309 – Traditional v Agile

‘WordPress Business Bootcamp’ with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

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Welcome to the penultimate episode in our Business Bootcamp series. Usually, this is where I write… “where we relearn everything we know about building WordPress sites and running a web design business from start to finish”. But if you are joining us now, you probably need to go back a year to season one!

We are on Season 5, which is the last in this Bootcamp series and is about what happens after the website build. This is episode 5.

Today we are talking about Future Proofing (our tech based business and maybe our clients’ sites)

We are taking contrasting approaches to getting our new businesses running and our first client’s site built. She is a new lawyer with no previous site.

Traditional v Agile

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Future proofing was the driver for agile. In software development, change was inevitable and required an approach that welcomed it.

Twenty-plus years on (and billions lost on traditional projects) it dominates big tech, government and large corporations.

Web design is still more traditional. Many clients still do not see how it is different to print projects.

An art project (with some web functionality thrown in) more than an adaptable UI that is an ongoing communication channel with customers.

Traditional only makes sense when we hand over full ownership. That is not really possible with an agile system like WP (unless using it to generate static sites).


Reduce or embrace dependencies?

When WordPress was a simple and unchanging blogging platform, it was attractive to technically minded web designers as a way to create dynamic content (when that was not much else). It was / became a good CMS (although even today it is lacking in terms of advanced fields).

Now in the page builder era, WordPress is less attractive to developers who adopted it, but is staying true to the aim of democratising publishing. The DIY / no-code audience is just larger than the bloggers it was originally serving.

Those who affiliate market commercial WordPress plugins and page builders tend to see that build tools have a limited use. One well-known one expects to change his tools every couple of years.

Obviously that is self-serving because that can make money selling over and over to the same audience, but it fits in with some web designers’ view that a build needs a redesign every few years. Does anyone tell the client this upfront though?

I wanted to get out of this. For me, future proofing is not chasing new builds and redesigns, but serving a few long term and seeking to KISS.

My feeling is all page builders (unless they come up with a way to progress with the W3c and browser) will have to bloat however much they fight it. False economy long term.

As far as I know, every WordPress page builder is built on a layout system that is based on flexbox. Webflow has managed to implement Grid, but it really is not for no coders.


Long term support

There is little research on what clients think of our services, but it seems the largest frustration is not being able to get help from the person who created a site.

I can see this changing while so many clients are only interested in getting their present vision for the best cost and page builders allow everyone to sell web design services.

Assuming we plan to support Ms A. long term, what should we be considering?

What plugins are interchangeable? SEO, security, menus, sliders, contact forms?

Due diligence: Finding out about authors, the story or philosophy behind the product. The types of support needed and given.

Our own learning: Dependencies like those on page builders can mean you fall behind. 

I’m doing web design because someone fell behind on tech. I am now trying to put that right with my own slipping.

With any 3rd party systems there will be some performance regression (not just from WordPress stuff, but chats boxes, analytics, tracking pixels etc.). But who has a performance budget?


Mentioned in this podcast:

WP Codey
Simply Static plugin

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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[00:00:02.010] - Nathan Wrigley
Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Now welcome your host, David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.

[00:00:21.250] - Nathan Wrigley
Hello there and welcome once again to the WP Builds podcast. You've reached episode 309 entitled Traditional versus Agile. It was published on Thursday, the 5 January 2023. My name is Nathan Wrigley, and just before we begin, a few bits of housekeeping. First, let me wish everybody a happy New Year. I hope that 2022 proved great for you. I hope that you managed to do all the things that you wish to do. But that's probably not the case because 2023 no doubt has got some new possibilities, some new adventures to be had. And I wish you and your team and your family the best of success and happiness during 2023. Now that Christmas and Black Friday is behind us, we're back to the usual bits and pieces on WP Builds. Certainly for a little while. I'm going to mention our Mastodon on Install, which is a bit like Twitter. If you fancy stepping away from Twitter, we have a free working Mastodon install. It's WP Builds social. Once more. WP Builds dot social.

[00:01:29.600] - Nathan Wrigley
Go there, sign up, and you can have your own master on account. And I guess in a certain sense, it's going to be a little bit more WordPress specific. We've also got our Deals page still up and running. It's like Black Friday, but every single day of the year. Loads of deals over there, coupon codes for significant amounts off, things like plugins, themes, blocks and so on. You can find that at WP Builds.com/deals. And if you fancy subscribing to keep updated with what we're doing over on WP Builds, we've hopefully got some new and fresh, interesting ideas for 2023. You can subscribe at WP Builds. Comsubscribe and we will email you as and when we produce some new content.

[00:02:14.330] - Nathan Wrigley
The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro, the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain, SSL and 24/7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits, to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by going to go forward slash WPBuilds. That's go.me forward slash WP Builds. And we really do thank GoDaddy Pro for their continuing support right through 2022 and 2023. It really does help keep the lights on.

[00:02:57.750] - Nathan Wrigley
Okay, as I said at the top of the show, we're on episode number 309. It's one of the very last in our WP BB or WordPress business bootcamp series. We are right at the end of season five, and this is episode five of season five. And in theory today we're supposed to be talking about traditional, so waterfall versus Agile, different approaches to software development and how we might run our businesses. But we kind of go off on a bit of a tangent and we end up talking a lot about dependencies and long term support and all of those kind of things. As always, we're thinking about our mysterious miss, A client and her needs. And it's a really interesting topic. I hope you enjoy it. If you want to leave some comments, please do on the website WP Builds.com and search for episode number 309. Or you could do it on our Facebook group WP Builds. com Facebook. Anyway, it's a nice episode. Nice to get back in touch with David after a few weeks off and I hope that you enjoy it.

[00:03:58.250] - David Waumsley
Hello and welcome to the penultimate episode in our Business Bootcamp series. Usually I say here, this is where we relearn everything we know about building WordPress sites and running a web design business from start to finish. But if you're joining us now, you probably need to go back a whole year to season one, because we're just at the very tail end now. So, yeah, it's season five that we're on and with this one, we are talking about future proofing. So, in fact, there's two sides to this that's kind of our tech based business and maybe future proof in our client sites. So Nathan and I, as usual, are taking contrasting approaches to get our businesses running and our first client site built. She's a lawyer with no previous site and I'm assuming at this point we've probably built her site.

[00:04:46.730] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, she's sick to the back teeth of us by this point, talking droning on about business and process and future proofing and all of the seasons. I'm imagining in my case I know this is going to sound weird, but I'm imagining in my case, the site has been built and shipped and I've probably acknowledged that I may never hear from her again, which is not what you want to hear.

[00:05:11.970] - David Waumsley
Yeah, well, let's talk about this difference between these approaches we've been arbitrarily taking, which is traditional and agile. So I would say, and this is why I like it, really, is this future proofing is really the driver for the whole agile movement because it started in, you know, over 20 years ago now in software development, when change just seemed inevitable with the technology you was using. So trying to plan any of these things, guessing what your requirements might be before you've actually built it, with no data or feedback on how it's working, given the change of technology has led this movement. Literally, it's taken 20 years and billions of pounds that have been lost in traditional projects and it dominates in big tech governments, all those kind of large corporations like banks and stuff. But here in web design, we're still very much with the traditional.

[00:06:09.470] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, I guess some of us are in that. I would imagine that the traditional waterfall approach where you propose, offer a contract, get the contract signed, build the site, ship the site, then that's that largely. Until maybe you need something updating or something has broken that fits the freelancer model very well. Just because you're a one person business and so long as you can keep that pipeline going, you're okay. And that has worked very well. And I would imagine it's the model that just about every freelancer who's been doing this for a decade or more has probably used. But you've, during the course of this series, elucidated a way that somebody who is a freelancer can now really embrace this and make it work for them.

[00:06:56.950] - David Waumsley
I think so. I mean, I don't think we're going to move away from the traditional while clients and they have bread and butter until they stop coming to us asking us how much for a website this finished product, it's going to be difficult for us to move to an agile approach where we say, well, you know what? This is technology. It's going to change. It's going to be the vehicle for your ongoing marketing. We need a long term plan with it and that turn a lot of people off. I think there are ways around it, but I think that's why we stopped traditional, because it doesn't make sense. Maybe it made sense 20 years ago when we used to write our own CSS and HTML. Even before CSS, we owned the thing that we handed over and it wasn't going to break and they had it for as long as it suited their purposes. Now, WordPress podcast, which is an ever changing system, it's Agile itself.

[00:07:55.790] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, we've built in the idea over the last ten years. It's almost become like the mantra, sell big ticket items, the $10,000 website or whatever you want to call it, and then move on and do the next one. And the pricing around that just really probably wouldn't work well for Agile because there isn't a moment where it's finished. But I do think it's a very persuasive argument and I think you've laid it out really well. That okay, you're going to spend less with us this year. So rather than give me £5000, whatever it may be, to build the website and then say bye bye, we're going to have maybe 2000 over the next three or four or five years. And in that way your profit is going to remain solid, but you're going to have this ongoing relationship. I must say, in many regards, it does seem like a very compelling argument, but I do think you're right. The clients are not seeing it as anything other than a commodity in most cases. I want a website. It's a thing. It's just like going into a shop and pulling a pair of shoes off the shelf.

[00:09:04.250] - Nathan Wrigley
You don't want to be told by the vendor of the shoes that, well, you can have a quarter of the shoe now and then in six months we'll iterate on the shoe and you can probably have a complete left shoe in a few months time. And then finally we'll get towards having a pair of shoes, but we're not quite sure when we're going to arrive there. It's just people aren't ready for that, are they? So it's an interesting argument.

[00:09:30.070] - David Waumsley
Yeah. The part of the agile that you would throw in, or at least the part that I'm interested in, is the fact that you throw in the fact that the unique thing about the web over all the other mediums which they might be comparing it with when they talk about projects, is that it will give you ongoing live data, which often isn't used. Now, that's not always going to be the case. There will be some clients, obviously, would just say, I want somebody to build this particular site and the marketing and the looking at the analytics is something they do. But in my case, most of the clients that come haven't really connected the two or don't have anything in place to see how actually their website is doing and where it could be improved and where they're losing people.

[00:10:13.700] - Nathan Wrigley
I also think that the transition over towards Agile is definitely going to be beginning because everybody is exposed to this all the time. If you think about the last time you logged into a major website, let's take Facebook, for example, you're not expecting the interface from 2012, you're expecting the interface to be modified periodically and little changes here and there, or even major changes to the UI, then they're not something unexpected. It was curious. I was actually in town the other day and I discovered what I'm going to call Agile in bricks and mortar shops. And it was just simply this, that advertising hoardings in shops have now moved from being cardboard based. So, you know, there's a 30% sale, you've got this cardboard piece of advertising dangling from the ceiling, they've now all moved over to basically telis attached to the wall. And you just think, well, that's curious. Not only can you show moving images, which is quite nice, especially if you're selling things where that's a benefit, like clothes or something like that, but also the promise is that that advert can be constantly updated. Yes, there's a's advert can be the same tomorrow if you wish it to be, or with a click of a button, you can have a completely different shop.

[00:11:29.950] - Nathan Wrigley
The look and the feel of your shop can be completely different today from tomorrow. So, yeah, anyway, curious little observation that now I believe more than ever, technologies embedded into our lives, people are going to understand that things they shouldn't ever really be finished.

[00:11:45.430] - David Waumsley
Yeah, it's taken us a long time for the average person and even for us, to kind of understand what this internet is about. I think more people now realise why there is so much free stuff is because data is so powerful to businesses. I think more and more will realise that they have to think about how they will have some consistent way of measuring their own data about the performance online. So I think it will shift over time.

[00:12:13.100] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah. Okay, interesting. Okay, so what's today's chat generally about then? Future proofing. Right?

[00:12:19.290] - David Waumsley
Future proofing, yeah. It's interesting. This actually I think when we look at there's not much in the way of statistics about what clients look for from their web developers. I think clients don't know what they're asking for when they go for them because their biggest complaint I've ever heard, not that as much research but when I have seen some research on it, the number one complaint is that the person who built their site is not around when they need them down the line.

[00:12:48.040] - Nathan Wrigley
Interesting. Yeah.

[00:12:51.190] - David Waumsley
And I think that's fine because that's the deal they bought. They asked somebody to build them the site. They built them the site and then they left. So they have an expectation and I think that's the agile moves towards about meeting that. But I think we have a decision here. Sometimes with our businesses where we stand on that, we have dependencies. The tools we use in WordPress is the dependency. We don't get to control how they are updated. Do we embrace that and set our business to that or do we work to reduce it? And what I mean is if you're embracing the dependencies you can take the view, which we were talking about this earlier a lot of people who influence WordPress are affiliate marketers with YouTube channels showing you about the products. And certainly one big player in that has a view that technology is such that he would replace his tools every couple of years. And that's not unusual in our circles to hear people say well, that's the life expectancy of a website you would need to rebuild anyway every couple of years.

[00:14:01.390] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah. For my waterfall approach, I think that's never a pitch that I'm going to make. I'm never going to be saying to the client, okay, we're about to embark on this project. We're going to use WordPress. WordPress comes with plugins but I'm just warning you that in a couple of years it's quite likely that the plugins that we're about to use to make your website function, we probably won't be using those anymore because there'll be newer ones and better ones. That may actually be true but from a sales point of view you're not selling anything. There really are you? You are just turning the client off and they're going to think what the wiser approach would be. Here's a set of tools that we've used and we are pretty convinced have got a long shelf life. The business looks completely solid. It's been around for ages. The developers are trusted in the community, they write good code, it's been inspected thousands of times and all of that and two years from now we might need to just sort of tweak things. Maybe there'll be better options at that point. But I'm sure that this suite that we're putting in now will be just fine going forward.

[00:15:07.360] - Nathan Wrigley
It's just not a sensible idea to talk in that way, I don't think.

[00:15:12.080] - David Waumsley
Yeah, you're right, most of the products do last quite well, actually. But it's certainly something that I've been thinking about a lot, about reducing the dependencies when there are I mean, WordPress particularly, there's been such growth in it and such a move towards page builders and so much more ease for people who aren't technically minded to build their own sites, that there's a lot of change there. And going this agile approach means that, well, I kind of want to try and keep it as simple as possible, stick to that, keep it simple philosophy. So we put out and control and can keep making changes to the same basic platform rather than to have this, we're just going to rebuild the whole thing again. So definitely I've gone to reducing it where I think you can sensibly embrace because shall we just talk a little bit about what we might need to think about if we were, let's say, Ms A's gone and she's coming back to you as a traditional builder. What do you think might damage your business? If you say, I can't do that, what problems might you have?

[00:16:25.320] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, I think the biggest, usually the thing which drives the second or third build of the website isn't technology based. It's usually style or design based. They usually come back because well, nothing's broken. It's just that we've noticed out on the internet our site just looks like it was built long enough ago that it's not welcoming anymore, it doesn't look up to date. It looks as if we're a company that can't be trusted, we're not spending money on key resources like our website. That's usually what's driving it. There might be some things in technology, but they're a little bit less frequent. So, for example, the move to mobile and the need for people to have responsive websites, the quirky things like the need to have everything served over Https, so SSL, certificates, those kind of things drove conversations. And into the back of that you could often muscle in a redesign of the website, but typically two, three, five years, depending on how avant garde or interesting or quirky their website was, the move from the client came from. It looks wrong now we need more functionality, not we need less functionality, not that we need more server power because our site has gone through the roof.

[00:17:48.720] - Nathan Wrigley
It's usually just looks rubbish. Can we make it look nice again? Did you notice that? Was that the same for you?

[00:17:54.460] - David Waumsley
Yeah, and it's still true but you do not think it might be? That's always been true because that's how people have traditionally looked at their websites. Do you think there is an increase? I have not seen it personally, I just don't have enough clients but I hear of it from other people that clients are getting tuned into things like performance more. I think it's something that's out there because we're talking so much more about the net and performance that they're recognising if their site is a bit slower.

[00:18:24.280] - Nathan Wrigley
I think so. I think so, because I think that everybody's web presence has become such a crucial part of their business. Obviously, if you're into ecommerce, that's a no brainer. If your website isn't performing, then you are going to lose sales because it's just slow and people abandon the cart. But I think more so than that, I think people are just now expecting everything online and so every business needs a presence and so everybody's kind of curious, much more curious about what it is that their website is doing. So customers want to know about performance because somewhere anecdotally they're in charge of the website and they've heard that performance is now a key thing. I don't quite know how this works its way, how these news stories and these technology things work out into the broader environment, because I've had quite a few clients who really they've got no interest in technology, their business is utterly nothing to do with technology and quite surprised by how knowledgeable they are. They've obviously done a bit of research and they asked some sensible questions. Perhaps they've got friends or perhaps they've spoken to other agencies who've given them some advice.

[00:19:34.240] - Nathan Wrigley
But it was quite normal for me to see an uptick in the interest but also the knowledge that they could bring to bear not around plugins and themes and what WordPress could do but we want it to be SEO friendly, we want it to be put on green hosting, we want it to be performant, all of those kind of things. And I think that will get more and more important because we're using the internet more and more people. You imagine the generation of people who are going to be customers in charge of websites and businesses in the next 5610 years, whatever it may be. They literally were raised with iPhones in their hands. They have no conception of the world without technology will be complete lodites. Yeah, so I think that in the future there'll be way more interest in this kind of stuff and whether or not that spawns an interest in the technology stack the things that are going on in the background, the approach to how the website is built, does your company do agile? Are you just going to do us a price for the whole website? I think all of that is going to become much more important just because the customers are just going to be way more savvy.

[00:20:43.990] - Nathan Wrigley
You cast your mind back to your first couple of websites, the ones that you did for money, not the ones that you did for friends. Like, how straightforward were those conversations? They basically wanted a website and you told them what to do and they said fine and paid for it. There's no way customers are going to separate money from their wallet these days without real conversations and real discussions about what's going to be going on.

[00:21:10.840] - David Waumsley
Yeah, it's interesting. Certainly performance is one where I think because everybody's a client knows somebody who's a tech person who will talk to them about the site, and plenty of them have heard about performance and start giving you online reports of performance and stuff. So, listen, you're going with the traditional approach, at least for this podcast. So let's say somebody does come back, you built the site for them, and they're saying it's really, really slow and you know that it's because of the tools that you've used. Or actually, let's look at another thing. There is something we have to consider here with this. It's almost without a doubt that when we use third parties where we don't control the updates, sites are going to get less performance over time, aren't they?

[00:22:00.250] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, I would have thought so. So you're imagining a scenario where somebody comes to me and they've got a website and I didn't control it and I wasn't maintaining things. Yeah, I think those conversations can be really uncomfortable because you are essentially telling them what's wrong with everything that they've poured their money into over the last few years. And yeah, the amount of dependencies I think we need to get away from your website can do everything because WordPress can do everything because there's a plug in for everything. And in the future, I think we have to have more conversations about, well, you love all this, don't you? Data. Let's look at the data. Let's look at the analytics. How many times was that contact form used? Once in the last year. Okay, so why are we even bothering with a gigantic form plug in that is just bogging your site down and we have no need for it? Is anybody visiting this page? That page? Is anybody buying anything? Do we need to have a shop in here? All of these kinds of conversations, I always found that really hard because it felt to me like I was telling somebody off.

[00:23:05.290] - Nathan Wrigley
I don't know what you felt about that.

[00:23:07.400] - David Waumsley
Yeah, I just think it's even if you build something for it well, it's not even just going to be what you've used to build it. It's going to be the add ons which you might have added. Analytics, tracking pixels, chat boxes, all of these sort of stuff, all can get more bloated and the performance will be left if you haven't changed out some things. It's a term that I've never heard before, but it seems to be there in the performance of Reading. I was watching on YouTube, there is this performance conference which is on, I think, in Amsterdam where lots of people talking about it. And somebody was I watched one where this person very good presentation, talking about performance budgets, what measurements we use to see and how important this is to have these regular cheques for companies and how you do this and have it in place. And I just thought, wow, that's definitely in the agile thing, and definitely something we would all fall foul of. So, in good faith, we build something with the best tools we have at the moment. We hand it over to the client. Almost inevitably, with the tools we use, it's going to get bloated, they're going to have an issue.

[00:24:14.950] - David Waumsley
And that strikes me as a difficult thing when you hand over a website to someone. If you've not had that conversation, that's likely to happen, because they're always going to see it as your fault.

[00:24:27.560] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, there is a bit of that, isn't there? But also, I guess it's about the conversation that you have when you finally hand it over. So, for example, the conversation about, let's say, dependencies in terms of plugins. At the beginning, when I started using WordPress, because I hadn't really thought about it, I definitely took on the burden of buying client licences, having them paid for through my business and so on and so forth, and then towards the more recent times, definitely moving away from that. If you want a plug in, we'll do the research together, but you will buy it because there's a dependency there. But I don't want that coming back to me if something goes wrong. What I mean is, if they choose not to renew the licence, that's on them. If they choose that they want to have a different piece of software that's on them. It doesn't really require me to go out and find solutions to things, because I know that the plugin hasn't been updated in a long time and there's a security problem, it's kind of on them. And that worked really well for me. No client ever I'm just trying to think if that's true, if they ever get any pushback.

[00:25:37.730] - Nathan Wrigley
I don't think so. No client ever really said, no, that's weird. You want me to buy things for my site? You're the developer, they could see the commercial transaction. Okay, you want to add this functionality. You want calendars, you want whatever booking you need to buy a booking plug in. And my level of expertise is not enough to build you a booking plug in. So we'll spend $100 a year, we'll buy one. But please know that it belongs to you and it doesn't belong to me.

[00:26:06.230] - David Waumsley
Yeah, I mean, that's certainly one way around it. Well, I'll take my own example. Why dependencies have become a big thing for me is because I guess I didn't realise they were accumulating over my time. So I started in a bit of HTML. CSS could build a basic site without any dependencies. It was just me, my skills, and I slipped into WordPress. Not because it was someplace that could build all these wonderful sites and have all these plugins, what it kind of was. But it was really from the ideas that at that time, there was no way to get sort of dynamic content. And here was a tool which was fairly unchanging, where you largely controlled it, and those people with plugins who had done a lot of the PHP work for you. So it was a simple thing. You didn't realise you were taking on a dependency. You still felt, back in the early days with Birth Press, that you were handing over essentially, their site, something that was unmovable. So these things, they've crept up on me over time.

[00:27:07.610] - Nathan Wrigley
This is different, isn't it? Because this is your dependency, not a dependency of the client. This is the sort of growing sorry, you carry on.

[00:27:16.830] - David Waumsley
Yeah, no, it's for both of us, really, isn't it? I mean, in some ways, there wasn't necessarily the dependency, it was the requirements of the clients to perhaps have stuff cheaper and quicker and to have more control over it. But the dependencies crept up on me because you didn't realise, because you relied on them more over time, partly for your building, but also to meet their increasing expectations as page builders took off more generally outside of WordPress.

[00:27:44.150] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, I completely agree with that. I would imagine that there's an awful lot of people out there who've entered the WordPress space since WordPress page builders have come along who never had a dependency on anything. And that is just the tool that they use. So they see it as the website building tool. Both you and I were into website building long before that, and so we had this approach of building things initially in tables. Then we started to write the HTML and probably use some sort of PHP to drag in, include files and things like that. And then the magic of WordPress comes along and I bet this is true for so many people, we just threw away our knowledge, or at least didn't keep it updated, didn't look for the new things that were coming around, because the tool was easily good enough to do everything that you needed to do. And I think that's still true of me. I think I am less adept, shall we say? Let's take CSS. I think my knowledge of CSS is worse now than it was a handful of years ago because of things like page builders.

[00:28:54.370] - Nathan Wrigley
Is that a bad thing? I don't know. The ultimate enterprise for me is, can I put food on the table? And if the page builder allows me to put food on the table without the weight of learning all the new CSS bits and pieces, that's a good compromise. I can cope with that, but I don't know if ultimately that's a good thing because of the future. Maybe in the future it will be more important. You very much at the minute are into flattening and making static websites and you're going back into all that again. And it's interesting that not only have. You discovered what you've lost, but you've also found, I think it's true to say, and you found enjoyment in not having dependencies, in doing it all yourself.

[00:29:38.810] - David Waumsley
Yeah, exactly. It's a really odd particularly with WordPress. In some ways, it's kind of like grown into something that I don't recognise. And I've got so many dependencies and I'm deskkilled on things, particularly as there's so much going on with CSS at the moment, due to the fact that the browsers are working together to implement stuff that developers have asked for for a long time. So there is such a change in CSS. And here is me, someone who's been very happily running my business on a page builder, who has slipped on all of these skills. So I'm realising, wow, I don't know if I future proof myself here because I am now so far behind on the CSS and I literally depend on these things which have helped me no end. So I'm trying to move that around and finding new enjoyment. It's oddly enough, a new fresh enjoyment of WordPress in a way that I've never had before, because I'm getting back into trying to build my own theme and stuff like that. And you realise, well, it's really such a fun CMS to work with.

[00:30:46.510] - Nathan Wrigley
In your ideal future, what would a website build look like for you? And I'm not talking about the size of the client, the budget or anything like that. I'm just meaning what would be the least dependent website that you would wish to build? What's the ideal stack looking like? You've got WordPress in there somewhere. Tell us about what this sort of lack of dependency website building actually looks like. What's the process now?

[00:31:13.080] - David Waumsley
Well, it's looking like my stack now in some ways. We talked about it, I think we mentioned Simply static. So the idea is that I'll move away from offering because clients actually don't know what to do with it, their control over their own websites, it'll be available if they need it. But I'll use WordPress as a static site generator, so it'll just be WordPress, the theme that I'm building myself for it. I'm not anybody with PHP skills, but there are so many sort of there's so much out there in YouTube people that will show you how to do it. There are wonderful tools we were mentioning before. There's a new one, WP Cody, which is part of WPCO Box, which has AI, which can help you to do this Cody stuff. So, yeah, so just basically WordPress something for fields because in a way, as a CMS, WordPress still was never really completed because it never really dealt with fields, custom fields very well. So ACF or something similar is always needed. But that's it really. And then the rest is CSS. And for functionality then I'll be looking for other APIs out there.

[00:32:22.110] - Nathan Wrigley
So really the only one that feels like it's essential is the Simply Static because at some point, the WP Cody, which we should say is like an AI for writing code. You can type in it's brilliant, you can type in English, you type in what you want a function to do and it will spit out the code, which you can then deploy on your WordPress website. But at some point that could go, if it's done its job well enough, you could be sufficiently clever, if you like to do that yourself. Wpcode box. And I guess that might need to stay, I'm not sure, but things like ACF and custom fields, okay, maybe they're essential as well. So you've got it down to just a handful of things, but the most essential of which feels like your custom fields plug in, and this simply static which flattens the website, which you can then send off to GitHub or wherever it might be, to then be deployed onto your platform of choice. Is simply static going to be a dependency which you cannot live without?

[00:33:29.970] - David Waumsley
Well, that is the risk. It's not the only product out there, and there are non WordPress products which will scrape the HTML and CSS on your site and present it. So probably not for what I'm using it. But also the other thing, and this may sound really stupid in a year's time, I might be regretting all I'm saying here, but the thing that makes everything feel comfortable to me again is that if it's a static site generator, which is on my computer, I don't need to upgrade to the next version of PHP. If all the plugins decide they want to be something different, or they decide that they close down if the stack is working now, in theory, it's mine sits on my computer, it will still work forever, as far as I can see.

[00:34:13.540] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, I'm going to throw another one in that we mentioned last week as well, so we are kind of getting into last week's ground, but never mind form Spark or whatever it was called, is it Form Spark? That's probably one that you want to do as well. Yeah. I must admit, in the way that my sites are going to be built, where it's still being driven by, I don't know, NGINX or Apache or something like that. And the site, every time that a page is loaded, it's either from a cache or it's being generated on the fly. My dependency scenario is going to be way heavier than yours. I am going to need a form plug in with a licence to COVID all the sites. I am going to need a custom field solution. I am going to need, oh, just a whole boatload of things. Every site will have a whole lot more, I feel my sites probably will be quicker to create, because that's part of the promise of plugins, isn't it? But I do feel that when I put it up against yours finally, I'm not sure, I think yours might win in terms of optimization because the ones that you're building at the moment are just breathtakingly fast.

[00:35:22.230] - David Waumsley
Yeah, there's no waste at all just taking on exactly what Google wanting. You introduced me to the term of governance, which they look at, which is the unused code which has been outputted onto a page, which Google is looking at. Google's going a lot further now. I mean, with the core web vitals, we are now moving on to the second paint. It's the interactivity we will see that coming into surf. So I'm sure performance is going to increase as a thing that we're all after.

[00:35:53.570] - Nathan Wrigley
So the nice thing for you then is that with all of this, you don't really need to do a great deal of even plugins that you use, so long as they work now, you don't need to worry about the due diligence of checking out companies quite so much. For example, let's say A forms, that's a bad example. Okay. Any plug in? In the past, we've talked a lot about the fact that it's a wise idea to go look at the company website, go to the About US page, figure out whether or not the plug in is being updated regularly, whether they've reacted to security updates, known vulnerabilities in their software and so on and so forth. In many ways, you can really forget that if it works as intended today, you're happy.

[00:36:44.450] - David Waumsley
Yeah, effectively that's something obviously, because I just don't have the PHP skills to write my own theme, but I've been able to do it. And normally I wouldn't want to put this out on a live site because I wouldn't know what security risks were, something I'd put together. But now I don't need to worry because it's only generating static output for me, so it can be junk code as long as it works to do the job I need it to do. So it's quite an exciting new thing for me to realise that, as you say, that due diligence. And in fact, perhaps the philosophy or the story behind the product and why people did it and who's it for was always something which I was so key to find to again, future proof. I wanted to know that I was going to buy into a product that I would have a dependency on and that they were thinking along the same lines as me. I didn't want to buy into one that was going to change and keep adding lots of whizzy stuff I didn't want for my clients against my will, but actually for what I'm doing at the moment, that's not become such an issue.

[00:37:50.020] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, it's really interesting that how this conversation has changed over the last three years. We were both talking about really different things three years ago and you've definitely been switched on to the whole leaner more in my own control, easier for me to manage, easier for me to understand because I was responsible for building it. Less tools, more knowledge, all of those kind of things. That's really interesting, I think in terms.

[00:38:17.230] - David Waumsley
Of the actual build, it could start to have an impact soon because I think for me, CSS grid is quite significant and the support has only got there and I don't think people are using it. But if you go back to the original influence behind that the original people who started with the sort of good format were saying why can't we have layouts that look like magazines where things aren't stuck in rows? Things break out and you'll have a little block in the middle which will look like you've got rows. But there's a section that's going through all of those rows and things like that and that kind of design, simple design. Because I think the future of the web we need to have more white space and present kind of the information more clearly. But it still needs to be original looking. So I think we'll move to that. And that is now very, very difficult to do. If you set yourself with a builder, which is work into flexbox only because it's only a one dimensional thing, you work in rows with it well, or columns. So that's really why I like the idea of shedding some dependencies and getting back to the code.

[00:39:30.470] - David Waumsley
But code is getting easier.

[00:39:32.540] - Nathan Wrigley
The interesting thing about this conversation is that it will be stale in like a year's time because this is never going to sit still. And so you're talking about grid now. It would have been something different a couple of years ago and in a couple of years time it will be something different again. But you've got to settle on something. You've got to settle on some way of building your websites and if this is going to work for you, just out of interest in the conversations that you've had with clients, have you tried to inject any of this philosophy toward them? Have you been talking about, okay, it's my theme, I've built it, it's minimal, it's going to be fast, we're going to host it in this flattened, static way. Have you got into any of that? Do clients even care?

[00:40:17.730] - David Waumsley
Well, I've not talked to a single client about that. In fact, I've just kind of paused a bit of taking on too much work. So not even gone there. It's completely untested. And whether this is viable again, future proof in that, I'm not so sure. It's just an instinct that I think if you look at things like CSS grid, it now assuming you understand how it works, the code, which is the difficult bit, it allows you to do with very minimal code some really clever things that would be really difficult and hacky to do with what was before grid. So I think, you know, I think that kind of stuff for my own learning, I think I'm very pleased that I've started to put some time aside for that. Whether it's foolhardy, I don't know yet.

[00:41:08.550] - Nathan Wrigley
From your perspective, I'm interested to see and again, I'm talking specifically about the flattened website principle, not the sort of broader waterfall versus agile principle. I'm interested to see if the clients can cope with not being able to edit it because it's on your computer and because it's on your computer. When you save it in local or whatever, it might be a whole laundry list of things then happen, things are triggered and it ends up live as an HTML file on the website. And I'm just wondering how that will sit with clients in an era where webflow, wix, Squarespace, WordPress, all of these things are login, edit, click, publish your Dom. I wonder if the trade off for the client, for the speed and the security and all of that. I wonder how easy it will be to drag them across that bridge.

[00:42:02.550] - David Waumsley
Yeah, interesting. I've been thinking, obviously before I started this, I started to look at all the clients and what they essentially had and how much updating they really did and how successful. And there are a couple of clients who I just think they actually needed a live WordPress site and a way of being able to input that, ideally with the page builder, a few of them. The difficulties with those clients is that they've generally gone too far with that and tended to have written their own sites with what they've got available to them. And then the rest of them are other people who only periodically update. And to be honest, it would be probably a lot cheaper for them to just give me the text they want and any images and for me to put it in, because I will put it incorrectly with the right tags, the right kind of titles in ways that they don't. So I think they don't do it enough to ever do it well or remember how to sort of do stuff. So yeah, so largely I've just come to the conclusion there may be some clients that I wouldn't be able to continue to work with under the new approach.

[00:43:07.490] - David Waumsley
But actually, when I think about it, they're just people who are eventually trying to remove me anyway to do it themselves with page builders.

[00:43:14.870] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah, that is interesting. But I guess that's a conversation that you'll have right at the outset is.

[00:43:20.030] - David Waumsley
This approach for you?

[00:43:21.070] - Nathan Wrigley
And if it is for them and they can accommodate the proclivities of it, let's put it that way. But I imagine you will lose some clients and possibly gain some others. We'll have to see how the word of mouth goes for this.

[00:43:34.720] - David Waumsley
Yeah, it's interesting, but in some ways it comes out the clients, because I do see this, I see the ones who really love and they couldn't have managed without the advantages of page builders. What they like about it is that they might be able to remove me from the equation.

[00:43:51.690] - Nathan Wrigley
Well, I've never had that thought before, David. I've never wanted to remove you from any equation. How are we doing with this? Where are we at with this one? Do you think we finished if we got to go through long term support or are we done?

[00:44:04.350] - David Waumsley
We're done. I think we've pretty much covered everything we could talk about there. This was actually the last proper content.

[00:44:10.000] - Nathan Wrigley
One on this whole proper content?

[00:44:13.090] - David Waumsley

[00:44:15.970] - Nathan Wrigley
Last episode with us speaking.

[00:44:18.850] - David Waumsley

[00:44:19.190] - Nathan Wrigley
So what's the next one then? The next one is the final finale, the Firework display of the entire year long series. Yeah. That's quite something. So that will be in a couple of weeks time.

[00:44:31.130] - David Waumsley
Yeah, exactly. Perfect. Well, just sum up what we've been doing and what we've been talking about and talk about what we're going to do next.

[00:44:38.000] - Nathan Wrigley
Yeah. Nice. Okay. Which will be interesting. All right. Thanks, David. Take it easy.

[00:44:42.490] - David Waumsley
Okay, thanks. Bye.

[00:44:44.150] - Nathan Wrigley
Well, I hope that you enjoyed that. Always very nice chatting to David Warmsley about these things. If you have any commentary on our show today, all about well, it was supposed to be about traditional versus agile, but as you heard, we got a little bit derailed. But if you've got anything that you want to say, you can leave a comment over on the website. That's WP Builds.com. Search for episode number 309 and leave a comment there or our Facebook group, you can join that as well, WP Builds.com facebook. We'd love to hear your thoughts.

[00:45:15.990] - Nathan Wrigley
The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro, the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL and 24/7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by going to go.me/WPBuilds. And sincere thanks go to GoDaddy Pro for their continuing and ongoing support of the WP Builds podcast.

[00:45:55.410] - Nathan Wrigley
Okay, we will be back next week as we had a chat with David this week. Next week will be an interview. We'll be chatting to somebody in the WordPress space, starting off a brand new year of interviews. I hope that you can join us for that. If not, join us live every Monday, 02:00 p.m. UK time for our this week in WordPress. We always love the live comments and don't forget, go to our subscribe page, that's subscribe and get on our email list. Okay. As I always do at the end of the episode, I'm going to fade in some cheesy well, this time, Latin music and say stay safe. Bye bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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