WordPress and Jetpack
The episode got started with a conversation about what’s happening in the WordPress community, and specifically, Matt Mullenweg’s comments about WordPress and Jetpack (a single plugin with more than 30 modules built in, some of which are paid, some are free, and some rely on WordPress.com, developed by Automattic) at PressNomics.
And later in the follow up on Twitter…
There is some distortion of the story, a lot of varying opinions, and even more assumptions about Matt’s statements — listen to the podcast to hear our discussion and varying opinions about
During the discussion, John Locke, another panelist, mentioned a post Chris Lema wrote about it titled Is the Future Success of WordPress tied to Jetpack?
As I shared on the podcast, I agree with Chris’ post and I agree with Matt. We need to grow the WordPress pie for everyone, and Jetpack does that.
As an agency owner, as someone who wants to expand into WordPress product development in the future, I believe that a large, growing base of WordPress users — who have a positive experience the first time they log into the WordPress dashboard — will help create a stronger base of users that will grow the WordPress pie. And that’s good for everyone making a living with WordPress, from the person selling a $40 theme to the agency selling a $300,000 publishing solution.
Personally, I think built in tools of Jetpack are great — for users. In no way should every module should be activated on any site. For example, of the last 40-50 sites we have launched, we have used Jetpack on half of them, with only 5-6 modules activated on each site.
Our clients, the end users, love Jetpack. They are happy with the features, it is easy to use, and they love having everything in one spot. Plus, they like having fewer plugins to update and manage.
We also talked about Matt’s statement about working toward WordPress powering 50% of the internet.
In his 2014 State of the Word, Matt shared that the current adoption rate is 24% of the web. We discussed whether 50% is a good or bad goal, and what the potential ramifications may be if that were to happen. Would it hinder innovation? Would dominance breed complacency?
No software platform will reach total domination. There will always be new people entering the market, new competitors, and new things we can’t even imagine yet. The best we can do is focus on expanding the user base and creating positive experiences.
Theme Frameworks: The Good The Bad And The Ugly
Once we decided the conversation was going down a path similar to a religious discussion, it was time to get to the topic at hand, WordPress theme frameworks. You can watch the podcast to hear which frameworks the panelists use, what their opinions are of frameworks, and why they do or don’t use frameworks for themeing.
But before we got in too deep on the topic, I felt the need to jump and offer a little clarification:
It’s important to frame this conversation and the distinction between frameworks and parent themes; between using a true framework, or building a child theme on Genesis or TwentyFifteen, or using a builder which is a database driven visual builder.
There is a very big difference between someone who builds with database driven options and design panels in the browser on a database versus someone who builds child themes on top of a parent theme.
These are very different methodologies.
We build completely custom Genesis child themes. We committed to the platform in early 2011. Because it has almost no database driven options other than a few theme settings and SEO options, the rest of the theme development is all done and contained within the custom child theme.
As for the customer, when they get an update for Genesis in their dashboard, they are getting code that is continually maintained and that’s tested against WordPress updates. It allows us to leverage the folks over at Copyblogger and all of the work that their team puts into the codebase. As a result, when I ship a product, I know it is going to be backward compatible, as it always has been. For us it provides added reliability and trust with our clients.
Listen to the podcast to:
- Hear what the other panelists think about WordPress frameworks and which they use, or if they even use them
- Learn what some of the challenges are surrounding some less than savory frameworks
- Get some tips about things you should consider when choosing a theme framework
Jonathan then asked me again about Genesis and a misconception about the framework, that it got away from the typical template framework used by WordPress core.
I completely disagreed with his statement. The Genesis Framework 100% respects the WordPress core template hierarchy.
At any time you can add custom page templates, or a single.php file to customize the blog template and it just takes one line of code — literally one word — to hook back into it. Genesis recognizes it and will run the main parent single.php file, and it will run yours. This is what we do on our client themes.
StudioPress puts it in their functions file simply because it is easier for their support team to manage it.
When you look at developers who build custom Genesis themes, you’ll often find dozens of template files that follow the standard WordPress template hierarchy and has custom functions, filters, code, and queries built into their templates.
He then asked me what led us to choose Genesis as our platform of choice.
When Bourn Creative first launched in July 2005, we built static HTMl sites. Eventually we moved to a private content management system to give our clients more control over their own sites, but felt limited by the CMS. In 2008 we discovered WordPress and and transitioned all of our development to WordPress, building custom themes for our clients.
At the time, around version 3.0, WordPress was growing so rapidly it was outpacing our ability to keep up with it. Just like every developer, I’m a better developer today than I was two weeks ago, and I don’t even want to think about the sites we built four years ago.
It was then that we recognized the core WordPress development was outpacing our own code base. We explored working with Genesis at the time and straddled both approaches — custom WordPress themes, and custom Genesis child themes — for about six months and compared the projects.
With a full understanding of the Genesis parent/child theme relationship, we realized how powerful and fast it was it was. With it, we were shipping a better product. So in mid-2011 we drew a line in the sand and began developing all of our client projects as custom Genesis child themes.
Our relationship with the community and with Copyblogger has been mutually beneficial and today we are one of their recommended developers. Although today I don’t need the Genesis framework to build custom WordPress themes, I believe our product is better now than it would have been if we had stuck with our own codebase over the years.
More Frameworks? Other Code Bases?
We then got into a discussion about whether the future will bring more frameworks. Morten Rand Hendricsen pointed out that many developers and agencies create their own personal frameworks or starter themes, and build all of their themes on their own framework.
He mentioned that he thinks we’ll see more smaller frameworks come into play, which is exactly what my friends at WP Site Care did with their launch of Flagship. They created their own version of a framework or starter theme built exactly to their preferences that they could control.
Adam Silver and Morten shared much more about his views on the podcast.
At the end of the day only one thing matters: making your clients happy.
You can give someone $100,000 of woodworking tools, but that doesn’t make them a master carpenter. It takes time, years even, to learn your craft. Will there be other tools, code bases, libraries, or frameworks in the future? Absolutely. But at the end of the day you’re still outputting html on a screen for computers and people to read. However you get there, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s quality and your clients are happy.
And speaking of clients, the last thing Jonathan asked me on the podcast was whether clients come to us asking for WordPress or Genesis specifically.
Here’s the evolution of how our inquiries have changed over the years:
- I want a site I can edit myself (and we introduce them to WordPress)
- I want a WordPress site
- I want a WordPress site and it must be mobile
- I want to do XYZ, it must be mobile, what is the best solution?
Very few people contact us asking for a Genesis child theme — unless they are already familiar with the product and the community, or they are a direct referral. Ultimately clients don’t care about the codebase we use. They just care that it works, that it looks good, that it meets their project needs, and it is in their budget.
Check Out The Episode
Check out everyone’s opinions, expertise, and commentary on the podcast:
- Genesis Framework Frequently Asked Questions Answered
- How to Remove The Genesis Framework Blog And Archive Page Templates
- Bourn Creative Named Genesis Recommended Developer
- How To Add a Dropdown Indicator To The Genesis 2.0 Navigation Menu Automatically
- How to Customize The Genesis 2.0 HTML5 Comment Form
- Genesis SEO Settings Guide
- How To Customize The WordPress Login Screen With Your Own Logo
- WordPress Plugins For The Genesis Framework
- The StudioPress Showcase Features Several Sites By Bourn Creative