be a jack of all trades, and we were doing Drupal, static pages, etc. But finally in 2009 or 2010, I went all in on WordPress. I spent some time in the trenches but within a year it started paying dividends as WordPress started to evolve and develop its own customer base, and word of mouth kicked off for me.
Where do you go first to get your WP news, insights, and updates?
Good question – I get some an overload of WordPress news via Twitter and my inbox, can’t say I really have to go anywhere. Wpmail.me is a cool way to get quality content all consolidated. WP Daily is getting pretty awesome as well. Hongkiat also has some really great theme inspirations.
What WP consultants deserve more love than they get? Who should we be paying attention to?
Well what John O’Nolan is doing with Ghost and his overall philosophy inspired by WordPress is really rad. Not sure he is lacking love, but I like his philosophy of reducing WordPress down. Development goes in these cycles between “build build build” and then into “simplifying everything.” John is the counterwave from the “build build build,” and is going back to simple blogging that refreshes the spirit of the Community.
On the other hand, lots of people out there just using WordPress as a buzzword to build their next awesome minimal viable, “lean startupy,” consumer based incubator companies. There’s a lot of bandwagoners who can build onto Themeforest themes, but have a lack of appreciation for the knowledge base required for fully doing solid, custom back-end WordPress development.
What performance tips would you give to other pros (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?
Man, caching is always huge for us. Cache plugins have always been a something we’ve struggled with. Then you want to make sure that you don’t have any plugin conflicts or inactive plugins. Being able to ditch caching plugins is huge.
Always giving a good cleanse of legacy code is always a good idea – If you’re not using it – get rid of it. Custom fields is something I often find way overbuilt and way underused. And look out for unused Custom Post Types. Anything unused can make your security vulnerable.
Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?
Dude, I’m having trouble with this one. I tell you about an issue that I seem to hit regularly that I always feel like an idiot for. The default upload for WordPress is 2MB, and we often increase that for corporate clients to around 10MB because I know they may need to increase large PDFs and just use the link to download the file. I’ve gotten calls at 2AM from the other side of the world because someone needed to upload a PDF, but we wrote code that removed the upload exception. I end up having to get into the server and change the limit for them, no matter what time of day it is.
If you were going to spend this weekend creating a plugin that doesn’t exist, what would it be?
I’d create an easy way to create quick WordPress fixes right from there admin. Something that we could link up with Fantasktic, so people could have bugs fixed directly through the admin.
Do you use Themes & Child Themes, Roll your own, or both?
Frameworks can help speed development, but they can also add unnecessary limitations. My team encounters more issues trying to make updates to sites that are built on frameworks that not, which typically negates the purpose of having the framework in the first place. We just roll our own to avoid that.
Backup Buddy, but honestly I don’t need it much anymore because all our stuff is on WP Engine. It’s still my favorite though.
Least favorite plugin?
W3TC. I just never can get the thing to work the way it’s supposed to.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done with Custom Post Types?
Did a pretty cool contest set up for Eatmywords.com – people submitted their companies into a Gravity Form that went into a Custom Post Type. The Eatmywords staff approved the companies live then there was a leaderboard based on social activity total tweets and likes, so the more active a given company was on social, the higher their rank was.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that WP consultants will face in 2013?
I think its all about focus – I remember it used to be that building only with WordPress was niche. Now I think its going to be all about picking certains areas of WordPress to be an expert in (you see this already with Buddypress) – the market has just gotten that big. There are so many plugins, so many themes, so many areas of focus that you can’t be an expert in it all. The markets are going to start being segmented, and the people who are masters of certain areas of WordPress are coming out ahead.
For example, we can hang with good Buddypress work, but there are teams that eat and sleep Buddypress that we just can’t keep up with. But I know for me ecommerce and support is a huge point of emphasis this year.
If you could change one thing today about WP, what would it be?
I’d like see a tighter integration between .org and .com. Because, in a sense, WordPress.com could almost be a competitor to people doing WordPress.org installs. And I don’t think it’s gotten to that point yet because of the healthy limitations that have been put in place. And of course, WordPress.com is huge for WordPress as a whole because many of the cutting-edge code happens over there on large installs and then makes it over to the open-source project. But I see those more and more as two separate properties.
Where do you see WordPress going in the next 2-3 years?
The primary thing I like about what John Onolan is doing is taking WordPress back. WordPress.org has undergone an amazing transformation over the years, but I’d like to see it start to go full circle and start simplifying. Rather than continually building layers of new features, I’d like to see an approach that focuses on enhancing core features, removing underused, and minimally adding only those that provide huge benefits. Everything else can be done in plugins and themes.
You guys can navigate over to Direction1Media.com to check out their work and to see about collaborating with them to build your next WordPress masterpiece. And if you need some minor fixes done to your WordPress, but you need them done by a reliable team, check out Fantasktic.com where you can get tweaks made for under $100.
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