Notes for March 9, 2018

A review of HappyForms for simple, custom lead management

The Theme Foundry advertises HappyForms as “the simplest way for you to manage and respond to conversations with leads.” Conventionally, in functionally specific, developer-centric language we’d call it a custom form builder. Unconventionally, HappyForms talks about effective spam prevention, reliable message delivery, and lead-generation tools.

It’s a commentary on the state of design in the WordPress plugin ecosystem that HappyForms is unusual for focusing on the end user’s actual goals and making those goals really easy to achieve in a familiar, intuitive way.

At about 2 Mb uncompressed, HappyForms is unique as a lightweight in its category too — twice as small as WP Forms, and more than ten times smaller than the Ninja Forms base plugin.

Despite that leanness, there are a lot of field type options: validated URLs, email, and phone fields; multiple choice checkboxes, single choice radio buttons, short and long text boxes, dates (with a date picker), ratings, and dropdown selection lists, including a pre-populated list of countries.

HappyForms may have the simplest (and most familiar) interface for designing forms by using WordPress’s Theme Customizer to walk you through the creation of responsive, visually attractive forms. The styling options are quite extensive, but most can be ignored in preference to the default settings. Transactional emails, feedback that appears in the page on submission, redirects, and anti-spam features are set up last. You have the option to receive submissions by email, store them in the database, or both.

Using the Customizer interface really does succeed at making documentation unnecessary, which Team Lead Scott Rollo says is a key design goal in everything The Theme Foundry creates. A user who is fairly new to WordPress will find it quite simple to set up a form, especially if they’ve encountered the Customizer before.

Unsurprising for a 1.0 release, there are a few bugs at this point in time, but the next release and a lot of new features are on the way. HappyForms has a strong, original concept guiding its unconventional convention-following architecture, so I expect it will be refined and imitated. Using native interface elements in a new context makes them familiar and intuitively accessible there, at once decreasing the plugin’s footprint and the user’s cognitive burden.

Notes for July 6, 2017

Gone, but not lost

Jesse Petersen died yesterday, July 5th. He was a valued member of the WordPress community, but more importantly, he was a man who loved his family, was comforted by the faithfulness of his God, and who lived every day looking forward.

None of us know when it is our time to go. But Jesse knew his chances of making it to an old age were slim. He had cystic fibrosis — a devastating genetic disease that affects the lungs in a drastic way. There is no cure. However, research has enabled incredible improvements in therapy and treatments that have enabled CF patients today to live decades longer on average than they could just a generation ago.

Jesse understood the fragility of his own body, but he didn’t allow his lungs to limit his life. He was an entrepreneur to the end, working to provide for his family, which included two adopted children, with his wife, Kristin.

He was a passionate member of the WordPress community, and the Genesis community specifically. He taught WordPress, spoke at events, and consistently shared what he was learning. He never stopped learning. Jesse was a valued member of this Post Status community as well, for which I’m thankful.

Like many of you, I knew Jesse through this family that we call the WordPress community. With some prior knowledge of CF and the burdens it puts on its victims, I have always been so impressed by Jesse’s steadfastness and relentless desire to carry on.

Just a few days before his death, Jesse shared his thankfulness for the life he was able to live:

While waiting to go outside, a mom I’d seen pushing a small boy in a wheelchair with a surgical mask and oxygen on him came over to me.

“I just wanted to say how cool I think your double tank cart is. I’m going to call my supplier tomorrow to get one for our wheelchair.”

We started talking (most unlike me) and she said her son needed a heart and a double lung transplant… but they’ve been turned down everywhere, starting with the very forgiving Pittsburgh center.

“I’m so sorry.”

[nodded her head with a pained look] “We’re just making the most of our time now.”

My heart broke. I’ve already lived 7 of his lifetimes. I’ve played sports, graduated from college, stood on the equator, married my best friend, and have two healthy boys.

So kick me the next time I complain about my wait, OK?

Reflecting further on this encounter, Jesse challenged us: “Can you look over your life and say you’d be leaving those connected to you better off having known you? If not, start today.”

Be comforted, Jesse, because you have left us better off for having known you.

The WordPress community has generously given to help Jesse’s family pay for funeral expenses and support. I love this community.

You can learn more about CF from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In concert with clinics, hospitals, and research facilities around the world, CF patients are increasingly able to live longer and fuller lives, like Jesse.

Notes for May 12, 2017

Publish tickets, initial speakers, sponsors

I’m super excited to finally be able to say that tickets for Publish 2017 are available. The event, as many of you already know, is in Atlanta, on August 3rd and 4th. That’s a Thursday and Friday.

Go straight to the ticket purchase area if you want to skip the pitch.

It’s being held at a place called The Garage, which is in Tech Square, in Midtown Atlanta (Google Maps). Here’s the inside:

It’s a laid back venue that acts as an incubator of sorts when not doing events. Those are garage doors on the side, hence the name.

Our after party is upstairs, on the rooftop, where we’ll have dinner and social activities, with an amazing view of Atlanta.

The event will feel like a mix between a meetup and a conference. Like last time, we’ll have a mix of talks, interviews, and conversation-format content. We’ll also make plenty of time for networking and social stuff built right in.

I’ve posted our initial sponsors and speakers; more of each are on the way.

Thanks to initial partners

Sponsors cover a huge percentage of an event’s costs, and I want to thank our first sponsors who quickly jumped on board for Publish.

Let’s start with a big thank you to our Platinum Partner this year, Liquid Web. Liquid Web is making a huge push into the Managed WordPress market right now, and I’m excited to give them a venue to introduce themselves to Publish attendees. Many of you have likely known Liquid Web for their quality managed servers and “Heroic Support” for a long time, but now they’re getting into managed WordPress in a big way.

Pantheon is a Gold Partner for Publish this year. Their platform is one of the most advanced implementations in the WordPress space, with development and staging environments built in. I’m thrilled to have them on board.

And SiteGround is back as a second-time Gold Partner for Publish. I’m so appreciative of their support, and they have long been a reliable and high-quality hosting partner of mine (I’ve been their customer for more than 5 years now!) and they are always so supportive of the WordPress ecosystem.

My friends at Prospress are a Silver Partner for Publish. Prospress makes WooCommerce Subscriptions, and their next product is going to be incredible; Brent was telling me about it a couple week ago, and I bet I’ll be able to share it with you soon. I rely a great deal on Prospress’s Subscriptions product and I’m so happy they are partnering for Publish.

If you and your organization want to sponsor Post Status, there are spots available at the Gold (1 more), Silver (7 more), and Community levels. Get in touch!

Our speakers!

I have spent weeks trying to put together a high-quality, diverse group of speakers for Publish. I’m not done! Expect more speaker announcements in the coming weeks. But I’m very happy with our speakers secured thus far. Allow me to introduce them!

Joshua Benton is the director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. They are one of my go-to sources for Post Status, and he’s at the intersection of media and technology. It’s hard to say how pumped I was when he said he could  come.

Naomi Bush is the creator of Gravity+, an extension ecosystem for Gravity Forms. She’s built a successful business creating extensions for the popular form builder, and she’s an Atlanta native to boot! It’ll be fascinating to hear more of her story.

Andrew Youderian is the founder of eCommerce Fuel — an exceptional community for eCommerce store owners — and he’s owned several eCommerce businesses himself. He’s sold two of them, and I’m super pumped to learn from him.

Rebekah Monson is building what I like to call the SB Nation for local news. is creating a new model for local news — currently in Miami and Seattle — with several more locations on the docket. And WordPress is at the center of their technology stack.

Gabe Mays is the head of WordPress at GoDaddy. GoDaddy is at the center of many of the biggest moves in WordPress-land, and Gabe has inside knowledge on all of it.

Rachel Baker is the Lead Engineer at WireCutter, not to mention her role as a core committer and co-lead of the WordPress REST API. She has so much she can share, it’s been hard to pick the perfect angle!

Bill Erickson is often who I think of when I try and think who has truly succeeded as a small business in the service model. Every time I talk to Bill, I learn something that changes how I think about my own business and strategies.

Beka Rice seems to do a little bit of everything at SkyVerge, where they craft products for both WooCommerce and Shopify. She has extensive product and management knowledge and she’s going to share that with us.

Andrew Nacin is a Lead Developer for the WordPress project, and he’s spent the last 851 days working for the United States Digital Service. I’ve been waiting on this interview for a long time, and I can already tell you it’ll be fun, not to mention informative.

Chris Lema needs little introduction; he’s probably a mentor to half of you, like he is to me. He brings decades of product and service knowledge to the table, and these days he’s applying that to Liquid Web as well. At Publish, he’ll offer us a dose.

You can click each presenter’s link for their full profile, websites, etc. You have probably not heard of everyone, and that’s great! I’m really trying to craft a new and unique event with our lineup.

Some of our presenters will be presenting together, others will be standalone. And we’ll have more announcements  to come. I just wanted to offer a taste so that you can get an idea for what to expect.

Where to stay and when to travel

I’ll have a hotel block for a $199 rate at The Georgia Tech Hotel, if nothing changes. I just don’t quite have it on the books yet. I may also secure one for The Renaissance Midtown, also walking distance, for Marriott loyalists.

If you can find a better rate at a nearby hotel or AirBnB, go for it! But this one is right next to our venue, and walkability in Atlanta is nice to have.

There will be full days of activity on Thursday and Friday. I’d recommend staying Wednesday through Saturday. There will also be speaker/sponsor stuff, and likely a pre-party on Wednesday, and perhaps a social out-and-about event on Saturday. But I think you’ll be well served to be there the full days on Thursday and Friday.

For flyers, Atlanta is a Delta hub. Ticket prices I’ve checked are really reasonable right now, so it’s probably a good time to book flights. Other major airlines all fly to Atlanta as well. It’s a busy airport, so you’ll want to plan accordingly, especially when leaving Atlanta.

There’s also a public transport (Marta) line that has a stop really close to the hotels, for folks that don’t want to Lyft. I’ve tried to make everything we do accessible, and you should expect minimal need to travel once you’re there.

Ticket prices now and later

Tickets for members are $349. I’m promoting tickets for non-members as inclusive with a membership for $449.

Be sure to log in for member pricing! You should see a bright blue box on your My Account page saying you’re a member; if not, please email so we can resolve it.

Prices for both will go up after a limited time, so if you want to come, and you want your friends who aren’t members to come, buy sooner than later.

I can’t tell you how helpful it is for people to buy tickets early. It gets really stressful trying to plan an event when you have to hedge for attendance. A third party event is not like a WordCamp with the backing of the foundation, so if you are coming, I’d really, really appreciate if you make the decision as soon as possible.

Get the word out?

One of the toughest things to do with any event is to get the word out. If you could share this event with your friends and social circles, it will mean a great deal to me.

I am organizing this in the hopes that it will add a highly valuable opportunity to network and learn for the Post Status and WordPress community. I wish for it to be laid back, but educational; a real opportunity to bring people together in a collaborative and friendly environment. I hope you can make it.

Get your tickets!

Notes for March 20, 2017

Meet me for Publish, in Atlanta, in early August 🔥

I’ve paid the deposit for our venue for Publish in Atlanta, August 3rd and 4th.

If you liked the first first Publish, I think you’ll love this one. It’s standalone, in a great venue, in an accessible city, and I’m already planning a really one-of-a-kind conference experience. Here’s the view from the top of the venue, where we’ll have the after party.

The goal for Publish will be to set our sights high, and learn from folks both inside and outside of the WordPress landscape — to better inform us to be good business people, developers, and makers of the web.

This is an event for publishers. I consider anyone who has a role in making the web a publisher. It’s why I made dumb shirts that say, “I make the Internet.” We all have a role in crafting this wild, messy, beautiful landscape. And Publish will embody that, fully.

Atlanta is a Delta Airlines hub, and should be as affordable to fly to as anywhere in the United States. It’s also near my own home, and since my wife will be 8 months pregnant, that is important to me. It will be hot. But I’ll teach you how to fully embrace the southern heat.

The venue is called The Garage in Atlanta’s Tech Square, and it’s exactly what I was seeking in a venue that’s uniquely suited for a Post Status get-together. Don’t worry, there are plugs everywhere, and the wifi is ready for you. The part of town the conference is in is right next to Georgia Tech, and walkable to all the attractions you need — and it’s right next to a subway (Marta) stop for direct 20-minute airport access.

I’m super excited about what’s possible with a standalone event — especially one spread out over two days (and a couple of fun things the day before and after for folks who are around). I hope you’ll consider attending.

You don’t have to do anything yet to stay in the know. I’ll certainly be emailing members plenty of information. For now, I hope you will save the date.

The best way to stay up to date about Publish announcements is to be a member. But if you aren’t a member and want to stay up to date, subscribe to the free version of the newsletter.

And finally, if you want a shortcut to get to the event page, just head over to, which currently redirects to the old Publish page (updated for Atlanta’s event), but I’ll soon turn into a more full-featured event site.

Notes for December 13, 2016

Automattic, Calypso, and the WordPress project

I think bringing Automattic resources into core WordPress development to put a huge effort into improving the WordPress editing experience is a good thing.

An email went out last week to the authors of all plugins with more than one million active installs. The emails were sent from Andy Peatling — a manager at Automattic, in charge of Calypso — to the email address plugin authors provide to In the emails, Andy invited plugin authors to participate in the Calypso effort to enable plugins to be “plugin aware” as Matt Mullenweg cited in the State of the Word. The invite said, in part, the following:

We’d love for someone with your plugin installed on their WordPress
site to have a menu and interface for it, right in Calypso. That’s why
we’d like to invite you to be one of the first participants in our
experiment to support third-party extensions in Calypso.

As readers likely know, Calypso is the powered interface that Automattic first released late last year. It now powers the main editing experience, and has a desktop app wrapper. Matt has identified it as the type of interface that could be the future of the main WordPress project as well.


Matt clearly believes in Calypso as a superior user experience. He said as much in the interview I did with him: “If you look at the speed and user experience of what’s possible in Calypso versus what’s possible in WP admin, yeah, it’s a hundred times better.” He also sees the issues of the editor and the customizer as issues for both platforms, and that, “if we solve them for one, we solve them for the other.”

He believes the most effective way to see changes in WordPress (which Automattic can take advantage of) is to make them in WordPress itself, then to port them to Calypso.

That’s why I want it to be core first as well, because, to be honest, Calypso gives you so much stuff for free, it’s a really great environment to develop in. … If we built it there first [Calypso], it would probably take an equal amount of time after that — if it took a year to do, it’d take another year to get into core — versus going the other direction, if it took a year to get into core, it’d probably come into Calypso in a few weeks.

And he’s bringing as many as, “fifteen two twenty people, easily,” to WordPress core development as part of the new development cycle he’s leading. Ideas, user experience testing, and other elements will come with that team from Automattic to WordPress, but I highly doubt there will be a real effort to directly swap the interface with Calypso’s.

Calypso is a single page application written in JavaScript (via React), and has a Node.js layer to run. While it’s an impressive and ambitious project, it’s highly unlikely to be a direct port to WordPress itself, though some people seemed to think that was the direction we’re heading after hearing Matt’s State of the Word. For one, running Calypso requires a specialized server environment that would be antithetical to WordPress’s longstanding commitment to run virtually anywhere.

Bringing ideas and learning from Calypso is not a bad thing. Far from it! It’s the way the best work happens in the WordPress landscape. A famous example is how a WooThemes plugin inspired what eventually became menu management in WordPress. Prior to that, menus in WordPress were a nightmare of inflexibility.

It is right, and good, for companies to bring their best open source ideas back to the platform. If Automattic were not the author of Calypso, people would not be wearing tin foil hats, and would welcome the contributions with open arms. In the case of Automattic, there is certainly more skepticism.

Some of that skepticism is warranted. There is not always a clear delineation between what’s good for self hosted WordPress sites and .com sites in Matt’s view. He’s often stated that what is good for one is good for the other. Actual use cases of each platform show otherwise, I believe.

But a simpler, faster interface is certainly good for both platforms — as long as power is maintained for developers. Matt cited this exact sentiment in the State of the Word, as shown in his slides.


So in this case, I think the goals align quite well.

The fates of Automattic’s biggest product and WordPress itself are fairly closely aligned, whether we like it or not. The current state of editing and managing WordPress websites is not great. Mostly, I believe it’s an issue of speed, but it’s also a problem with user experience — especially for new users.

WordPress has been so widely adopted largely because of how easy it has historically been to get started publishing content and manipulating the software, relative to the competition. Well, the competition is moving the goal posts all the time. If we aren’t adapting to the new location of the goal posts, we’ll get left behind. All of us.

I certainly disagree with the blurring of the lines between Automattic and WordPress. It drives me crazy every time I see a press item say Automattic is the parent company of WordPress; it’s why I made this. And I think Automattic, while not directly encouraging the ambiguity, doesn’t go out of their way to prevent it.

And Automattic definitely has a “special” set of rules and allowances. Just consider the email I began this post with. What other commercial entity would be given communication access to plugin authors? None. That’s just part of the deal with (the website) and Automattic. They are both Matt’s babies.

To list our plugins and themes on is to play by Matt’s rules, because he owns the website and can do what he wants. Sometimes playing by those rules stinks — like using .org data but not sharing it widely, or the hosting recommendations ambiguity, or myriad other issues that get under a lot of other folks skin. In other situations, such as benefiting from thousands of hours of Automattic’s work to create a better editing experience, it’s not so bad.

The key to a successful relationship between Automattic and the WordPress community is to understand the relationship itself, and to identify areas where both truly do benefit one another. Creating a simpler, faster, better editing environment is certainly an area I think we can all agree on. I welcome the resources Automattic can bring to that effort.

Notes for November 1, 2016

Publish presentation announcements

I’m really excited to finally announce the Post Status Publish presenters. There are twelve awesome folks (plus me) ready to share their knowledge with you.


I have already said that I wanted to make Publish feel like the hallway track, and I think you’ll see that in this format.

First off, only one or two sessions will have slides at all. For the most part, this event is about focusing on the content and what is being shared and discussed. In fact, folks shouldn’t need to bring more than their phone or a notebook to this event.

All in all we have two interviews, two conversations, two case studies, two talks, and one live podcast.

The format for the day will go like this:

Joshua Strebel will interview Steve Lee

Josh co-founded Pagely, and Steve is an managing director at the investment bank, Bank Street, with a focus on companies that offer cloud computing, hosting, managed services, data centers and software-as-a-service. Josh is going to ask Steve all about the hosting business, the process of selling a business, what it’s like, and what business owners should be thinking about.

Tina Kesova will talk marketing

Tina has been at the center of SiteGround’s rise within the WordPress community. She’s going to talk about marketing strategy and how they’ve penetrated the WordPress market — especially regarding the steps beyond initial exposure through event sponsorships.

Bryce Adams on building a SaaS

I’ve already raved about Metorik, even though it’s not out yet. Bryce will offer his insights on what’s it’s been like to build a SaaS for WooCommerce metrics utilizing the WordPress APIs and webhooks, and will share what he’s learned so far in the process.

Keynote interview with Christina Warren

Christina has been at the forefront of technology and startups for nearly a decade. She wrote at Mashable for eight years and recently became a senior writer at Gizmodo. She’s always kept up to date on the WordPress world and has unique insights on how WordPress fits into the tech and startup landscape.

Helen Hou-Sandí and Gary Pendergast talk core WordPress

Helen and Gary will be talking about the WordPress core development process. This talk could go all sorts of directions so sit back and be ready, but it’s not your average “how core works” discussion.

Chris Lema on product market fit

You’ve probably heard Chris speak to a general audience, but you haven’t heard him like this. He knows this crowd is full of professionals, and he’s got something special just for you. WordPress’s best storyteller is going to help you find product market fit.

Paul Sieminski on WordPress and the law

Do you think  there’s anything Paul will have to talk about? Hmmm…. probably. Paul is General Counsel at Automattic, and he’s going to talk to Publish attendees about WordPress and the law and how everything fits together. This will be must-see for business owners and developers alike.

Tom Willmot and Scott Basgaard on running an agency

Tom and Scott once worked together, but today they both run WordPress-centric web agencies. Tom runs Human Made and Scott runs The Look & Feel. We’ll listen in while they discussing the challenges running a small versus a large agency, and how they handle them.

Joe Hoyle and I do a live podcast

To close out the day, Joe and I will be doing a live podcast during the reception. We’ll discuss the state of WordPress and who knows what else!

I hope that you’re as pumped about this schedule as I am! If you want to go to Publish, don’t wait to buy your ticket. Two thirds of available tickets are already gone.

Notes for September 29, 2016

A new life for WP Test

WP Test is a micro-site previously run by Michael Novotny, initially with the aim of providing theme unit test data for WordPress sites. It was one of the first efforts of its kind, and is still quite popular. It’s home is, and thankfully that trendy tld is still trendy.

Founded in 2013, WP Test hasn’t had too many updates since 2014. It’s still very useful data that you can download and import to your development site, and use the data to test all the weird content people might throw at your theme. But it needed a new home and some new attention, as Michael isn’t focusing as much on WordPress these days.

I acquired WP Test from Michael last week. Acquired is a strong word. He was ready to hand it over to someone, I was connected to him from my friend Tom McFarlin. I paid him $100 for his time to help me transition the site, plus the re-registration cost of the domain during transfer. So WP Test is now my play-toy and I think it’s a great fit for Post Status.

I have a lot of ideas for updating current test data, and adding many new awesome tests for folks to take advantage of. If you visit you’ll notice a very Post Status-esque orange and blue color scheme that was obviously a priority.

In the months to come, I’ll be updating current theme test data to be up to date. There are several tickets that are good candidates for new data, like showing samples of WordPress’s new oEmbed features, for example.

I also have several broad ideas for tests:

  • More methods to import data, and show them prominently. Currently there’s a standard XML format, and a not-perfect WP CLI option. I want to ensure folks can reliably get test data into their installs.
  • Not just full on unit tests with the “kitchen sink”, but also more catered tests for certain types of websites (business sites, blogs, etc) that help give baseline content for use during the development process, not just for use during the testing process.
  • Plugin specific data: WooCommerce, EDD, Gravity Forms, BuddyPress, etc. It’s a multisite install, and I envision being able to spin up installs that allow me to create demo sites and downloadable data for many prominent plugins. Also, who doesn’t love running loads of complicated plugins on a single Multisite install? 🙂
  • Beyond “theme” unit tests. It’s called WP Test, not just WP Theme Test. The world is my oyster, and I want to explore other helpful testing tools for public consumption.

Comparing to the “official” theme unit tests

When WP Test came out in 2013, there were already some theme unit tests available, but WP Test went beyond that data, and some of it was in fact ported back to the official tests to make them more thorough.

The official data is pretty .org/.com centric, and for distributed themes only. That’s good, and WP Test will continue to have data for that setup. But the official test data is now somewhat out of date too. Basically, I want to keep pushing their buttons to improve, and I want to explore some options for testing that would be more difficult for them in an official capacity (see testing ideas for thirty party tools above).

A lot of developers — distributed theme developers and otherwise — use WP Test or the official test data when making WordPress-centric software. That test data should be as good and thorough as possible. I want to help that happen, both for default WordPress data and lots of other types.

A bright future

I see a bright future for WP Test and I’m excited to have it under the Post Status umbrella. I am tentatively using the term “Post Status Labs” for this and… future… micro-sites where fun stuff can happen.

Check out, the brand new Post Status Github organization (which only houses the WP Test repo for now, but more is coming), and feel free to ask any questions you have in Slack.

Notes for September 9, 2016

Twenty Seventeen is 🔥

I have not been stunned — in a positive way — about a default WordPress theme design preview since Twenty Twelve. I haven’t had a major beef with any of the other default themes, but I haven’t been really wowed.

  • Twenty Ten was a huge step because it was the first of the series and a break from Kubrick.
  • Twenty Eleven was an interesting (as the first responsive theme) continuation of a style similar to Twenty Ten.
  • Twenty Twelve was the first time WordPress didn’t look like “just a blog” out of the box, and that got me really pumped.
  • Twenty Thirteen and Twenty Fourteen were niche and very opinionated designs, and that was fine, if neither were to my personal design preferences.
  • Twenty Fifteen was a welcome re-simplification of a blog theme.
  • Twenty Sixteen was nice, but not groundbreaking, nor to my tastes again.
  • Twenty Seventeen is the kind of theme I’ve been waiting for.

The high fidelity mockups do it better justice than the announcement post.


The promo image actually doesn’t do it justice either, because you’re left thinking it’s just a regular default them with a new fancy full screen image. The full home page mockup is when you really see what’s new for Twenty Seventeen.


This theme, by default, is for businesses. And that’s a huge deal.

We all know WordPress is a great tool for business websites. But I bet your real life interactions are similar to mine: every time I talk to friends about WordPress, they still think about blogs, or at best other small entities like photography or portfolio sites, unless they are already working with the web in some capacity for their job.

Twenty Seventeen can set a tone from the moment someone installs WordPress, or sees a default WordPress demo, that WordPress is not just capable of doing more, but that it is made for it.

Better theme tools in core

In addition to the design, it looks like 4.7 is shaping up to also be a good release for theme-oriented tools and functionality.

One such example sounds minor, but helps a ton with proper customization of WordPress themes. John Blackbourn highlights on Make Core the introduction of get_theme_file_uri() to work similarly to get_template_part(), in that it allows a hierarchy for child themes to override parent theme assets (JavaScript, CSS, images, etc).

In other words, this enables theme developers to allow granular customizations in child themes, simply by including references to files using this function, which allows a child theme tinkerer to replace the file with their own; it works just like get_template_part().

John’s post also highlights the {$type}_template_hierarchy filter, which will allow people to make arbitrary customizations to the theme hierarchy, enabling much more advanced and granular template changes. One example he used in the description was to define a template hierarchy layer based on term meta definitions for a category.

So let’s say I have term meta on my category edit screen where I can check a box for fancy-layout and the fancy layout has options for various templates. And these options can be completely arbitrary from other definitions in the template hierarchy, which are more strictly tiered based on specificity.

There is near unlimited flexibility for ways to use this to empower website developers to go wild with templates.

Helen notes some specific objectives for Twenty Seventen as well:

  • A better flow for using a static page as your front page.
  • Visible edit icons in the Customizer, replacing the current hidden shift+click method.
  • Expanding custom header images to include video (think: atmospheric video headers!).
  • Dummy content for live previews.

Dummy content for live previews is extremely important to me. It would significantly enhance the theme preview experience, and better yet, it would help set a standard for commercial themes.

I imagine there will be a ton of effort over the next few months to improve theme experiences, and to make Twenty Seventeen happen.

If you look back at that home page mockup, and the other previews, there are several things that stand out, where I’m not sure what a core implementation would look like:

  • Mel called the home page mockup a “Multi page” preview. Does that mean there would be a theme option to show several pages on one? Or could this be implemented as some kind of content blocks in the customizer thing?
  • Pullquotes are in the design. How would these be handled?
  • And what about that map on the contact page?

There are some themes on that have a multi-panel home page, that use a theme options customizer panel, where within that there options for setting a page as a panel on the home page.

Tammie Lister — who works at Automattic — actually made a ticket on Trac just a couple days ago to propose a multi-panel feature through add_theme_support().

There are no guarantees for how the Twenty Seventeen implementation will work, and a lot could change based on what comes up in meetings and experimentation, but and the limitations they face with content types and whatnot, will likely be the primary source of inspiration and guidance.

Keep an eye on Twenty Seventeen. It will be important in its own right as the default WordPress theme, but it could also really change the game for how to structure theme customizations generally.

Notes for August 17, 2016

WordPress 4.7 kickoff and ideas time

Right on the heels of WordPress 4.6 being released, it’s time to start thinking about WordPress 4.7. Helen Hou-Sandí is leading the release, scheduled for shipment on December 6th (those keeping score at home know that’s two days after WordCamp US, so contributor day will be a nice time for a final push).

It was announced in the developer chat today that Aaron Jorbin and Jeff Paul will be deputies for the release — Aaron in an engineering role and Jeff in a project management one.

If you want to have your ideas heard for 4.7, there is a thread asking for them. This has been a trend the last few releases, and while Helen may re-read comments from previous release idea-threads, your best bet is to put your ideas forward again.

There’s a lot that could happen this release, but of course there are no promises. I know Helen is interested in the new user experience, which she talked about a good bit in a recent blog post, and the Twenty Seventeen theme is likely to be released either with this cycle or the next. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see activity with the toolbar experiments feature project. And if I’m being hopeful, maybe we’ll have a renewed push for the REST API endpoints.

There are no guarantees of focus yet, and attention doesn’t guarantee something will ship with 4.7 either. However, if you are passionate about a feature, this is the perfect time to get involved.

Notes for July 18, 2016

ManageWP’s new platform, “Orion”, is now live, includes new pricing

ManageWP has long been a leader in the small group of businesses that want to help you manage your WordPress installs from one place. The six year old service has gone through a long development phase, where they rebuilt everything from scratch. It is now live for all customers, with a “legacy” option for folks that aren’t ready for the switch.

I’ve experimented with ManageWP’s new interface in a couple of sessions, and overall it’s a very impressive app. If you are looking for a central hub to maintain a large number of websites, it is a useful tool. The interface is well designed and the team has done a thorough job building out a highly functional app. Also, the onboarding experience is quite good.


MangeWP is marketing the service as free to start, which is true, but it’s a pretty limited scope of features for the free version (at least compared to all that they offer for the paid version), and pricing for the paid components can be tricky to figure out.

A team of, “nearly thirty people,” it’s evident that ManageWP is gearing this launch first to existing customers, seeking to re-sell the features and new interface to what I presume is a pretty loyal base of customers. It’s hard to change your workflows that you’ve used for a long time, and the carefulness of the launch is evident, from pricing explanations to keeping the legacy format.

Pricing on ManageWP has long been complicated. Previously, three tiered plans (standard, professional, and business) would be discounted based on how many sites were under management. The “standard” plan, which used to start at $1.50 per website, and went to $0.40 per website with 100 sites, is now the free plan. The all-in “business” plan started at $9.00 per website and went down to $2.40 per site for 100 websites.

The new plans are bundle-centric. So instead of getting all pro features, you pay per-feature per-site, or you can buy a bundle for 100 websites. It works out like this (all pricing is monthly):

  • Daily backups: $2 / site or $75 / 100 sites
  • Uptime monitor: $1 / site or $25 / 100 sites
  • SEO tools: $1 / site or $25 / 100 sites
  • White label: $1 / site or $25 / 100 sites
  • Advanced client reports: $1 / site or $25 / 100 sites

So for 100 sites under the old plan, you would pay $240, and it would cost $175 under the new plan. For one site, it would have cost $9 but now costs $6. If you analyze pricing a bit further, it’s more nuanced. The new plans are more expensive in the 5-50 site territory, as well as for when you manage more than 200 sites. Here’s a picture of the new bundle prices, and a graph comparing the top-end plans, old and new:


Number of Sites Old Plan (all features) New Plan (all features)
1 $9.00 $6.00
2 $12.00 $12.00
5 $24.00 $30.00
10 $42.00 $60.00
15 $60.00 $90.00
20 $78.00 $120.00
35 $120.05 $175.00
50 $150.00 $175.00
75 $192.00 $175.00
100 $240.00 $175.00
200 $352.00 $350.00
500 $420.00 $875.00

For ManageWP, I think this is a pretty smart move, if a bit cumbersome for customers to figure out. For folks just managing a few sites, the new plan is cheaper.

And while there is a significant range of customers that may pay more, that’s only if they use every feature. The bundles are a per-feature price, so if someone manages 500 sites but only uses the backup and SEO features, they could end up saving money. And with the new pricing, they know exactly what they’re paying for.

However, the new pricing is so complex, I’m not sure if it’ll play well with currently loyal customers trying to navigate the waters.

To add one more caveat: even the pricing I’ve described so far isn’t the whole story. For backups, there are yet more options. The $2 per site pricing (or $75 for 100 sites) is based on daily backups. But on a scale all the way up to hourly backups (for $6 per site), users can increase the frequency, for an increased price. Here’s a screenshot of the scale:



If you compare this pricing to VaultPress — which is probably considered the most reliable backup source in the WordPress world — it’s significantly cheaper. Daily backups for VaultPress start at $9, and “realtime” backups (which also include other features, to be fair) are $29 per site per month.

ManageWP founder and CEO Vladimir Prelovac is proud of the new backup technology:

I can easily say that there is nothing like it on the market. We managed to achieve backup 97% success rate world-wide (up from 80% of ManageWP Classic and most other similar WordPress tools)

The most prolific of the “similar WordPress tools” Vladimir is referencing is likely BackupBuddy by iThemes. BackupBuddy and other traditional WordPress backup solutions have long had to fight unpredictable WordPress hosting environments. iThemes, like VaultPress before them and ManageWP now, also saw the value of bypassing the hosting limitations, and in February launched BackupBuddy Stash Live for real-time backups.

So the market is maturing, thanks to competition, and I presume a rising awareness to the importance of not only backups, but recent and reliable ones.

Time will tell how the new pricing plays out. I know that the ManageWP team is paying close attention to adoption of the new application and pricing, and will likely adjust accordingly.

Long pricing and backups tangent aside, ManageWP’s history and resilience is a very impressive story in the WordPress ecosystem.

This re-launch of their product took a ton of work and I think they’ve done a nice job with the rollout as well as the app itself. I look forward, down the road a bit, to see how it all goes for them, as I think their experience could help other product and SaaS businesses learn as well.

Notes for May 20, 2016

The steady move upmarket in WordPress hosting

Media Temple is the latest company to offer an “enterprise” level WordPress hosting option. Their new offering is based on Amazon Web Services and starts at $2,500 per month. From TechCrunch:

The standard enterprise plan costs $2,500 per month comes with support for five sites, one terabyte of cloud storage, 1.5 terabytes of monthly CDN usage, scaling to up to 10 EC2 instances using containers, and support for Amazon’s RDS database.

GoDaddy has spent a lot of money to upgrade their own hardware in the last several years, so offering an Amazon-based plan is a bit of a surprise, and a nod to just how good Amazon’s systems for redundancy are too. They describe why they went with Amazon:

“Media Temple’s servers are good, but there are things we can do with Amazon’s technology that you can’t do with a virtual private server,” MediaTemple senior director of product management Brendan Fortune told me. Among these things are AWS tools like Lambda, Amazon’s serverless compute service, and robust support for containers with the EC2 Container Service. Fortune noted how building on top of Amazon’s container management service enables Media Temple to quickly scale a WordPress deployment up and down as needed, for example.

It could also just be good marketing. Pagely has grown considerably since going all-in on Amazon, and Kinsta is making a similar pitch with Google Cloud Platform.

There are now hosting companies, like those mentioned above, but also Pantheon, PressLabs, Pressidium, and more, with plans that start between $49 and $299 per month. Of course, Media Temple, WP Engine, Flywheel, SiteGround, and dozens more have starting plans less than $25 per month, but in general, the “managed WordPress” hosting market is a clear cut above the bottom of the barrel hosting price wars of the past.

We’re seeing more companies find success in higher tiers, providing more technically savvy platforms and better support, geared toward the higher end audience.

Even still, I think there is a lot of room in that highest of tiers. WordPress is still breaking into the largest markets, and as it continues to prove an effective alternative to Drupal (in government, corporate), and Magento (in eCommerce), and home grown platforms (across the board), then we’ll continue to see a rising demand for high end platforms.

One part of the demand — that is currently best met still by VIP — is dedicated code review by the hosting partner itself. It is sold, sort of, by other hosts, but it’s a requirement for VIP, and I think we’ll start to see specific packages from other hosts to offer similar benefits. However, the hard part about providing that is to have the manpower of developers to actually effectively perform the code review.

Overall, I’m encouraged my more companies entering the high tier markets. I think it’s good for WordPress, and helps the platform be more attractive at all levels — from the new blog owner to a corporate enterprise.

This (temporarily free) article is an example of what Post Status Club Members get multiple times per week! If you enjoyed it, please consider joining!

Notes for January 26, 2015

Anyone can change

Update: Change is hard. I wrote this 20 months ago, but after seeing some of the responses on social media to my article on GoDaddy acquiring ManageWP, I was surprised that GoDaddy’s changes as a company haven’t been more widely recognized. They’ve been working to improve for a long time, so I figured I’d make this (my first Club Member’s only post I ever wrote) article free.

Today, I’m reflecting on PressNomics. I have a ton of stuff for subscribers and regular readers alike that will stem from this event. The event couldn’t have been better: I was surrounded by newsmakers, business owners, and potential customers.

But for subscribers, I want to share a particular lesson I learned. That is this: anyone can change.

This is a story about (wait for it) … GoDaddy.

Yeah, I know. Until a few months ago, my answer if someone said the name GoDaddy to me would probably be, “Ugh.”

A few months ago, my answer would’ve changed. It would require more. Something along the lines of, “Ugh. Man, they are tossing a lot of money at WordPress. I guess they finally caught on.”

But I — not thinking as I often fail to do — wouldn’t have guessed that GoDaddy could really be different.

I’m convinced I was wrong. I’m convinced that they can change, and that they are changing.

Yeah, GoDaddy sponsored PressNomics, and yeah, they’ve got money to burn if they want to go after a market. But I picked up on more.

I spent a couple of hours with a couple of different folks at GoDaddy this week, primarily Mendel Kurland and Christopher Carfi, who are GoDaddy evangelists. Jeff King is a Senior Vice President and General Manager of Hosting, and he was also at the event, in addition to members of their development and outreach teams. In short, they put some people on the pavement for PressNomics.

I like to think I’m decently capable of getting a good read on someone. And in these conversations, I wasn’t always tender. I went interview-format on these guys at certain points. And I came away with a realization that these are not folks just doing their job or trying to sell a big or influential audience.

They care about the work they are doing, they know the way people in our world view GoDaddy, and they are actively trying to change. They’re trying to change the perception, yes; but they’re also trying to change the product for the better.

Is that slow going? Of course it is. It takes time to build good stuff. But they are trying, and while they are of course in business to make money, they also visibly care.

They don’t like the elephant-shooting, sexual-innuendo, bad-product stereotype any more than we do. In fact, they hate being under that perception, because while they’re busy trying to show us they’ve changed, they’re seeing the change internally all the time. Management at GoDaddy has overhauled, all the way to CEO. And new management is setting a new direction.

Over the next several years, I think we’ll see a different GoDaddy than we’ve known (and assumed) in the past. I’ve already seen evidence of their progress in conversations with other people at PressNomics. Their passion is showing. Passion spurs progress. Progress is good. And for a company with 12 million customers — millions of which are on WordPress — progress at the host-level will make WordPress better.

Here’s my takeaway: GoDaddy is changing. They still have a lot to work to do, but they’ve certainly got my attention. And if they keep getting better, that is great news for the WordPress world.