Episode 332: Modern WordPress With Brian Gardner

Show Summary

In this Episode, Rob Cairns talks to Brian Gardner about Modern WordPress.

Show Hights:

  1. What is Modern WordPress?
  2. Why is Build Mode?
  3. Changes coming to WordPress.
  4. Why we should embrace FSE.
  5. Changes to Frost.

Show Notes

Hey everybody, Rob Cairns here and in today’s podcast. I’m joined by my good friend Brian Gardner from WP engine, how are you Brian?

Rob, I am fine this almost summer. Morning here in Chicago.

Yeah, they, you know, they called Toronto and Chicago Twin Cities for a reason. And I’m looking out the window and it’s just a fine here. No more rain for a change. We we’re done with.

Yes, right, yes, yes. Warm temps is on our way.

So I thought we’d get you back on for a second time to talk a little bit about modern WordPress, but before we do that, I want to jump into this amazing group. That you and Sam run on Fridays called build mode through your work at WP engine. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that? And let’s try and get some new people out at Bilbo, cause I think it’d be really helpful for them.

Yeah, so build mode is the culmination of our efforts at WP engines Developer Relations team. Sam is the community manager. I am developer advocate. We have Damon Cook, who’s also a developer advocate. It, and essentially it’s our job to sort of help folks in the WordPress community understand what’s coming with the WordPress block editor. Obviously tie in some of our products as it relates to that local being an example for us WordPress theme. As an example, we’ve got a pattern manager plug in by our WordPress product team and so. What we’re trying to do is sort of facilitate community and help instruct and just educate people on how they can use the new version of WordPress. We kind of call it modern WordPress. Right, which is essentially a block based building and we want to help people bring that into their business and use that as a way to sort of foster the Community while educating them at the same time.

And I think that’s really key and I think anybody that wants to learn about modern WordPress and I I really like that term. So you’ve coined it and you you need to trademark it. But that’s like and. Anybody wants to learn? Like, come join us. Friday, 11:00 o’clock Eastern Time. I was saying to you before we went to record. And you know my feelings on Bell mode. It’s kind of my must hour of the week. The people are great. We don’t fight. The way so we were. We’re all pretty open. We’ve had chats. Last week was local WP, which was a great chat. The week four was AI with a little demo from Dustin Scout, which was absolutely amazing. The topics are kind of all over the map so so bring your bring your questions and come join us, right? Yeah, I’d love to have you. So there’s a lot going on with you. Congratulations are in order. Frost finally hit the repo.

Yeah, that was almost two years in the making. When I originally built frost, it was before I came on to WP engine, sort of as a as a reaction to hey, I think I finally get where WordPress is going with all of this Gutenberg and block editor stuff and I saw this system that was being built. And of course it’s taken some time to get there. It’s not fully there. That’s it’s significantly further ahead than it was a year or two or three ago, I’ll say that. And so Frost was sort of our experimental thing. We brought it into the WP engine when I was hired and it’s something the Developer Relations team has sort of built and fostered as part of our our demonstration to give back to the community. But WordPress 6.2 the latest release here, really leveled out all of the the. Of the editor of the setting seemed Jason. All of that stuff to a point where I felt it was time to bring it to the mainstream, sort of taking frost out of the experimental mode. It had always sort of have the reliance on Gutenberg, the plug in, and I was like, you know, WordPress 6.2 is really out of place where I think WordPress seems can become production ready and for us. At that point was the obvious choice for us because it. Was our theme that we’ve been building. So long and so we’re thrilled to have that. In the repository.

Yeah, I I have frost. I’m running frost on my.info site. One of the things you include with frost is a pattern to create a link tree type site. So you know I would encourage anybody for the sake of $10 go register domain and do it yourself. Like don’t don’t give link tree all your. Just use frost like it. It’s easy. I’m running frost. I was an experimental mode, but I’m not anymore on a couple of client sites cause as you know I like to live on the edge by it. I played that game. But you know. It gets you into trouble sometimes, but it also gives me a bit of an edge, so I’ve been running it so well done to you and your team, that’s so well. Deserved. You’re welcome.

Thank you very much.

Now it’s been good job while we talk about WordPress just for that the modern WordPress I saw this morning at time of this record WordPress 6.2 point one has hit the the release candidate stage. I think RC one came out yesterday right? Is there anything or scattering in it beyond a couple? Of bug fixes I don’t think so.

I don’t think so. I went through the change log just to see. My guess is that there’s a little bit of refinement if you kind of like sift through like the issues on GitHub, probably a little bit of refinement on some of the features that were shipped in 6.2. I don’t think anything that would be monumental only because as quick as this came out for a release candidate and. Ultimately, a .01 update. My guess is that it just fixed a few things and maybe sort of just enhanced. A couple of. The features that may have been already there, but nothing, nothing Earth.

And question been meaning asking Bill mode, I haven’t so ask it here. What do you make of all the the security issues we’re running into lately and you know that’s kind of my ball of wax. So you, you, you. You always comment and build mode. Oh, security robs won’t come up again though. I know last week we had 160. If you read the items list vulnerabilities out there, the two biggest ones being ACF which got patched right away and. Trump upthrust plus, which has not been paid. Still, believe it or not, week before they were over 100 and then that kind of look at all the stuff going on in the SAS and the Internet space and tatties end over at Stella will tell you I dubbed this year and January is the year of the vulnerability. So what do you think of all that stuff going on? Is it just? The times or is it morning?

It’s probably just at times and and admittedly I’m not a huge security buff when it comes to anything. In fact, when we when we built Genesis framework back in the day we hired Mark Jaquith, who’s been around WordPress forever significantly in the security aspect of Genesis, he did a security. About it and all that kind of stuff. So we’ve, I’ve always been sort of in the outsourced mindset of that just because I don’t understand it and I don’t pretend to understand it so. You know, I know this stuff exists. I know exploits happen. I don’t know how they. Work necessarily, but.

I get that. Yeah. So let’s jump in. The model WordPress. You and I have both been excited about this for a long time for different reasons. I was all in with page builders. I haven’t built a site in the last two years. It’s not modern WordPress based as you know. I’m kind of. Invested in both frosting cadence, so that’s kind of where I sit. And I have for a while. I think our our mutual friend Peter Ingersoll is also investing Peters investing in Cadence as well him and I have had a couple of chats do you like where it’s going? Do you have issues with what’s happening like kind of where you sit right now?

I love where it’s going, not just like I love where it’s going. I love where it is actually already because just a lot of just a lot of just really cool things that can happen. A few things I don’t like are the fact that you can do things in several different ways, which means for a person like me who’s looking for sort of a source of truth or like certifiable this. Is the way. To do it. I don’t necessarily. Get to do that. And so as a person who second guesses himself all the time. Yeah, I’m like. Is this the right way to do this or? Should I do it that way? So sometimes having. Too many options. It’s always a great thing generally, but for me and someone who likes to build products and wants to do it because there’s ways to do it for yourself and then there’s ways to do it for other people. Which in this sort of time of WordPress are they differ and so. It’s tough because I can build something for myself and say this is all I need and then as I think about it, like another person taking it over. Or like trying to understand it, they don’t spend all day, every. Day inside of the code. And understand how it all works. So like I could build stuff in the editor that I would I would have to sort of build a child beam for a consumer to digest and so. That that’s the part of it. That I’m just like. I just wish there was just one way to do all the. Things that just make it all easier, but love where it’s.

Now I think what people need to do and. I don’t care. If you’re running a page builder or you’re running modern WordPress, whatever you decide, it’s the excuse me. Decide on your WordPress stack and by that I mean what plugins you use, what team you use, what add-ons you use and just be done because I think. Where agencies often make the mistake is they jump all over the place depending on the site they’re building, and I think that’s really a bad idea.

Yeah, I’ve been. On a huge campaign over the last several months around sort of the idea of forking themes, building a base theme and whatever, because I feel like the the best way, especially for people who are building a business, building websites and that’s their service, they really should have at the core of it, their own version of something, right, because. In other words. Something that they own, they maintain, and I understand that that requires some work some time and some some just confidence in their ability to do that because otherwise it’s they’re they’re semblances of digital sharecropping, right? Like you’re at the will and I talk about this often. You’re at the will and the mercies, and the decisions of people who build. For their own reasons, they make changes and that affects you, and if you’re cool with rolling with that because it’s just sort of the trade off of not having to spend time learning on how to build stuff. That’s OK, right? There’s no right or wrong way, but I think in today’s age, especially with the create block theme plugin that exists now, there’s so many just easy ways to take it in and clone it, make it your own and then run with it. That way you. Have full control over like what it. Looks like how it functions when the updates happen. It’s just so many systems in place for an agency or freelancer. We’re building WordPress websites to do stuff that now makes their development time shorter than it ever used.

Yeah. What I’ll tell you is I’m working on a WooCommerce site right now. It will probably end up with close to 500 to 1000 products. I will also tell you the theme is frost so you can smile all your way to the bank on that one.

There we go. There we go.

And no, I’m not just dropping. It’s for a jewelry store. And my development time on this site will probably be 1/8 of what it would have been using a page builder. And that’s because a I have my processes in place, so that’s really good. And and B are under standard stack and I know. Enough now, after playing with modern WordPress and with Cadence Box and with frost enough I know how. To manage it. Well, that it’s easy and I think we’re all agencies get stuck is they don’t want to invest the ROI time on learning something new. To be honest with you.

And Rob, that’s short. Sighted, I mean. I really feel that people who spend an hour or two trying to figure out how to learn something. Will save themselves so much more. Not even down the road. Like literally the week after they learn it right, there’s so. Many things and and page builders are great and they have their time, but I think there’s a lot of myth happening right now where people are they, they think it’s sort of a false belief. They think WordPress can’t do what their page builder does, and so they’re unwilling to even like hear the message or try it themselves. And maybe it’s just they just. You know, old habits die young, like people. We’re creatures of habit, and so it’s easy to rely on something that. You’ve always used. That doesn’t mean it’s the right thing either for the customer or for your process. Your security risk. You’re at performance risk. WordPress core update risk you just never know like what a WordPress update will do to a page builders. Infrastructure. So there’s this. That’s why I get so excited now, because I feel like WordPress core and the packaging of WordPress core blocks and patterns and all that kind of stuff. Templates really make it easy to do the things that I think people have historically. Found it hard to do.

And you and I like we’re both learners and we like to learn and that’s that’s a big part of what you do. It’s a big part of what I do. It’s kind of. I survived over 30 years in tech is because, you know, like you have to be and it’s it’s funny. I was saying some of your day, Brian, when I got into tech, things changed every year. I was thinking back to my first year when I got out of programming. I’m an old style programmer encoder and got into support and us saying things changed every year and now things are changing. Like every day. And you can thank schools like AI for pushing. That right, so.

Yeah. Yep. Ohh yeah, yeah.

It’s so true. As we move forward, one of the biggest quorums I have with modern WordPress on a lot, I wish we’d get the block clocking like down because I’ve had a couple customers decide to move this here and you’re laughing at. But you know where this. Goes and move that. Here and say I wonder why I broke it. Like that’s something I think we gotta get down. Like real quickly. What do you think?

So so personally I will admit personally that affects that feature affects me personally way less than it does anybody else, because I never have a need to do that because I don’t really do agency work or freelance or custom projects or whatever. Now my job at WP engine means I engage with lots of folks who this matters a lot to agencies and freelancers. Builder so from that. Perspective, it matters to me a lot where we have to sort of encourage these people. And yes, I for that, for the reasons that you said I want to see that become more mature so that people will have less reason to resist WordPress because I feel like there’s parts of, you know, oh, I can’t turn this over to a client, they’re going to move blocks around and stuff like that. And if WordPress can implement a system to where that. Is no longer. True, or the fear that exists is no longer warranted. Then I feel like it’s, you know, again, it’s our job to convince people to use modern WordPress. So that being said, we want the tools in place, design and otherwise to be able to say, hey, this is now in a place where you can safely build your web client. Lights on it, you know.

In your job at WP engine, in the advocacy team, what do you see as the couple most requested things with modern WordPress? What do you hear?

Probably responsive controls. I mean it’s sort of like an. Ambiguous idea or concept. There’s, you know, as it relates to true intrinsic design, there’s stuff baked into WordPress now that I don’t think people understand or realize is is there. Mike McAllister just wrote a piece on his ally WP blog around this. I actually have that in my queue. To talk more about. Mainly fluid spacing and typography and things of that nature. Again, a lot of people say, oh, well, you know WordPress can’t handle, you know, mobile whatever or media queries under certain circumstances, which is somewhat true. But the system that’s in place now using step spacing and fluid units like Rams and viewport width and viewport. And stuff like that really mean you can get like 90% there with what’s at our disposal.

Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. And that’s kind of what you’re saying. What personally would you like to see? Is there any, is there a top three list that you want to see? Put you on the spot.

Yeah, I stuff because I’m pretty good with working within the system and I I know I can take what’s there quite a bit. I don’t know if there’s any. I mean, there’s really, really, really just little minor nuances that I find here and there. And usually I just create. A GitHub issue for the GitHub. Repository or I’ll ping you know, Nick. Diego or Rich Tabor and say, hey, you know this workflow. Isn’t as optimal as it should be this I guess the thing last week I ran into that I was like, well that. Just would be so. Much easier if it’s worked a certain way. But you know other. Than that, I really I I think the biggest thing I want to see is the, the, the harmonization of the screens inside the dashboard, right, the site editor and the post and page editor, which I think even some implementation that that’s happening. Inside of Gutenberg. 15.8, which the release candidate may even be packaged up today. This is introducing the ability to work with and edit pages inside of the site editor, and that’s the part where, because it’s such a disconnect, right, you’ve got the traditional page and post editor. Then you go into the site editors sort of initial screen which. This is really, really nicely designed, but if you click a few things then that goes away and you’re in like yet another world. And so that harmonization is what I think. I’m most looking forward to.

Yeah, it’s funny. I sat down with Ann McCarthy of automatic some time ago, and one of the things that they’re working on is actually changing and updating the dashboard UI a little bit, and we’ve seen yours through that recently. And I think that dashboard UI is antiquated. My biggest pet peeve right now is still the one that’s always been the media library. It’s looking so like for somebody who spends a lot of day doing client work and trying to organize stuff clients, I just wish they would do something with that mess, like sooner than later, but. I’m at the point now where I’ve found a million workarounds to get done what they need to get done, so it’s not. Even a black it. It just needs to be refreshed. I think it’s coming actually in in six, three, the media library. So that would be.

I, from what I hear, that’s that is true. At least some some part of.

You know, the other thing I will say is I think and all the people in you know, in your role, you know people that automatic and people like Nick and Rich to really go to people like if you’re not following them on Twitter, you need to like honestly because and I consider them both good friends. I would say that automatic as a whole. Has actually taken undertones to hire the right people. They’ve made the effort, they’ve hired people like rich, they’ve hired people like Nick. There’s somebody like Ann McCarthy and the developers in advocacy role that needs to be there. They’ve got people. Like my good friend Bergalli hack up there doing I’m used to work like these. People are front and facing for all the other people and I would go so far as to say that even somebody like Mattias Ventura, who’s the Gutenberg Lee, he’s really approachable and a lot of people think he’s not I. I don’t find that the case at all, so I. Think they’ve really? Listened to what the community is asking them for really have. So I think that’s.

Well, if you think.

About it though, like the roles that they all have to play, sort of stewarding a software, that power is 43% or whatever the numbers these days of the Internet, there’s a lot there. There’s a lot of opinions and a lot of ways to do things and to sift through even internally like you’ve got people who have differing opinions on how things should be implemented. I don’t necessarily. Wish to be a part of that as intimately as they are, because I can only imagine, you know, some of the the. Underbelly of all of that. But I think overall, you know, again we’re five years in, as Joseph says to a 10 year plan. And I just hope that we can make enough progress and we can keep enough people that. You don’t lose out to places that you know obviously are have been to competitor square space and work. So the two that we always bring up. But even platforms like Framer and web flow and what I can only presume will be a Figma 2 web implementation at some point, because some of that stuff is so easy to use. I use figma all the time. I would be interested to see what a figma to web looks like so.

And in the and on the woo side, the big competitor of course. Is Shopify, yeah. You know, I’m saying about this e-commerce say that I’m building and I actually talked to client out of going to Shopify, kind of sat them down and said you don’t want to. Go there and they’re like, why? And I was doing some pricing and I said, you know what they said? Well, it’s only 39 US. And I said no, it’s not start to look at what you’re asking for and then realize none of that’s in the $39.00 plan and and then you lose all control and you know. Where that goes right? So. So I think I think we gotta we saw some inroads to make there I I really do so. Where do you see? Modern WordPress going in the next couple of years.

Well, as we know the road map, the the phasing of it all goes into collaboration and then outside of that sort of the the multilingual translational stuff, I’m going to be very curious to see where the the the collaboration piece comes in. Think of it like Google Docs where multiple people are in the thing at the same time. And kind of doing things. I hope that it doesn’t become trying to become just an all thing to everything sort of deal right? Like where WordPress is, it’s it’s linked tree, it’s Google Docs. It’s this and that because at some point. Each of those features will not be as good as they should be like in a vacuum or a silo, and so to some extent. I kind of hope that WordPress just stays the course on what it’s always been good at. You know, Tumblr is a thing now and I’m like, thank God we don’t have post formats. If you remember those. From however many years ago.

Ohh I do.

Things like that, where it’s just like you don’t have to, like include every feature, right and. You know, I just love general website building and I hope that we don’t lose sight of that and I hope we just continue to make that easier and especially easier for the user to work within because I can build a thing. But building a thing that people can’t work with, this isn’t helpful for anybody.

No, I agree with that. And like I’m not excited. It’s a collab part as a lot of people and I don’t think it’s as important to a lot of people. It is, I think where it’s gonna cause problems truthfully with. And you know those 399 a month plans out there that people have gotten sucked in and use that word on my own show to buying it. And and you know, I I those funds just aren’t going to cut it. The resources aren’t going to cut it and I think what people need to do in the WordPress. Especially business owners start treating hosts like WP engine and others. There’s some other good host center, let’s be honest. And as your partner, not as your vendor. And I think that is so important, right.

Yeah, with the collaboration piece coming post revisions are going to become more important than they’ve ever been because generally you’ve got one person going in there doing a thing. But once you start implementing a system where anybody think a Google Docs right like the most useful feature in Google Docs is hey, what’s changed? Go into like the poster vision to see who did what. How things moved around? That being said, a big site with lots of articles and multi authors all of a sudden you’re going. To have a. Lot of poster visions and storage and database things. And so to your point, the host of choice will become even more important as things scale up like that.

And so will, so will things like backup plugins because some. Of the backup plans. Do not handle, you know, large databases really well. And as far as I’m concerned, and being in that space, I think he knew need to do backups on 2 fronts at the site level and at the host level. And I know some of these hosts are gonna come on and criticize me and say ohh, we do it all for you. Backups servers have been hacked and taken out, so if you care about your business, don’t put your eggs in. One basket so. That’s kind of my motto. I I really. Appreciate you jumping on it. As always Brian, and your insights, if somebody wants to talk modern WordPress, how did they join build mode and how did they get ahold of you?

To join build mode they would go to wpengine.com/builders. We have an events link in the upper right hand corner that sends you to a page that essentially is where you can go sign up and as you know and others know. We usually have three or four registration links out into the future, generally with like the topics at hand. So you can. Put a bunch of things on the calendar if you want. So that’s where build mode at Twitter is probably the best way to for people to reach me. I have my personal website briangarner.com which I do and don’t use often in infrequently. So twitter.com/beat Gardner is usually the best way to follow me to see what I’m working on. I share everything I do working otherwise. Online there and then, that’s just a good place to connect because I’m I’m there often so.

Always appreciate your time and your insights. You have a wonderful day, my friend. This podcast is brought to you by stunning digital marketing, the digital marketing agency for all your business needs. We are also your WordPress security experts, having over 14 years of experience locking down, backing up, and protecting WordPress websites. Go to stunningdigitalmarketing.com for more info or stunning digitalmarketing.info for links for everywhere we can be found on the web. This podcast is dedicated to my late father Bruce Karens. I miss you very much. I love you and I think about you every day. For more information about stunning digital marketing, your digital marketing experts go to stunningdigitalmarketing.com or go to stunningdigitalmarketing.info to find out all the great places that Rob Karens can be found on the web.


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