An experienced web developer, designer, and WordPress user, Chris is the ideal person to impart WordPress wisdom. In today’s interview, she’ll be discussing her WordPress career so far, providing advice for newer WordPress users, and sharing tips for becoming more involved in the WordPress community.
As always, be sure to follow our expert interviewee on Twitter — you can follow Chris @RevConcept.
A big thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer our questions, this is what she had to say:
For readers less familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself and your WordPress background?
Absolutely. My name is Chris Perryman, I’m the founder and creative director of “Mind-Blowing Things”, a San Diego based digital creative agency specializing in custom WordPress solutions. MBT is an expansion of “Revelation Concept”, a web development company I founded back in 2007. I do both design and development and started using WordPress somewhere around 2010/2011. I eventually shifted my service offerings to exclusively using WordPress as a CMS around 2013.
On the side, I’m an administrator for the ever growing “Advanced WordPress” group on Facebook, and a co-organizer of the original San Diego AWP Meetup. Additionally, I was an organizer for WordCamp San Diego 2015 and am taking lead for WCSD 2016. I’m super excited about next year’s camp after the amazing turnout we had this past March!
You’ve been in the WordPress community for several years now, but could you tell us how you first became involved with WordPress?
Back before WordPress was being widely used as a CMS, there was some talk going around that it could potentially be used that way. I had been hand-coding static websites for my clients and really wanted to give them the ability to manage their content, so I started doing research online — there wasn’t much on the topic at all. I cobbled together a couple of sites, it was an “okay” solution…better than what I had been offering before. A year or two later, I attended my first WordCamp in San Diego, and it blew me away. We had a pretty amazing lineup of speakers…Bill Erickson and Jared Atchison stand out in my mind — I can’t recall who spoke on what, but they introduced things like Custom Post Types, Custom Metaboxes/Fields etc.
Although I didn’t quite understand the “how” yet, I knew those things would break the ceiling on my current limitations. I was SO excited! I took vigorous notes and spent the next couple of months learning all I could now that I knew what tools I needed. Shortly after that I dove completely into WordPress development and never looked back.
During your time in the community, what different areas have you been involved with?
As I mentioned earlier, I admin the “Advanced WordPress” Facebook group and co-organize the San Diego Meetup. This past WordCamp San Diego was the first camp I was a part of, it was an amazing experience. Working with that group of people was so rewarding. Our fearless leader, Michael Bastos, had to step back so I’m taking lead for the 2016 camp. Most of our organizers will be back, plus a couple of new ones, so it’s going to be in great hands! I also do the occasional Meetup presentation in and around the greater San Diego area. Other than that, I try to give back by writing tutorials on my blog — which happens, like never 😉
What has been the best thing about working with WordPress for you?
By far the best thing about WordPress is the community. Everyone is so supportive. I was extremely intimidated in the beginning…as a self-taught newbie AND a woman, I really felt like an imposter. But chatting in the halls and at the after-party of my first WordCamp, my expectations were completely shot down. People were NICE to me. More than nice. Speakers spent time giving me advice and pointing me to resources — I had never had anything like that before. As a solo business operator, I never had piers to consult with, and suddenly I had an innumerable count of friends from all over the world who gave advice for free and seemed to genuinely want to help me learn and grow.
I remember explaining this to my mom at one point, she kept asking, “but why?”…I don’t know why!!! No one is benefitting from this and they are all just helping each other — and essentially helping their competition. It’s baffling. Especially if you come from a background in the business world. I still don’t fully understand it, but I LOVE it.
How has the WordPress community changed since you started?
The community has just been growing and getting stronger. There are some many resources now — both online and at things like Camps and Meetups. There is an answer to almost any question on the web, and really great, quality tutorials are dime a dozen. If you want to learn something new, you’re almost never at a loss for resources if it’s WordPress related.
I think the community has also become more aware of itself. People understand how special and unique it is. We all want to preserve it, but at the same time make it even better. I think as long as we continue to keep helping the guy behind us (in the learning process), it will keep growing exponentially.
What advice would you give to anyone getting started with WordPress? Which direction would you yourself go if you were starting over again?
Get involved! Online forums and resources are great…but you really can’t beat meeting these people in person. Look online for a WordCamp near you and make arrangements to go. If it’s a drive, make it a weekend trip — bring your spouse, get a sitter…do whatever you need to. I promise, it will be SO worth it. Look on Meetup.com for Meetups in your area, and if there aren’t any, consider starting one! Don’t think you can’t because you don’t know enough or you’re too new…there are other people JUST like you, and probably even more people who know even less than you do that want to learn — you’re a teacher too!
If I were starting again, I would have gotten more involved more quickly. I held back for a while, I’m a bit introverted and I still get red and shaky when I speak in public…but I have so many friends/colleagues now, and we’ve done some amazing work together. I do wish I would have stepped out of the shadows sooner.
What do you think the biggest mistakes WordPress website owners are making?
Being cheap. Ha. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that you can install WordPress and setup a commercial theme and essentially get going for $50. And that does work for some people (my husband, my brother, all my husband’s friends haha). But when you’re a professional and you’re trying to do too much yourself because you don’t want to hire help, or you hire help based on their rates and not their reputation, you’re typically doing more damage than good. We’ve had countless clients come to us with a huge mess of a site: sloppy content, bad code, 1000000 plugins etc. Cleaning up the mess ends up costing more than if they would have worked with a professional in the beginning.
My dad gave me great advice a few years back: stop trying to do it all yourself! You’re not an accountant, so why are you doing your accounting? Leave professional jobs to the experts so you can concentrate on what you’re good at.
What do you think the future of WordPress holds? What would you like to see?
The future is bright because the people are on fire 🙂 There’s a lot of passion in the community for what WordPress is and what we’d all like it to become. With that drive behind it, this platform can keep growing and excelling for years to come.
I’d like to see more crossover between WordPress enthusiast and say, Drupal/Joomla etc. developers. I think we can all learn from each other and use our strengths and weaknesses to improve what we’re doing.
Let me say another big thanks to Chris for providing us with an interesting, informative set of answers.
As Chris and many of our other interviewees have highlighted, the WordPress community is one of the friendliest you can possibly find. If you want a career in WordPress, get involved! There are WordPress meetups all over the world now, so I’m sure you can find one close to home. WordCamps are one of the best places to improve your WordPress skills, plus you can never underestimate the importance of networking — and, best of all, they’re great fun!
I’ll see you next week, when I interview another WordPress expert!