Interview: The Woo is a Mix of w00t & WordPress

I’ve managed to chat with one of the three founders of WooThemes lately – Adii Pienaar. Adii was very busy during the last couple of weeks with the Woo2 Release, but he was still so kind to answer some questions I had, so here we go:

@kovshenin Okay Adii, how are things going at WooThemes right now? I mean after WordPress has released 2.8 and most of your clients have upgraded (I guess). Everything okay?

@adii Yep. Everything is fine again now. We only had some minor bugs to fix in some of our older themes, when WP 2.8 was released, but it seems that those are all squashed now and the ship is sailing once again.

@kovshenin I believe the toughest times were between the Release Candidate and the actual 2.8 Release, right? Did you manage to do everything in time?

@adii Well, we generally only fix bugs once an official version is released. So whilst we did some prelimanery testing on 2.8 beta’s, we only started fixing bugs when 2.8 was released. Obviously this is a bit difficult, since some of our users upgraded immediately, but we managed to do all the testing & fixing within about 2 days after 2.8 was released.

@kovshenin Wow, guess those were 24 hr workdays? ;)

@adii Hehe nah. We have a pretty dynamic team, so it was “all in a day’s work”. Plus we do bug fixing & improvements to our themes on a daily basis anyway.

@kovshenin Most WordPress plugin & theme developers were not pleased that 2.8 was released after only four days after the release candidate was. What do you think about it? Should the WordPress developers slow it down next time?

@adii I didn’t really perceive it that way and don’t really mind it to be honest. The beta was out for quite some time and I don’t think there were too many groundbreaking differences from the beta version to the RC and the RC to the actual release.

@kovshenin What about the 2.6 to 2.7 switch? That had some core changes, didn’t it?

@adii Oh yes definitely. There’s been quite a few changes from 2.6 to 2.7, which required a lot more changes within our older themes. 2.8 was minor compared to those.

Strange, but fair enough. Why bother working with the release candidate when you could just ask your clients to not rush with the update and work with the actual release, which may also be slightly different from the RC.

@kovshenin Which of the new 2.8 features did you like best?

@adii Most definitely the improved widget interface, which is absolutely amazing. And a MASSIVE improvement on previous versions.

@kovshenin I was sure you liked the syntax highlighter :D

@adii Well, I never use the theme editor in the admin panel (as I’m sure other serious WP developers do), so whilst it’s a great feature I’m honestly not that excited by it.

When I first saw the code editor built in WordPress I thought it’s no use at all. Why would I use a simple code editor that has no lines numbered, no syntax highlighting to edit php files that I could easily edit via FTP? Well if you need to edit a few lines in your header.php (like add a favico or whatever) it’s much easier to add that using the built in code editor than to search for the FTP account details, download the file, change it, upload back to server. What if you’re not at your usual workplace?

With the built in code editor you can even make those changes using your iPhone ;) And now that it’s got the syntax highlighter and the function browser, wow, that makes it even cooler!

@kovshenin Did you know about Chet Baker BEFORE the 2.8 announcement?

@adii Hell no.

Oh well, neither did I. Did you? Vote vote here ;)

@kovshenin I heard you run a little design agency called Radiiate. Are your clients okay with WordPress? I mean lots of people think that WordPress is for blogs, right? How do you convince your clients that WordPress can drive a corporate website, e-store and a social network? What example websites/products do you like to show?

@adii Mmm, well firstly Radiiate hasn’t been actively doing client work for a few months now, because we’re focussing on WooThemes. But… I think most of Radiiate’s client came to us looking for a WordPress solution, so we didn’t need to convince them about using WP in favour of other alternatives.

@kovshenin But you are gonna keep up the work at Radiiate aren’t you? whenever things settle down with Woo..

@adii Yes and no. Radiiate is on the backburner, so whilst there’s no immediate or set plan to revive it, I’m sure it’ll be something that I spend time on again in future. And to continue fueling WooThemes’ growth, we need to focus all our energy on it! :)

Well, too bad.. *sigh*

@kovshenin What do you think about WordPress “Theme Frameworks” such as Thesis, Thematic, etc. Do they have a future?

@adii Definitely. I think both Thesis and Thematic are great themes and many more developers are going to adopt them (or other similar frameworks). Theme Frameworks are however more developer tools (imo), so more out-of-box themes will still have a role to play within the theming community.

I totally disagree here. I think developers will be looking forward to create their own tools. Look at Ryan’s post about Creating Your Own WordPress Theme Framework.

@kovshenin Your thoughts on SquareSpace. If you were a WordPress.com blogger, would you switch to SquareSpace?

@adii I haven’t actually tried SquareSpace, but I’m hearing good things about it. So I can’t really give an opinion…

@kovshenin Where did the “Woo” come from? Is it from like “Woohoo! I got a brand new Theme!” ? :D

@adii Hehe no. Magnus actually came up with it and it’s a mix of w00t & WordPress.

I guess that’s it. Thank you Adii and thank you WooThemes!

SquareSpace, Thesis and Back to WordPress

Yup, that’s the way it generally goes. I finally got myself an account at SquareSpace to play around with, and I poked the Thesis Framework a couple of months ago, so I now got to a conclusion – I’m not satisfied with any of those. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with SquareSpace, it’s a very neat and highly customizable blogging platform. I liked playing around with it, but it took me less than a few minutes to realize, that “play around with it” is all I can do. SquareSpace is not free, and neither is Thesis. But don’t get me wrong, WordPress is not free either (I’ll tell you why in a couple of minutes)! Everything depends on what you’re looking for.

Blogs, blogs, blogs. Everybody’s a pro-blogger today, especially in the world of Twitter. Everybody needs a place to discuss the perfect formula of “gaining 2000+ followers in one week”, then sell ads & get cash or perhaps donate to some charity of their choice. Anyway, this is not my point.

My point is that there are so many blogs out there, they’re so different, and yet so similar. And this is where the blogging platform comes in and I like to divide this into three steps (while the third one might also be a step 0 for some people).

Step 1: Just get out there and blog!

Blogger, WordPress.com, LiveJournal – these platforms are for busy people. For people that want to blog. Generally not techies. They don’t even care about how their blog looks, as long as the content is delivered to their readers (oh yeah, there are those that don’t give a damn about their readers too, but that’s a different story). People might spend some money for extra functionality on these platforms from time to time such as ad removal, custom CSS, etc. There are much more blogging platforms of this type than mentioned above, and even not so well-known networks of blogs created by people using Multi-User WordPress, Ning, buddyPress and others.

These types of platforms are generally free of charge and require no special knowledge. One-click sign up and you’re ready to blog. Most of them (the blogs) don’t live very long though, they get abandoned in a few months.

Step 2: Time to customize. Look at the new me!

As I said before, SquareSpace is cool, really. It may actually be the next step in your blogging adventure – customizing your look & feel and the readers interaction, making you different from your partners/competitors. People don’t like their blog to look like their friends’ blogs. WordPress.com blogs look all similar, Google Blogger too and that may get very annoying after a few months blogging. SquareSpace lets you customize the look of your blog without any programming skills at all (unlike Custom CSS on WordPress.com for instance). Watch this short video presentation.

Pretty cool eh? Take a look at the Features List for more info. The video on their website has a male voice btw, that’s strange… I prefer this female one ;)

Alright. We finally got here. Thesis from DYI Themes. Oh jeez. I don’t wanna talk much about Thesis, honestly, it’s starting to get on my nerves. First of all, they’re asking me to pay for a “Theme Framework”. What on earth is a “Theme Framework“? Lemme tell you. It’s just a bunch of functions, that limit your WordPress capabilities and make your website look rediculous. I like to refer to WordPress as a Framework, because it does have all the functionality and flexibility to be called one. Now, why do you need a framework on top of a framework?

Oh god, take a look at the Thesis showcase, they all have the same look. That Thesis look, which is kinda cool when you see it for the first time, but makes you wanna vomit when you came across 20 similar blogs a few hours ago. I can’t believe that people are actually giving away their money for this. And the developers license… Wow, you really wanna become a “Thesis Theme developer”? Heh, I’d go with WordPress if I were you.

Step 3: Time for a fresh start

Back to WordPress. This is the final step before you get all frustrated with blogs and decide to build your own social platform (with blackjack, and hookers ;) Why is it “back” to WordPress? Well, because this is where most people start and feel that WordPress (I’m talking about standalone WordPress blogs, not the ones hosted on WordPress.com) is not good/powerful/easy/flexible enough and doesn’t suit your needs. And this is the place where people start to look out for paid themes (yeah, and frameworks too) and other blogging platforms. I mentioned that it’s not free, remember? What I meant was that if you want a high-quality, good-looking WordPress blog, find yourself a loot WordPress junkie and pay him to do some theme customization (or perhaps build one from scratch), plugins customization (or perhaps build some from scratch, lol) and setting it all up.

Yes, this may cost a little more, but this is the only guarantee that you will get whatever you’re asking for, and it’s generally a one-time fee and maybe some small charges from time to time to stay up to date (get up a “happy christmas” version of your theme, extend functionality, etc).

In conclusion, I just wanted to say that you should stop wasting your time and stick to the right option straight away, during the start. You don’t wanna be jumping from one platform to another every month. Yeah, I know there are so much handy export/import tools but it still is a waste of time.