Footnotes #429

Hitting 6 Figures in eCommerce Sales in 9 Months In a Pandemic

It can be done — it has been done — by Ana Nunez, founder of

Come listen in as Cory talks to his business partner Ana about how she juggled a full-time gig, two kiddos as a single parent, and got her Masters Degree while launching this awesome business.

The Vida Bars project was born out of Ana's personal mission to create hair products that are free of harsh chemicals and have a minimal impact on the environment.

Register now to join Ana and Cory on January 19, 2021 at 11:00 AM Central Time (in the US and Canada). This free webinar comes to you from Commerce Journey. 🛒

A good, free theme is hard to find

Post Status' Slack space sprouted some conversations this past week worth noting in our #club channel. One, in particular, started about the recommended hosting page and led into this observation about themes, the theme directory, and builder plugins by Matt Mullenweg:

[P]retty much everyone who motivated is able to get a site going and they have a ton of options from decent providers to do so. The wall is after that: themes and the balkanization from non-G[utenberg]-based site builder plugins. The .org theme directory is particularly bad when you compare it to any half-decent commercial theme marketing page, or the designs available on other site building services or Themeforest directories. The .org theme directory rules and update mechanism have driven out creative contributions, it's largely crowded out by upsell motivated contributions.

Next, Joost de Volk commented on the obsolescence of the volunteer model for the .org repositories:

I think that due to the reach a theme or plugin that becomes popular quickly commands, monetization is a necessity to be able to properly “support” such an endeavor. I think the community also “demands” a certain stability and a certain level of support that is simply unfeasible to expect from any non paid contributor. Because has no way of doing that monetization “on platform.”

…Somehow we’re still trying to convince ourselves that we’re “volunteers,” which is simply not true. In almost all cases, companies are “volunteering” their employees to work on stuff. Whether that’s plugins, themes or WordPress core. There are absolutely still a lot of people that are volunteering time, and those people are a very important aspect of our community that we should make sure not to lose, but without paid contributors, no release would ever happen.

Finally, Eric Karkovack noted it's “hard to find an actual ‘free' theme that isn't just a locked-down version of something premium in the .org directory.” He agreed with Joost that the volunteer model “is very much outdated,” and he thinks “a new user would be overwhelmed by choice and disappointed in what they find.”

There's no doubt there is room for improvement in the theme directory, and some movement is being discussed and pressed forward in at least one respect — better theme previews. But at the end of the day, finding quality themes in the theme directory can be challenging, and we need to think about the underlying motives that bring people there. As Matt says, the directory could provide a better experience for contributors — and also theme creators and vendors. 🎨

Infosec of State

Among the alarming events still unfolding in the United States, there have been two political and security-related stories touching WordPress.

First, there was the notice Monday afternoon of President Donald Trump’s biography on the State Department website showing the president’s “term ended” on January 11. Since the site runs on WordPress, some people assumed this was a hack of WordPress itself and therefore an indication of some defect in the software. According to Christopher Miller for Buzzfeed and widely reported on, the truth appears to be this was not a hack but something “likely caused by a disgruntled staffer.” 🔓

Second, and more widely noticed, was the news that the Parler social network was “leaking data” and was hacked. (Parler is shut down at the time of this writing.)

Some sources reported a top comment on the Reddit thread about this story in r/ParlerWatch points to a third-party WordPress add-on for Twilio, a cloud communications platform, as the culprit for the wide-open vulnerability that led to the hack.

However, the idea that WordPress was ever powering the social engine of Parler isn't accurate, according to Parler CEO John Matze. Back in November, Matze disputed the rumors that his social media site was hacked at all, and he said “we do not use WordPress products, nor WordPress databases.”

John Feminella has a good Twitter thread I'll point to on this story. It appears Parler used WordPress for their marketing site — and maybe their eCommerce site, although that wasn't verified before Parler was taken offline. 🤨

Eric Karkovack explains an ethical dilemma he sees for WordPress plugin developers: should plugin users be notified if automatic plugin updates are turned on? Eric says yes they should:

“I’d still argue that the ethical thing to do is to tell users about these types of changes. Or, at least make an honest effort to do so…. Any channel of communication that connects developers to users is game.”

Even when it comes to the interests of plugin and theme developers, Eric says “the better path may be to encourage automatic updates” which can build trust. 🤝

Francesca Marano has a recap of the conversation about the proposal to align the WordPress release cycle with the industry standard.

Adding a “Feature Freeze” period was the most popular suggested solution, allowing contributors to focus on features first and defect work later, without doing the defect work in the Beta phase, which should be reserved for testing. 🥶

I recommend reading the full post for more details.

SearchWP 4.1 is out. The biggest changes involve how comments are handled, a refactored Indexer, some search algorithm improvements, and bug fixes. 🔍

Alex Denning has a prediction I feel is insightful: “competition for WordPress products is going to get significantly more intense, and we need to start looking at product categories with much more sophistication.”

I tend to agree with his assessment that “positioning within a WordPress plugin niche is going to be more important than ever.” 🔌

While the WordPress space is big enough for many competitors within a niche, Alex thinks it will be outside niches where the biggest growth potential lies:

“We’re starting to see this already… Human Made’s Altis Digital Experience Platform is an enterprise-friendly layer built on top of WordPress. The copy for Altis is all about what it can do for its target audience, and the WordPress part is secondary.”

Kyle Van Deusen measures how much faster Gutenberg and the WordPress editor (and also Oxygen) are than the Elementor page builder. However, performance might not matter as much as you might expect:

“While I do have the ability to preview both tablet in mobile from the back end of WordPress inside Gutenberg— what I see is far from reality… and with Gutenberg, I feel like I’m constantly needing another plugin to achieve the functionality I need.”

Wordfence has disclosed two vulnerabilities in Orbit Fox by ThemeIsle, a WordPress plugin used by over 400,000 sites. 🦊

Also, if you are using the e-signature plugin, apparently used by some customers on Pagely, you may want to upgrade as soon as possible.

The State of JavaScript 2020 has been published with a wide variety of survey results from nearly 20,000 participants. Results inside salary, work experience, familiarity with JavaScript features, frameworks, tools used, resources, and opinions.

Front-end developers will likely want to examine this report deeply. 🤓

PublishPress published a 2020 year in review. While some ventures didn't reproduce that many results, overall the key metrics grew by 100% this year:

“COVID-19 definitely had an impact – we saw a big slowdown in growth during March and April… Even though revenue grew much faster in some months than others, customer growth was very steady.”

December 31 was the day Flash officially “died.” 💀

Out of all the posts I've read about Flash, this eulogy post from Mike Davidson is the most relatable for me. He takes you back to the early days with a video of Macromedia Flash 2.0 in 1997 that gave me flashbacks.

Flash has received a lot of hate and negativity in recent years, but at one time it was the best way to experiment and present interactive media and video on the web. Matt notes how:

“Flash showed us where we could go, without ever promising that it would be the long-term solution once we got there… forever remembered for pushing us further down this windy road of interactive design, lighting the path for generations to come.”

If you are trying to choose between the popular and similarly matched GeneratePress and Astra themes, then this post from Matteo Duò might help you understand their differences. 🤔

Button Buddy is a tool Stephanie Eckles created that lets you learn what it takes to ensure your buttons or button-style links have accessible contrast. 🔲

TabFS is a browser extension that mounts your browser tabs as a filesystem on your computer. (It supports Chrome and Firefox.) If you are a little creative and a browser power user, there is some power and potential here. 💪

Two interesting things I've seen this week powered by Raspberry Pi computers: an open-source intercom for kids and a Covid-19 ventilator. 😲

Here's a very cool technology: a neural network called DALL·E that creates images from text captions. It can interpret a wide range of image descriptions in natural language, like “an armchair in the shape of an avocado.” 🥑

🧪 Here's a MySQL engine that's written in PHP for unit tests. 😲

—Hat tip to George Peter Banyard. 🎩

There are some very good (and some funny), recent Twitter threads here full of people sharing their “WordPress stories.” Thanks to John James Jacoby for asking! 😄

Kathryn Marr interviewed Aveling/Ray, about their work with actor Nick Offerman and the Offerman Woodshop collective's online store. Find out how it was built, what it was like to work with Nick, and why his collective chose WordPress and WooCommerce. 👍

🛒 Commerce Journey

Upcoming Webinar:
Tips for Building Cost-Effective Ecommerce Sites with WooCommerce Expert Patrick Rauland 📅 Tuesday, January 26 @ 11AM CST.

Join Cory Miller and Patrick Rauland. Patrick is obsessed with eCommerce. He’s used WooCommerce as a customer, worked for WooCommerce support, developed core functionality in WooCommerce itself, led three releases, and helped plan the annual WooConf. Patrick creates courses for LinkedIn Learning /, and runs an online conference for WooCommerce developers and store owners called WooSesh. Join the conversationRegister Free Today!

📧 Be sure to subscribe to the Commerce Journey newsletter for our latest content and a roundup of the best eCommerce reading from around the web.

Upcoming Events 📆

  • Wordfest Live 2021 makes its debut on January 21 as a 24-hour event loaded with great speakers.
  • WordCamp India 2021 will take place over three weekends from January 30 to February 14, 2021!
  • The next WordPress Mega-Meetup on Jan 19th has an “SEO/marketing” theme with Taco Verdonschot (From Yoast SEO), David Yarde, Gary Smith, and Valerie Pierce.


Podcast Picks

🎙️ Here are a few podcasts to listen to that I heartily recommend:

  • How I Built It: Joe Casabona has an entertaining conversation with Jennifer Bourn about her Profitable Project Plan venture and how she had to change it over the years. If you have any interest in selling courses or building a solution for others, I think this episode would also be helpful.
  • The Get Options Podcast: If you are in the mood for a “lighter” podcast, Adam Silver and Kyle Maurer share their predictions for WordPress in 2021, among other subjects.
  • Run With It: This is a new entrepreneurship podcast I'm trying out where the hosts Chris Justin and Eathan Janney share new business ideas and talk to established entrepreneurs. I especially recommend the “Is The Next Shopify A SaaS Boilerplate Service?” episode to start.