Rachel Baker is a freelance web developer in Chicago, IL. I use slick CSS styles and fancy jQuery animations in front of powerful PHP code to create customized WordPress themes and plugins for my clients.
Rachel Baker – Finely Tuned WordPress Guru

Check it out.  We’re starting a new series of blog posts featuring WordPress Consultants, the best in the business.  We’ll cover who they are, what they do, why they’re awesome, and we’ll get them to share their hacks and tricks with you guys. Know someone that should be featured?  Have a question you want asked?  Let us know: [email protected].

And we’re letting the ladies lead the way on this one.  Come back Friday mornings at about 10AM, and see who we feature next.

Enough with the small talk.
Meet Rachel Baker.
In her own words:
I am a freelance web developer in Chicago, IL.  I use slick CSS styles and fancy jQuery animations in front of powerful PHP code to create customized WordPress themes and plugins for my clients.  
My current pet project is a WordPress theme for Twitter’s Bootstrap framework, called BootstrapWP.  You can download the theme or follow the development on Github.
I write code in Sublime Text 2, while wearing a collared shirt and drinking a Diet Coke.
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 first installed WordPress 1.5.2 after reading about the upcoming features in the 2.0 release.  My personal blog was up and running with that fancy Kubrick theme.  I was amazed and excited at the ppossibilitiesof the software, but it was still “blogging software” to me.

I didn’t take WordPress seriously as a client CMS until WordCamp Chicago 2010, where I learned all about the upcoming 3.0 release.  WordPress 3.0 took the software and the use case possibilities to an entirely new level.  I was freshly out on my own, looking for a direction for my businesses, and WordPress had impeccable timing.

Where do you go first to get your WP news, insights, and updates?
I try to catch what I can from Twitter.  Otherwise, I only read two other sites religiously: HackerNews, and the WPDevel blog. If I have the time, I really enjoy WPCandy, WPTuts, and a whole list of others. One of the best things about WordPress is the information and involvement of the community.  The only thing more fun than reading about WordPress, is developing something in WordPress.
What performance tips would you give to other pros (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?
  1. Never ever ever let your clients use cheap hosting shared hosting accounts. From a security and speed standpoint, the hosting environment is the most important.
  2. Always be backing up.
  3. Learn to love version control.  I keep a git repo for web projects.  I keep track of all file changes that I make, and I can also easily view any file changes on a site since my last development.  It is great for viewing changes from plugin or WordPress updates.
  4. Memorize “Hardening WordPress” from the Codex, and learn as much as you can about the correct way to: prepare and sanitize database queries, validate data, authenticate with nonces, and use hooks and filters.
  5. Head to your local WordCamp or Meetup, find the developer that works on the largest website in the room and slowly work in questions about their caching, hosting and server setup.  After each answer say, “Interesting, what made your team make that decision?”  Just don’t overwhelm the poor developer by firing the questions all at once, but listening to the experiences of large WordPress installations is priceless.
If you could change one thing today about WP, what would it be?
Remove the “Links” navigation item from the Dashboard sidebar.  Seriously, with the custom menus is the “Blogroll” widget even necessary?
Where do you see WordPress going in the next 2-3 years?
WordPress is going to stick to it’s roots as a publishing platform.  It is the focus on easy web publishing that makes WordPress so popular.  I don’t think that will be forgotten.
What’s the biggest misconception you encounter about WordPress, and how do you clear it up for your clients?
Not necessarily from my clients, but the one I hear most often from new WordPress users is: “I thought WordPress was easy!”  Well it is easy, in that in 5 minutes you can be up and running with a dynamic website with zero coding knowledge.  There are a wide variety of pre-built themes and plugins, where with a few clicks customizing that website is a matter of visiting an “Options” page.  The expectation is set that everything is that simple.  However, behind the WordPress Dashboard is a database and code files that make everything appear to be easy.
Thanks Rachel!  
Go here to find out more about Rachel’s firm, Plugged In Consulting, and see if she can help you build your site!