Welcome to another Pagely interview, and today we have the WP Mayor founder, Jean Galea, in the hot-seat.
Jean is best known as the founder of the excellent WP Mayor resource. It’s one of the best places for WordPress tutorials, learning about the best plugins/themes, and also more general tips for aspiring webmasters. Jean also provides some awesome tips over on his personal blog and he’s well worth following on Twitter, @jeangalea.
In today’s interview, we’ll tap into Jean’s years of WordPress knowledge and expertise. We’ll be talking about the best way for new WordPress users to get started, how to avoid common beginner pitfalls, and also some of the best things about working with WordPress.
As always, we really appreciate Jean’s time. Read on for a really insightful set of answers!
For readers less familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself and your WordPress background?
I founded and currently run WP Mayor and WP RSS Aggregator. WP Mayor is a WordPress resource site and WP RSS Aggregator is a freemium plugin that lets you import RSS content from any type of website into WordPress. On both these projects I am lucky to count on a fantastic team that help me in making my vision a reality.
You’ve been in the WordPress community for several years now, but could you tell us how you first became involved with WordPress?
I stumbled on WordPress while still a student at University. I used to work as a freelance web developer on the side to help finance my education. After a brief stint with Joomla I switched to WordPress, attracted by its promise of an easy installation and straightforward theme customisations. Soon after graduating I teamed up with a friend of mine to form a WordPress agency in Malta which I ran successfully before moving on to blogging and product development.
During your time in the community, what different areas have you been involved with?
At WP Mayor I’ve acted as a WordPress evangelist by teaching people how to use WordPress as well as reviewing top plugins, themes and services. I’ve also had the pleasure of speaking at WordCamps and also mentoring other entrepreneurs who are building WordPress products.
What has been the best thing about working with WordPress for you?
Thanks to WordPress I have been able to build three profitable businesses and achieve my dreams of travelling around the world while working at the same time. I’m therefore very grateful for the opportunities that WordPress has opened up for me.
Beyond giving me the ability to live the digital nomad lifestyle, however, I’d have to say the best thing about working with WordPress has been the community. I’ve made many long-lasting friendships through my involvement with WordPress, and I’m very thankful for such an open and friendly community.
How has the WordPress community changed since you started?
The most noticeable difference would definitely have to be the size of the community. In recent years WordPress has grown really rapidly. This increase in market share has been by and large a positive thing. It is now easier to find help with WordPress problems, and there are way more options when it comes to themes and plugins nowadays then there were when I started out.
In my early days with WordPress I also had to work hard to convince prospective clients that they should trust WordPress and open source software in general. I believe WordPress development agencies nowadays have a much easier job as things have changed and business owners typically have already have heard of WordPress and its virtues.
What advice would you give to anyone getting started with WordPress?
My advice would be to start building something right away. You don’t need to read long user manuals or loads of tutorials before creating your own WordPress website. It’s best to learn by doing as it really is quite straightforward to get going.
Nowadays there are learning resources in every form: video training, podcasts, blogs etc. Just choose your preferred way of learning and get going.
The same applies for those developers who want to get started with themes and plugins. Since themes and plugins are open source, it’s very easy to dissect what the top developers are doing and learn from them.
What do you think are the biggest mistakes WordPress website owners are making?
The biggest mistake I see site owners making is not taking security seriously enough. Unfortunately many WordPress websites are hacked every year. By and large the fault doesn’t lie with WordPress core itself but rather one of the following facets of a site: plugins, themes or the hosting platform.
Hence not being extra careful with any of those three aspects can be a very costly mistake.
As a website owner, you should use well-coded plugins and themes and keep them updated. I recommend weekly updates, although monthly updates should also be sufficient.
Moreover, choosing a top web host will ensure that your website performs at its best. Managed WordPress hosts are a fantastic option as they take care of caching, platform security and backups. Apart from that they also tend to offer the best customer support since they have working knowledge with WordPress, while other generic hosts might not have that expertise.
What do you think the future of WordPress holds? What would you like to see?
In the immediate future the REST API will change the way we think about building projects with WordPress. It will make WordPress a much more flexible platform that can power an even wider range of applications.
I would like to see more people in the WordPress community look beyond the comfortable confines of WordPress. In practical terms this will involve using more modern development practices, attending international non-WordPress conferences, and becoming better entrepreneurs. This will ensure that WordPress will not lose its relevance in the grand scheme of things.
We are already at a stage where we’re realising that young developers are being attracted to other more cutting edge technologies so we must make a conscious effort to modernise some aspects of the project and reach out to the general web development community.
Once again, a big thanks to Jean for taking time out to answer our questions.
As Jean points out, WordPress is an easy platform to get started with. Don’t waste time dragging your heels: dive in, and be prepared to make mistakes — it’s the best way to learn the ins and outs of the platform. And, if you do get stuck, there’s an abundance of WordPress resources out there to help you find your bearings, and you can find tutorials in just about any format — including Jean’s very own WordPress resource, WP Mayor.
Let’s wrap things up, as always, with those all-important links. Be sure to check out Jean’s two main businesses, WP Mayor and WP RSS Aggregator plugin. If you’re looking for a more personal flavor, check out his always-informative personal blog, and follow him on Twitter!
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading everyone!