Interview with Jeff Starr – The Author of “Digging Into WordPress”

Hello everybody. Welcome to a new interview with another pro who knows WordPress inside and out. Today you will get insights into web design, development and WordPress from Jeff Starr – one of the most experienced people in our community.

If you missed our last interview with Tom Greenwood on green business and sustainable web design, watch it here. Feel free to also browse through our full collection of interviews to learn more about your favorite topics from our community experts.

Interview with Jeff Starr at Themeisle about WordPress and web development

You can also find Jeff’s content on his blogs – Dive into WordPress and Pernicious Press – where he writes about his discoveries and experiences with WordPress as part of his daily work. When he’s not writing, he programs plugins Plugin Planet and works with clients through his web design company called Monzilla Media.

Jeff Starr has a passion for web design and security and loves contributing to the WordPress core. He has been an active WordPress contributor since the beginning of his love story with our CMS.

Let’s hear more from Jeff!

Interview with Jeff Starr – The author of the book and blog “Digging Into WordPress”.

When and how did you start working with WordPress? Is there an interesting story here?

I started WordPress around 2004. Everything was very different back then than it is today. Back then I was building my own dynamic websites from scratch using PHP and MySQL. Then I discovered WordPress, which took care of all the dynamic stuff and more. So I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel for every website. Once I got the hang of WordPress and saw its potential, I was hooked. I’ve been working with WordPress ever since and haven’t looked back since.

What’s your technique for staying productive throughout the day?

I’m a single-minded minimalist. I use simple text notes to manage my schedule. All the smaller tasks that need to be done to achieve bigger goals. All neatly organized in plain text files. So to stay productive, I keep track of my goals for motivation and focus. As if I can’t wait to achieve this. And then use the to-do lists like a map. To stay on target and move things forward throughout the day.

How do you define “successful”?

Professionally, success is about more than financial independence. It’s about doing your own thing, however you want, making your own decisions, thinking for yourself and setting your own rules.

What would you wish more people knew about WordPress?

I wish more people would take some time to understand how things work. There is SO much WordPress can do by itself, right out of the box. With a little understanding and a few light plugins you can build almost anything. WordPress is very fast, secure and inherently powerful. You don’t need more than 50 plugins and a cumbersome “do it all” theme to create a great website.

Describe the WordPress community in one word.

What’s the one thing you want to change about WordPress?

Stop bloating the core with stuff that can and should be left as a plugin. For example, features like application passwords, responsive images, lazy loading, sitemaps, robots meta, emojis, embeds, and even REST API and Gutenberg should have been left as plugins. Keep the core light and fast. Then let users build what they want with plugins. There are well over 30,000 plugins available, plenty to choose from for almost anything.

How do you see the development of WordPress compared to, for example, ten years ago? Is it on the right track?

WordPress is moving heavily into JavaScript territory. So if you’re a typical WordPress user, like with your own website or whatever, then you’ll probably enjoy the new fancy Gutenberg block stuff and related features made possible by JavaScript. If you are a WordPress developer and love to work with JavaScript, then you will also love WordPress direction. If you’re primarily a PHP-based developer, the hard move into JavaScript land isn’t going to make your life any easier.

So the question “is WordPress on the right track” depends on the person, their goals, preferences, etc. It’s all relative to the user. In general, users who prefer the full “experience” of Gutenberg editing will say, “Yes, WordPress is on the right track.” Everyone else might not so much. There’s always a better way to do things, especially when it comes to web development.

What is the #1 thing a new business getting into the WordPress space should do?

Read and learn as much as possible. About WordPress, hosting, security, SEO and everything in between. Otherwise you will make mistakes, waste time and lose money. Take some time to research whatever you want to do before you do it. It’s the information age, so embrace it.

What do you think is currently the most efficient way to market your own services or products?

quality products. Transparent processes. Listen to your users. This is a basic organic approach to gaining market share. Where users promote your stuff through word of mouth, sharing, etc. Think quality products and happy customers. The reverse route is of course top-down advertising, like buying ads from Google and other big tech providers, who are basically all spamming to death.

What is your personal definition of a “high quality WordPress website”?

Quality WordPress sites are secure, load quickly, and offer a great user experience. The great thing about WordPress is that it does all of these things instantly. Install a fresh WordPress site and use only the default theme and plugins. This will be a high quality website because WordPress is high quality software.

However, what happens is that overzealous and/or unconscious people try to make a good thing better. They start installing all sorts of unnecessary plugins for things like caching, security, SEO and so on. Sure, some of these things may be necessary, but if you’re not careful, it’s really easy to go from a great WordPress site to a bloated, slow, and sloppy looking hot mess. Too many ads, pop-up nags, login reminders, and other desperate measures are also a surefire way to ruin any website, WordPress or otherwise.

Are there tools that you often use to streamline your work?

i am a minimalist Streamlining means eliminating redundant steps and simplifying workflows. For example, using fancy scheduling software that needs to be configured, maintained, updated, backed up, etc. is nowhere near as easy or productive as a simple note.txt file. Keep everything close to standard system functionality for all devices at all times. Another example: instead of relying on a third-party service for email, I use a non-cloud based app and domain-based email addresses for 100% control and no false positive spam or blocked messages. Saves time. Saves money.

It might sound counterproductive, but instead of using a million different tools to save time, it’s actually faster and easier to do as much as possible yourself and avoid all the abstract hassle and time it takes to buy the one Configuration and management of a number of tools are required different applications. Stay close to the data, don’t get lost in space.

What is your favorite/must have WordPress plugin and why?

I have two favorite plugins, both are my own creation: grilling and Black hole for bad bots. Security is very important to me, and these two plugins do an excellent job of providing a lightweight, super-fast firewall and a honeypot-style trap to stop malicious bots.

What is your #1 rule when it comes to WordPress security?

WordPress itself is very secure. Stay close to the core and only use well-known and trusted plugins and themes. Solid, reliable and trustworthy hosting is also a must.

code or write? Which is more rewarding and why?

They are one in the same. Just different languages. I like to write in English, for books and tutorials. Also enjoy writing code like PHP, JS, CSS etc. All languages ​​can be worthwhile depending on what you want to achieve.

What do you think of full page editing in WordPress? Will it affect designers in business terms?

I think it’s going to affect some of these all-in-one page builder plugins. You’ll be challenged with all that fancy Gutenberg stuff and full site editing. Users will be able to use the WordPress core to build a website without having to throw a heavy pagebuilding monstrosity into the mix. Additionally, I think full-site editing simply fills a niche that has lacked real solutions for years.

Do you think the block editor will pose a real threat to page builders like Elementor or Beaver Builder?

That’s basically what I said in my answer to the previous question. Page builders are a group that’s getting the ripple with all this Gutenberg stuff. But I think the competition is a good thing and will thin out the herd and make the best plugins even better. Page builders aren’t going away anytime soon.

Has the pandemic impacted your business (positively or negatively)? Did you have to make any changes in this regard?

Not really. My workflow is already like quarantine. It’s been like this for years. It’s interesting to see how the rest of the world is trying.

Are you part of any cool online/offline communities or groups? Can be any topic, not necessarily work related.

Not really offline. I’m a very independent person who spends most of my time looking at screens. A bit withdrawn and introverted. Except around people I’m comfortable with, I’m more of an extrovert. Online I am involved in all sorts of groups/interests such as web development, security, cryptocurrency, blockchain, photography, flying drones, making videos and of course WordPress.

What drives you to keep doing what you do? What is your personal mission?

It has changed over the years. 20 years ago I was driven by the idea of ​​success. Now that I’m achieving it, I’m more driven by my love of work itself. I’m really enjoying the small online empire I’ve created. I enjoy managing it and watching it grow. Every day a little more.

What are the biggest challenges to keep up with your mission?

Myself. I am my own worst enemy. The name of the game is discipline and responsibility. I’m usually fine with this, but sometimes it can be a challenge. Also, it’s getting harder and harder to find people who are sincere, genuine, have half a brain and aren’t afraid to use it. Luckily, I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with a lot of great people online. My network and my users really help make everything possible.

That sums up our interview with Jeff Starr. If you liked it and want to learn more, please leave your comments in the section below. If you also have ideas on who we should talk to next, please feel free to share your suggestions with us!

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