I am starting off a series of interviews with Andrew Norcross. I met him in 2010 at the Search and Social Conference in Tampa. He is a really nice person, extremely intelligent and very focused. He has always been willing to help out SEO’s and has recently become the Senior WordPress Developer at BlueGlass. I think it is important that people learn what those of us in the industry understand about WordPress. There are so many misconceptions and out right failures. So I asked Andrew some WordPress questions and he gave some great answers many people can learn from.
Most people in our industry consider you a WordPress coding expert. Can you tell us how you learned your skills?
I learned by doing. Took an interest, starting building things for friends, kept wanting to do more with it. While I wish the answer was more robust than that, it really isn’t. I broke a lot of things. Often. Then figured out how to fix them.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about WordPress?
That it’s for blogging only. Of all my freelance clients, I’d say less than 40% of builds were strictly blogs. Most had a blogging / “updates” component to them, but most were businesses.
What are some common coding/design mistakes you see?
This one is a doozy. Could probably do an entire interview on just this. But the main ones:
- (dev) Over-reliance on plugins: one of the best things about WP is the plugin setup. It makes it easy to extend WP to fit your needs, without making the core software bloated. But often times people just install plugins without thinking twice, and end up with a massive list that they aren’t even sure what they all do any more. Multiple sharing, SEO, or image manipulation that can very well be part of WP core functions or their theme framework of choice.
- (dev) Not keeping their site up to date or backing up: Here’s an analogy: if you don’t change the oil in your car for over a year, will suddenly changing it 5 times in a row help? Maybe, not not nearly as much as just changing it on the schedule you’re supposed to. WP (like any software) has updates. It’s important to keep up on them to make sure you’re secure and running as well as possible. And backups? RUN THEM. PERIOD.
- (dev) Crap hosting: You get what you pay for. That $5 host doesn’t give a shit about your or your WP site. They aren’t built to run WP well, rather, they’re built to run anything “ok”. Spend the extra few dollars and get a host like page.ly, WP Engine, or ZippyKid. All 3 of those are made to host just WP, and have the support staff to understand your issues.
- (design) Installing a framework and never changing it: I do a lot of work with Thesis. Many people tell me, “Wow, that site (that I just built) looks NOTHING like Thesis!”. Well, here’s the thing: most frameworks (i.e. Thesis, Genesis, etc) are meant to be a canvas. So design them! Actually take 10 minutes and go into the options panel and change some colors, fonts, etc. That’s what they are there for.
- (design) Too much s**t: While everyone needs to add some personality to their site, don’t turn it into a drag show. 20 different colors, 8 fonts, every social icon known to man, etc isn’t something people ever wanna look at. Ever. So just don’t do it.
Do you think anyone can learn how to code WordPress or should they leave it to the experts?
If people are willing to learn, then WordPress can be picked up with relative ease. That’s a big IF, though. You’ve gotta be willing to get your hands dirty, break a few things, swear a bit at the screen, then come back for the lightbulb moment. If you aren’t, that’s OK, but don’t blame WP for it. Hire someone and let them do it.
Any website tips you have for business owners?
For owners, it’s a matter of deciding what level of involvement you want, and then being OK with it. Most small business owners have done everything themselves, and many have gotten at least somewhat burned by a “web guy” before. So it’s hard for them to just let go completely. It’s OK to stay involved, but don’t tell the developer how to code, or the designer how to use Photoshop. Oh, and make sure you know what the hell you want to say on the site! (or hire a copywriter).
You are now a part of BlueGlass. How has it been so far?
BlueGlass has been great so far. I didn’t realize how much I missed the office interaction. I’m still adjusting to the whole “having to be somewhere at a certain time” thing, but all in all it’s been a good transition and I’m excited for what’s in store.
Some Geek Q&A
- Mac or PC? PC without a doubt. I don’t like iThings.
- iPhone or Droid? Droid (HTC Thunderbolt at the moment) although I’ll be honest, the Windows Mobile phones are pretty slick
- Tweetdeck or HootSomething: TweetDeck. Not a fan of browser-based tools when there is a desktop option available.
- Fav beer: No beer for me :) I’ll have a cup (or 5) of coffee.
- Star Wars or…: I’m not going to even bother with the second part of that. HAN SHOT FIRST!!!