Rob Cairns sits down with Laura Adamonis and talks about her WordPress journey.
1. Laura’s WordPress origin story.
2. Laura’s take on the WordPress ecosystem.
3. Challenges with WordPress.
4. Thoughts on the community.
Hey everybody, Rob Cairns here, I’m here with my good friend, Laura Adamonis. How? Are you today, Laura?
I am great, rob. How about?
Doing good you you’ve had an exciting last week. We were kind of chatting before we went to record. You’ve been at work camp. We’ll talk a little bit about that. You got all kinds of things on the go which is great. And for those who don’t know, when I first met in a group called Bill Mode which is grouped. That Brian Gardner runs where we get together every Friday and we talk about full site editing and blocks in Gutenberg and all that good stuff. And it’s been such a pleasure to get to know you are.
Yeah. So I. Wanted to start with what I like to start with is. What was your WordPress origin story and how did you get into this community originally called WordPress?
All right, so. My story is pretty new. I’ve only been doing WordPress since March of last year and I was a previous educator at the local Science Center. I did. I was a robotics coordinator, which meant I got paid. To play with Legos and. I taught kids from 5 to 14 Lego engineering robotics and then I started to bring in coding. So I was doing the scratch base and block based coding hour of code which I love code.org. Things like that. I was at the point that I wanted to have my weekends off and so I resigned from a fabulous job that I loved part. Time and I was just kind of doing stuff around the house and scrolling through social media came across a a group on Facebook kind of joined that and turned out that they had a sister group that was teaching coding to. Predominantly women that. Either wanted to, you know, change. Something in their life wanted to make a career change kind of thing. So I really liked the. Philosophy and the people who were running it. So I joined that program. In March of last year and. I took my time since I. Did not need to turn around and make money right away, and so I’ve. Learned that and I in August. Of last year I. Launched my own website design company. Called add a little digital services and.
Kind of a play on my last name of Adamonis so had used that previously for a little you know.
Side wreath making. Venture years ago at a craft craft place and. So I’ve been doing that and just trying to get known in the community and learn about the social media and posting and all that and learning about more about WordPress and. That’s How I Met Brian. He was one of the contributors to this program and found out that he was originally is in Chicago and I’m originally from Chicago. So I reached out to him and said, hey, we have a Chicago connection and he’s a big Taylor Swift fan. And I am two. So we had a lot in common on that instance. So we kind of you know have. That that’s been great, that he started the build mode and I was the, you know, new person. As the fly on the.
Wall as I.
Say and, but I loved listening to the conversations with everyone and kind of learning stuff and then coming back and slowly I was able to become part of those conversations, which is really. Cool, and that has helped with my confidence within it and to be able to say hey. I can talk to the the big wigs. Here you know I I. And I don’t know a lot, but I now I know people within the industry that I can ask questions about and it’s been a great community that they’re, it’s very supportive in that instance that you know, just ask.
Yeah, there’s some really there’s some. Really great people, I mean. And you know it. It’s it’s funny. Early on, Brian was on Nathan Weekley’s page builder summit. When you’re and they got to a conversation and Brian left it open before he started build molding and left it open and said. I’d really like to. And carry this conversation on he was on with **** Diego and they did a a talk about blocks in the early. This, and he made the mistake of saying that. So of course me being who I am, send him a tweet and said ohh you want to continue the conversation when, where, how and when you’re signing up. And here’s something. I know bridge a long time and he just kind of laughed at me and said only you. And I’m like, yeah, but you asked. For it so. And and and to be fair, he’s been like, he’s one of those many awesome people in our community that we. That I adore. And I I mean not seriously kidding aside. And yes, he’s a he’s a big Taylor fan and so are you. We I don’t think we can start off with build mode without a Taylor Swift conversation anymore. Do and you do. Know she has six sold out dates at the Rogers Center in Toronto coming, and if anybody. Little hint for you Taylor Swifties is there’s three. There’s four days in between and Taylor has nothing on their schedule. And Roger Center has nothing in their schedule. So I’m throwing a big hint out there. I suspect there’s probably gonna be two more dates before it so. So and Roger, Center holds about 50,000 for a concert. So you know, pack your money and good, good luck on. That one. The Reese tell tickets or just for interest sake or $160 ticket is selling for $1000, right?
Oh yeah. Oh, yeah, it’s it, unfortunately. Is not a cheap ticket, so.
It’s not a cheap day. One of the reasons I stopped going to concerts became so. So you’re in the WordPress community, you’re fairly new. So your perspective is a little different than people like mine or people like Brian’s, I’m sure. Or people like Courtney’s or even. And Peter Eagle from Bill Boat, I’ll throw those names out there because they’ve been around a long time. What’s the biggest challenge you see for somebody new in the community like? The biggest thing that you you find yourself navigating.
I think. The basic thing is that there’s so much. Out there, there’s. So many different ways to build a website because of the fact that you have the core WordPress, then you have all these different page. Builders that you know, people love to use because it’s just kind of a point and click thing which is great and I and I understand the ease of that. So I have been dealing with the frustration because I’ve tried to stay true to the core and I have not delved into. Page builders for for my instance. So which could be good or bad because I know that for future clients that might be something that I need to learn. For that, so I’m open to learning that eventually, but trying to kind of just use the core tools that can be a little frustrating and there have been a lot of updates and new releases and I know that we’re. We’re presses. You know the. Our team is trying to make it better and bring in those kind of tools that you see within page builders. So I think it’s just overwhelming for a lot of people who are in the WordPress. A community that it’s happening so quickly that they can’t learn while working while trying to please their clients, so I always. Tell people you. Know you got. I just talked to my friend. She was trying to. Switch over to Frost and I’m like if it’s too much for you, you have to use what you are comfortable with, you know, and especially with trying to relaunch a business and stuff like that, she already has websites up with stuff that she already knows. So don’t.
Don’t try and and learn something.
New at a pivotal point, you know.
And especially a big site that she was doing.
Yeah. That said, I would suggest the best way of learning something is to take a project and use that project as a learning tool. So one of the things I did. Two years ago in September, I started, I said I wanna learn box. I I’m. I’m gonna go that road. I like to say minimal. I’m gonna learn box. And at that time, I decided, and I said no, no, I’m gonna learn box. I’m gonna learn cadence box. So I’m those who know me. No. And they’ll mode. I’m one of those pushers. The cadence. If you want to call that Kathy’s aunt, who’s the marketing manager of occasions his good friend I was in with. 8 inches before Kathy took that job, and but even more so. And I think Ben Ritner said awesome developer. So I made that decision. So what did I do? Because I like to push the envelope of those and build no note. Decided to make the. Changes to a live site. Although three months, so I I did all the blog posts and I did all the pages and then I flipped the theme and then they changed the theme. I went to Cadence as a as a base. And I did that on the Y side over a month. To the months and anybody who wants to hear that journey, if they go back to the archives of the show, I did a A sit down with Burger Poly Hack and Matthias Ventura. Matthias is the lead Gutenberg lead. After I did this and then we just did like a coffee style chat where we talked about what I liked, what I didn’t like and all that. And now that was two years ago. Ever since then, I’m kind of all in with blocks and I’ve used page builders. I’ve used divvy. I’ve used Beaver builder, I’ve used. I’ve used element or. I’ve used them all. My biggest argument for not using a traditional page builder because blocks is a page builder. I’m sorry you can call it whatever. It’s a page builder for is site speed score. The minute I turned off. Ever building my state speed score went up by 12 points over. And that’s a fact. And you mentioned Frost, I actually have frost running on one of my sites because Brian graciously when he devout Frost decided to include a link tree pattern in frost. I don’t know if the number. So all these people running around doing it for 10 bucks a month, like why would we do that? Frost is frost can do. Word press can do that for you. So why do that? So I I actually run frost on one of my sites. So I thank you to Brian for doing that, but yeah. So what’s the? Easiest thing you find in the community now that we’ve talked about the most difficult.
Well, this a the support and. That I’m a content I started contributing to the the learn.wordpress.org training team. There’s 22 different teams within the WordPress open source project, which is really awesome that. All these people are volunteering their time or having sponsors and stuff like that. So with my previous education background I really liked the tutorials and lesson plans that were available for my continued education, because then a lot of the things were more up to date. On the new releases. And stuff like that. So I started contributing as a Co host to the workshops and that’s How I Met. Our mutual friend Nick Diego on that and being able to work with people from Japan and New Zealand and all over the world. It just blew my mind. I mean, that was just a cool part of it. You know, a lot of it happened because of COVID that. We became virtual, but a lot of us have stayed virtual, which is. Continue to open up that vast. World of working with people from other countries and stuff.
I would say I was probably virtual long before COVID. I probably started so my background is in IT. In Healthcare, I came out 14 years ago, started my own agency. I’ve been virtual since so. I was virtual before it was fashionable, I would say, and I would say the nice thing today is the tools like zoom and meat and. It’s pretty mirrored, which we’re recording on now. The tools are way better than they were when I started. So back in those days it was Skype and more Skype and lots of Skype. And, you know, and and things have changed. And that’s just evolution in the in the tech business, like a lot of a lot of evolution. And that’s the important thing. So I think the tools to be virtual are much easier today than they were like five or six years ago, even for the average person.
Oh, definitely, definitely.
Yeah. So I would do that. So great, you’re getting involved in the in, in learn and our mutual front court in Robertson I’m sure has been some help with that because Courtney was one of the learn coordinators for a long time.
Yes. And it’s really cool, uh, to hear her perspective of where she started it when she joined to where it is now. Which I’m it. It always amazes me that it hasn’t been around longer than it was has, so that’s always a really neat conversations to hear that and the the people within the.
Community. So you’re back to starting or trying to move your own agency along. How has that been so far? Has that been easy? It’s been hard. Is it trying to find a client base? How how’s that going?
Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s the hardest part. I’ve talked to other people within the the the program that we learned hosting and stuff in. Fact the group. Of five of us. Got to meet up at Word Camp, which was really nice. And we’re all kind of, you know, in that mode of starting at our own agencies and, you know, finding that client base. Which way do you? Go. You know social media posting and stuff like that. Reaching out to my local business chamber is my next step and. Getting to know, but it’s. It’s so hard for, you know, us introverts a a couple of us, you know, just like actors and actresses that are are mostly introverts. I I think a lot of tech people are introverts, that it’s it’s this is the part that we struggle. With, you know. We wish that there was a place that just, you know, oh, there’s a job, there’s a. Job for me. Instead of all this company. Kind of competition that we have to either lower our prices which lowers our value in ourselves and that’s I think that’s the hardest thing of you know setting your prices and then going out and you want to help the small businesses and. But then you also, you know, would like to have a a nice income. Come with that.
Yeah, I I think you know, pricing is always something everybody struggles with and agency owners because we see the offshore stuff and we see. The the stuff coming out of India, the stuff coming out of Philippines, the stuff coming out. Excuse me. And I think they do not have the same. Expensive lifestyle that we have in North America. So as a result. They charge us and that puts on a global scale that hurts. It does, and it doesn’t. I took the attitude long time ago in my business that I don’t play the pricing game. I get people all the time that ask me, oh, we discount this. Now we discount that now I’ll go elsewhere, OK? Feel free. A couple of things that I decided long time ago is fighting the pricing game is fighting the race to the bottom. And there’s a really good book out there called the inside advantage by Robert Bloom. That’s like one of my favorite books in this topic. And it’s a big red cover. You can get it on Amazon. It was written in 2008, 2009. The book comes to me by way of 1 Paul. Toby. And if you know Paul, you might know his son Adrian, who’s actually the the? Founder of Groundhog dot IO and Paul’s an old mentor of mine and he recommended this book a long time ago. It has been such an impact that I have actually had to buy a second copy because of more money now.
Oh, OK, cool.
And many clients who don’t get it, I will make them buy a copy and read it before. I will work with them. Because what the law talks about is making your business different, and why that’s more important than fighting the race, the one. Yes, and the only business I can see the race to the bottom working is the dollar store business and every other business. If you keep fighting the discount retail business, you’re gonna end up out of money sooner or later. It’s really hard to do so. I would encourage people not to do that, to be honest. That’s the kind of. Not fight that. Set your prices and remember, dude, it’s more than your time. It’s your expertise, your educational value, what tools you bring, what licenses you bring. Like I I had somebody questioning me other day, my security package pricing and you know that. Big part of my business is security and we know when built mode every time that tub that comes up, Brian just upset me and said today just like rob up again because I’m I’m big on the security side and what they forget. It’s because I’ve bought lifetime licenses. I bring licenses to to my packages that are, you know, on a $1500 a year package. I’m bringing like $600 in licenses to that package, like that’s worth something, right?
Yeah, yeah. So yes.
We got, we got to remember it’s more than time if we want to play. The time game. There’s ways to play it, but I would I wouldn’t suggest playing it. So. So you’re working on building the business, which is good. Where do you want it to go? Do you want to do like more niche type of stuff or do you want to do more general or are you not sure at this point or?
Yeah, I’m. I’m not sure. I’m looking for. The sign I. Was I was hoping that. Going to work camp this past week. Was kind of the clean slate of, OK, what direction should I take things? And we’ll we’ll see what happens in the next couple of weeks and. And where that’s going to take me so.
And and the other thing to do is, you know, and Friday build modes keep asking those questions like you know that that proves pretty welcoming. You know that. So it’s a wonderful group. It’s like a highlight of. My week usually. And you know, I think it’s important that we all have those and keep those conversations coming like they’re really they’re really important, right. So.
Do you have any idea? Where you’d like to see it go in. A couple of years or is that still part of the figuring out process?
I think that’s still the figuring out process. You know, like I said, I’m. I’m at that crossroads. Where do I spend more time with with. Building my agency. Or can I find a a sponsor to sponsor me with doing the content creation for the training team? I think that’s an important part of WordPress. We talked a lot about as part of the Community Summit, which is a 2 day event prior to work camp, that you applied. People and they invite people of kind of all different backgrounds, people who have been in WordPress for a long time, but half of us, we’re all new to WordPress, but we all have different backgrounds to start conversations and. It was a a safe space because we weren’t recording them. We did have a note taker who took notes and those will be posted on the WordPress blog, which is cool to kind of go back. People submitted questions. There was a lot of diversity questions within that, but also the, you know, future of contributors, how do we get contributors? How do we keep the contributors? So I. In that instance, I. Had a lot of conversations with that of being able to find and, you know, just work 2025 hours a week on content creation, but being supported by one of the WordPress companies involved. With that so. That’s that’s where I’m at with that and. You know seeing. That in the future I would really like to continue on that, that part of it especially. And you know, if I’m able to take on one or two clients a month, that would be great. You know, that would be my ideal workspace.
Yeah, it’s people don’t realize taking on unless you’re doing something like security updates or stuff like that, which is for me is reoccurring revenue. But taking on a couple of Bitcoin clients some month, you don’t want to do that because then your time becomes. It gets juggling and it gets hard and then it gets. Then your weekends disappear and your nights disappear. And I’ve already had a couple of those this week and. With some one time kinds and it it, it just becomes fun. You know, I’m working on. I think I was saying on the last billboard I attended. I’m working on this big Woo Commerce site right now that’s got. Ohh, we’re up to like 300 products and counting and it’s just like yeah, and it’s all variable products too. It’s for jewelry stores. So it’s all variable. So there’s no, it’s like I want to buy this chain in this type of gold. At this length and. Yeah. And it’s it and it’s for a good friend of mine. I normally don’t like to do builds like this if I can avoid it cause. The hardest part with builds is most people don’t understand new builds are like. It’s like buying options on a car, right? You go in and you buy your car. I want heated seats. We had this much more money. I want this in a radio entertainment system. We had this much well website bills are exactly the same way. I want AB and C so we add this money. And this funny and this funny, right? But and then and then we all get into that wonderful term. We all like to call scope creep, where people where clients will try and sneak stuff in. And it’s like, no. This is this isn’t what we agreed on, right? So it’s hard. Have you managed to get as you build your business? Have you managed to get things like your processes down a little bit and things like your contracts down and that kind of stuff? Or are you still working on?
Oh yeah, yeah. I mean, I. Kind of that that’s all been. Been there. So. Uh. But it then again you. Know, just like the other other people I’ve talked to, that’s that’s the tough part. The business side of it to to learn.
All that and. Making sure that you’re paying. Taxes and what? What does sales, what sales tax do you pay? On and all. All those funding but our Community has a great. Our state and county have some great resources that you can in some workshops and stuff that have been really helpful. So that’s been really good on that instance and.
It’s worth mentioning a lot of. Especially in bigger cities, a lot of the libraries are like the conduit for stuff like that. So get involved. I do know when Toronto they have the Toronto Library has a big small business. And they have workshops and they have talks and they have and I and I know we just technical talks, I mean talks about how to do the accounting for small business, how to figure out dealing with CRA, the dreaded Canadian Revenue Agency and things like that and like. That stuff is as important as knowing how to code or how, and my theory with that stuff always is, is. If you don’t like doing it, which I don’t like doing it get somebody to do it for you. Like concentrate on what makes you money and what you do well with. That’s funny.
That’s so great. What would you like to see the WordPress community go in the next couple of years anywhere special or beyond rewarding contributors more?
Yeah. Yes and yes. That those were two topics that were big discussions between Community Summit and the actual WordPress. Conference workshops and stuff. Was that a we need to get out in the more in in the public more. It seems that people mentioned that I you know hey I work with WordPress and they’re like what’s that so. My new tagline is.
It’s it’s it’s. Uh.
It’s net if WordPress is good enough for NASA and the white. House it’s good. Enough for you?
Yeah, that there isn’t an amazing that NASA’s on there and the the whitehouse.gov has been on WordPress VIP for years. I mean that’s not a but what I would say is I think one of the things we do as a. The community disservice to ourselves is we sell WordPress as the solution. And I don’t think small business owners care. I hate to say it. They want a website solution. They could go in and make some minor updates too, where they don’t have to call a dev to do all their work and they want to. They want a solution where they can just do it. And my argument. To be sell what you give them. Not WordPress, unless you’re driving something WordPress specific like security or something else, that’s a little different. But but just for a website bill, I wouldn’t be selling what WordPress system solution. Does that.
That, I mean, I think big two is the the dashboard I think it. Needs to be more user friendly. For the business so that when you hand it over. To the business.
Owner, they can do minor updates without breaking it and I know that.
Yeah, I agree.
A couple of people are taking that on outside of WordPress and it’s it’s nice to see that. I I’m hoping that WordPress will take that into consideration and do a an update on the on the dashboard.
No, it’s supposed to. It’s supposed to be in 61411 in the. I’m one of the my biggest complaints, which you know where I’m gonna go? It’s the media library. I’m just. I I am so. Done with the meat and I talked to Anne McCarthy up at automatic quite a bit. I’m on hands. She’s got a rolling document that goes out to people every time we’re in the middle of a release. That kind of lists all the points in it and I’m on that list. I’m glad I’m. I’m thankful. My note list, thank you and.
And so it kind of keeps me in the loop of what’s going on and what’s not going on. And I hope to we see some of this stuff soon because, yeah, it will. Make a difference. I also think one of the things I want to see is some more block clocking capabilities so we can lock clients out of. Playing with stuff because that that part of the problem. The other thing I would add while we’re talking about that is folks stop giving all your clients have been rights to every website you set up. Don’t do it, give them access to what they need. Not everything. Just. Because they ask.
We don’t do that from the enterprise world.
Yeah. I mean, it’s OK. It’s OK to for them to have an admin user, but then they keep that away, but then they have also a login for just a user so that they don’t have access to everything. But they do have the capability to access that. If for some reason you part ways with them. Or you know. You’ve moved out of the country and they can’t get a hold of you. They can at least have some kind of admin, you know, in the vault, in the vault. Hide it away. Just in. Case you need it. But don’t use it. Kind of thing.
I’m not a big fan of taking client stuff and without seeing it, a dev registers a domain for a client and then the client fires the dev and the Dev says. I’ve got your domain name. I’ve been through that. It’s awful. I had years ago one of my oldest clients who’s been with me since day one. I had to file a dispute with ICANN to get their domain name back, even though it was her and they and they kind of and they this dev thought ohh we’re gonna screw them over. And they were a political party too. And it was like we’ll just take it, it’s like. You know, you put the assets in the hands of where they need to be and educate your clients on the value of owning their own assets, right? Because that’s. And I would say especially with things like photos and stuff like that, especially with copyright, I I put all that in the hands of my clients. Their contracts say they’re responsible for their assets and 100% responsible, which means I have no legal liability if they. Sneak something in that should not be there. We we all know about the client that push spaghetti images image on their website of what happens when Getty comes calling, don’t we?
Yeah. So it’s just you just gotta be careful. Do you have any advice to anybody who’s going to jump into into the word press space as you have and where they should start or where they should go?
I I want to touch back. I’ll answer that. I want to touch back. On one other thing that we had brought up was. Acknowledging WordPress contributors, that was another. Topic that came up.
And go back.
And to you know. See more of that within the marketing realm of. Letting the letting the world know what different people are doing. Different companies are doing within the word WordPress open source project is another thing that we. Kind of don’t see a lot because I mean, I follow everyone on all the major links and stuff like that and I’m like, I scroll back through and I’m like, wait, there’s like there’s no mention of this. There’s no mention of that. And I think we need to do more of that. I just found. Within our slack channels that we have a props thing, so props is to acknowledge you know good work within our community, but that needs to get to the. The the outside world too, so wanted to make that point that that was a one of the discussions.
So yeah, people have asked me how to to get started and it, you know, there’s all different ways I had. I feel that you know, if you don’t have a lot of resources financially. Then there are a lot of free resources, so the learn.wordpress.org is a great place for. Resources. Besides the tutorials, there’s lesson plans. There’s courses next year there will be a whole learning path for users, designers and developers, which is like 12 to 20 steps. That involves everything, which is awesome. That is in the works and. YouTube we have a lot of amazing people within WordPress that have their own. YouTube channels that are a great resource to to learn that again go going. Back to the libraries, the libraries. Are, you know will have resources? Classes. You might have a goodwill does. UM. Classes for for different organizations and groups of people. I know that and I don’t remember the. Love it? Uh, a project to help veterans get a WordPress experience so that they have that background and get certified. In WordPress, I know somebody’s doing that aspect. So the freer resources are out there. If you do have the financial support that you can buy. Into a program. That will teach you about coding, and there’s different online video. Universities, as they call them, kind of thing that you can get different certifications or or just learn about it, but you do have to put the time in. I think that’s the biggest. Thing that. People think that just because you signed up for this and paid a lot of money, that you’ll miraculously. Learn to do it. No, you have to put in the time you have to put in the effort. A lot of the videos that I went through, I had to go back and like, restart. So because I wanted to learn the process, especially with the CSS and HTML. Coding part of it. And then I still need to learn. A little bit more about. Because of the newer theme JSON file, that is something that I’m weak on, so it’s a. It’s a constant learning process. I think wherever you are within the website design developer. You know, we’re constantly learning new things.
Yeah, it’s one of the things that makes working and tech so fun is it changes every day and we don’t have time to get bored. I I’m pretty well a book a week guy. I try to read a book a week, no matter how busy I am. And that’s a big part of my learning is just learning, reading and understanding and understanding why we do things and why and how. So I think that’s really important. I want to thank you, Laura, for sharing your insights today with somebody new, were in our community. I think it puts a different perspective on things like after you’ve been in this community as long as I have you, you see things in a different light. So your your opinions and your insights are always greatly appreciated. Here and elsewhere, I hope you know that if somebody wants to get a hold of you to talk about, learn, learned, out, wordpress.org or anything else. How’s the bus flight?
I have a contact. Form on my. Website @addalittledigital.com. And I’m also on Twitter or x.
x, formally known as Twitter.
Yeah, and and you can find me. On LinkedIn too. So.
Yeah. And if you if you want to have some fun, come join us on a Friday build mode and and you can learn some more in. That group too, right?
Yeah. Our next one is September 8th and Ohh I also want to give a plug out to accessibility day is coming at the end of September, September 27th. And 28 it’s 24 hours of virtual talks that will be shared. I will be hosting several of those hours where I’ll be introducing the speakers within a certain time frame. So I’m super excited about that. One of our build mode friends, Peter, will be actually an A speaker. For that event and it’s. Such an important topic that you know if you don’t know enough, if you don’t know anything, if you, if you think you know anything. You need to learn more so.
Yeah, they so true. And come on out for that. It’s a it’s a key event and in many places, accessibility isn’t just a reality. It’s actually law. And people need to know. So you know, in Ontario, if you’ve got a government website. Or a public nonprofit website. There are rules around accessibility folks, so it’s. Yeah. Come on. Something. Thank you, Ari. You have an awesome day. Appreciate you as always.
Thank you very much, Rob, you too.