Claire Brotherton is an enthusiastic web designer and web developer with an immense passion for WordPress. She has gained vast years of experience in WordPress websites design and development. Claire’s ideal clients are businesses, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs who are passionate about access and inclusion. She loves learning and blogs regularly on her site A Bright Clear Web.
Claire is an awesome interviewee who has shared lots of helpful thoughts for you to learn and grow. We hope you find the interview inspirational for your own designing and development efforts! As always, we invite you to join in with your comments at the end of this post.
1.Claire Brotherton, first of all, I would like you to tell our readers a bit about yourself. Can you share your career history with us? How did you start your career? Who inspired you? What challenges did you face during the initial days of your career?
I kind of fell into web development. I’d been out of work or study for a while due to health issues. I managed to return to studying part-time and eventually gained a computing degree.
Just after I graduated I found there was a WordCamp in my home city of Edinburgh. This seemed like a great opportunity to get to know others interested in WordPress – and indeed it was!
I had some time doing volunteer work in web design and then decided to start in business for myself. It was tough going in the early days because I didn’t have contacts or reputation. My best job in the early days was for a church, who were a delight to work with.
One figure I was inspired by was Rob Cubbon, who is a designer and marketer who adopted WordPress early on and runs a successful blog and business. I was pretty sure that I wanted to start a business blog and it’s been a definite asset.
I now do a mixture of freelance web development, blog writing and working for graphics.coop, a local graphic and web design company.
2. When did you first discover WordPress and what made you stick with it? How do you compare WordPress with other content management systems? Suppose there is no WordPress, what would be your second choice?
I think I first had a play with WordPress about 2007 or 2008. I began a blog but it wasn’t very long-lived. I started looking into themes and how to customise them, but it was before the days of child themes so it was quite tricky to do.
In 2009, I was involved in the redesign of a website for a local charity, which was built on WordPress. Though I didn’t have a hand in the development, I became the webmaster for 5 years, so got some hands-on experience running a WordPress site.
I built a site for a friend using Joomla, but I didn’t much care for it as a CMS. The user interface was horrible, with too many dropdown menus!
I really don’t know what I’d do without WordPress – it seems too hard to contemplate! I can’t imagine liking another CMS as much.
3. WordPress 4.9 was launched in November 2017. Which feature do you prefer the most in the WordPress latest version? And what new features would you like to see in upcoming versions of WordPress?
Probably the changes to the Additional CSS section in offering code hinting and warnings of syntax errors. In fact, I’ve just checked and it’s picked up an error I didn’t spot before.
We have Gutenberg coming in WordPress 5.0 – that’s a major change that will take some getting used to. I’ve been following the accessibility of the Gutenberg editor and it seems that the developers have made improvements to it, though it still might be harder to use for some disabled users than what we currently have.
I’d like to see accessibility embraced more in WordPress in the future. While it’s been agreed that WordPress core features should meet the WCAG 2.0 AA standard, there are still far too few accessibility-ready themes for download, and there’s no standard for plugin accessibility.
4. In your opinion, what is the biggest mistake that a WordPress beginner can make while working on WordPress?
Thinking that because WordPress is free, setting up a site should be free or very cheap. There’s always a cost in time if nothing else.
It takes WordPress pros months or years to learn what they have learned. When you employ a professional, you’re paying for their knowledge and experience as well as their technical skill.
If you want to do it all yourself, that’s fine, but be prepared to make the time investment.
5. With the increasing popularity, WordPress has become an attractive target for hackers. What would you suggest to secure a WordPress site?
I actually did have my site hacked a while back, so I can speak from bitter experience!
The things that spring to mind are:
- Configure Google Search Console for your site. This doesn’t provide security as such, but will alert you to a hack.
- Use Two Factor Authentication on your sites.
- Configure security plugins as appropriate – I’ve used iThemes Security, Sucuri Security and Wordfence, but not all together.
6. Claire, you were at WordCamp Edinburgh in July as a speaker. Can you tell us how WordCamp helps the WordPress community? How does speaking at WordCamp influence your career?
I love WordCamps. They are a great place for sharing knowledge and networking among the WordPress community.
I was lucky enough to attend a workshop with Mike Little, co-founder of WordPress, at my first WordCamp.
I also met people like Graham Armfield, Heather Burns and Rachel McCollin, who have since become friends and colleagues.
WordCamps are helpful for building up confidence with speaking and presenting your ideas. I got a lot of help with putting together a talk for WordCamp London from Tammie Lister.
7. Aside from designing and WordPress, you have vast experience in blogging and SEO. What would you suggest to WordPress bloggers and business owners on how to market their products?
Well, I don’t know about “vast experience” in SEO! There’s still a lot I need to learn. I’ve been blogging about 4 years and I’ve ranked blog posts on page 1, but I’ve not mastered SEO by any means.
I do believe in the power of content marketing and I’m part of the Content Marketing Academy community. I think writing a blog is one of the best ways to market yourself and build reputation and trust. I’m now writing for WPMU Dev, and that wouldn’t have come about if I hadn’t been blogging regularly.
Being consistent in blogging and answering your audience’s questions is the key, I think.
8. Have you ever faced the problem of website migration? If so, how did you manage to resolve it: by converting the website data manually or via an automated tool? And what do you think about the possibility to migrate a website automatically?
For moving WordPress from one server to another I’ve done it the manual way, moving the files and database, and also used tools like Backup Buddy.
I’ve had to move content out of other CMSs a couple of times. I ended up doing a copy/paste job on each.
I like the idea of automated tools to move sites but I assume it depends on getting admin access to the existing website’s CMS, which is not always possible.
9. Just put everything aside for a while and talk about your personal life. What do you do during your free time?
Mainly watching TV, cinema and going to the theatre when I can. I’m a huge sci-fi and fantasy geek so I’ll watch anything like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones or Marvel. I’ve just got into watching Stranger Things on Netflix and love the 80s nostalgia. ☺
I like to get out to walk to de-stress, but not so much in the Scottish winter!
10. Lastly, just to acknowledge our readers, can you please send us an image of your workspace?