Grant Landram - WordPress Developer

This week, I’m talking to my new friend Grant Landram from Seattle. He’s the founder of freshmuse, a Seattle-Based WordPress design and development firm that has such an amazing team that I almost feel guilty for not profiling all of them at the same time. I met Grant and another member of the freshmuse team, Ben Lobaugh, at WordCamp Portland a few weeks ago.

Grant is also a vegetarian.  Since I’m from Texas, and we have amazing barbecue which contains meat, that means I have to rag on Grant a little bit, which I did in PDX. However, in addition to being a vegetarian, Grant is also awesome at what he does, and excited about the strong business they’re building with freshmuse. I asked him how things were going and he gave me this look and said, “We’re building.” Like he was in the process of erecting his enterprise, and using WordPress to do it.  I get a little inspired when I meet entrepreneurs who have found their calling.

In Grant’s own words:

Working exclusively with WordPress for 3 years, we’ve gotten to know it pretty well… it’s strengths, it’s weaknesses, the common and more fringe use cases. After 3 years…. man, we still just love building cool shit with WordPress.

And onto Grant’s questions:

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

About the 10th time I had an idea for a feature/plugin and found a plugin in the repo that was already created for that exact purpose, I realized WordPress was going to play a serious role in my development process. When potential clients started requesting WordPress, and I started getting too much WordPress work than I could handle as a part time freelancer, I decided it was time to make the plunge. Although it took me a while to ween off of other platforms, using exclusively WordPress has been a great lesson in focus and specialization.

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

Too many great resources to list, but WPCandy, WPtuts and come to mind first. Over time you get to know different people and blogs that specialize in different areas, so we don’t limit our resources to WP specific blogs, but instead look for experts in the area we need help with (css-tricks, Sucuri, ZURB, etc)

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

This is tough. The community is getting so big that it’s hard to pick only a few… even in our Seattle WP community we have so many talented people. If I had to pick a few I would say Ian Dunn of MPango Dev, Mark Root-Wiley of MrwWeb, and Bob Dunn of BobWP. From advanced plugin development to non-profit theme development to WP coaching, these guys are ones I know from first hand experience are constantly out in the community doing great work.

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

Develop methods… whether that be a consistent development method, starter themes and plugins, or even typical work hours. These methods not only help us find our optimal environment through iteration, but also give us a benchmark at which to constantly measure ourselves against in order to improve. It’s amazing how often before we developed methods we repeated our mistakes, in contrast to how easy it is to slightly tweak a method and make marginal improvements over time.

Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?

Assuming WP is the end/all be/all of development… which we’ve done a few times, resulting in some sticky situations. Despite how much we praise and invest in WP, it’s not the best for EVERYTHING. Sometimes, we have to remove ourselves from the WP fanfare, and get practical about how to tackle a given problem. The #fail in our experience was failing to critically evaluate each project with the mentality of “how SHOULD this be done” instead with “how can we do this with WordPress”.

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

We have a TON of internal plugin projects on the back burner at freshmuse. One that has us particularly excited is tackling video integration into form submissions. More specifically, allowing devs to easily build in a “video” field into any contact form solution so users can record, transcribe,and submit a video with any contact form. The video transcription APIs are just coming into their own, so we’re excited to tap into these solutions and deliver a universal WordPress integration.

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

A little of both, but mostly rolling our own from our own start themes. We do swap out some different libraries including Bootstrap, Foundation, and others, but most of our projects require a very custom level of theming. That being said, there are some great theme shops out there that we would use if the project called for it, in which case we would use a child theme to keep the theme updatable in the future.

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

We tend to stay away from theming frameworks because they add an extra level of code to worry about, although we are a big fan of a few different starter themes and options frameworks. For starter themes we’ve used a few different versions of Elliot J. Stocks’ Starkers theme and Rachel Baker’s WPBootstrap, and we also like Devin’s Options Framework plugin.

Favorite plugin?

Advanced Custom Fields. Enough said.

Least favorite plugin?

Haha. No comment? With ~20,000 plugins in the repo there are a lot of duds… let’s leave it at that.

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

We built a custom post type that powered the content for a site running on an in-store digital display that allowed employees of that store to post real time content, photos, and other meta data from their mobile phones straight to the display, and display it in a very unique way. It’s one of the coolest and most challenging projects we’ve tackled here at freshmuse.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that WP consultants will face in 2012?

As the market for WordPress development continues to grow consultants will be faced with the (awesome) problem of needing to be selective of their projects, choose whether they want to grow (hire employees), or become specialized in a certain area of WordPress. With the appeal of taking on a lot of projects, this can be easier said than done. The biggest challenge will be focus, and become excellent in a certain niche, not allowing your skill set to get diluted as you take on more projects requiring a wide array of skills and experience.

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

Theoretically? No user can download WordPress without logging in with a .org account that has made at least one core contribution/patch submission. Although it would be an easily navigable barrier, it would encourage more core contribution and a widespread understanding that core contribution is important to the WP environment.

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

Powering more web apps, powering more enterprise solutions, and being used as the standard for website to social platform integration.

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

Site breaches are the most common way we “save the day”. Companies will come to us with a compromised WordPress site, and we’ll quarantine, clean, and restore their site back to working order. It’s a relatively small task, but it means a lot when a company is facing a massive data loss or security breach. Strong web hosts and WordPress security practices make all the difference, but unfortunately for many companies these are often issues not tackled until they become a problem.

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

  1. 1. WordPress is just a blogging platform. We show them examples of complex sites that are running WordPress. Awesomely.
  2. 2. WordPress in insecure. We show them sites storing sensitive data that we’ve administered for over 3 years that have never been hacked.

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

Are you a PHP dev or a WordPress dev? There’s a difference between understanding PHP and knowing the WordPress API.

Thanks Grant.  Y’all avoid Seattle’s rain but click over to freshmuse and see how Grant and the rest of the team can build something beautiful for you.