Remember Automattically Blackballed? Well, I thought we’d start up Friday morning by celebrating Jake Caputo, the designer and his work who perhaps inadvertently did his part to help Envato provide a GPL option for folks who make a living selling themes on their marketplace. I’m a fan of anyone willing to blog about such a personal, controversial experience with the earnest hope that sharing the story might make a difference for a community. Jake did that very thing.
Jake has been dipping his toes in and out of the WordPress entrepreneurial waters for a few years. You might say he was iterating until he could get it right, which he apparently has at this point. He quit his last job in 2009 to go full freelance. You can’t argue with results.He’s been doing professional design for more than 7 years, and coding for nearly as long. Jake is an Elite Author on Themeforest, and the guy behind such themes like Reviewer, Haute for Cart66, and Campaign.
Jake lives in the suburbs of Chicago with his wife, two cats, and an unlimited supply of Oxford Commas (ask him).
In Jake’s Own Words:
Living in the Chicago suburbs, I’m a designer/developer creating themes for the masses. I’m passionate about awesome design, clean code, and good coffee.
Now onto Jake’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 was thrown into WordPress in early 2008 and immediately fell in love. The more I designed and developed with it the more I realized the power behind it. I made custom themes for clients for a few years before I tried my hand at a commercial theme, only to find it’s a completely different beast. My first commercial theme was terrible, and luckily, it never saw the light of day. I trashed it about a year later I went back to the drawing board and tried to wrap my mind around creating for the masses rather than creating for an individual client. Eventually, I released my first commercial theme (which has since been retired), and then soon after I released my second and third. When I released my fourth theme, I made the move to doing commercial themes full time.
Where do you go first to get your WP news, insights, and updates?
For news I mainly follow my Twitter feed, but I also frequent WPCandy and WPDaily. Somebody on my Skype list usually pings me when something important comes along. Conversations amongst friends is usually where I find out about the hidden little nuggets of what’s going in the WP world.
What WP consultants deserve more love than they get? Who should we be paying attention to?
I’m a big fan of what Devin Price does. Soon after I moved to making commercial themes, Devin released Options Framework, which I now use in all of my themes.
Chris Kelley has been poking around on ThemeForest for years and has just recently starting releasing some themes there. He only has a few commercial themes under his belt but they look great so far. I’m excited to see what he’s going to push out next.
What performance tips would you give to other pros (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?
Keep backups and pay for security! Security services are relatively inexpensive compared to the hours upon hours that you could lose if your sites get hacked or, God forbid, your server crashes. I keep multiple servers that I can quickly switch to in case the main one goes down. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way and lost about four days of sales.
Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?
I think everyone constantly has WP fails. Each time I got back into a theme I wrote I think “What the hell was I doing?” It doesn’t matter if it’s been three months or a year, we’re constantly learning. My first theme (that never saw the light of day) was atrocious. I can only imagine how bad some of the first sites that I made were. I’ll confess that the agency I was working at advised we simply hardcode most of the things in WordPress. WordPress was simply a time saver tool there and not meant for a CMS. I’m ashamed to admit that I let that fly when I first entered the industry.
If you were going to spend this weekend creating a plugin that doesn’t exist, what would it be?
One that you simply enter the name of your child theme and it creates it right there on the fly. My customers use child themes a lot, and it’s not always the easiest thing to try to explain to users that are new to WordPress.
Do you use Themes & Child Themes, Roll your own, or both?
I have my own ‘starter’ theme that I use for all of my themes. It’s pretty much a blank slate that I build on top of. Honestly, I need to get in there and really ramp it up because I end up doing the same things to it over and over again. As far as child themes, I include a blank child theme with all of my themes so my customers can easily make customizations without worrying about losing any of their changes upon updating the themes.
What’s your favorite theme or theme framework? Why?
Of my own, my favorite tends to change with each release. I’m always super pumped about a theme when I release and then I become tired of it after a month or so in. I start my next theme, and then that quickly becomes my favorite. It’s a vicious cycle.
Easy Digital Downloads is my favorite plugin right now. It’s such a versatile plugin and there are a plethora of extensions available for it. I run ThemeThrift.com on it and I sell a theme made specifically for it; I plan on releasing more as well.
Least favorite plugin?
Hello Dolly. Sorry Matt! Step one: Install WordPress. Step two: Delete Hello Dolly.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done with Custom Post Types?
On my latest theme, Rescue, I pull animals in from the Petfinder API and set them up as a custom post type. While the theme is mine, I can’t credit for the code on this one, but it’s the coolest thing that I’ve been a part of. When you setup the theme you put in your Petfinder API and shelter ID and all of your animals get synched. A cron then runs afterwards to make sure that your pets always stay synched between your Petfinder account and your WordPress install.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that WP consultants will face in 2013?
I haven’t really been in the consulting field for some time now, but I don’t see many challenges that can’t be overcome. I’ve always been in the school of thought that the clients will continue to come if you do your job well in all facets.
If you could change one thing today about WP, what would it be?
If I could change one thing about WP, that thing would be languages. Translating a theme is downright confusing. Users need to get into the core files to do it, despite devs always telling users to stay out of the core files. Ideally, there could be a selection in the WP dashboard and a way to simply translate the theme from within.
Where do you see WordPress going in the next 2-3 years?
From everything we’ve seen, WP is growing fast but it’s still in it’s infancy. I hope that within the next few years the trend continues. WordPress has evolved from a blogging system to a more robust CMS and I have no doubts that will continue to grow. It looks like some cool things are going to happen to Post Formats, which I am pretty excited about.
What’s the biggest misconception you encounter about WordPress, and how do you clear it up for your clients?
I don’t have clients anymore, but when I did, the biggest misconception was that WordPress was for blogging. While that’s true, there’s so much more to it than that. As I said above WordPress is robust CMS at this point. Simply showing clients a few websites that are built on WordPress would usually blow their mind and they’d realize how misinformed they were.
If you were interviewing another WordPress developer for a job, what is the first question you would ask and why?
I’ll put this in the context of the ‘hiring an employee for my business’. The first question I’d ask is “Are you doing this for a job, or are you doing this because it’s what you want to do?” I’ve always said that when I’m hiring somebody to be part of my team I do not want to hire somebody who’s looking for a job. I want to hire someone I can depend on. I don’t want to worry about them showing up at 8:00 am and working to 5:00 pm. In fact, I don’t care the hours that they work just so long as they get the job done and they’re passionate about it.
You can find out more about Jake and what he’s working on over at DesignCrumbs.com. Checkout his themes and see if one might work for your WordPress site.