Marko Heijnen - European WordPress DeveloperWe’re chatting with Marko Heijnen, a Dutch WordPress consultant hailing from the Lands of Nether. The first time we met was at WordCamp NYC when he was in the US for a time. When we met, Marko told me about a game he was in the process of building with WordPress, as well as some of the work he had done as a core contributor. He lives in Erica, Netherlands, which is a relatively small village. However, Marko makes it out to most of the major WordCamps, and has some serious visibility in the community.

Marko does a ton of WordPress Development, but he’s a true technologist, hiding away in the middle of Europe. He’s developed quite a reputation for his work, not only as a developer, but a concept guy who can take an idea from idea to code in a short time. He’s also a consistent Core contributor, and is a big supporter of anyone who spends time contributing back to WordPress.

In Marko’s own words:

My name is Marko Heijnen, and I live in a small village in The Netherlands. I started developing stuff 15 years ago with Turbo Pascal.
Times passed, and in 2006 I started working with WordPress and after a bit I started to contribute back to core. That’s one of the best decisions I ever made. Now, I work full time on WordPress projects, plugins, themes, and obviously Core. When not working on WordPress I’m traveling to WordCamps and hangout with the Community!

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 started using WordPress for my own site in 2006. Initially, it was just a way to build my site, and I only coded some small changes. The first time I really got excited about WordPress was in 2010 when my first patch got committed. I realized that a small change I made would be used by a lot of people. How cool is that? In 2011, I decided I wanted WordPress as a part of my daily job. And since then I’ve worked full-time with it.

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

I follow Twitter, IRC and the “make” blogs to stay up to date. Beyond that, I don’t have a specific routine of sites to follow.

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

There are so many awesome WordPress people out there, it’s impossible to name everyone, because I might miss someone important. I would say all the people that work on core and spend their own time to make WordPress better- especially everyone who has contributed on multiple WordPress versions. 

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

Try to write as much of your own code as possible. You should know the code you are using and don’t over-rely on plugins from others. I only use batcache and memcache/APC as default plugins. Beside that I select plugins with care.

Another thing is that sometimes, people cache too aggressively. Most sites can be easily cached for an hour and sometimes even longer.

Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?

Well, I’m not sure what that moment was, but I made a big mistake in 3.5 rewriting the image manipulation code to the new WP_Image_Editor class. The deal is that when you edit an image it will loose some of the image sizes. When 3.5 got released and the problem got mentioned, I realized how silly the mistake was. I first thought it was introduced later in the process but when I checked the commit log I saw that I made the stupid mistake in the beginning. But this is basically the reason why 3.5.1 got released so late.

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

Off the top of my head, I would say a decent simple SEO plugin. The current plugins are too bloated for simple usage. I think they make SEO more important than it really is, and I like to have my backend as clean as possible. 

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

I depends on the people I work with. Most of the time I roll my own themes. There are cases that I use a Theme framework like Genesis. Also for personal projects, I use the theme “Responsive” as a parent theme and add extra functionality to it.

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

I’m not really a theme user but I do like the theme “Responsive.” It’s nice and clean, and the color styling is pretty elegant, so adjusting it is quite easy to do.

Favorite plugin?

I love using posts 2 posts for all kinds of projects. Also creating your own metabox for adding relationships is easy to do.

Least favorite plugin?

It’s hard to say but I would go with “WordPress SEO.” Clients choose because it’s popular, but don’t have a good reason, and don’t really know how to I use it. And last time I checked the code had lots of duplication and was throwing quite a few PHP notices.

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

I once had to create an iPhone lottery app that used CPT’s as a data source. So you had two CTP’s: Lottery and tickets. All this information could be retrieved through a JSON API.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that WP consultants will face in 2013?

Getting clients to be comfortable with the new media dialog. A lot has changed there. I’m also interested in writing plugins using the new model as best as possible. The new flow means that current code can and should be improved.

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

I would remove/redo custom fields. Current implementation doesn’t make sense to me and is a really bad user experience that users are forced to work with.

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

I think the focus will be more on using WordPress as an app platform. So hopefully this year we will seeing a decent RESTful API for WordPress. I also think a lot of code will change to be more object orientated. If you’re keeping score, this is already something you see in the latest WordPress releases.

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

I once reserved a complete week for myself to develop the plugin, Tabify Edit Screen.  It was an awesome week where I worked on a plugin that was special to me and really handy for people.

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

The biggest would be that clients complain that WordPress can’t do something they need. They only think inside the box. WordPress can do a lot of things but you sometimes need to be creative with it. As for how I clear that up, I just let them see projects/plugins I worked on. I’ve done some crazy things with WordPress before, and it does really help to have examples to show clients.

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

It depends. If they never contributed back to WordPress I would ask why they never did that. If they already did contributed back I would ask what piece of code they made for WordPress, they are the most proud of.

What did I miss?  Here’s your chance to fill in the blanks and add something you want people to know about you!

I love doing the things I do. I stopped labeling myself as a developer since I also do UX and creating concepts. The only thing I don’t do I really design stuff. I don’t want to make people cry 😉

I also visit a lot of WordCamp each year. And recently, I’ve also started organizing meetups in Amsterdam and Belgrade. One of my goals this year is to see the first WordCamp Serbia happen.

Thanks Marko!

Y’all mosey on over to Marko’s site to see some of the crazy, out of the box things he’s done with WordPress, and to see what sort of magic he can work for your site!