Today our WPOI (Word Person of Interest) is Jason Schuller.
Jason is self-taught WordPress designer and developer, who started both WPelements.com and Press75.
His perspective on the future of WordPress is much different than most of our interviewees, so you’ll definitely want to see what he has to say.
1. Tell Us About Yourself, The More ‘Unknown’ Facts the Better!
I’m 37 years old, married with a little baby girl on the way. My first career of choice would have actually been architecture and that’s still something that continues to consume a big portion of my interests today. I don’t really consider myself a designer, but “design” along with the idea of “simplicity” is something that has captivated me for as long as I can remember.
I think I’m drawn to the design and development of websites specifically because the web eliminates the need for the physical manufacturing of a product which makes it much easier to realize your ideas (which seem never-ending for me).
I never went to school for web design or development, but I’ve always been very good at figuring out how things work on my own. I remember tearing apart the VCR as a kid (to my parents dismay) just to see if I could figure out how it all functioned on the inside, and that is exactly how I approached learning web design and development.
Once you know nuts and bolts by reverse engineering existing “things”, it’s pretty simple, with a lot of trial and error, to create your own “things”. When it came to creating websites, I would just copy the source of an existing site and then start fiddling with the code until I figured out how/why changing a piece of code affected the content and design.
2. You’ve Been Around WordPress for a While… How Long Has it Been Now? When Was Your First Experience?
My first “real” job was as a tech writer for the Boeing Company here in Seattle which I landed right out of my local Community College. Eventually, as I became more competent at creating and managing websites, I became the “web guy” in my organization which then (by sheer curiosity) lead me to WordPress.
I had been evaluating several content management systems at the time (around 2006/2007) as a potential solution for managing our internal organizational websites. When I realized how easy it was to create a theme for WordPress and deploy websites using MU, it seemed like a no-brainer solution for the company.
Long story short, management wasn’t convinced that it was the right direction at the time (primarily because of the GPL) which gave me the motivation I needed to go off on my own. I left the company in late 2007 and started taking on client work designing and developing websites using what I had learned evaluating WordPress the year before.
3. Why Did you Start Press75? What Was the Chief Motivation?
I actually originally started selling themes via WPelements.com which was a blog I established back in 2007 in order to write about what I was learning. As WPelements grew, I continued to release free WordPress themes and plugins which is essentially how I began to cultivate a following in the WordPress community.
Keep in mind that I really had no clue what I was doing, but I think people were drawn to some of the ideas I had when it came to creating simple solutions for plugins and themes.
This was all around the same time Adii Pienaar and Brian Gardner were just starting to sell themes of their own (late 2007 to early 2008) which is where I got the motivation to attempt doing the same. Also, I was never really good at taking direction from clients which was even more incentive for me to make a go at selling themes.
The first paid theme I released was “Video Flick” (originally built for one particular flighty client) which was just a simple grid of thumbnails that led to embedded videos in a lightbox. I priced that theme at $5.00, hit “publish” and then went for a walk with my wife and dogs.
By the time we got back, it had sold well over 50 copies. Three more video themes and a few months later (June of 2008), I created and launched Press75 and have been running it ever since.
4. How Have You Seen WordPress Grow and Change and Where Do You Think It’s Headed?
As I mentioned above, I’m drawn to “simplicity” which is why I stuck with WordPress when I started evaluating content management systems back in 2007. Mambo, Joomla and pretty much all of the others were a complete mess simplicity wise, but WordPress was captivating from the moment I first used it.
Everything about WordPress just seemed to make sense from a usability and development standpoint. Since then however, I’ve become increasing skeptical about the direction of WordPress or if there is any direction at all.
Many will argue that this isn’t true, but in my opinion all of the wonderful simplicity that gave WordPress its personality is now completely nonexistent. WordPress is in the midst of an identity crisis and I’m really not sure it can be saved without quite a bit of intervention.
5. Recently You’ve Been Contemplating Your Career and Future, Even with WordPress – What Does This Mean for You in 2013?
In mid 2012, I decided that I was going to maintain my WordPress theme business as best I could, but that I would begin to focus outside of WordPress when it came to future endeavors. Being excited, happy and passionate about what I’m working on is very important to me, and I no longer feel any of these things when comes to WordPress.
Every time I login to a WordPress admin or go to create a new theme, I just sigh a little because I feel like it’s something I need to do now rather than something I want to do. Earlier last year, I even tried creating a few really “simple themes” just to see if that would curb my appetite for something fresh, but in the end I honestly felt like I was just putting a tarp over all the junk in the back yard.
That said, I still think WordPress is an amazing piece of software that has opened so many doors for so many people and that is something I will never forget. It’s just not something I’m entirely interests me, in its current state.
So, what does this mean for me in 2013? It means that I’m working on a few key projects (primarily “Leeflets.com“) which have really made me “excited, happy and passionate” again because I feel like I’m involved in something truly unique, simple and innovating.
6. Any Personal Side Projects or Passions that Keep You Busy?
I’ve been a traveler, snowboarder and mountain biker for over 20 years, a husband for almost 15 years, and now it is finally time for the biggest and most important “personal side project” of my life.
My wife and I have been trying to have kids for several years now and we finally have a little baby girl due in just under 2 months. I’m pretty sure that little girl is going to keep me very busy indefinitely, and I couldn’t be more happy about it.
7. What are One or Two Tips for Those That are Getting into WordPress?
If you’re planning on creating something new for WordPress, I truly hope that it’s something unique, somewhat innovating and comes from the right place. The WordPress theme marketplace is a sad state of affairs right now, and I think it has something to do with people trying to do it for the wrong reasons.
Yes, I currently make a living by selling WordPress themes, but making money was never the primary motivating factor for getting into this business. I truly just wanted to be “excited, happy and passionate” about what I did for a living and I achieved that by building my WordPress theme business which has since opened so many other doors.
I’m convinced that nothing good in this world comes from pure “money motivation”. Create “things” because you actually have something unique to contribute, not because you want a Ferrari in your garage.