“WordPress Will Change Your Life If You Let It” – Interview with Alex Vasquez

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It’s been a week since we had an interview here on aisite.com, and we’re back with a bang!

Our guest today is none other than Alex Vasquez, the founder of super popular digital creative agency, Digi Savvy. We think this is a very interesting read for you guys, we certainly enjoyed it ourselves.

WordPress developer for 8 years, based in Los Angeles; community leader. He helps the Education Enterprise save money using Open Source Technologies. He’s also a Content Strategy and Marketing Fella that can get eyes and ears to pay attention to your stuff, but can’t resist a hendricks… Oh, and he’s got some nice hair.

That’s Alex. Now, let’s see how can he help. 😉

“WordPress will change your life if you let it, it’s certainly changed mine.”

Thanks for joining us today, Alex. Would you mind telling us a bit more about your background? How long have you been working with WordPress? What are your current ventures?

We are a digital marketing company in Los Angeles; we focus on WordPress Web Development as well as digital media content strategy and paid search campaign management.

When was the first time that you really got excited about WordPress and at what point did you decide to make it your career? 

I had been freelancing and building sites with Joomla! at the time. I didn’t like it much and my clients using the sites built in Joomla! liked it even less!! I started looking for other solutions. WordPress had come to mind, but it seemed like just a blogging tool at that point; but it was simple enough to use and powerful, more importantly, it was easy to theme for. I did a project for myself to get familiar and then started building sites with it. I was hooked!

Where do you go first to get WP news, insights, and updates?

I tend to be connected to everything. But typically ManageWP.org has a great selection of curated content; also, the Advanced WordPress Facebook group is another excellent resource for discussion on what’s new with WP. Also, I have a Feedly channel of some of my favorite sites that aggregate news stories from.

What performance tips would you give to beginners (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?

It’s great to have a good backup. You know what’s better? A good restore!! Test your restores, people! For performance and scalability, work with themes that are presentation driven and free of too many distractions and features. Themes that have feature bloat are often themes with functionality (such as custom post types and other custom functionality) that are not easily portable when updating the site’s theme further down the road. Also, a clean theme is something that will lend itself to scaling over time. WordPress.org has many wonderful and nice-looking themes that are scrutinized for quality and best practices implementation. Themeforest is supposed to be getting better at that, but I tend to advise people NOT to look at ThemeForest at first and if they absolutely must, make sure they have an expert dev nearby that can vet the quality of the theme they wish to use.

Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?

You know that thing about backups? Yeah, you have to be able to restore them, too. I had a site on a dev server that crashed and we couldn’t recover the database; the most recent copy was about two weeks old, the client had to go back and re-enter a lot of data and content. They were… less than enthused about the situation.

If you were going to spend this weekend creating a plugin that doesn’t exist, what would it be?

I would create a plugin that would scour your contact’s calendar availability and ping them to see if they want to meetup for coffee. We should always make time for coffee with new friends and old.

What’s your favorite theme or framework? Why? 

I used to rely heavily on Frameworks (Genesis) but learned that it wasn’t necessary and didn’t really save me the time I thought they did. I recommend everyone build their own starter theme and work with it, rather than a framework. That said. The Hybrid framework is great because that’s just what it is, a Framework that adds functionality without forcing an opinion on the look and feel of your site. That’s a good framework to me. I have a theme called Some Like it Neat, which is my personal starter theme I use on all our projects, it uses Bourbon, Neat and Browser Sync, it’s built from _s. That said, Underscores is my favorite theme.

Favorite and least favorite plugins?

Oooh. Well, I LOVE WP DB Migrate pro! Such a time saver! Easy Digital Downloads is another favorite. I also like Content Aware Sidebars. Also, I know I may catch flack for this, but the Beaver Builder Page Builder is also really cool. Love their implementation.

Tell us about your web development business, the digital creative agency Digi Savvy and where WordPress comes into the picture.

I think people just want answers to their questions. “How do we get from A to B and how do we accomplish these goals?” In many ways, because it’s so versatile, WordPress is a good answer, if not always the right one. It’s empowered us to provide solid and robust solutions to businesses and education of varying sizes.

What’s the coolest project you’ve ever worked on with Digi Savvy?

There’s one that comes to mind. It was a multi-site build out. We migrated a customer from a flat file CMS, ModX and put it on a WordPress multisite install with 70+ sub-sites. It took about a year to work things out, but it worked out super well.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for WP creative agencies to face in 2016?

The field is more competitive. Web hosting companies and their site builders, other companies and their site builders (Weebly, SquareSpace) are forcing a change in the industry. It’s harder to find the brochureware type site reqs that used to be the norm. Now, people expect their sites to do more and to be more. I think agencies are adapting to those demands.

If you could change one thing about WordPress today, what would it be?

I’d like to see WP and the community at large burst this bubble that we seem to live within. We are great at getting together and including those who come into the community, but man, not a great many folks go out into other tech communities to see what’s going on elsewhere. I’d like to see this attitude of outreach be fostered within the community and I think that comes from the various leaders within the community, whether their name is Matt Mullenweg or not.

Where do you see WordPress going in the next 2-3 years?

That’s a hard one to peg. WCUS just happened and the project is plotting a course that I agree with; it’s going to in the direction of JS/API-driven development, which will keep it competitive for at least another decade (I hope).

What’s the biggest misconception you have met about WordPress, and how do you clear it up for your clients?

The one I hear most often is that “All WordPress sites look the same.” It’s not true. A talented design and dev can do pretty much anything you can imagine and I try to communicate that show many other examples that don’t look like a WordPress site.

If you were interviewing another WordPress developer for a job, what question would you ask first and why?

“Are you coachable?” I think that’s probably the single most important thing. To be able to take direction and thoughtfully consider feedback is a big deal.

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

With the multi-site migration, we did it manually since no tools really existed for a ModX to WP migration. We output each database schema and then did one to one table matching of all the things we wanted to transfer, in some cases we made custom tables in the WP database. That part alone took us about two months to get right. The templating had to be completely redone from scratch.

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 don’t really like to go on about myself, but I’ll take this moment and force myself to anyway! The WP community is what you make of it, you get the most out of it when you participate and give back. I’ve always believed that. Also, successful communities are those that are inclusive; we all have different backgrounds and we must encourage one another to participate. Even if you don’t speak the language, or if someone has an ability that keeps them from participating in a ways we are accustom to, we must find ways to include these voices. WordPress will change your life if you let it, it’s certainly changed mine.

Thanks Alex and good luck with Digi Savy! Do you have any comments on what Alex has shared with us? Let us know in the comments section below.

If you, likewise Alex, think that “WordPress is a good answer, if not always the right one”, make sure to test your website on this CMS.

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