Howdy, I make websites for people using WordPress and the Genesis Framework. When I’m not working, you can find me sniffing books, swimming in the neighbor’s pool, or watching crime dramas. My husband, Dave, and I are parents to two rescue labrador retrievers, one black and one yellow. We embrace diversity.
Meet Carrie Dils, one of the top-notch developers coming right out of the Lone Star State. She specializes in Genesis sites, and has been building things with WordPress for several years, and working with computers since as long as she can remember. Her dad was a computer scientist who constantly had piles of computers in various states of disrepair as she was growing up.
Carrie works closely with her clients, providing really great customer experience. She is also in the process of scaling up her business and building a series of premium themes that allow her to branch out a bit. Business tends to be growing for most WordPress developers.
Austin: When was the first time that you really got excited about WordPress and at what point did you decide to make it your career?
Carrie: I’ve been making websites for a long time using other technologies. I guess it was about two years ago a guy I worked with told me try WordPress. I did the famous 5 minute install, found a good-looking theme, and cranked out a site for a client in record time. It was simple stuff, but the concept of themes (true separation of content and style), plus the content management interface blew me away. I’ve never looked back…
Where do you go first to get your WP news, insights, and updates?
Twitter. The majority of folks I follow have some connection to the WordPress community. If there’s breaking news, I’ll see it in my Twitter feed first. I also listen in on WP-related podcasts to keep up on the conversation.
What WP consultants deserve more love than they get? Who should we be paying attention to?
Well, you’ve already done a great job of highlighting some of my code crushes in this series. 🙂 Others I respect and look up to in the WP code world include Rob Neu, Andrew Norcross, and Curtis McHale. I’ve learned a ton from listening, observing, and interacting with them.
What performance tips would you give to other pros (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?
Umm, here’s a no-brainer: Start with a WordPress managed host, then you know you’re starting off on the right foot when it comes to speed and security. When it comes to scalability, look at ways to isolate core site functionality from basic theme functions, either using “must use” plugins or includes. For example, if you plan on switching out themes on a heavily-customized site, it’s so much easier if your custom post types, taxonomies, and other theme-independent code is separate.
Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail.
I took a new client site live, not realizing they had all their company email addresses tied to the site DNS (total failure of communication on my part). Pretty much destroyed any excitement over their site launch considering I killed their entire company email for several hours. Now I always remember to ask about email beforehand…
If you were going to spend this weekend creating a plugin that doesn’t exist, what would it be?
I’d make the WordPress equivalent of an emissions inspection. Ideally it’d be part of a standard WP install (no offense Matt, but this would be totally more useful than Hello Dolly). If an install or plugins were beyond 3 months out of date, visiting that site would result in the following message:
Caution: This site does not meet online safety standards. Please contact the owner and tell them to update.
Do you use Themes & Child Themes, Roll your own, or both?
A little bit of both. If I can get 90% of the way there with an existing theme, I’ll start with that as a base and then customize it out. Creating new themes is fun, too.
What’s your favorite theme or theme framework? Why?
I love the Genesis Framework to pieces. It’s high quality code, with security standards that pass muster with Mark Jaquith himself. I’m confident using it and it enables me to do my work more efficiently.
Just one? Hrm. I’ll say Regenerate Thumbnails. It’s straight-forward and gets the job done.
Least favorite plugin?
Any caching plugin. I find them difficult to use and more likely to cause problems and conflicts than help. Of course, it’s possible I’m just doing it wrong.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done with Custom Post Types?
I used a front-end form to enable site visitors to submit a testimony. The form entry auto-populated a “Testimony” custom post type with a draft status, enabling the site admin to manually approve entries. Coupled with a custom archive template, this solution gave my client an easy way to streamline the process of receiving new testimonies and adding them to their website.
It’s not an earth-shattering example, but I liked creating that solution without relying on a plugin. It solved a single problem without bringing any extra baggage to the install.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that WordPress consultants will face in the next year?
There is so much work opportunity for WordPress developers right now. That’s actually a great thing, but I think the challenge is to “know thyself” enough to be strategic when selecting projects and opportunities, so that your direction stays consistent with your values and goals. Wait, I think I’m preaching to myself.
If you could change one thing today about WordPress, what would it be?
Updates to the Admin UI. While I don’t have any constructive criticism to offer, I think the interface could use some simplification.
Where do you see WordPress going in the next few years?
I think we’ll see continued growth in third-party products and services for WordPress. I also think WordPress will continue to evolve as a front-end interface to larger enterprise applications.
Tell us a story where you saved the WP day for yourself or on a client project. What made the difference for you?
Just last week I had a consulting client email me that he’d up and moved his site to a new host without migrating his site beforehand. To make matters worse, he’d already cancelled his old account and the original site was inaccessible. Not sure what possessed him, but thankfully he’d made a backup of all his files. In about an hour I was able to restore his site from backups on the new server. He told me “I made his day” – that’s what I like to hear. 🙂
What’s the biggest misconception you encounter about WordPress, and how do you clear it up for your clients?
“WordPress is free.” True, WordPress is open-source and therefore free to use, but there are still associated costs, everything from domain registration and hosting, to professional design and development services. It may be free, but isn’t necessarily cheap.
If you were interviewing another WordPress developer for a job, what is the first question you would ask and why?
“What was the last code problem you solved and how did you figure it out?” I want to know the thought process a person goes through to troubleshoot and what their go-to resources are. I care less about knowing the right answer off the top of your head than knowing how to find the right answer.
What did I miss? Here’s your chance to fill in the blanks and add something you want people to know about you!
My husband and I were engaged for 36 hours before we eloped. We were married by a Justice of the Peace, last name of “Hickey.” No lie. We’ve now been married two years less than WordPress has been around. 🙂
You all can check out Carrie’s work in her portfolio, and also follow her on Twitter.
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