Hello! Let’s start November with a new interview where we talk with Nile Flores – one of the most well-known and experienced figures in the WordPress community – about web design and being devoted to WordPress since its creation.
Before learning more about Nile, take some time to bookmark our previous interview with Daugirdas Jankus from Hostinger about WordPress hosting and the many other interesting interviews we’ve done with internet professionals from around the world.
Nile Flores is an experienced WordPress-er, working with this platform since its very beginnings – by that, I mean when its name was b2 cafelog. So she’s one of the veterans of this community, so to speak.
She is building websites for her clients but her work falls under many umbrellas. Apart from being a developer, she’s also a designer. In her opinion, web design is not only about technicalities and pretty interface but about telling a story and making people interact with it.
She thinks a good website is one that drives visitors to take action of any kind. A quality site is a marketing-friendly and fully functional one.
When she’s not doing the coding job, she’s blogging. Actually, she’s been writing content for more than 18 years, even before the WordPress era. 🙂 So if there’s anyone who knows our CMS inside-out, Nile is the right person.
So, without further ado, let’s hear it from Nile Flores herself.
Nile Flores Interview – The Developer Who’s One of WordPress’ Earliest Users
When and how did you start working with WordPress? Is there an interesting story here?
I started using WordPress when it was known as b2 cafelog, so prior to 2003. I’ve been blogging for over 18 years. I had manually blogged on GeoCities, prior to using b2 cafelog. However, when it was forked to WordPress, it just made sense to transition over, rather than find some other blog platform or CMS. When I did, the transition took 3 days, as I had to clean up some errors on the site and in the database.
What’s your technique for staying productive throughout the day?
I usually have a written list of things to do, but I also religiously use Google Calendar for client calls and project deadlines. As long as I have a list to do, I can stay productive, but it also keeps me from overworking. I also list 2-3 action items that are optional in the day, in case I’ve done well in completing my other tasks.
How do you define “being successful”?
Success is based on one’s perspective. My version of success is different from others, as the end goal is not always the same. I feel success is when I feel I’ve made a difference in someone’s day.
What do you wish more people knew about WordPress?
I think that I’d like to see more people learn the basics of security and backups for WordPress. A lot of tutorials and presentations emphasize more on leveraging WordPress as a tool for their business, but I see and hear people at the conferences and at my local meetup, express how they wished they learned more about basic security, backups, and even site maintenance.
Who’s doing things that are just cutting-edge and incredible in the WordPress space right now?
A lot of people in the WordPress world are doing cutting edge and incredible things right now. Team Yoast, GiveWP team, GoDaddy Pro team, Bluehost team, Liquid Web/Nexcess team, and many more are companies to follow. They are giving back to the community, and providing a lot of time in helping people use WordPress to its fullest potential.
Describe the WordPress community in one word.
What’s the one thing you’d like to change about WordPress?
I think the biggest thing to change I’d like to see is education on adjusting attitudes to be more positive in the community. We’re a community that is inclusive and dedicated to helping each other, but there’s been a glaring problem with elitism in specific areas, that perhaps might be an ego issue. You can’t attract friends in the community or clients with a poor attitude.
What’s the main threat to WordPress these days? Other platforms like Ghost, or maybe things like Squarespace?
I’m really not sure what the threat is, honestly. When we think of WordPress as being #1, do we mean as a whole, or WordPress.org or WordPress.com versus other platforms. Either way, there’s no threat. I’ve converted other CMS and platforms over to WordPress. I’ve even converted other eCommerce solutions over to WooCommerce. The only thing that is holding WordPress back, is improving how we educate the end user. In 17+ years, we’ve come far, but we can do better.
What are your recommendations for a WordPress novice?
For the WordPress beginner, I recommend getting your WordPress site up with a good foundation. And yes, I’m going to shamelessly plug my WordCamp Presentations, Creating a WordPress Website that Works from the Start, Practical SEO for WordPress Bloggers (generally most content creators), and also Make Money With WordPress for Bloggers as all of these are extremely useful and chock full of everything a beginner needs to get going.
All of these have solid tips, plugin recommendations, and more. I put a lot of effort, and probably, of all of my presentations (as I have a lot), are the ones I’m most passionate about.
How do you see the evolution of WordPress compared to 17 years ago, when you started using it? Is it on the right track?
WordPress has come a long way. I’ve seen it start as a regular blog platform, and experienced seeing post types and custom menus added. The WordPress admin has changed quite a bit. As for whether I think WordPress is on track, I don’t know. If you mean, the code, I guess yes, but the web accessibility side needs to be worked on. If you mean, in learning, I think we’re a bit behind, considering we’ve got a lot of people willing to present at WordCamps, but a lot of them don’t present at local meetups or want to hold workshops to attract new users.
What’s the most challenging thing about web design?
Web design takes having a creative eye, but also understanding some SEO aspects, and being able to properly develop a working site that actually works. You can make a pretty site, but if you don’t really tell a story of who you are, what you’re offering, and why it matters to them, while giving them clear directions on what you want them to do, then your site is broken. So, in a way, in web design, while there are a lot of technical things in the design and development, you’ve got to be a bit savvy in marketing.
What’s your personal definition of a “quality WordPress website”?
A quality WordPress site is one that works and gets people to do things like subscribing to your newsletter, sharing your articles, filling out your forms, calling for information or an appointment, and of course, buying your stuff. If you can’t get them to do that, then you need to go through your site and find out where you need to fix it, so there are clear calls to action.
What are the key aspects you’re looking into when you build a WordPress site from scratch?
When I’m building a website, I’m usually making sure I know what the client needs. I want to know their target audience, what they want their visitors to do, their story and mission, and even how they want to brand themselves. Without these, you cannot start building a proper website, no matter what CMS you use.
What is your favorite type of client? What about the client that you enjoy working with the least?
My favorite type of client is one that I can work with and generally knows what they want, but are open to improving their ideas, in order to deliver a working website. My least favorite type of client is one that doesn’t respect my time.
Would you describe yourself as having a full-stack WordPress expertise? That includes offering paid marketing services as well (blogging, SEO, social media).
Yes, I’d describe myself as having full-stack WordPress experience. I wouldn’t say “expert”, as I leave that to my clients and colleagues to decide, but I’ve done every part of a project, even some complex ones, on my own.
Slowly, WordPress is turning into a website builder. How will this change affect developers, business-wise?
WordPress isn’t turning into a website builder. It’s progressing as a CMS with a truer WYSIWYG editor, as Matt Mullenweg once said, at WordCamp US, in 2017. Gutenberg is a feature that can be turned on or off, depending on the user’s preference. You can still use other page builder plugins, even if Gutenberg is active. The thing is, that the WordPress Community is becoming more conscious of the end user and their need to be able to not just create content, but give them an easier choice on enhancing their website’s content and overall design through Gutenberg.
I think for developers, they will either choose to keep Gutenberg in mind, when developing and designing themes for their client, so content blends in seamlessly. They will need to educate their clients on how to use it, whether put together their own tutorials, or send them to places that already have them.
As for business, this addition of Gutenberg, as long as the end-user is educated to be able to use it, can be a great tool. There’s a lot of add-ons for call to action buttons, and much more, that creating product landing pages should be a lot easier and faster to create.
Do you think the block editor will be a real threat to page builders like Elementor or Beaver Builder?
Here’s the thing about “threats”, especially when you have quite a few options. I don’t think it will be a threat, and honestly, even though I don’t use page builders for my own site. I sometimes do for clients, and there are a lot more on the market than Elementor and Beaver Builder. I don’t buy into the scarcity mentality. I think we have enough users in the WordPress world, that it’s just an option, not a threat.
Any themes, plugins, or tools you’re using often to streamline the website building process?
I have been able to streamline all of my projects, by using the StudioPress Genesis theme framework. I usually use Gravity Forms for forms, Yoast SEO for the SEO, Sassy Social Share for social sharing, Shield Security for security, UpdraftPlus for backups, and WooCommerce for e-shops. If I need to implement a page builder, I personally like SiteOrigin.
Are you part of any cool online/offline communities or groups? They can be about any topic – not necessarily career-related.
I’m in quite a few WordPress communities on Facebook. I’m on the co-lead team for the St. Louis WordPress meetup group. However, outside of WordPress, I run a few meme groups that are pretty massive in size. One is dedicated to the White cat vs. the Yelling Woman, called Smudge Memes, and the other is a cleaner funny meme group simply called Funny Memes.
It’s been really fun, especially since 2020, a lot of people have needed something to laugh about and cope with being cooped up due to COVID-19.
What is driving you to keep doing what you’re doing? What’s your personal mission?
That’s a good question. My son is probably the biggest motivator in keeping me motivated in doing what I do. Also, creativity, writing and helping people have always been at the core of what drives me. If I can help one person in a day, I feel I’ve accomplished something positive for the day.
That sums up our Nile Flores interview. If you enjoyed it and want to learn more, please leave your comments in the section below. Also, if you have any ideas for who we should talk to next, feel free to share your suggestions with us!