At aisite we love to get the inside view from developers working with WordPress. Today, we’re going to learn more about Thierry Muller, the Founder of Beans WordPress Theme Framework, an avid extreme sports fan, a windsurfer who’s passionate about Web Engineering, loves MTB, and lives in beautiful Cape Town. Thierry has got an extensive knowledge of WordPress, and is a go-to expert for developing themes for big WordPress sites.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.
Thanks for joining us today, Thierry. Please, tell us a bit more about your background, how long have you been working with WordPress and about your current ventures.
Thanks for having me today. I am a 100% self-taught developer and I have been working with WordPress since 2009. In 2010, I co-founded a company building extensions for a very popular drag and drop theme. A few years later, I was looking for new challenges and was selected to be part of the WordPress experts at Codeable. I recently joined the dev team at Elegant Themes (WordPress Themes and Plugins provider) and I am currently working on Divi 2.8 “Developer Update” release. I am also the founder of Beans Theme Framework launched in August last year which is already getting lots of love and praises 🙂
When was the first time that you really got excited about WordPress and at what point did you decide to make it your career?
It was back in my Joomla! days in 2009. I installed WordPress for Joomla! (yes it truly exists) while working on a Travel Agency website and I was amazed as to how cool and extendable WordPress is. After digging further into the code, I was simply blown away by the core API available for developers as well as the community behind it and the great documentation. I saw an opportunity to build free and premium products and my dream was to make it my career since then. There is no substitute to hard work and I am very grateful to have achieved my initial goal and have many more, all involving WordPress in some ways. WordPress just ticked all the boxes for me.
Where do you go first to get WordPress news, insights, and updates?
Even though it might sound surprising, my number one source of information is from the various WordPress Slack groups. The “Make WordPress” slack group pretty much covers everything happening in the core while other user groups share news, products, meetups and other things happening around WordPress. I am lucky to be part of a fantastic WordPress community here in Cape Town where companies such as WooThemes (now part of Automattic) and Obox were born. They organize and sponsor many events throughout the year which brings the WordPress community together.
What performance tips would you give to beginners (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?
While themes and plugins are one of WordPress biggest strength, they can also be the user’s biggest enemies. My very best advice would be to choose themes and plugins wisely by asking experts, reading reviews (written by experts) and not only go for popular, feature rich and good looking products. If you can’t find answers, don’t be shy to drop the folks an e-mail and ask how much they care about performances, security and all the other concerns you may have. If your WordPress website has 50 plugins installed and looks like a Christmas Tree, it is definitely not a good sign.
Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?
After two years of development, my business partner at that time and I launched a line of business offering WordPress Themes and Plugins, which I believe were amazing products. With the market being extremely congested, it unfortunately didn’t take off as expected and we had to review our strategy.
So what does Getbeans.io do? What do you think helps your solution stand out from other theme frameworks in the field?
Beans fills up a gap in the market. It is a well coded, open source, responsive, fast, zero bloat, extremely powerful, lightweight and free theme framework. The powerful Beans API combined with UIkit allows developers to build from simple blogs to very complex websites without compromising on performances or using third party plugins. Some might look at Beans and not see what is so special about it, but those who truly look into it definitely find the magic under the hood. Therefore, we noticed that Beans mostly attracted developers who fell in love with its API. Many great advanced websites were built (see links at the bottom) and third party developers are starting to offer child themes and plugins for Beans which we expect to see a lot more of in the near future. Since we started offering very simple free child themes on Beans websites, we saw more and more day to day users joining the community and enjoying Beans. Based on these analysis and what the users request, the goals for 2016 are to grow the community, partly by adding a forum, and offer more child themes and plugins on the “market place” so that less advanced users can also benefit from Beans. Performance truly matters and we want people to have access to top quality tools whether they are professional agencies or beginners. With the community growing and more child themes and extensions coming in 2016, beginners and professionals will have access to quality products and will be able to publish professional websites, for free.
What’s the coolest project you’ve ever worked on with WordPress?
I worked on numerous really cool projects (using REST API’s etc.) but I would say Beans is really the coolest 🙂
What do you think is the biggest challenge for theme frameworks to face in 2016?
There are so many but let’s pick the first one that comes to my mind which I think everybody can relate to. We live in a world in which technologies are advancing incredibly fast. While developing themes and plugins has always been challenging, I feel that there is so much more to Web Development since mobile devices came along. One of the biggest challenge I see in the future is to offer a framework which can adapt to new technologies without breaking the user’s existing websites. Whether it is a free or premium product, people expect frameworks to be working on all devices and frequently updated using the latest technologies. WordPress itself does an outstanding job when it comes to updates stability and backwards compatibility and when users hit the “update” button, they want to get all the great new improvements without seeing their website falling apart. I believe the only way to achieve this is to think 10 steps ahead and engineer the framework with anticipation, adaptation and flexibility in mind.
If you could change one thing about WordPress today, what would it be?
Make the capital “P” of WordPress as small letter (some people will get that joke) 🙂 I would change the way sidebars and widgets are handled (see why in question 10).
What new features would you like to see in upcoming versions of WordPress?
The ability to assigning sidebars and widgets on a per page/post basis. The way WordPress currently handles it isn’t flexible enough and we often see themes and plugins registering a ridiculous amount of widget areas (sidebars) to try and solve this issue which is definitely not the best way to deal with it.
If you were interviewing a WordPress developer for a job, what question would you ask first and why?
“Tell me your 3 favorite WordPress Core API and explain how you have used it in the past.”
Have you ever faced the problem of website migration? If so, how did you manage to resolve it: by converting your website data manually or via an automated tool?
I usually do stuff in house, so I am going to reply “manually” or by building my own script but I have used many great migration tools which perfectly do the job for most cases.
Tell us a bit about your working setup (hardware + software). Can you shoot us a picture of your desk?
iMac 27″ 5K Retina, Sublime Text (customized theme), Mamp Pro, OS X core Terminal, Sketch, my good old Sparrow and Slack are my everyday tools. When I am out of the office, I work on my MacBook Air 13″ which very often reminds me how privileged I am to have the 27″ back at the office
Finally, have we missed anything? Here’s your chance to fill in the blanks and add something you want people to know about you!
I am truly passionate about WordPress and the Web so I could speak for hours whether it is about hardcore development or the various premium market places. I would be happy to share my opinion and experience but we will have to keep that for another day 🙂 Thank you very much for interviewing me today, Julia.—– Some websites built with Beans:
Thanks Thierry and good luck with Beans! :)We truly love your works and words.
If you guys, likewise Thierry, want to be amazed as to how cool and extendible WordPress is, make sure to test your website on this CMS.