Speaker Interview – Riley Paulsen

RileyPaulsenRiley Paulsen is a nighttime freelance web designer/developer based around agencies, small businesses, and nonprofits in the Indianapolis market. Weapons of choice include WordPress for custom theme and plugin development, AngularJS, and even a little Flash/Flex just for nostalgia sake—he’s totally not bitter about that last one… Riley has 9 years of web experience, about 120+ websites out in the wild, and holds Adobe Certified Expert distinctions in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash (definitely bitter).

During normal waking hours, he mentors, trains, and works with design and web students at Ball State University’s award-winning student media agency, the Digital Corps.

Outside of the web, Riley and his wife relish the cognitive dissonance and constant heated debate over the merits of fostering a Star Wars or Star Trek household…

Why Do You Use WordPress?
WordPress provides the perfect balance of ease-of-use for the end-user and powerful flexibility for the developer. With WordPress, my work can be semantically expressive without the need for complicated custom admin builds. It lets me leave my customers empowered, rather than beholden to the need for future developer help for changes.

When and How Did You Start Using WordPress?
Luckily, I jumped on board right around the time Custom Post Types were becoming an official thing. (Roughly 2009.) I’d just come off of learning PHP from a legacy project that was notably 100% custom—and even with my limited knowledge at the time, I knew it didn’t need to be. From there it was kind of a twisted blend of the occasional WP site in-between straight PHP until I felt confident that I knew enough about the internals of WP to start relying on it completely. (I like to know all the verticals of a system before I commit to something.)

What Tips or Resources would you recommend to a new WordPress User?
Check out all of the tutorials you can, and then just start building. Whether that’s on a one-click install at your webhost with some plugin experimentation, or a local development version building your own theme, chances are you really won’t be able to do _too_ much damage to the Internet if you break something.

Definitely read the Codex if you’re a developer, which, I know, is asking a lot, but compared to most development documentation, it’s super helpful.

Then, dig deep. If you’re a user, check out the most popular plugins, and ask yourself why people are using them; try out some alternatives and see if you can determine why the popular ones are so popular. If you’re a developer, learn about how the WP bootstrapping process happens—set up your IDE to index the source, and then Ctrl/Cmd click around to follow the winding path that is WordPress.

What advice would you give someone who’s building a business around WordPress design or development?
Don’t forget that WordPress companies are really just website companies. The end goal is the same regardless of the tech behind the scenes. The fact that you’ve got a framework that provides so much functionality out-of-the-box is our little secret. Enjoy the hours saved.

Also, read the changelogs before updating plugins.

How do you stay informed about WordPress (news, tips, etc)?
I’ve been known to read the commit logs whenever I get a chance; Trac is also a good place to get an in-depth look at the how and why of WP. And, there’s nothing like waking up in the morning and realizing that you’re 500+ messages behind in the official WordPress Slack…

I’m a frequent contributor/reader to /r/WordPress and /r/ProWordPress over on Reddit. My favorite source for developer-related talk is Apply Filters, the podcast by Pippin Williamson and Brad Touesnard.

What’s a cool WordPress based site you’ve seen recently?
Hopefully countless ones. The best WP sites to me are ones where it’s running seamlessly in the background. That means no more two-column content+sidebar sites, please, theme developers…

For the nosy type, check out the browser extension called “”WordPress Version Check”” which will stick an icon up in your address bar indicating the version of WP each site you visit is running—assuming the site is using WP. The results might surprise you.

What do you like most about WordCamps?
I love that WordCamps don’t discriminate based on skill level. Everybody starts somewhere with website creation, and every single person I’ve met at WordCamps knows that and respects it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned Core developer or a author finding your voice for the first time, everyone is an equally valuable part of the WordPress community. You’ll _never_ hear a “stupid question” remark at a WordCamp. (Unless a Drupal spy manages to infiltrate the premises…)

Where can we find you online?
Web: RileyPaulsen.com
Twitter: @rileypaulsen
Twitter: @adobeshortcuts