Episode 19: What Makes Someone a WordPress Developer

With the era of new no-code tools including those found in the Kadence suite of solutions, we discuss the question of what makes someone a WordPress developer. We also talk about some ways to get started in WordPress, how to set yourself up for success, and ways to stick with problems in order to really solidify your learning. We also talk about the Kadence Power User Course and the upcoming teardown event with The Good on Nov 10th. Ben, Hannah, and Kathy also share some of their thoughts on productivity techniques to get the most out of each day.

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Timestamps & Links

  • 0:00 Intro, The Kadence Power User Course
  • 2:20 What makes someone a WordPress developer?
  • 5:40 The importance of being able to research for answers
  • 6:19 How Ben got into WordPress
  • 8:10 Why WordPress is so empowering for developers
  • 8:45 What you should be learning to become a developer
  • 10:47 Learning by teaching
  • 15:11 Hacking as a method of learning and empowerment
  • 18:08 The Kadence teardown event with The Good on November 10
  • 19:45 The Kadence team’s productivity hacks: how to get more done in less time


Kathy: Welcome to episode 19 of The Kadence Beat. This is the podcast where we talk about how to create more effective websites with WordPress and of course Kadence. Ben, you nailed it this week with this power user course over at iThemes training. How did that go for you?

Ben: Good. I definitely, am a little exhausted. I haven’t done a two day course and prepping for that was like, I definitely could have spent weeks getting that stuff together and instead I spent, just a day. So, there was like a lot of frantic work in Photoshop as I was creating product images and then also like just brainstorming ideas for how to best show some of this stuff.

So, I learned a lot. Hopefully other people did.

Kathy: well, I was in the chat. I was in Q&A along with Hannah, and there were a few people who were just like pacing right along with you and some people who were like I am so lost. So it ran the gamut. There were a few times I was answering questions in the Q&A and I thought I had the right answer. And then Jake, one of our super affiliates, would come in and answer the right question. I’m like, Maybe I should just shut up. And I know Hannah, I lamented to you that I was, I was feeling a little overwhelmed in a couple of spots too. But you were right in there answering tons of questions as well, helping out. We had well over what 200 and some people live attending, watching. How was it from your perspective?

Hannah: Yeah, the questions flowed. I would like to say I learned something from you, Ben, but honestly I couldn’t pay attention to you because I was just constantly trying to answer questions. and I think a lot of the questions were actually related to what you were talking about , but it was exciting.

It was really fun to see so many people in there that we see on our Facebook page. in the forums or whatever. Just excited and engaged with what’s happening at Kadence. It was just fun. I actually had a blast doing it. It kind of felt like a little mini conference, so it was fun.

Kathy: It kind of did. It was very exciting. So Ben, I think you did. Honestly, I’m looking at your demo and I’m like, this is like, way better than anything I would’ve come up with for a demo. You just knocked it out of the park. It was really great. So anyone who’s listening, if you were there and you saw this incredible demo, and all of the different ways that you can use Kadence as a power user, you got a real treat.

Thanks to everyone who attended. It kind of got me thinking though, because, you know, I’ve been around, I’ve been around the web not even just WordPress, but I mean, as soon as somebody taught me like HTML was like, What do you mean? That’s all it is? That’s not hard. I just felt like the world opened up to me and now we’re at a place where the web has a lot of different moving parts and a lot of different ways of doing things that don’t even opening up a code editor. and we, we went back and forth a lot when we were naming this course. Is it going to be a developer course? Is it going to be just advanced user course? And we kind of went with like a advanced power user course as a moniker. But it got me thinking like, what is a developer?

What is somebody who’s effective with WordPress? Do you need to learn how to code? And so I wanted to kind of unpack this and one of my goals with this episode is to demystify this word developer that I think can be very intimidating to people, that they think they have to know, like every function in JavaScript or every SQL command or every, piece of something that goes into WordPress in order to be called a developer.

And so I wanted to get both of your takes on what’s a WordPress developer and what does that really mean?

Ben: It’s a really hard question to answer without like the context. Developer gets thrown around in a lot of different ways. I think no one’s gonna complain if you call yourself a WordPress developer and you build websites for people and never touch code. And at the same time, no one’s gonna be like, it’s wrong that you’re calling yourself a WordPress developer, if you are coding and contributing to core, and actually building WordPress on a code level.

I think, in a practical sense a WordPress developer would be someone who’s just working in WordPress and building sites in WordPress. And so what I think you’re trying to get at, and I think it’s important to note, is WordPress being a tool that allows you to build websites is so accessible to people to learn that anyone with any skill set, you don’t need any prerequisites to come into. It can become some type of WordPress developer, very easily with a little bit of time, a little bit of trial and error playing around, with the tools. I think it’s like very much an exciting thing like that anyone can, can jump in and be a part.

Kathy: Right. Yeah. I don’t think there needs to be like this line, like if you can publish with WordPress, if you can, Customize, your site to look the way and operate the way you want and connect with customers. You developed a site. So I would like that to be as inclusive as possible. Hannah, do you consider yourself a developer?

Hannah: I I have both sides. So like, by this definition, yeah, I’m a developer. But it’s funny cuz I wouldn’t have titled myself that before. But since our Kadence team has grown, so as our dev team, but a lot of the dev team don’t do what Ben does, and I always just have this idea of like, well, Ben is a developer, so if you’re a developer, then you must build sites like Bend or like, you know, build the back end like Ben does. But it’s not true. Like the dev team’s actually really vast with a ton of different knowledge and skills. that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re writing core code. so, so yeah, I’m a developer.

Kathy: You are a developer, I hereby knight thee a developer.

Hannah: I’m gonna go change my title right now on LinkedIn.

Kathy: There you go. Sounds great. You know, the funny thing is, when I first started on the internet developing sites and figuring out that it wasn’t as hard as the guy I had to work with was trying to tell me that it was, I ended up working with someone who said, “Don’t try to learn everything. You can’t learn everything. Just learn how to research. Learn how to find things.” If you’re gonna write JavaScript, you don’t have to know every single function that exists in JavaScript, but you have to know, generally speaking, JavaScript does what. It’s kind of like front end types of things.

And so when you have a problem that shows up, you know to look there rather than to look in the database. So just having some kind of like general knowledge of where to look, but know that everything is researchable. Ben, you’re kind of self taught that same way, aren’t you?

Ben: Yeah. So like my path into WordPress and where I am today started with I was taking picture. Doing photography. I loved photography, landscape photography or whatever. I’ve done some weddings in the past. No, no longer doing any of that. But, anyway, I just trying to get my photography online. And so, I originally started, I was like 16 with Microsoft FrontPage, which is like an awful software that, it was basically a word doc editor, but you could publish it kinda. And so obviously like that to WordPress was like a, you know, WordPress was like, Oh, this is amazing. And that’s really it. Once I got in to starting to like do websites, then it was like, okay, well what’s the next thing I want to do?

I wanted to tweak the design with CSS. Because back then there wasn’t the tools there are today to build websites. So like you really did need to learn some CSS. Now, today, not so much, but certainly that got me to the next thing, which was like, oh, like I really want this to output here, so now I’m gonna be changing some PHP and the in the theme.

And then kind of kept going. I haven’t taken any traditional coding classes like web coding classes at a university. I did take one Visual Basic coding class, you know, like you learn how to make the like pong game or whatever. But I have done a lot of online classes, like, not like even classes, but just like courses.

So you can just go and take your own pace for like learning more stuff. JavaScript, react, PHP. But almost all of it has come from I want to do this. I want to figure out how for myself first, and then like as that grew and grew I was coming outta college and I ended up producing the Virtue theme which I was using for my own projects and for client stuff.

At that point, I was starting to do some freelance for different small businesses and so that kind of led into like being a product developer in WordPress, which is just a, a long way to say the way that it’s set up and the tools that are out there and the courses that are out there really are perfect for, get in and just learn how to build a page.

And especially if you can focus on like something you’re interested in and be like, I want to share this with the world. And then you’ll go as far as your passion takes you in terms of how you want to design things. I definitely think, if you’re getting into WordPress and you’re like, I wanna be a WordPress developer, knowing that, that means a huge range of things.

But I want to build websites, taking the time to learn some design and some accessibility. There’s a lot of things you can learn, A lot of courses, I could tell you a ton of things to be like, oh, start here, start here. But taking some time to learn design and accessibility will just go such a long way regardless of where you end up in your exploration of WordPress, whether it’s for yourself or for a company or for small businesses or whatever.

Kathy: I’d also add learning some general things about SEO helps out a lot too, because a lot of what SEO is looking for are going to be things like making sure that things are by adhering to what Google’s looking for in terms of page speed and in terms of your rank, that leads you towards creating a better experience with accessibility, with making sure that your site is fast and usable, all of those types of things. I would also add to that it’s also going to help you make better designs because those designs are going to create a better user experience, so I, think SEO… In terms of like creating really effective sites, studying SEO has been really helpful for me in understanding how to make things better for end users and also, you know, better for outcomes for the business.

I’m curious, Hannah, I’d like to ask you about you’ve supported a lot of Kadence customers, do you feel like helping other people has made you a better developer? See, I’m calling you a developer now. You are one.

Hannah: I, Yeah, it totally has., I mean, when Ben, when Ben brought me on, I I did a lot of Treehouse courses, if anyone’s familiar with Treehouse and watched just endless videos and, and really tried to learn a lot more code than they actually know, now. I would say I’m pretty, pretty decent at CSS. I can answer majority of CSS questions and I actually really enjoy it. It’s pretty fun.

Um, but yeah, definitely I can know like, okay, this is an HTML question. I know where to send these people or I know where I can find my answer for this. And that’s all just come through support and through trial and error and through tons of emailing, Ben, asking him questions or else just even like googling, what does this mean?

But yeah, I mean I’ve done support for eight years now. so it’s definitely upped my game for sure.

Kathy: You know, I homeschooled my kids for a few years when we were up in Shasta, and the one thing that I noticed that if I told them, Hey, okay, we just did this, Teach me. Show me how to do it. And by teaching me they learned it better. So it’s like there’s this dynamic that ends up happening where you’ve, you have to learn something and if you want to really solidify your understanding of something, find somebody else who needs to know it and help them, and you’ll know it like way better.

Do you feel like that happens with you?

Hannah: Yeah, totally. And also writing documentation and tutorials. Like I actually was just talking about earlier about this tutorial was writing on dynamic content. And I was like, I got lost so many times just writing it, but I get it now. And so yeah, if you are confused by something, do write a documentation on it, you’ll learn it.

Kathy: Definitely. That’s such a good point. Now there’s so many different ways that… So if you’re just like doing it all by yourself, obviously you have to become somewhat of a generalist. You have to understand design. You have to know. What FTP is at least. And to get yourself out of trouble sometimes you have to understand how your hosting account works.

You have to understand SEO and design and, all sorts of things. You have to be a generalist.

Ben: Email.

Kathy: Yeah. There are so many different moving pieces to having a web presence. It’s not just I have a website. But as you like, work in larger organizations, there’s different kinds of specialization and like to me, I never thought security was ever going to be a specialization.

I always thought that. You just write secure code and you set things up securely. I just like baked it into everything. So then when I ended up like getting specialized in security, I’m like, Wait, how did this happen? You know, it’s kind of a weird trajectory, but now, security is a specialization, so what are some of the ways that people can, you know, if you love writing, you could be a copywriter. What are some of the other ways that people can, like, if they don’t wanna deal with all of the technical types of things, how they can contribute?

Ben: I guess we could sum it up and say like, what are some non code specific where you’re doing PHP writing, PHP are things that you could do and and, WordPress. and so that would be like, I think understanding marketing and being able to like know how to implement marketing strategy, like not just like, you know, hey, you need to write blog posts, but actually understand like how to create funnels, to drive traffic, to connect people, to optimize conversions, that whole area of marketing of , how am I going to get traffic and then get that traffic to purchase and understanding the paths that they take.

That’s all like very not code related. But extremely important to like, success, the success of any website.

Kathy: Very much so. And adding on to that usability, understanding usability as an entire specialization, and really doing user research and how people perceive language, the way you might think they perceive it, but maybe they don’t. And being able to really do the research that puts the organization or the product development into the user’s shoes so that you’re making things that are more usable, more user friendly, more approachable, another huge field. And again, something that I feel should be baked into everything but it is a specialization, that can be done.

Ben: So if you’re getting started, I think we’ve talked about a lot of different things, but having a project versus trying to learn a skill is a great thing. I want to make sure we say. It is very hard to just learn PHP or learn something. It’s a lot easier to be like, I’m trying to build a website. Now, how do I do this? So like if you’re trying to learn WordPress, there’s some great resources out there like WP101, like lots of awesome courses. But pair that with, I’m trying to build my hobby site or this website or whatever, versus just being like, I’m just gonna take this course so I know WordPress.

Because having your own project to be the focus and not the course will just make you so much more successful at learning it and understanding.

Kathy: Yeah, definitely having some kind of like outcome, like I can’t learn just because, Okay, go learn this one thing. I learned because I’ve faced a problem. And figured out how to solve that problem. so having some kind of outcome in mind or a goal in mind of what it is that you’re trying to do helps you.

Not only experiment and, solve, I mean, problem solving is like a huge learning experience as well. And, and I think a lot of times people don’t necessarily sit with a problem long enough to learn from it. A lot of times people, I think, go and ask a question or post on a forum or something like that.

Not to say like asking for help is a bad thing, but I think there’s something incredibly empowering about sitting with a problem for a while and, and testing out your own solutions. And does this work, does that work in kind of hacking at it, you know, in the, like the good frame of the word hacker, but hacking and coming up with solutions? it opens up new opportunities of understanding where, places that you would’ve never thought to ask the question, but, oh wow, this works. What does that mean about this other thing? And it leads you down these paths of discovery. so I would recommend like sitting with problems as you’re developing your hobby site or whatever.

And you know, search around, get some guidance and stuff, but own the problem. And owning that solution then becomes even more empowering.

Hannah: Yeah. It’s so fun when you find a solution to someone you’ve been working on for a long time like dynamic content. I use that example, like when I was writing that, I was like, oh my gosh. It worked like it was so fun, but it took me forever. And it came, I had to come back to it like three different times, but then when you finally get it, it’s like, Oh wow.

It is so empowering. And then you’re like, I can do anything.

Kathy: Definitely, And that’s one of the things I love about WordPress is the empowerment that it offers. It’s just kind of like, get started. Where do you wanna go? It’s, it’s a framework for of, of being able to really explore what’s possible for you. And I love seeing some of the things that people post in, like the Kadence Facebook group when they get to the project, get a project done.

There was this recent one where somebody posted, they were selling art and it was such a cool project and I could see like all of the different like little things that they learned about Kadence that they had actually implemented into their project with some, just in terms of how the blocks were laying out.

It wasn’t like a standard implementation.

They learned things building this, and it’s just so exciting. So I love taking those and sharing them around. It’s so fun.

Hannah: I know, and that’s why I love our page cuz people get to show off their work and everyone’s excited about It and it really is such a sweet community. It’s so fun.

Kathy: It really is. Speaking of our community, we have a another, we we’re not just doing tutorials courses over on the iThemes side. We’ve got some stuff happening ourselves, don’t we, Hannah?

Hannah: Yeah, we do.

Kathy: Are you excited?

Hannah: I’m so excited. Are you excited, Ben?

Ben: What are we talking about?

Kathy: He’s still recovering, I think, from all the things we throw at him. Um, we’re, we’re segueing into a discussion about our tear down event on November 10th, with The Good where we’re gonna start looking at some of these projects that people are coming up with specific to e-commerce conversion and helping people make things better.

Now you’re excited, right?

Ben: I’m so excited. Yeah, no, this is gonna be, this is gonna be really cool.

Hannah: And we’re seeing some good sites, but keep sending them like if you have a landing page that you want Ben and Jon MacDonald, the founder of The Good to tear down send it cuz you won’t regret it. I think you’ll learn so much from it. And it will be, I mean, they, these tear downs, if you were to pay for one, they’re very expensive. So you have an opportunity to have a free tear down on your website. And yeah, we’re super excited.

Kathy: Yeah, it’s gonna be great. It’s gonna be over on YouTube, so we’ll have a link in the show notes for the form where you can submit your site so that we can take a look. We’re probably only gonna get to like, I think three at the most, maybe four. But submit your site and if we think we can contribute to it, we’re going to. And if you don’t have a site or if maybe you’re just not gonna be done yet, still come to this event because it’s going to be really insightful. There’s gonna be knowledge that you’re going to glean just from watching Ben and Jon, tear down these sites and, and provide constructive opportunities for improving conversions, that is going to help you make your Black Friday investment so much better.

The Kadence team is here for that. We’re here to help you elevate your site, make it more effective, connect with your customers better, and we hope that this discussion was helpful in that regard as well. Anything else we got going on that I’m forgetting about?

Ben: We were gonna do a new segment on productivity hacks and what recent productivity hacks you have been trying. So Kathy?

Kathy: Thank you. Thank you for reminding me. I think I’m a little overwhelmed from yesterday as well, from our courses, that was, was pretty incredible. Um, yeah, so I’m trying because I don’t know if this is like common knowledge, but if you are paying attention to anything on the iThemes side, I am taking over marketing on iThemes and there’s a lot going on there. We’re hiring some new people to help out both on the iThemes as well as the Kadence side.

So I will put a link to our job descriptions and whatever. Um, anyway, so I am finding some stress in keeping everything focused. I am trying what they call the Pomodoro technique, which is basically just set yourself a timer for 25 minutes and focus on one task and knock it outta the park. I get two of those a day and that’s about all I can do thus far. I would like more because I find shutting down, slack is really good. All of that stuff has to go away and there’s just one window for me to focus. 25 minutes is enough to get what you need to get done.

Just chunk down something and it works. How about you, Hannah. How was your productivity, going?

Hannah: Yeah. This is something I’m like eternally working on. I think the biggest thing for me is just being able to reset. So like going on a 10 minute walk or like even getting up and making a coffee and coming back, sitting back down, just kind of getting like a little refresh. That for me is, is huge, but I need to learn now the tricks?

Ben, I was liking what you were telling us about earlier.

Ben: Yeah, so something I’ve been trying, cuz you know, it is focus is so big and you probably have a million tabs open on your internet browser , I know I do all the time. So the core tabs that I generally just like have open, I’ve been trying to get rid of those and move them into separate apps.

There’s this really cool tool called web catalog. It’s webcatalog.io and it’s free. There is a pro version, but the free does all that I’ve been using it for right now, and that’s allowed me to move Gmail to its own app. So it’s not in my Chrome browser, it’s allowed me to move Google Docs and Google Calendar into its own app.

So they’re like just, you know, basically tabs that I always have open are now moved to their own app, which is really nice when I’m in the browser, especially developing and doing stuff. Then there’s none of those like extra tabs for distraction. And then like when I open the email app, I’m in email and it’s just a lot nicer.

I’ve found that I’m in email way less, by just doing that. So, that’s been good. And something I’m, I think I’ve, I’ve been doing it for about a month now and I think it’s gonna stay.

Kathy: Nice. Good advice. I’m, gonna have to try that one out as well. my next thing is really just attacking Slack somehow. Oh, Slack, how I love you and hate you at the same time .

Hannah: Do other companies, I’m curious, and, and I don’t mean anything negative by this, but there are people in like the general broad Slack channels who are constantly commenting on things like, and posting things that, that mean nothing or like all the time all day long. And I’m not in the, like, I don’t get in them, but, but I do get notifications for them, which I need to figure out how to turn off ones for certain channel. But it’s just all day long.

Ben: You’re talking about like our water cooler. We have like a company wide, and by company wide I mean like big company-wide water cooler channel.

Hannah: Hundreds of people in it. Hundreds. But it’s like this, you know, they’re just like, Oh, this happened with my dog today.

Ben: It might as well be Facebook for your company.

Hannah: Yeah, it’s true. And I think that that’s it. People really enjoy that and that’s like a good outlet for them. But I’m just curious if anyone who gets in those like I guess people do?

Ben: Yeah, a lot of people do.

Yeah. A lot of people

Hannah: You know what, that makes sense that it’s like a social media outlet for them. and that’s fun. I think. I haven’t looked at Slack as social media and like Slack is work.

Kathy: Yeah, yeah. I’m, I’m much in that same boat, but it’s yeah, Slack management is it can be extremely, Well, part of the thing is too, is like, I wanna be responsive to people. They’re waiting on me for an answer a lot of times, or a discussion needs to occur. But when does that need to occur? And I’ve recently started researching and joined this group about asynchronous work and just techniques for empowering people asynchronously.

Because the most productive job I ever had was completely asynchronous. It was very well defined. I had policies, I had procedures. I knew exactly what I was supposed to be doing for my job, and I never talked to anyone, and I got so much done. I really enjoyed the asynchronous part of things, and so I am. I’m kind of diving into that right now and looking at different strategies to be more asynchronous. And the recent statistic that I saw was that there is a privilege to asynchronous work and that the higher up you are in an organization, The less synchronous you have to be.

And I think that needs to be reversed. Like I think people who are entry level, if you have good policies and procedures and good definitions, they could get by by not talking to anybody. And then you have to like, make some space to like, make sure that they’re socially connected and everything. But, I really find value in asynchronous work and just the creativity that flows there.

So looking forward to more of that. Anyway, it’s a, it’s an interesting field and an interesting study and slightly related to productivity, so that’s why I bring it up.

Ben: Cool.

Hannah: I love it.

Kathy: Cool. Well, it’s all I got. Thanks for joining us for another episode of the Kadence Beat. We are gonna switch some things up and experiment a little bit more in the coming weeks, and we would love ideas from you if, if there’s something you want us to talk about. I know you’re listening. So, let us know if you want our hot takes on things or if you’d like us to deeply research or dive deep into a topic of interest to you, we’d love to hear from you.

You can just write to us or leave a comment on this post on the Kadence site. Thanks for listening and we will talk to you again next time.

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