Today we launch a new feature for the Pagely blog, with a series of interviews with some of the top members of the WordPress community. Our first interview is with top WordPress blogger, Kevin Muldoon.
With a decade and a half’s experience in Internet marketing, Kevin certainly fits the bill. He’s ran many successful websites over the years, and now makes a living writing about WordPress for some of the industry’s top blogs.
This interview will tell you how Kevin got started with WordPress, how his WordPress-career has developed, and what direction he thinks the WordPress platform is heading.
If you want to read more of Kevin’s insights, I highly recommend checking out his personal website at KevinMuldoon.com or signing up at Rise Forums. You can also follow him on Twitter at @KevinMuldoon.
One big thanks to Kevin for agreeing to answer our questions. Let’s get started with the interview, shall we?
For readers less familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself and your WordPress background?
My name is Kevin Muldoon. I have been building and running websites since 2000. Over the years I have created many types of websites, including forums, directories, review websites, small content websites, and blogs. I have also run some small eCommerce stores.
I suppose the best term to use to describe me is “Internet Marketer” as I have been involved of all aspects of internet marketing, including SEO, social media, content marketing, affiliate marketing etc. I have also tried my hands at other things such as podcasting and video blogging.
However, I believe most people refer to me as a blogger or as an experienced WordPress user.
You’ve been in the WordPress community for several years now, but could you tell us how you first became involved with WordPress?
I built all of my first websites using the Notepad app that can be found in Windows. It was not the most practical way to build websites as any small change in the design required me to update hundreds of pages. Though the skills I learned from creating websites in that way has served me well for many years.
Around 2001, I started using content management systems such as PostNuke and PHPNuke. Over the next five years I tried dozens of different PHP and Perl based scripts to help me build websites.
In 2006, I created a travel blog for my friends and family using Serendipity, which was a nice little blogging script. On my previous travels, I had updated family and friends individually via email, which took a huge amount of time. The blog allowed me to update everyone at once. I also installed a gallery script to share photographs of my travels (this was, after all, before Facebook had arrived).
I tried a lot of blogging platforms that year. Some good, some not so good. I soon began using blogging platforms to build content websites. I also launched a blog for the poker discussion forum I owned.
One of the blogging platforms I tried during that time was WordPress. I would by lying if I said it was miles ahead of the competition at the time, because it wasn’t. However, it did have extensive plugin and theme options that most rivals did not.
Before long, WordPress was not only my favourite blogging platform, it was also the platform that I was using to build every new website I was creating.
In early 2007 I launched BloggingTips.com. Within the first few months I published many guides about WordPress and released a couple of WordPress themes on WordPress.org. Later, in 2010, I launched my own dedicated WordPress blog entitled WPMods.com. Around the same time I started writing about freelancing for many top design blogs and WordPress companies too.
I continue to write about WordPress to this day.
During your time in the community, what different areas have you been involved with?
I have released several WordPress themes to the WordPress community free of charge. I also ran a premium WordPress theme store around 2008/2009 (something which most people are unaware of).
However, my main involvement with WordPress has been providing support. I have published thousands of tutorials about WordPress over the last nine years. I have also provided support to thousands of WordPress users over my time; via email, via the support forums that were launched with my blogs, and through consultation on Skype.
Today, I offer support on WordPress related issues through my community Rise Forums.
What has been the best thing about working with WordPress for you?
I have met a lot of great people through my work with WordPress. And I know that I will meet many more like minded individuals over the next few years who share my enthusiasm for the WordPress platform.
From a working mindset, WordPress has simplified my life in many ways. It allows me to build websites quickly. It allows me to customise websites quickly. It has allowed me to administrate my websites quickly.
You could, of course, argue that I am able to build and maintain websites quicker because I have so much experience using WordPress. And I would agree with that. If I had spent all my time building websites with Drupal or Joomla, I am sure I would become efficient at working with them too.
For me, what sets WordPress apart is the vast amount of themes and plugins that are available for the platform. It helps me add functionality that I could not add with alternative content management solutions.
How has the WordPress community changed since you started?
WordPress has become more popular every year since I started using it, however the biggest change has been the growth of the premium WordPress market.
When I first started using WordPress, there was very few premium WordPress products available. I am struggling to think of any from when I first started using WordPress. Nearly all themes and plugins were available free of charge, with developers relying mostly on donations as a way of profiting from their work.
It did not take long for developers to see the potential from charging for WordPress related products and services. In my opinion, it is what helped WordPress go mainstream.
The premium themes and plugins that were being released were generally higher in quality than their free alternatives. They were also supported actively by the developer.
This potential for making money has attracted many fantastic developers and designers to WordPress who would have otherwise focused their career on other platforms. This has helped WordPress grow from a simple blogging platform to the feature packed content management system it is today.
What advice would you give to anyone getting started with WordPress? Which direction would you yourself go if you were starting over again?
My advice to anyone who is getting started with WordPress is to create a test environment locally on your computer, online using an unused domain name you own, or online in a sub directory of another website you own.
You should use this test installation to get to know WordPress better. Start off by following tutorials online about how to use WordPress. Once you have a basic understanding of the platform, you should start trying out many themes and plugins. Play around with everything and do not be afraid to make mistakes as it is one of the best ways to learn. Remember, you have nothing to worry about on a test website as you can simply reinstall WordPress if things go wrong.
Go through every page of the admin area so that you understand every WordPress setting. Then try and learn some CSS and HTML and try your hand at making customisations yourself.
The point of all of this is to help you become more experienced with WordPress. If you turn to your hosting company every time something goes wrong, you will never improve your knowledge of WordPress. You need to be proactive and attempt to figure things out for yourself (which is not very difficult since there are hundreds of thousands of WordPress tutorials online).
I am not a developer, so perhaps I was always destined to go down the route I did. I suppose I could have spent all my time focusing on developing more great WordPress products. Or I could have published more tutorials in video format rather than in text.
What do you think the biggest mistakes WordPress website owners are making?
Most new WordPress users do not think about backups and security until it is too late.
You soon realise the importance of backing up after someone has hacked your website and you are unable to revert back to a working version of your website.
So my advice to all new WordPress users is to ensure you backup your websites to an external location as soon as possible (I personally use VaultPress). Do not rely on the backups your hosting company provides as they can be lost. Remember, all it takes is a credit card to expire for a hosting company to inform you that they have deleted your hosting account.
With regards to security, I recommend all new WordPress users to read some guides about protecting WordPress. This will help you understand best practices and should highlight great WordPress security plugins that are available (such as iThemes Security, WordFence Security etc).
What do you think the future of WordPress holds? What would you like to see?
I would like to see WordPress have more serious competition.
In many ways, WordPress is a victim of its own success. Over the last two years, we have seen WordPress refine what was already a great product. However, I believe that competition in the marketplace would encourage more innovation and the addition of brand new features to WordPress.
Another thing I think would be great would be a minimalist version of WordPress created specifically for bloggers. A new version of WordPress would not have to be released as a separate product. Perhaps an option could be clicked that enabled “Blogging Mode” and removed unnecessary options. For example, features such as pingbacks and trackbacks were effectively killed by spammers (a change of blogging and reading habits affected the use of them too).
The minimalist writing mode that WordPress features is a step in the right direction, though a quick look at new blogging solutions, such as Ghost, show that WordPress looks a little dated and bloated in comparison. I find the simplicity of blogging solutions like Ghost attractive. As a blogger, you do not want to spend a lot of your time worrying about updating plugins and dealing with security issues. You just want to write.
I do recognise that the popularity of WordPress means that they cannot simple drastically change the look and feel of the platform, as millions of people use it every day. But as much as I love WordPress, and I do, I feel that the platform needs more competitors so that it does not become irrelevant.
Once again, a huge, huge thanks to Kevin for agreeing to be interviewed and providing some incredibly insightful answers!
For those of you that missed them, here are the all important links for hearing more of what Kevin has to say on WordPress: KevinMuldoon.com, and his Rise Forums.
I hope you enjoyed this interview with one of the most well-respected members of the WordPress community. We’ll be back soon with more interviews and more insights!