Sarah Gooding - Finely Tuned WordPress ConsultantCheck it out!  Today, we’re getting to hear from Sarah Gooding, one of my favorite WordPress bloggers, and a fabulous consultant. Sarah has a confusing twitter handle, @pollyplummer, so I always want to call her Polly.  You guys and gals have probably seen Polly blogging at WPMU, and was named WP Honor’s 2010 blogger of the year.  She is from Tulsa, OklaHOME-ah, where she runs a pretty badass WordPress development shop with her husband, Marion. They make food, brew beer, and are generally awesome.  Sarah also does awesome stuff with her hair. Her sense of design runs deep.

In her own words:

My name is Sarah Gooding and I’m a designer and developer who specializes in WordPress. My husband and I operate Untame where we build business websites, online stores and social networks with a crew of passionate developers using open source technologies. I also write daily for on all things related to WordPress, Multisite and BuddyPress.

When not working with WordPress, I enjoy yoga, beer, baking, blogging, fantasy football, Pinterest, and shopping online.

Without further ado, Polly Plummer, ladies and gentlemen…

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 started using WordPress to build client sites in 2008. Before that I used Drupal and before that I coded all of my websites with XHTML/CSS in the old days. The turning point for me was when BuddyPress hit the scene, because I got very excited about all the possibilities it would open up. From then on I started focusing on using WordPress for most of my projects.

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

I get almost 100% of my news from Twitter. I haven’t looked at my RSS Reader in months. I also troll the repo every day to find out about new and interesting things people are working on in the community.

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

I love the team that I work with at WPMU DEV. They are a really fun group of designers, developers and writers who dedicated, innovative and committed to producing fantastic products for WordPress. The support people are also phenomenal and they inspire me every day with their enthusiasm and initiative. These folks contribute a great deal to the WordPress community through plugins, themes, contributions to the codex, tickets and patches for the core, etc. I’m proud to be working with James and the crew at WPMU DEV and excited about the products we’ll be launching this year.

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

Don’t get too attached to plugins or platforms, including WordPress. Always look at a project with fresh eyes before determining what tools you’ll be using to build it. WordPress is not some kind of a cult that demands unswerving loyalty – it’s a means to an end, and that end is to build a fantastic website that’s easy to update.

Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?

My VPS got hacked last year due to the whole Timthumb debacle. And yes, this was after I already knew about it going around. I was too busy to update a few of my older sites. The attack took down my entire node, and of course it happened on a Friday night. So I spent all weekend getting that fixed and trying not to freak out over missed emails. It was one of the most digitally embarrassing things that has ever happened to me. This one falls under the “Should have known better” WP #FAIL moments.

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

I enjoy integrating pretty jQuery effects with BuddyPress social networking features. Because I have more of a front-end dev background, most of my ideas for plugins concern how to make sites more interactive for the user. I’d probably create a new and interesting way for displaying the BuddyPress menu.

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

I usually create child themes for whatever framework or theme I determine to be the most efficient way to build the site in question.

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

Lately I’ve really enjoyed creating child themes for the Skeleton framework and for Twitter Bootstrap.

Favorite plugin?

It’s no secret that I’m a huge BuddyPress fan. There’s a great group of friendly people in the BuddyPress community and a ton of talented devs who generously give much of their free time to the project. Working with BuddyPress is fun because it can sometimes involve quite a bit of problem solving. It’s really exciting to see a website that was once just a blog and some pages magically transformed into a social network where people are making friends and connections.

Least favorite plugin?

Does anyone really answer this question? It’s like that question you get in job interviews – “What is your greatest weakness?” to which one always replies something like “Oh, probably my extreme perfectionism and militant attitude about timeliness. It sure does keep me from having a decent social life, which ends up working out great because all I really want to do is work!” 😉 If I answered honestly about my least favorite plugin, I’d be crucified on Twitter in a heartbeat. So I’ll just say that there are days when my own plugins are my least favorite. I never knew how much time a free plugin can eat up and how much hate mail it can generate. I wish I had more time to spend updating and improving them.

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

To be honest I haven’t done anything remarkable with custom post types besides using them for portfolios, which is nothing out of the ordinary.

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

WordPress consultants will face more competition, as WordPress skills are becoming a basic requirement for any LAMP developer. WordPress consultants are now expected to be able to build sites that work well on desktops as well as mobile devices. This may involve learning new skills in design and development in order to remain competitive. Customers have greater expectations as far as design goes. The clunky, utilitarian site just won’t cut it anymore. Many consultants are having to form teams with people of different specialties in order to remain competitive. The market is constantly changing.

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

The WordPress Swag Store is one thing I would improve. First of all, I’d have it running on WordPress instead of Joomla, no matter what it takes. 😉 Secondly, I would add a great deal more variety to the items being sold there and find more affordable shipping solutions for international orders. I’d love to introduce more tri-blend cotton items that are supremely comfortable to wear. I’d also add BuddyPress products to the swag store – shirts, hoodies, tank tops, pajama bottoms, yoga pants, fluffy slippers, you name it! I guarantee you there would be plenty of people lining up to buy an entire wardrobe of BuddyPress attire! 🙂 I don’t know who’s in charge of this store, but if any WordPress people are reading this, I’d gladly volunteer to help in any way that I can.

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

WordPress will become easier and more enjoyable to use with each new release, just as it always has. I have full faith that the project will remain true to open source principles and usage will continue to expand globally. Self-publishing is a beautiful thing. It gives people a voice and an opportunity to be heard. The WordPress project makes that possible for millions of people around the world. It oftentimes does this in an invisible, behind-the-scenes kind of way. I’m always amazed by how generous the WordPress community is and I’m grateful to be apart of it.

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

The “save the WP day” stories aren’t usually very glamorous. For me they often involve staying up into the late hours, working with support to help a client who is having hosting issues. For many people your website is like your baby. If it’s down for any significant amount of time you can become distraught. If I can be there to help a long-time client in a situation like this, it gives me a feeling of satisfaction.

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

The biggest misconception I encounter is that WordPress is just for blogs and can’t play with the big boys. It’s easy to clear up – just do a little name-dropping of major sites using WordPress and they will rescind.

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

First question: What kinds of projects do you enjoy working on? I only want to work with people who love what they do. There are plenty enough developers who sit on Twitter all day long complaining about their job. If I’m hiring a WordPress developer, I want that person to thoroughly enjoy what they do and maintain a positive, can-do attitude about work and life in general.

Sarah/Polly, Solly, Parah….you….Thanks for stopping by 🙂 

Check out her work at and then hire them for your next project. They’ll treat you right.