Ladies and gentlemen. Today, I’m very pleased to share with you an interview from a recovering “not WordPress” CMS addict. He is a convert, if you will, from the CMS-whose-name-we-dare-not-utter, but sounds like it could be a fancy exotic fruit, and rhymes with “frupal.” We can say with great rejoicing that he has seen the WordPress light, and made the switch over to the most popular CMS in the history of the internet.
Our amazing convert is Jordi Cabot, who runs MigrateToWP and Modeling-Languages.com. Jordi has a PhD in computer science, and so he brings a huge depth of knowledge to the WordPress work that he does.
Jordi is from Spain, but after getting his PhD in computer science from the Technical University of Barcelona, he and his wife began exploring Europe and Canada with their daughter and enormous 50kg dog, ultimately settling in France. Jordi’s business specializes in WordPress migrations and he also does a great deal of data modeling. As a former business analyst, I can attest to how much value thorough and painstaking data modeling adds to large projects. It’s a huge value-add that only comes from disciplined experience, and no small amount of talent. Jordi is a rare breed.
In Jordi’s Own Words:
I´m a former Drupal addict. When I fell in love with blogging, I chose Drupal as my CMS choice. I wanted the most powerful platform possible and I was not scared of non-friendly interfaces (remember I have a PhD in CS so what could Drupal do to me, right?). After a few months (and quite a few site crashes) I realized I was not using any of the advanced Drupal features and the maintenance of the site was a constant pain; I saw the light and decided to switch to WordPress.
Now onto Jordi’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’m relatively new to the world of WordPress. As I mentioned before, I was a Drupal addict but I got tired of spending too much time on administration and maintenance tasks and decided to give WordPress a try. That was less than three years ago but I immediately fell in love with WP due to its well-balanced combination of power and simplicity and thought there could be other people in my same situation that may be looking for help with the transition. It turned out there was so I brought in three more people and started a WP company called Nelio Software to help them.
Where do you go first to get your WP news, insights, and updates?
I follow a bunch of interesting people on twitter. With the demise of WordPress News sites (though it looks like you just launched a new one, looking forward to see more of it) I think twitter is the best way to aggregate all the interesting WordPress related information popping up every day.
What WP consultants deserve more love than they get? Who should we be paying attention to?
Can’t really give any specific name. The only thing I’d say is that people (I’m thinking especially in people outside NA) should pay more attention to local WordPress experts who may not be known at a global level (sometimes just for language reasons) but still be pretty damn good at their job.
What performance tips would you give to other pros (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?
Honestly, the best advice I can give you is to go for a managed WordPress Hosting solution. There’s no way you can get the same level of results yourself. And don’t even get me started with the price issue. If you do, you should start valuing your time more. And if you really can’t afford anything better than a cheap shared hosting solution then there is not much you can do anyway.
Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?
The most epic fail was a Drupal to WordPress migration where the client didn’t alerted us he had installed WordPress using prefix different from wp_ nor he gave us access to his database since he wanted to take care of importing himself the SQL script we generated from his Drupal data.
Therefore, as soon as the client imported the file two things happened: 1 – He didn’t see any data popping up in the new WP site (no big deal) and 2 – His main WP site also using the same database and the default WP prefix got completely wiped out (kind of a big deal 🙂 ).
Fortunately there was a recent backup available and we were able to quickly fix the situation. The moral of the fable is “do not assume that your WP consultant can read your mind”
If you were going to spend this weekend creating a plugin that doesn’t exist, what would it be?
I’d go for a comment integration system able to check social networks for comments and reactions to post announcements that could then be transformed into standard WordPress comments so that the WP site centralizes (or at least replicates) all the online discussion around blog posts.
I’m tired of seeing overlapping subdiscussions around my posts in, e.g. LinkedIn and Twitter, where one discussion is hidden to the participants of the other and neither of the two can be read by people directly accessing the blog post. Many times I had to manually replicate those comments in the WP post because I thought they were really valuable and didn’t want them to get lost.
Do you use Themes & Child Themes, Roll your own, or both?
We never roll our own. Our theme development services are limited to replicate in WordPress the theme a client already has in her current CMS. Most of the time, this implies an old CMS with a very traditional theme which can be simulated with a Child theme or even by playing with the configuration options and visual editors of many WP themes and frameworks.
Let me add that, in my opinion, a migration should be seen as an opportunity to go beyond a “simple” change of a CMS platform and be used as the perfect excuse to completely rethink your site appearance and structure but some clients prefer first to stick to their current theme and change the look and feel in a second phase. Clients that do want a brand new WP theme are redirected to external WP designers to get this part of the work done.
What’s your favorite theme or theme framework? Why?
Myself I’m always happy to work with the Thesis theme but based on my previous answer is obvious that I’m not a qualified expert to really compare it with others at a deep technical level. It just happened that several clients pushed for it at the beginning and got used to it. Later we’ve worked with all the other well-known frameworks with similar results.
Due to the kind of services we provide, we often need to access the WordPress database and you’d be surprised how many clients don’t want / can’t / don’t know how to give us access and the WordPress user is the only thing they can share. In those cases, our only hope is the Adminer plug-in.
Adminer will open for you a a phpMyAdmin-like interface from within the dashboard (to be more precise, Adminer tool, is kind of a competitor of phpmyadmin itself; as the Adminer people say in their web page: “Replace phpMyAdmin by Adminer and you will get tidier user interface, better support for MySQL features, higher performance and more security.”). Direct access to the database without the need to configure an external database connection.
Least favorite plugin?
I’m afraid there are too many bad plug-ins (specially if we take into account the quality of the code) to single out only one but I’ll mention one that I used to recommend to all our clients and now I don’t even think in using: the BackWPUp plug-in.
This plugin let me down due to two main reasons (that any plug-in should try to avoid):
- An update of the plug-in crashed my WP site (white screen of death). Sure, I probably didn’t check well the new version of the plug-in was compatible with my WP version but, still, I understand your plug-in may not be compatible with all WP/PHP/MySQL versions and does not work in all of them but crashing the site? I can afford this kind of risk for client sites.
- The latest version of the plug-in dropped a key feature in a backup plug-in: the ability to automatically restore the site using the backup file. We can discuss whether restoring a site from within the WP dashboard is a good idea or not but I’m convinced many people chose this plug-in for this feature and now they feel cheated.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done with Custom Post Types?
I remember a WP multsite with around 20 custom types and more than 50 custom fields. But a word of caution here. Thanks to the new and better custom type plug-ins for WP, people are more and more structuring their site around a number of custom types where many times a simple category could do the work. They don’t seem to realize the level of complexity that custom types bring to a site and pay for it later on.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that WordPress consultants will face in 2013?
On this, I don’t think WP consultants are any different from other kinds of consultants. WP is very mature and widely adopted so I don’t see any technical risk to face in the near future.
I’d say the biggest challenge for a (WordPress) consultant is to find clients (and then getting paid). With so many WordPress consultants in the market it’s difficult to differentiate yourself from the rest. And you can’t compete on price since there are people that work at ridiculously low prices (though the rule “if you pay peanuts you get monkeys” applies here, the problem is some people seem to like monkeys a lot ) so you have to find other ways to make a name for yourself.
If you could change one thing today about WordPress, what would it be?
I’d add multi language support in the WordPress core. I realize we should keep the core as simple as possible but coming from a country with 4 co-official languages (depending on the region), not to mention the huge number of languages we have in the relatively small Europe this is a must for us. Sure you have WordPress plug-ins for this but you don’t want to depend on an external plug-in for something that is so key for you.
A second thing would be using Foreign Keys to check data integrity in the database instead of having to take care of this in the code which would result in simpler and more efficient code. With now InnoDB being the default storage engine for MySQL there is no major (technical) impediment for this.
Where do you see WordPress going in the next 2-3 years?
We have witnessed the evolution of WordPress from a blogging to a full-blown CMS platform. I think we’ll see more and more WordPress used as a general-purpose platform. The functionality of WordPress (plus its plug-ins) is rich enough to be used by developers as starting point for the creation of new software applications. Just think how much time they could save by reusing WP components for authorization / authentication, social media integration,… Even advanced end-users could use WordPress to create their own web-based business just by combining the appropriate set of plug-ins and widgets. Kind of end-user programming for web applications thanks to WordPress.
Beyond this “WordPress as a platform”, I’m sure we’ll see WordPress getting richer in all aspects (functionality, themes, plug-ins,…). I just hope we put the same effort in keeping WordPress as clean and simple as possible.
Tell us a story where you saved the WP day for yourself or on a client project. What made the difference for you?
Fortunately, WordPress has a plug-in for every need. And one of the most useful ones when moving to WP from other CMSs with a more flexible URL pattern structure is the Redirection plug-in. The World of WordPress would be full of 404 not found errors if it wasn’t for this plug-in! Definitely much easier than trying to modify the .htaccess file yourself.
What’s the biggest misconception you encounter about WordPress, and how do you clear it up for your clients?
Scalability. The typical question we get from potential clients is whether WordPress will be able to handle the “huge” number of visitors their site have. There are two misconceptions here. First, the feeling that WordPress does not scale well (probably, software products that are simple to use seem too good to be true if they are also efficient, scalable,…). The second misconception is assuming that scalability depends mainly on the CMS you’re using when in fact this is probably the less important factor (unless you are running a very crappy piece of custom code but then the problem is not the CMS but you). Sure a well designed program scales better but no CMS will resist being on the front page of Hacker News while hosted in a shared hosting account.
If you were interviewing another WordPress developer for a job, what is the first question you would ask and why?
Probably some of the questions of this same interview! Nevertheless, I believe that facts speak louder than words so I’d ask the candidate to share with me some samples of projects s/he had been working recently. Better if they are WordPress related but not necessarily. Good developers are difficult to find so I’d not rule them out just because they have no WordPress experience.
What did I miss? Here’s your chance to fill in the blanks and add something you want people to know about you!
Launching your WP site is just the beginning. Your web presence deserve a continuous optimization to make sure it serves its purpose (helping you to make more money / sales). We’ll be happy to accompany you in this second part of your WordPress journey as well.