Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This the WordPress community podcasts on WMR. This is your host, David Vogel Paul, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you hear every week on press this as a reminder, you can find me on Twitter @wpdavidv, or you can subscribe to press this on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. In this episode, we’re going to be talking about advanced custom PSD to WordPress conversions and joining us in that conversation. I’d like to welcome to Press This Gautam Khorana.
Gautam Khorana: Hey, David.
DV: Did I say that last name right?
GK: Yes, exactly. That’s absolutely perfect. It just like Batman. Gotham City.
DV: I wanted to say Corona. But it’s Khorana. It is caught on. Yeah. Well, thank you for joining us here. For those who don’t know a godson, he is with a company called Seahawk media, one of the things they do is specialize and converting custom designs to WordPress. So in this episode, we’re going to be talking to God talks about his team’s process for converting PSD to WordPress, as well as things like the technology they use, how WordPress kind of plays a unique role in that really this notion of scaling your innovation or their innovation, design innovation in the projects that they build. So to kick us off, got some of is wondering, what is your WordPress origin story? What was the first time you started working with or creating with WordPress?
GK: Very good question. So about living and a half years ago, I started an online jewelry business with my mom and dad. And it still exists. We have a network of several websites online. And what we wanted to do was we basically wanted to find the cheapest and the best way to run our e commerce stores and it played around with Shopify open card see a scarred illusion, and a lot of other technologies I can’t even remember. And then you know, I you know, stumbled upon WordPress at that time, WordPress was not as popular as you know, it is now and growing by the minute. But then I was hooked. I realized that Listen, you know, I need to do this. And about four and a half years ago, several years after my online jewelry businesses, I founded my own web agency. And since then, I’ve been using WordPress and only WordPress.
DV: When did you start the jewelry businesses that you eventually built the websites around? Like, how far back Are we talking?
GK: That’s like 2008, roughly.
DV: Okay, gotcha. So that would have been just five years after WordPress started. And then kind of going through that process of trying different platforms, and eventually landing on WordPress, something it’s interesting, this part of your origin story, where you’re using WordPress as a tool to serve your business. But along the way, you kind of enjoy building a website and you’re like, well, maybe that should be my business. I know a lot of people.
GK: That’s exactly how it happened. That’s actually exactly how it happened. You know?
DV: What was that moment? like for you? How did you decide that this was the thing you wanted to do instead of the jewelry thing?
GK: Um, ideally, what exactly happened because of my online jewelry businesses? You know, there are a lot of friends and family members, and they used to say, Hey, can you help me with the site? Hey, can you help me? Can you guide me, you know, and I said, Listen, like I’ve been guiding these people and you know, lists. And you know, I was only working out of Indian I only had customers in India and then something, something something that was something I started acquiring customers, not only in India, but other parts of APAC, Singapore, us a lot of other company, a lot of other countries. And that’s how, you know, it happened, you know, and very soon, you know, I was hired my own team, you know.
DV: So could you briefly tell me about Seahawk Media?
GK: Okay, now, this is a very interesting story. Okay. So in early 2019, um, you know, GoDaddy, they posted a picture of me on Instagram. At that time, my company was called site code, you know, and after the vital GoDaddy posted my picture, is because they gave me an award, the first ever business by award and What happened was, was my picture was posted. I remember it was actually, I actually remember the date. It was Jan 27th 2019. And Ryan, who’s my co founder. Now, he found me because of that picture. Ryan is the one who was based out of Boston who actually coined the name, Seahawk and started his company from his college dorm room. And long story short, without even meeting each other be married or company, within 60 days of meeting each other, not even meeting, you know. And now we are legally established with over 85 employees all over the US, Poland and India. And I’ll explain to you more about that as well.
DV: Wow, 2019. That’s some pretty fast growth rates get up to 85 employees that quickly very impressive. It’s also interesting to hear about this kind of moment of connection with you being featured, you know, in the GoDaddy award, and then connecting with this other gentleman Ryan there in Boston. And thinking about like connecting, starting a company doing a lot of things maybe before you even that, which which I think we see that story play out, of course, a lot in WordPress. Now, of course, we’re talking about, you know, today really converting custom designs via something like a PSP to a WordPress website. And not that they’ve been super familiar for a lot of people. So from the high level, could you help folks understand kind of what’s what’s involved there? What does that look like?
GK: Absolutely. So imagine a blank canvas, and imagine a paintbrush and watercolors next to it. And imagine that there’s somebody whether it’s a home Baker, or somebody who wants who has this new idea of an online, e commerce stores selling jewelry, or t shirts, shoes, and they have this vision, and they want to bring that vision to life, especially after the post in the scored world, we are living in weird times. And people want to get their businesses online as quickly as possible, especially the ones who have never sold online, or those who have only sold on eBay or Amazon a sector they want to enhance the presence. So what we do is, these typically send people a questionnaire, a set of 15 questions, whether it’s a homemaker or any other, you know, visionary, and pieces on those 15 questions, we present to them a mock up, imagine a blank canvas to a WordPress site by one single mock up, which is usually done on PST, or HD in our company. But we do use zeplin and a couple of other tools as well.
DV: So you’re creating the design from scratch, is the jest. And so when you’re creating the design, and of course a lot of designers do this, and then house teams and agencies, but they’re creating it in software, Photoshop is common. You mentioned XP, was that actually quite a bit at WP engine as well. But you’re you’re fundamentally creating a design from scratch versus say, using a theme that you might buy?
GK: Always, always, always, always. Yes, yes, yes, I prefer that method. So I’ll tell you what the reason is that, you know, we believe this is how we visionary that, you know, a site should be a representation of yourself, and we shouldn’t have an idly if you have the option of not going the theme forest way or some other template gallery, etc, you know, at a very fair price, then why not? You know, you envision something, you’re dreaming of something, you know, you’ve wanted to be a successful million or a multi million dollar business. In the next few years, everybody starts an online business because or a blog or an E book business, because obviously, they want to be successful at it, you know, and I think every person’s website should be a representation of themselves, the colors, the type of Rafi. And at the end of the day, you know, when you’re making websites from scratch, you know, essentially PHP to bootstrap bootstrap to WordPress, the faster the better. They don’t come with preset plugins, you’re free to use any plugins which you like, versus team force teams, you know, I’m not against themeforest initially, like four years ago, I even I played around with them. But eventually we realized, you know, like, this is the best way. And it’s a very scalable way in our company because we use Monday for project management. We use iPhone for onboarding, and we’ve got the processes pretty pretty much at you know.
DV: That sounds like if I could summarize your point of view there, it sounded like there were kind of two main parts there was the unique voice side so I wanted to design the specific to me, and then there was the dependencies and the efficiency side of the theme You end up creating to support that vision. I think about this a little bit from the custom design side, one of my favorite sayings people will say about WordPress is that looks like a WordPress site. And I’m like, What are you talking about? I could show you 20 things that would not look like you thought it was ever built with WordPress. I think that’s one of the perceptions I think people sometimes have is that I have to make this compromise on my visceral visual voice and it sounds like you see how can you in particular, kind of really wrap your head around or wrap your practice around this? I have some other questions in this vein. No. We’re gonna take a quick break and we’ll be right back.
DV: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to Press This the WordPress community podcast on WMR. This is your host David Vogelpohl. I’m interviewing Gautam from Seahawk Media around his process for converting custom designs into WordPress sites. Got them right before the break, you mentioned that you favor creating a custom design from scratch with the clients that you work with. Do you reuse any of your design elements? I mean, obviously, some of the reasons people will choose themes isn’t because of the exact design of the theme. but rather because layouts and certain elements are kind of done them already. I mean, you literally start from scratch on every project. Where are you reusing, like layouts and forms and other elements? I’ll be interesting.
GK: Okay, so every single project, it’s customized. Okay, I should tell you, there’s another backstory to this, about one and a half years ago, we started recruiting designer on dribble, the world’s largest design community, there are like thousands and 10s of thousands of designers over there. But we handpick them, we train them, we mentor them, in some cases, you know, and we choose the best designers, we have a lot of them on our permanent payroll. And we have some contractors, and depending on the questionnaire, the project, the type of the project, we assign the relevant designer, and we turn around a markup, maybe like within like three to five business days at the most. There are two benefits to this. Number one, you know, the client can envision their site, obviously, just like a theme forest template, or any other template, you know, in front of their eyes. And if they want iterations and revisions, you know, they want to see a different color, or maybe they want to see their logo a little differently, or maybe they want to see their own picture on the About Us section, or maybe they want to see your Instagram feed, we can show it to them very quickly, because they’re all done on PSD HD is that when a sector like I mentioned earlier, you know, so that’s, you know, you know, benefit number one. And the other benefit for this is that, you know, it sees a lot of time when it comes to back and forth when you’re actually creating the website. See, if you’re using a theme, you’re you know, what happens is you’re working on the live WordPress environment. And there could be a like people say, Hey, I don’t like this section, can you remove the section? Or can you add the section on the home page, it’s a lot of back and forth. But once the homepage markup is approved, in our case, it actually saves our company a lot of time, because the homepage is said. And then the sub pages are picked up from the homepage, the same colors performance, the typography, and for sub pages, we use Elementor. I’ll come to that a little later and unexplained one that isn’t.
DV: So it sounds like as you create the designs, you feel that by providing a completely unique design, they can tell their visual story, you can work with them on that visual story. And because you’re not starting from a place that’s relying on, you know, the code of an existing theme, you’re not having to undo code in order to deliver on a visual voice, you’re kind of starting with it straight from the design and then creating the code around the design. Essentially, the theme and the content of ganache is what the designer came up with. Now, earlier, you talked a little bit about this notion of dependencies that themes can sometimes come with. And those dependencies are used to generally power a different experience on the site, whether it be in commerce or membership, or whatever the thing is, and that the theme provides styles to this keynote views, if you will, within the website that’s maybe provided by a third party plugin like WooCommerce or something else. You feel that’s also restrictive through the notion of like having to kind of unwind those styles because they want their product pages to look a certain way or their checkout process to look a certain ways Is that also how you think about this plugin dependencies? Or are you like a build from scratch plugin? person? You do that as well?
GK: No, no, no, I think I think we all the good good plugins, obviously, with plugins, you need to be careful because, you know, if you use the wrong plugin, your website can get hacked. And you know, you can fix problems when updating the WordPress versions and a lot of other things. So I believe that using plugins is absolutely fine, as long as you know, and we use plugins all the time, for payment gateways, like PayPal stripe square, we do a lot of API integrations, which are not dependent on plugins. But still, you know, it’s just much less and Messier. Let me say like that. But you know, when you’re using this process, in fact, we have proven our processes over and over again. And right now, we are launching, on an average four websites every single week, you know, we have made this a very scalable process. And, in fact, one of our large hosting providers are believing in us. And they have actually signed up a contract for a white label services. And we are setting up professional services for this hosting company, I can’t name them because we are under NDA
DV: Even like design aspect, meaning you’re not using kind of a bad stable of starter themes or something that you’re able, through your processes to achieve that custom design in a PSD or whatever it is, and then turn that into a WordPress site. It sounds like you’re okay with plugins. But when it comes to styling with the plugins are doing, you’re starting with the raw design, and then coding that into the theme or the content stuff that’s going to render that. So help me out, man. Like, how then are you doing that? Like how are you approaching these projects that you think is maybe different than the way other people approach it? And then why is that method helpful in, you know, being able to deliver at the pace that you’re able to achieve?
GK: Very good question. So initially, we struggled with this a lot when we were scaling up. So what we did was we, at our company, we call our teams nest, because we are seahorses, so we have teams like because our team’s nests, you know, like a web nest, one webinars, two webinars three. So every nest comprises of four to five people, a project manager, to developers, you know, as a graphic designer, you know, wajdi used to developers in one nest is because one developer has a skill for being a pro. And what they do is they will customize the plugins, they can take care of any API integration, some payment gateway related integrations, and a lot of other things. And the other developer, that person is a UI developer, so that person can do the styling, the CSS issues, making sure that the website is responsive for iPads, iPhones, any other devices, you know.
DV: You Sign up one UI developer for one designer is too low a ratio. In my experience in the past, I have like at least two UI developers for every designer, because the development process is slower. How do you think of that?
GK: So in our case, a realist is able to manage about 15 websites, 15 websites, but it depends upon the kind of website, sometimes it’s just brand websites, and like three to six pages, and sometimes they’re more complex, going up to even like hundreds of pages. So whenever there are more complex websites, we bring in additional developers into our niche, so like a buddy developer, or you are right, David In saying that, that we need to bring in other developers also. But typically, almost like 70% of our projects are managed between these two categories of developers.
DV: If you look at the project manager, the developer UI developer, the designer, then more of a back end developer, or guess, what’s the next phase? How are you pulling this off?
GK: So so we use monday.com. for project management. Are you familiar with Monday, David?
DV: I’ve seen their ads, but that’s probably the one project management system I’ve never used.
GK: Oh, man, that’s, that’s absolutely phenomenal. By the way for Monday. We are also their channel partners in India as well as the US. So I’m not going to sell you on Monday, but I’m going to just going to say that it’s truly one of the best project management tools and this is coming from somebody who has used Asana, Basecamp, Trello, JIRA, mnemic. You know, it’s just so easy to deploy and see, you know.
GK: Yes, we are almost 400 plus customers over the last 16 months. 17 months, roughly have been on Monday, we invite them now there’s guests on our shared Monday boards whenever let’s say you sign up for a website. Next step is a project manager will reach out to you with a questionnaire on type form. By the way, we are also channel partners with iPhone. Okay, honestly, and we Yeah, and that’s close, right. And I was actually pretty lucky, you know, I actually met the CEO of iPhone in Barcelona last year in November. But that’s a separate story, which is pretty cool. You know, at that time, they were just starting out the channel partnership. And I guess I believed in them, and they believed in us, you know, our symbol for Monday, you know, and what we’ve done is that, for Monday dot when it comes to Monday, you know, we will invite you to a project management tool, if you are the customer. It’s just one single board, and you have this beautiful app, you know, and in real time, you can see, hey, this is my launch date. This is when I’m expanding the market. This is, this is the information that might see how nest is seeking from me everything at the click of a button.
DV: Like, it sounds like what you’re doing. If I could just interject real quickly here as it sounds like you’re giving them visibility into the project management process, which I’m guessing helps aid feedback and move faster. And you’re also sharing things like your target delivery date, and other things where they can kind of self serve. Versus I’m guessing interrupt your team and a bunch of questions all the time. And that sounds really smart. I knew in my agents days, I didn’t always get that level of detail. It probably hurt me. I actually want to dig into a little bit behind about the methods of converting, but we’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back.
DV: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to press this WordPress community podcast on w Mr. We’re talking to God about converting PSD to WordPress. Got some right before the break. We were talking a little bit about your method. Your system of nesting developers, designers program project managers, as well as kind of involving the customer in the project management process to Monday. helped me understand the technology I’d like, what are you using specifically to assist your development teams and converting these vfds, getting the designs created and doing that in an efficient way where they can manage 15 websites?
GK: Okay, in all honesty, David, believe it or not initially to train the developers coach them, to get them up to our standards was a really difficult task. But what we have done is we’ve created very powerful trainings on Monday. Okay. So whenever somebody joins our company, the reason we have been able to scale up from 15 people last year to almost, you know, 80 plus people now is because, you know, we have very powerful trainings, and we get them up to speed at Seahawks standards, and we try to be as pixel perfect as possible, irrespective of the order value value, whether the order values 1500 bucks, 3000 bucks, 5000 bucks, it doesn’t matter, you know, when it comes to technology, you know, see the designers, the UI designers, in our case, who are mostly based out of Europe and Poland or Ukraine, whom we have hand selected these designers to give the files and zeplin PST, you know.
DV: dictating what they use, you’re giving them no.
GK: Yes, yes. And our UI developers have our nest, they’re well trained to just convert them to a home, they convert the website to like, get the homepage ready, within three days at the most within three days at the most.
DV: And are you eyes open with UI developers on the technology and methods they use as you are with your designers?
GK: Yes, we are we are actually exploring more and more options. We also thought of using a software and only using XD to WordPress initially, but then they realize you know, we have been restricting the design talent because there’s a lot of design talent. We handpick from dribble who are comfortable using their own platform so we don’t restrict them in any way.
DV: You’re happy trying to like sit down and say look, I’ve got this PSD to WordPress business. I want to make it faster. I want to make it more efficient when we do our work. I feel like you would do the exact opposite. You would settle on exactly the method, exactly the tools and exactly the how but it sounds like you’re kind of giving more freedom yet still achieving this efficiency. And how do you think about the instinct of standardizing to go fast versus your approach?
GK: Okay, so when it comes to standardization, I should tell you that we have very strong slps very, very strong I can proudly say and I will give a lot of credit to my co founder Ryan when he was traveling to India sometime last year and he did it over here with me like he spent hours and hours to That I can proudly say that our slps are as strong as poppy or McDonald’s or Starbucks
DV: are inflated operating procedures. Yep, yep.
GK: Yes, absolutely. See, at the end of the day, Starbucks is all over the world. And they are basically doing it at scale and they’re successful at it. Somebody has got to be the world’s largest when it comes to doing web sites at scale. That’s what our vision is, you know, all me crazy, but we want to be the world’s largest when it comes to doing WordPress websites and that to PSD to WordPress at scale. That’s our vision.
DV: So you’re giving the creators some flexibility but Really it sounds like at the end of the day you actually are providing the kind of tracks if you will of follow to help and realize these efficiencies so they can choose the paintbrush by their painting with brushes and not with I don’t know what else you could paint with sponges or something like that. Yeah, I gotcha. I understand.
GK: Okay. Are you are you are developers that use all Adobe Suite, you know, that’s the standard suite which they use People that are sov standard operating processes pretty well laid down.
DV: So, you know again that other that other aspect of improving efficiency The first thing people will Go to is you know we need a system we need to reuse the things in the design system or design. universe we’ll call these designs systems. The atomic design system has really, you know, interesting example of this, but it’s the reuse of elements but customizing them for this specific use case. When I asked you about this a little earlier, you kind of talked about how you’ll You know, customize for every customer but I think it’s really interesting this notion of you know, starting with that blank slate and really helping the customer create a vision that you bring to life in their WordPress site. And to be able to do that this quickly is actually very impressive. Gautam, I would love to talk to you about this all day. But we’re kind of running short on time and I just wanted to thank you so much for joining us today.
GK: Thank you. So much David was great talking to you today.
DV: Yeah, you Well, I hope we get the chance to meet in person One day when all the lockdown stops
GK: oh yeah Can’t wait to get back to Boston in New York.
DV: Awesome to learn more about what Gautam is up to Visit Seahawk media.com Again, this is your host, David Vogelpohl. Support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine and I love to bring the best of the community to you here every week.