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 podcast on WMR. This is your host, David Vogelpohl. I 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 on Press This. As a reminder, you can follow me on Twitter @wpdavidv, and you can subscribe to Press This on Red Circle, iTunes, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. In this episode we’re going to be talking about unlocking revenue and time with advanced WordPress automation. Joining us for this conversation I’d like to welcome to Press This Mr. Jannis Thümming. Welcome to Press This.
Jannis Thümming: Excited to be here. Thanks for bringing me on.
DV: Yeah so glad to have you here. I think for those listening would be honest is going to talk about today he’s with a company called WP webhooks. He’s going to share his thoughts on why automation should be a crucial part of your business along with some of his favorite examples of digital automation with WordPress and approaches he recommends you take in new builds so I know folks really dislike manual efforts and love automation. So I guess a popular topic here today. If people aren’t too busy with all those manual processes anyways. Maybe they should take the time to listen. You honest before we get into the meat of the interview, I’d like to ask you the same question I asked every guest on price this I was wondering if you can briefly tell me your WordPress origin story. When was the first time you use WordPress?
JT: Cool. That’s very interesting. I guess it was eight years ago when I finished my apprenticeship in Germany as a system engineer, and I just had the need to create websites right and I wasn’t sure if I should start all from scratch by scratch by myself. And there was a time when I started creating my own WordPress website. And out of that I then realized oh, there’s actually a need for other people as well to have their website so I kind of turned into a freelancer and started creating smaller websites to mid sized company websites in the end and then switched over to plugins. So around four years ago, I then developed what our plugin is about. So WP web hooks, and another plugin a bit later called plug and play. So I basically went from themes creating websites through the back and back end site and this is everything and then very short words to WordPress,
DV: when you said you were a systems engineer, I think you said intern or something akin to that was was this for software systems or for other kinds of systems.
JT: It was actually for the opposite. So I was more in the first and second level support and repairing printers, and it was just a very tedious task. That’s why I started developing myself because you can just do it from anywhere you can be by yourself and no one is really bothering you. So that was kind of my motivation behind starting with.
DV: Excellent excellent. It sounds like you’ve had a full full full funnel, WordPress adventure and how your skills have evolved. They mentioned that you created the plugin WP web hooks Could you explain a little bit about what WP web hooks does and what your role is other than creating a plugin?
JT: Yes, so I’m just starting to properly I think it’s important nice to mention the initial setup of WP webhook. So I created it out of my need for actually integrating web hooks and API’s into WordPress just because it allows me to create automations like we usually talk about and that looked like that we just integrated web hooks. So for people who don’t know what a weapon is, it’s basically a specific service or website or whatsoever that can send data from point A to point B. So basically, if you have different service, so let’s say someone orders a product on your website, you can send out a webhook that sends data about this specific order to somewhere else. And this was the initial idea of web web hooks to create specific events that can be sent out on specific events that happened in WordPress, so that we can automate certain tasks and later on, we started extending that for incoming weapons as well, which means you can send an event from somewhere else. And you can do something specifically within WordPress, for example, to create a user, update a user create a post and so on. And since around last year, we kind of combine these webhook requests and API requests to something called flows, which is basically now the main feature of WP webhooks, which allows you to create automated workflows within WordPress. So when a specific event happens, let’s say a customer purchases something then you can consecutively execute actions afterward. That kind of do specific things that you don’t want to do manually anymore, like adding them maybe to a CRM, adding them adding the order to bookkeeping, and so on. So this kind of takes off all of the human resources you need and the time you need and maybe with a human error
DV: is this akin to how people might use like If This Then That Zapier things like that more specific to WordPress or how do you think about it in comparison to this, you know, maybe a broader solutions that people will often turn to?
JT: Yes, so the plugin itself this of course, is built for WordPress. So it’s specifically for WordPress, but since we are complying with all the standards, that web hooks and API use, you can also integrate it with SAF year integral, public connect, integrate the Soho flow. So that’s on the platforms. And we also provide certain integrations for them to make it easier for our users to actually integrate with platforms. So it comes about the automation you also can automate outside of WordPress and that is basically the main goal. So our goal is to provide incompatibility within the WordPress plugins and themes so that you can kind of combine them all together and even set them out to other services and platforms.
DV: So how to, like get it imagine exactly someday or imagined or hear some specific examples. I’m just curious, like, you kind of rattle off a couple there very quickly. But what are some like key ways that people might think of digital or business automation with their WordPress sites and web hooks, or API’s? Otherwise?
JT: Yeah, it’s my first thoughts was saying we have a key specific feature or workflow that works. It’s kind of hard, but there’s there are many that are used fairly fairly often. And one, for example, would be that we have certain customers that have properties on or listings on other websites. So they’re kind of property managers. And what they do is they synchronize those properties with WordPress, so they have their listings within WordPress, but they managed to them into a different system. And they can basically use our plugin to kind of synchronize them right. So whenever a new property is added on a specific platform, they can then automatically synchronize this property with WordPress and posted as a listing on the website including pictures custom meta, and every other details you can imagine. So this will be one that is basically kind of what covers the actions right so whenever someone from outside send something inside of WordPress, but it’s also the opposite way it’s possible. So you can for example, say when you have form plugins on your WordPress website, like contact form seven WP forms Gravity Forms. You can use them for example to collect leads or payments or you want to create and update users using our plugin because we have, for example triggers that fire on certain form submissions. They are integrated with our plugin. And whenever that happens, then you can afterwards send them specific data somewhere else and even format it in a way that is necessary for the other service to understand. And this allows you basically in both ways to communicate and create automations with WordPress.
DV: So it sounds like a lot of this is even tied to custom automations because I know there’s there’s certain automations that are included with some of the form plugins you were talking about. Are people looking to this automation when they’re when they’re trying to tackle largely trying to tackle custom automations or do you feel like there’s like a common theme that emerges? Is that where your flows are about or help me understand how you think about that?
JT: Yeah, so I’m we are aware, of course that there’s many plugins that have their own kind of weapon integrations. So they offer their own endpoints like Elementor does it for example, or Gravity Forms does it the thing is that anyways, a lot of customers come to us and use WP backwards instead, just because we are specifically focused on these kind of automations and on manipulating the data that is behind, right so they can use all of our features and are not just limited to the static response that is usually given by other plugins. So they can use them not just to automate but also to manipulate the data and to send it still in the same way. And then the same way for reliable to other platforms and services.
DV: When they’re manipulating the data. Are they doing that with code with your plugin and like tying into it somehow, or is it kind of a combination of custom code and settings or how does that customization happen?
JT: So it’s basically visual, but it’s not limited to that. So in case anyone is familiar with Zapier, for example, what they do is they gather certain data from an endpoint, they will kind of decode it. So they will make each of the lines as a separate value, and that value will then be visually available and selectable from a drop down. So our plugin kind of does the same. So whenever an event fires, we have specific information available that the user can use, and this is what we allow them to select in the next upcoming steps. So let’s say they have a contact form that is submitted and there was an email submitted and maybe a picture. They are able to select this picture and the email automatically from this specific data packet of the trigger within all of their upcoming actions. So there’s basically no code specifically needed for that. They can use formatting so we have something called a formatter, which allows you to make math operations to replace text to find text, to separate text and so on. That is then just in in the next step to actually make data available to a service that requires a specific format, for example.
DV: Okay, well, those are some pretty good examples. You know, kind of curious thinking about WordPress compared to other systems when it relates to automation. And I’d love to get your thoughts on that. But we’re gonna take our first break, we’ll be right back.
DV: Hello everyone welcome back to press this WordPress community podcast and W EMR This is your host David vulnerable. I’m talking to Yan as to big WP web hooks about saving, unlocking revenue and time with automation with WordPress Jonas right before the break you were giving us some examples of automation things around like the way you might handle foreign data, different types of systems and might need to interact with, create actions within or share data with some of the other key examples you provided. I’m just curious, like what are your thoughts on on WordPress relative to digital automation? You know, I mean, a lot of folks in the in the big wide world these is closed source systems like wicks or Shopify in some ways that maybe make it harder for this or impossible is it just WordPress is the open nature that makes it good or is there anything else that you think about terms of how well WordPress is suited for digital automation?
JT: So the possibilities are basically endless. We are of course specifically designed to plug in in the first place for WordPress users that actually use WordPress to leverage out certain features. Like for me, for example, has in the past, we have a teachable account. So where someone can create a course inside of the course, and they use our plugin, for example, and WordPress additionally, to provide certain extra features like specific membership areas and so on. And they kind of automate this possibility between sending the user from teachable to the WordPress and but it can, it can also be used outside of the actual WordPress so kind of as a standalone automation solution, which basically removes in some sense the need, for example, for automation platforms like Zapier or integrate so how that will happen is if you have for example, let’s take the example of teachable, you can basically send data to WordPress and manipulate the data there to certain automations and can send that data to somewhere else. So you basically don’t necessarily need to use Zapier for doing all of this automation tasks but basically, you can also use your cell phone version of our plugin on a WordPress site to send that same data.
DV: Yeah, because I guess everything’s open and approachable. There’s more customization just in general, but it feels like just even thinking back to my end. Agency days is like when a client was trying to build a site. You could build it on a kind of a very quick closed source platform if it’s just a brochure site, but it’s usually the automation I feel that like makes it a requirement that you can’t go with platforms like that because I always have I always call it the maybe not the weird ideas but like that I have an idea. That was what ultimately made WordPress the best choice. Because the idea was unique. It was different than other things and followed automation rules that off the shelf. Most source things didn’t have an answer for and it felt like almost every client had something like that. But to me it wasn’t like just that it was well suited for it. It was like But that was the reason why why most sites needed to settle on it, at least in my view as as a platform or something like it. I don’t know if you see it in the same way.
JT: Yeah, totally. Totally. I say I say for WordPress specifically. I’m a big I’m a big fan of using WordPress as an automation platform myself just for the fact because you have the flexibility, which is something that you don’t have zappy for example. So you’re kind of bound to certain structure that Zapier offers and a certain set of features. But what if you want to automate something that will for example, save you seven, eight steps, which is again, a huge amount of tasks that you basically have to pay or data that is sent back and forth. So this kind of these kind of factors can be very interesting, specifically, if you work with WordPress, because there you can kind of change everything right? Because you have basically access to all of the source code, you can create your own integrations, which by the way also works or plugins, you can make your own integrations for your specific needs and services, and then use them with all of our predefined automations and so on within WP weapons. So this is this is one big hardware. I believe WordPress is a nice set up for that, as well as for data data privacy, right because you have control over the data. It’s not mentioned or it’s not available in Zapier. And sessions from other service that can be safe wherever you episode.
DV: Yeah, that’s a really good point. You know, I’ve had a couple of guests on the show who have leaned into automation with WordPress, not just in their builds, but even in how they market their services to their Freelancer agency clients where they’ll say, hey, why don’t you are to automate this part of your business and it really doesn’t have the guests what they shared was, a lot of the times it had nothing to do with a marketing effort. It really had to do with like, making some backend process for the business faster, some, some thing they were doing, were efficient and it was really interesting to hear them lean into it in terms of a way of, you know, satellite clients from the typical marketing funnel sites. But it’s interesting to hear you talk about it kind of writ large. So I’m curious now, you kind of share quite a bit about the new web hooks. I do want to ask you a little bit more about that here in a bit. But I’m just curious, other than WP webhooks what plugins are good examples of automation with repressible? What are plugins that you see that do a good job with it? Maybe in one specific area or generally and I guess it doesn’t have to be a plugin either, but I’m just curious like, what other technologies etc, and WordPress that are really good examples of automation?
JT: Yeah, so this this many ways, especially about automation. So if you think of the definition of automation, it’s very broad so you can see it in a lot of ways. I think a very simplified version of saying what is an automation is it’s something that saves you time, right and makes that easier. So that is why we usually buy plugins because they help us to kind of automate things in a certain way. And one of them is for example, managed WP weapons or managed WP, which is basically a centralized version of managing all of your WordPress websites, right? So their way of automating things just basically that you don’t have to log into every website to change something but you can do it all centralized from from my website from managed WP. Then we have the other way, which is similar to what we have now there’s a plugin called uncanny Automator which is from Ryan. So we have also talked before and it’s an amazing plugin as well, which does something similar would we do just that it’s token base. So they don’t work with the exact full data construct, but the specific elements of it to help just like I’d say, a simplified way for smaller automations that don’t require much complexity or especially much reliability because we focus more on bigger projects and specifically on performance. So they often do something like this. So there’s there’s a lot of marketing and a lot of plugins graphics, for example, as well from Adrian, which is kind of a marketing automation platform. So you kind of can automate your email workflows and dynamic tagging on specific users and sign up on WordPress and so on. So it’s all kind of it’s all kind of connected through plugins from what I’ve seen and plugin creators basically try to bring in their own kind of flair flavor into the automation world by creating either web hooks or direct integrations within the code. But so this is this basically, this is basically the main parts about the plugins. I have also another kind of service that’s maybe interesting to mention. It’s called plugin blade, which allows specifically developers to create plugins templates like plugin generator with a couple of clicks. So you can create a predefined template, or some specific modules that you don’t need to download by yourself. So even from the development part, you can kind of automate the process by creating high quality code in basically no time. So that saves you again like 510 20 hours. Depending on your specific needs. So I’d say this is like a short roundup of what I think is different types of automation.
DV: Yeah, it’s kind of like build automation, like when plug and play. And I know people really lean in, of course into automation or build flows. And you have kind of like the Manage example where I’m kind of managing lots of sites. We’ve managed WP and leveraging automation in a variety of capacities to manage your sites. And then it was interesting about hearing about some of the other frameworks around automation of course. It sounds like anything like when people are generally building WordPress sites, do you think they give a thinking about this automation news requirement that creeps up it is it’s something that most folks kind of give afterthought to or don’t even realize they’re implementing or how do you how do you feel most people approach automation in their builds?
JT: So I think there’s kind of two entry points to that. One is probably out of the lead. So when they’re slippery, so much work that they most likely cannot do by themselves. So they get really bored, but then they think of cannot just automate the task. So this is I think, one of the possibilities and the others. The other one is if there is someone around that is already techie and has superior or customer projects, well, then it’s most likely that they already knew what possibilities they have with automations. So for them, it’s it’s nicer to even find ways to set up a certain automation, right, because if you have for example, an online shop is basically already automated that someone can purchase the product and it lands within your website and you have all the data available. There is already big automation because you don’t have to manually do it. But on top of that, you could for example, say that whenever this happens, and I also want to have that specific payment registered within my bookkeeping platform, I want that sent to be to a marketing automation platform and send out newsletters and these kind of things that you do come through experience or through the actual need, or of course through someone that is specifically consulted for automation.
DV: It’s interesting, it feels like a lot of people certainly when they’re trying to save money using off the shelf plugins or something will also kind of lean into the automation features natively available to make your decisions on the spot. Yeah, especially things like form plugins. I feel like that happens a lot even whether I use a form plugin or like an embedded HubSpot forum or something. It’s really interesting to see people kind of leaning towards the the native automation that’s available and whatever technology they happen to be considering in a WordPress bill. This is really interesting. And I do want to kind of dig a little deeper though. Some of the stuff you’re up to and web web hooks. We’re gonna take our last break. We’ll be right back.
DV: Well everyone welcome back to Press This WordPress community podcasts on WMR. We’re in the middle of talking about WordPress automation with Jannis Thümming. Right before the break Jannis you’re sharing a little bit about you know, really some other examples of automation within WordPress. And you mentioned some of the other kind of automation frameworks and examples and I’m just curious, like, if you could unpack that a little bit more about how you view web hooks is maybe different from other forms of automation. People might be familiar with WordPress.
JT: That’s totally. So our platform basically is kind of the solution that tries to bring in the cotton portability to WordPress. So we try to make other plugins being able to be connected to each other so that they can talk with each other and exchange data because that is still a big part that is kind of missing in WordPress. And that’s specifically specifically what we focus on. Exactly. So our main goal for blogging was basically to allow people to save time and resources and another very crucial point that I had mentioned earlier is the human errors. Because without the automations it’s very easily possible to bring in human errors that can harder again and cause a lot of problems long term.
DV: So let me ask this question. So like you’ve talked already about how there’s interfaces for setting the rules and was in the integrations and so I’m guessing this makes it more accessible to the people that are not able to code the same types of activities and in the sites that they bill. You mentioned how one of the objectives is to improve inter compatibility within plugins in automation. How are you getting the list of actions for each plug in? Are you having to like keep up with the web hooks per plugin? Can you detect them? Like, how do you how are you dealing with that? Like, if you’re if your focus is interoperability between plugins, how are you bridging that gap of like, what is surfacing versus the activities that it can do?
JT: Yeah, so we have definitely certain integrations that have predefined actions and triggers, which is something we create manually. So we create a specific trigger depending on the need. So also on our website, we have a specific page that allows you to request an integration, where you can also mention a certain action or trigger that you’re looking for. And that is usually how we start integrating our actions and triggers. That is the one part that is specifically focused on an action which makes it I think, the easiest for a user to use a specific feature, but it’s not necessarily limited to that right because a lot of features work with standard web functionality. Or API’s. So if there’s something not available, like for example, there’s a custom post type created with a different plugin. And you’re not sure if this would work with our plugin. It’s most certainly does because what our plugin does is integrates with the possibility of adding any kind of post type because we can specify specifically what post type it is so for us, it doesn’t matter, which would also be this so we can edit anyways, right? Because the standard WordPress structure that we are using, and these kind of things don’t necessarily need a specific integration for it. But for the sake of making it easier to understand, we are not creating new actions and integrations to make it easy for users to actually use our automations
DV: Yeah, that’s kind of been my issue. I think when I’ve used things like Zapier in the past is like they’re, they’re kind of standard default WordPress actions in what they’re able to, you know, act on the data they’re able to act on is quite limited. I figure they’re doing the same thing where they’re going out like okay, every CNS have a set of actions or a set of data that you’re able to integrate with. And I feel like you would seem that focusing on WordPress would allow you to surface more of that in addition to the more kind of need of integration that you have from things that you can use relative to kind of stays the way WordPress typically works. Is that fair? Is that a fair assumption?
JT: Yes, yes, I think it is.
DV: Okay, so because you’re focused on WordPress when you’re when you’re surfacing data to integrated actions to take, you’re likely getting better coverage, the more generalist platforms that are covering lots of different kinds of things.
JT: Exactly, because we specifically focus on the one worker standards. So whatever is available in WordPress standard can also be used with any kind of plugins. So if there’s whatever kind of plugins might not be directly integrated with a custom post suite or whatsoever, we can most certainly use our plugin as well because you can also create standard blog post meta with our plugin, so it’s not limited.
DV: If you’re a developer, is it approachable to integrate in WP with pics with your own custom plug in into the interface or is that? How would you how do you think about that?
JT: I’ll probably we have a couple of customers that use their very own integrations for that. And it’s also fairly easy to do like with the service I mentioned earlier plug and play.com that allows you to create these standardized WordPress plugins. We also have a module that automatically creates a demo integration for you. So you can just literally click the button download it and install it and you will see how the custom integration works. So it takes you plenty of time it gives you a better understanding of how to actually create the integration and how to leverage out most of the features to make it accessible for your specific use case.
DV: Excellent. Well, thanks for sharing all this today on this. This was very interesting. Of course, if you’d like to check out more about what Yanis is up to, you can visit WP dash web hooks.com Thanks everyone for listening to press this the WordPress community podcast on W EMR. Again, this has been your host David Lobel poll. I 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. On press this