Woo BizChat with Christopher Churchill and Marcel Schmitz

Do the Woo - WooCommerce Podcast, Community and News
Do the Woo - WooCommerce Podcast, Community and News
Woo BizChat with Christopher Churchill and Marcel Schmitz

Being a freelancer has its benefits and challenges. Both can often be remedied by having someone vetting clients and helping you with other pieces of the puzzle. This week, on Woo BizChat we bring in Christopher Churchill, who is head of support in the expert community at Codeable, and Marcel Schmitz, who has been working with Codeable for several years, previously had three agencies and is also doing mobile development.

Both of them bring in a wealth of knowledge around freelancing and share a ton of insights from their own experiences.

A Chat with Christopher and Marcel:

Robbie and Maja talk with Christopher and Marcel about:

  • The business model for Codeable and how it assists to help freelancers reach their goals
  • How Codeable frees up your time from marketing, administration and other tasks required for a business
  • What kind of increase in the eCommerce space did they see at Codeable and particularly Woo projects
  • Who are their favorite kinds of clients
  • Why Marcel chose freelancing over working for a company
  • What sets a good freelancer apart from others
  • What do they perceive as the most important part to building an eCommerce site
  • What tools they use for project management, team and client communication
  • Why should someone use Codeable vs. another similar service for WooCommerce projects
  • Thoughts and working with mobile and AR
  • How they contribute back to WooCommerce

Connect with Christopher and Marcel

Thanks to Our Pod Friends


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Mode Effect

When it comes to building Woo sites for your clients, and everyone has their own strengths. If you need help with your clients conversions and revenue, the team at Mode Effect can be a part of your strategy to help clients avoid the hassle of management and training. Partner up with Mode Effect and let them help you keep your clients running smoothly in the long term

Bob: Hello everyone, BobWP here and welcome to episode 132. In this Woo BizChat hosts Robbie and Maja talk with Christopher Churchill and Marcel Schmitz about the freelance biz. Chris works at Codeable and Marcel has his own software company but also is contract through Codeable. Trust me, if you want to learn about the Woo freelancing biz, sit back and enjoy.

Robbie: Hello everyone, and welcome to our episode. This week we have... Sorry, I'm Robbie Adair. And I've got Maja Loncar as my co-host here. And we are happy to bring on Christopher Churchill and Marcel Schmitz today. We are going to be talking about WooCommerce business aspects of what these guys are dealing with in their day-to-day work.

We also though want to, first of all, give you a little shout out to WordFest, that is coming up this month, so don't forget to sign up. And then the other thing that we just want to let you guys know, is that this is the last month that we'll be doing this as a video podcast, we'll go to audio podcast after this, which was much to Christopher's dismay that he got caught in the last video.

Christopher: It was much to my dismay, Robbie. Yes.

Marcel: I'm otherwise very happy to be part of the last video one. So yeah, I can compensate.

Christopher: There we go. It balances itself out.

Robbie: It balances out. That's right. And guys, we're going to start with having you introduce yourselves. Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you work, what you're doing, and then we'll hop right in with some questions. So Christopher, let's start with you.

Christopher: Thank you, Robbie. I'm Christopher Churchill, as you stated. Technically I'm head of support in the expert community at Codeable. I live on a farm in Rural Islands. I don't get out much. I live in the woods. I like woodworking, as you can see. That's me. I was a JavaScript programmer by trade for... I worked in-house at Codeable.

Robbie: Nice. I know if I need some furniture who to contact.

Christopher: Correct. Yes. By all means.

Robbie: And Marcel.

Marcel: So my name is Marcel Schmitz. I was born in Brazil. I have German citizenship and I live in Portugal. I've been doing WordPress for many, many, many years now, but my area of expertise is WooCommerce. I've been working with Codeable for five, six years now. I had other three agencies before that. So I'm developing websites for more than 10 years now. That's me. I do also mobile development, where iOS, Android. Yeah, that's basically it.

Robbie: Awesome. All right. Well, Maja's going to get us kicked off with some questions here.

Maja: This is awesome, seriously. I mean, I'm sure people know you and the community already. And since we announced even the mention of this episode, actually there were so many great answers and comments on the post. So today what we would like to talk to you about, is how a freelancer can actually succeed in the modern world. So my first question would actually be for Christopher. And it will be, what is the role or the business model of Codeable in a modern world, and how you actually assist freelancers to reach their goals?

Christopher: Okay. So essentially the role of a business like Codeable should be to match the right client to the right expert at the right time, that's what it is. A client has an issue or has a problem, and I'm coming to the belief more and more that it's not the actual development they want doing, it's matching the right people to the right people. It's knowing that the customer, who they are, what their cultural sensitivities may be, and matching that to the right expert on the other end and making sure that both of those individuals in that relationship are happy, and that they're whistling while they work, basically. How we do that? On the freelancer side we have learning platforms, we have a large community of people, Marcel being a very active member there.

We offer support whenever we can, both from learning of soft skills, learning of technical skills. It's nice to connect to peers, I think, which is not something that freelancers get to do often. They tend to work by themselves and they tend to suffer problems and issues that other people around them may not suffer, because they don't understand what they do. Whereas if you can speak to people who are your peers, I think it helps. I think it helps to flesh those ideas out, to understand you're not alone, to understand you're not the only person that is feeling like you're not qualified. You know that you have imposter syndrome, so does everyone. Look, here's a load of people that have that, you're not alone.

These are people who have done this for years, that still feel like they may not belong. And we're there mainly to be that network and offer that, make sure that they have happy influx of customers at all time, of course that's the basis of it. But to be that structure and support network around the freelancers, and around the people on the platform.

Maja: I also want to ask Marcel from this point of view, does Codeable really cut this unnecessary job for you, which you're not interested in general to do, like administration, finding the client, promoting, marketing, and stuff like that?

Marcel: Well, that's one of the big, great features about Codeable, is that the first vetting of the client and the first contact maybe, and even if the client is coming out as being a big client, and a big budget and they have this idea and et cetera, they're going to get checked. Not really very deeply checked, but they're going to be chosen for us before it comes to our pool of choices. So that for me is advantage number one, is to be able to feel confident about the clients that are coming in. The second advantage for me is being protected. So I belong to a group, I belong to a platform that has its rules, that everybody that plays within the platform and has its roles, they're abounded to some sort of rules.

And those rules are both for clients and also for the freelancers that are there. And the third advantage for me is that it's one of the kind that provides support for clients. So if a client doesn't like the work that is being done, doesn't get the expert to communicate that much, or has any issues and problems, he not only has a support team who is there for the clients to get him some answers, but there's also a guarantee, an insurance, that there are other people. If for some reasons some expert would not deliver like it would be expected, there's always a solution for that, right? So the client will never be stranded, and every time he will find an answer to his problems.

So for me as a freelancer, not having to worry about making those support calls. If I, for some reason, have an issue communicating with the client or the client is not responsive, or the client just disappeared, I can also contact support and get that help from them. So it's a win-win situation for everybody.

Robbie: And while we're on the subject of Codeable there, I'm sure, and we could probably get a different perspective from both of you on last year, I'm sure that the workflow increased dramatically coming through there, correct? And did you see more of an increase in e-comm WooCommerce work, versus other work that was coming through Codeable?

Christopher: From a platform?

Robbie: Yes.

Christopher: Yeah, of course we saw an influx, same as, I think, everyone else in the industry to some degree. Everyone was moving online, everyone was wanting to all of a suddenly work remotely if they could do. And I think that led to a lot of people trying new ideas, and pushing into new entrepreneurial areas that they weren't pushing into before. But I also think the existing customer base that had ecommerce, which is a lot of what we service as well to some degree, not that we don't service new ideas, but were looking to scale very rapidly. Were looking to start taking on the demand of things that were coming through the type of requests that they got coming through very rapidly. And I know, I think, you had a couple last year, Marcel, that you were dealing with, with regards to both of those issues, I think.

Marcel: Correct. I think we have many different situations. We have obviously one of the other business had to close because of the pandemic, but we had other issues. Other businesses had wanted to expand, they wanted to solve their issues, they wanted to, maybe they had some physical stores that they had other mediums to sell their products, and they wanted to increase their online sales. Or even people who had their businesses gone down and they wanted to start something new. So there was very much an increase, in terms of wanting to get something extra for the situation that they were going through. Were they a very successful business or were they somebody who got fired or lost their jobs when they wanted to start something new? For us, and for me particularly, definitely was probably the best year that I had at Codeable.

Robbie: Awesome.

Maja: Marcel, for instance, I always have hard question, because I'm sure Christopher receives tons of different clients. What is your favorite type of a client, external, internal or B2B or B2C, any other types of client?

Christopher: For me personally, I'm head of community. So for me personally, my favorite type of "client" is the community. I think one of the main reasons I worked for Codeable, is because I would consider it a great equalizer. It means it doesn't matter where you're from, it doesn't matter what you look like, it doesn't matter who you are, if you can deliver quality work, you deserve to be paid a particular price. That's it. There's no race to the bottom, there's nothing with regards to... There's basically no race to the bottom. I'm not getting experts to compete against each other, to see who can deliver something for the cheapest price. That's not what we're about. Our pricing model doesn't reflect that, a customer gets one price no matter what, they don't get different bids.

The experts collaboratively work on projects upfront. To price those projects out, it happens mainly seamlessly. Yet to me, being able to... That's why experts are my favorite clients, I suppose, if that answers your question, Maja. That to be able to provide that to people, to be able to offer an opportunity to people who weren't able to do that themselves, or where they're located geographically, people immediately look at them in a particular way, and they value their work as lower, simply because they're based somewhere where the cost of living is lower. That's not right. Personally, I don't think that's right. I think that's a model that... I think that's the future model. I think countries that are up and coming nowadays, it's no real cheaper than living in other places. You still cost money. You're driving prices down. You're driving quality down is what you're doing ultimately. And my rooster agrees.

Maja: That's right. Actually, maybe I could rephrase the question and then ask you. Do you choose the customers or clients, or they choose you? Who more picky?

Marcel: I wouldn't know if I could answer who is more picky. But the great thing about, in my case, I have many more returning clients than new clients right now. But for any new client that come to me, maybe because I'm longer in the platform and I have maybe some references out there or other clients who worked with me before, but every new client that comes to me, they're great, they're polite. They value your work, they admire other work that you have done. They looked at your profile and they make you feel, I wouldn't say special, but they come prepared into giving all the value that you deserve before getting into the job. So when you ask if there's any favorite kind of client, I wouldn't say there isn't, because we don't have bad clients per se.

So everybody that's coming into Codeable, and for the first time as a client and wants to get something done, if he's not kind, if he's not polite, then he's out. So it's basically, we don't even almost not get to those clients. So yeah, that would be my answer to the question.

Robbie: And Marcel, while we are hearing from you, will you also tell us, what made you choose the freelancer path versus going to work for another company or a corporation?

Marcel: So I always began doing my career as a web developer, by owning my own agency. So I started trying to gain clients, trying to provide solutions. I ran after different projects. So I always had that route. I never had the experience to work for a company as an employee before, as a developer. For me, the freelance business it is my course right now because of Codeable. Codeable provides me the best way for me to get this kind of clients who are, like I said before, respectful, and they appreciate your work, and they return to you and you build a relationship with them. So I would say probably what I've admired the most about the freelancing is the relationship that you can build with clients. That could be also the case if I would be working for another company, right?

But I guess in that case, you wouldn't have that much access to the client, or you wouldn't be talking to the people as much as you would if you're a freelancer. So this ability for you to have to communicate, to express yourself, to even talk about technical stuff and not only the technical stuff. All of that together makes it much more sense to as a human being and as a system solver or provider, to work with clients than any other way.

Christopher: I think you touched on something really interesting there. What sets a good freelancer apart, is the ability to build relationships. This is what I would argue. It's never about what that customer needs now or what that customer might need now, it's about supplying them with what they need now in such a manner that they are always going to come back to you for it. You are their trusted partner in this journey that they are making with their website, and they will always come back to you. It's about establishing those relationships in very solid manners. And it's about the small things. It's about saying, please, thank you, or remembering them on a holiday and saying, "Hey, happy holiday." It's the little things that make it. And that's what sets a really amazing freelancer apart from ones that aren't, I would argue. It's the soft skills, that's the most difficult part to really tone down, which Marcel does very well.

It's the hardest part to get right, is the soft stuff, not the technical stuff. The technical stuff you can learn in a book. You can get there, and it's not... Saying it's not hard I suppose is reductive. But you're capable of learning it with ease, there's a structure to it. The soft stuff is the harder piece of it.

Robbie: Yeah. And the training that you mentioned that Codeable offers earlier, Christopher, do you guys have soft skills training? Awesome.

Christopher: Yeah, of course. Yeah. Also since this has turned into a discussion about Codeable in many respects, if anyone wishes to apply, they're welcome to hit our website by all means.

Robbie: All right. Fair enough. Throw it out there. And by the way, on the flip side of that, well, what I tell people too, is if they have a project and they are looking for someone, going to a place like Codeable means they've been vetted. I mean, I see people all the time on the groups I'm in, in LinkedIn or Facebook, and they're like, "I need an expert in WooCommerce." Or, "I need an expert in LearnDash." And they're just throwing it out there. And I mean, they're getting a lot of response, but my thought is always when I see that, is I'm like, "Ooh, you're really going to have to vet whoever you're getting referred on these social media platforms." And how are you going to vet them? Whereas when you go through something like Codeable, or I say even other directory sites, where the people have had to prove in some manner they have a work history, and there's some work ethic there that we know has been verified by clients and things like that.

Robbie: So yes, freelancers go and sign up on Codeable, but also people who are looking for help.

Christopher: Of course, yeah.

Robbie: This is a place where they've been vetted, and this is great. And that you guys are also helping them with all these other training and helping them keep up to date. I just think that's great.

Christopher: To your point there, Robbie, there's a whole industry built around just vetting people or recruiting. It's not an easy thing to do, to get the right person into a job, particularly. Hence companies spending millions and millions of dollar on it a year, isn't it? I think it's something that people forget when they're looking for... People forget it sometimes is all that is, I suppose.

Robbie: Yeah. I definitely think that.

Maja: So I have a question, what do you consider most important part relevant to building ecommerce project? I mean, of Woo online shop.

Marcel: For me, there are a couple of things. Not in any particular order, but a previous experience that the client had with ecommerce before, is for me important. To know if it is the first time that they're going through the difficulties of setting up an online store, or if they had some sort of previous experience and they know which paths are going to lead to potential problems, and they're going to have to solve those problems by themselves. The second thing I would say is, the product itself or the service, have you done it before? Have you sold that before? Do you have the experience of selling that product? Do you know what you need to sell that product? Because sometimes clients come and say, "I heard WooCommerce is great. It can do everything. It just plugins here and there, and I can set up and I can sell my courses and et cetera."

But your courses still have to be very good, right? You have to be able to communicate, and then do a great job about that. And the same thing with the products. So I'd say the second thing is, do you know your product? Do you know your audience? Do you know where you're going to? Do you know where you want to go with this? And then just try to get a feel of the client and feel, even before coming to all the technical aspects of the website, just to try to get an idea at which level are we talking, is this plan at when it comes to selling online, right? So that would be probably my first things.

And then we would go into technical stuff. And I want to know the past experience that they has with platforms. If he had worked before with WooCommerce, which plugins he had worked before. Does he understand that although everything is customizable, it comes with a price? Not everything is just works out of the box. Those kind of stuffs.

And that would already give me a great advantage of profiling the client, and to know how well is he prepared for the challenge ahead, because it's not only opening a store you're going to sell right away. It is a lot of marketing work, it is a lot of knowing your audience and putting your website out there, that is not us that have to do, right?

Maja: That's awesome. How do you identify a freelancer? Is there a bidding process? How do you know who would be the best person to do this job?

Christopher: It depends on the job that comes in. In some cases we have pre-built pods or teams that deal with specific project types as they come in. Projects will get routed to those specific teams, especially if they're coming from a partner of some type. So if I have a group of experts who are particularly adept to dealing with a certain thing, or I'm running an offer that will go to a specific set of experts. Otherwise it's handled by what we call our OM team, or opportunity management team, which is a subset of the support team. General projects will come in, they'll go to everyone on the platform. There's full visibility, experts can pick up projects as and when they want. If it comes in and they're not getting engagement, or they're reaching out to us and saying, "Hey there, this isn't happening." I'll take a look at the project, and help the customer specify their brief, point out any red flags they...

Typical red flag for a developer is something like, "This should be easy for an expert like you." If you're a customer and you write that in your brief, you probably aren't getting engagement. So I'll have a read through, make sure. And I'll match them specific. I'll reach out to individual experts. I have an internal knowledge base of experts' skills, capabilities, capacity, that I will then reach out to and match up accordingly to, "This is a great expert for this person or client particularly. They have capacity, they have skills, away you go." So there's a couple of different ways to answer that question.

Robbie: While we're talking about that, because you're talking about reaching out. I wanted to ask you guys about the tool sets that you use, whether it be for project management, team communication, client communication. Obviously with you guys, there's going to be the, Codeable is part of your communication here. But what other tools are you using on a day-to-day basis? And I figured it'll be a little different between the two of you, but I imagine there's some crossover too. Are you using Slack? Are you using RingCentral? What are you guys using? What project management? And things like that. I plug it all into Excel and do it there, whatever.

Marcel: So I've gone through many, many tools forth and back, and I've been that kind of person who would use every single app that's out there for every single different task. And I already did the opposite. I already not used as many apps as I should. I was not organized. I didn't use all the potential that is out there, mobile phones of other kinds of software. But basically what I currently do is I always tend to use some sort of notes taking app. And for me right now, notion would be the one to go, where I can do a lot of stuff or I just write random notes to just schedule my day, or to just get all the password stores or whatever I need for all my work. And then the rest would be basically Slack, maybe Skype. I would not give to all my clients, all my means of communications or ways of communications that they have to reach me out. I tend to keep all the clients inside, in this case Codeable, inside the work role, inside their chat.

I do not use that much of other systems to have clients reach me out, otherwise it would be notifications here left and right. But it's mainly in Slack, it's Notion. And then two or three other tools to just keep me reminded that I have to move myself, some sort of mental health apps that will guide me through the morning, perhaps nothing fancy at all.

Robbie: Cool. Awesome. Yeah, it sounds like, and by the way, so it sounds like another advantage of Codeable is it's giving you another communication means there that you can run all your clients through, which save you some money as well. So that's cool. It's not a paid for. Or you're not having to hop into five different ones with clients, because I mean, on my agency side we have clients that are like, "Can you please get in our Teams? And can you get in..." And this one's like, "Can you be in our Slack workspace?" And you're just like, "I have messages coming at me left and right from all different places." So smart that you're keeping it all in the Codeable client area there. So Christopher, your turn.

Christopher: I see a Codeable expert in the chat saying Trello. No, not Trello. I don't use Trello. It's an internal joke we have going. Specifically I use Slack for communication. On the expert side I manage the whole community through Slack, at least ad-hoc communications, we have a lot of channels covering different topics. Whatever is needed at any particular time, or everything ranging from gaming to Bible studies basically, and everything in between, work-related or otherwise. ClickUp I've experimented with, I see Jeremy's mentioning ClickUp. Experimented with ClickUp. For knowledge management for the community specifically, I use Sensei and WordPress installs. And for CRM for experts specifically. So to understand what they're doing and how they're performing, I suppose you could say. Or what the expert looks like, what their skills are, how they're working, I use Jetpack CRM for that a lot.

And I integrate across, we have a custom built application in Ruby, which does a lot of data collection to understand experts more specifically. I use business analysis tools to digest that data as well, basically. Those are my tool set more or less.

Robbie: Awesome.

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Robbie: And we do have a question that I think we should address here. And someone said, "Why would I use something like Codeable instead of Upwork for my WooCommerce site?" Sam Carlton. So I'm going to let you guys decide which one of you is going to answer this first, but I think you both should give us feedback, because it's from both sides.

Christopher: Go on Marcel, go on.

Marcel: No. Just wanted to point this before, and we were talking about this and I was not sure if you were talking too much about Codeable or not. But what I wanted to add to what makes Codeable also a great option for everyone out there, is that if you're not sure who expert to pick, or if there are too many experts that are jumping into your project, or if you want just to first ask support or ask the people at Codeable of if they know, if they have any advice of any expert out there that would help with that specific project. I don't see that anywhere else. So just having come into Codeable and have access to a person, "Hey, I have this project. This is the scope. I want to have this and this and this working in three weeks, in three months. Do you have somebody you would recommend? Do you recommend we open the project? Is there any preferred expert that I can choose from that has this specific skills?"

That alone is already super valuable, right? And you didn't even pay to post the project there. So that for me, it's the greatest advantage of Codeable.

Robbie: Awesome. And have you tried some of the other platforms as well?

Marcel: So me as an expert, I haven't tried others, because by the time I was just choosing around and looking what I would do, I had enough with my agency work, I had a lot of people working for me and it was just a headache with all the tasks that I had to do, and the contents and the clients. And then looking up all the employees that we had. I looked at a couple of other platforms out there, and I've posted a couple of questions, I've asked around, and Codeable was just the fastest and best communicating and more encouraging ones answering me back. So I had immediately no doubts that I would choose Codeable, but I don't have any list comparisons, pro and cons about any others. I really didn't look up. I'm super happy where I am, so I wouldn't know how to answer exactly your question.

Robbie: Okay. No, that's fine. So now, Christopher, we'll get from your side point. I mean, obviously you think Codeable is the one we should choose, but why?

Christopher: Yeah, I work for them. As a freelancer, because I freelanced for seven years before I joined anything in-house. So I'll second Marcel's point there. I did use those platforms that shall not be named. Oh, he's named them, Upwork, ELance oDesk. I used Freelancer, Guru. I use all of those platforms when they were coming up, PeoplePerHour, all of them. Because I freelanced, I was a digital nomad around Europe at the time, I used all of them. The moment I joined Codeable, because I joined as a freelancer originally on the platform, it changed my life basically. I went from bidding on... This doesn't particularly answer your question, but I'm going to go down this route anyway. I went from competing with 30 different people for one job and being underpaid, to actually being paid what I was worth or what I thought I was worth so I could eat.

And I could actually earn money doing what I loved doing. Why would I use something like Codeable instead of someone else to work on my WooCommerce site? You could list it off. You can list off a couple of different reasons. A, because I can guarantee you that the quality of the work you're going to receive is going to be pretty much unparalleled in the WordPress community. B, because I can guarantee you that the people you're working with are vetted, not only for code quality standard, but also customer service, communication skills, they're vetted and they're held to that standard longer term. C, because you're going to be paying someone fairly for the job they're doing.

If you want to pay someone a pittance to do your ecommerce site, I would argue that's not a good business model. So go do it, and I would argue you'll probably regret it longer term, because you will get what you pay for, would be my point. Test it. The amount of customers we have coming from those other platforms after they've spent a year, chucking money down the drain to get something done, is a long, long, long list.

Robbie: And you probably don't have exact numbers, but do you know a rough percentage of how much WooCommerce business you guys have seen in the last 16 months? I mean, what percentage of the work coming through is WooCommerce?

Christopher: A large chunk. I mean, we're part of WooCommerce is, if you go to WooCommerce customizations, were part of the recommended providers, I suppose you could argue in that regard. So a large chunk, they're a partner, of course.

Robbie: A lot. I like that.

Christopher: A lot, because generally I think 2020 has been an exceptional year for online business generally and moving online generally. And Codeable as a platform has been helping to support both sides of it. Both the freelancer getting into the market or taking that plunge away, and the other side with ecommerce stores. A lot of the business that comes through, generally is e-comm and WooCommerce, it's not the only thing by a long measure, but yeah, it's a chunk of work that comes in, isn't it?

Robbie: So Marcel, is that mainly what you do, the work that you get through Codeable, is it mainly WooCommerce?

Christopher: You are iOS as well.

Marcel: So I have the fortune to do mobile as well, so I can connect to different worlds. Well, different in technical terms. And I can compliment, so to say, that the WooCommerce space by offering some more mobile expertise. And I had the opportunity to work at two projects that, not only sold products online, but they also had their apps. And they were also related to virtual reality, where you could try earrings and necklaces on yourself.

Robbie: Nice.

Christopher: Really nice.

Marcel: So I only been doing WooCommerce stuff. And I've been getting a lot of requests of people that want to work with us. And regarding to WooCommerce, I cannot say that there is more or less, because I've been working with WooCommerce specially for the last years. But I'm for sure confident that WooCommerce has never been so looked for and requested by clients than before. I'm pretty sure about that.

Christopher: I'd like to interject here. Marcel is being too humble. What he's done with regard... The bleeding edge software that he's developed with regards to headless WooCommerce and AR is some of the best stuff I've seen in a load of years. It's really good. It's really good. And you've got Hidgets, Marcel. Come on, you've got to talk about Hidgets.

Marcel: So the cool thing about being a mobile developer as well is you can just relate to the platform itself, so that the things that are missing over there, like the opportunities that we have in terms of building tools for other people to use the mobile phones in different ways, for me as a mobile developer as well, is something very motivating. It's the same thing for a web developer, right? If you have a technology and if you have a platform, you're just providing solutions and other ways for people to expose their products, to sell their products. On the mobile platform, you also have that opportunity. So what Chris is talking about, Hidgets is just displaying widgets on iOS, that will relate to your health information, the steps that you've taken, the distances, calories, everything related to heartbeat and et cetera. And providing that as a widget you pick up your phone you can look at that.

But more importantly, the content of this app is just the opportunity to create, it's you to be solving problems or providing solutions that are not as easy as a mobile developer. And what I'm thinking of doing in the future is like trying to bridge or to get more connection between WooCommerce, between mobile platforms, between virtual reality, AR is coming into place. We're soon going to be seeing glasses, we're going to be wearing glasses where everything's going to be much more technological. And it's all related to the same thing. So I'm really looking forward to take more advantage of that mobile development part, for sure.

Robbie: Nice. It's really interesting. It's an interesting space you're in there, because I've dabble over in the AR world as well. So interesting that you're combining that with WooCommerce through mobile. I like that. Interesting.

Christopher: Well, what do you do, Robbie, in the AR?

Robbie: So just building some AR for a few lightweight training, so that you can look through a mobile phone and it would activate a training about a certain thing that you're looking at for our client. Anyway, just different training work to use AR, just because it's, like Marcel mentioned, AR and VR are pretty heavy out there right now, and it's just going to grow. That's going to grow, that space is definitely going to grow. But with VR, when you have to have goggles and things like that, it's limiting on what corporations especially can pay to have the training done that way. So when you're talking about AR, that can be usually done with a smartphone and most people have those in their hand.

So I think that's why AR has, in my opinion, and I don't have stats on this, AR is more widely accepted right now over VR. But VR definitely has its place and it's really cool. I went to a couple of conferences. It's amazing what some of the stuff that they're doing with it, and what's coming up down the line for us. So I think that's cool. But I really like that you're mixing it. You're thinking of that connection to WooCommerce here too. Because that's-

Marcel: And there's so much you can do with AI as well, right? So if you take your phone and take a picture of a shirt, and then you look for similar shirts. Or if you have a WooCommerce store that has a thousand products, and people would like to know if you have a product similar to this one, and you take a photo with your phone and it search for that product. I mean, there are a lot of things that it can still do that nobody did before, and I'm just looking for those opportunities and trying to connect those interesting features that only mobile only applications can do. Definitely going to be doing more of that in the coming years. And we can just have a complete talk about VR, AR, ecommerce in general, AI and whatnot, other technologies out there, because this is going to be the future. No discussion about it.

Maja: That's awesome. Listen, Marcel, sincerely developing such cool things. I have an issue shopping online, and I still haven't managed to buy shoes from the first time. I always buy either small or a size bigger or a size smaller and whatever, and then I end up buying the third pair which is correct.

Marcel: I have a solution for you. I'm just kidding, but just want to spend 30 seconds to explain this. So the latest technology that we are going to see in mobile, it's not probably going to solve the shoe problem, because the shoe is not only about the length, it's about different aspects of your foot that may not fit the exact shoe. But you will be able to just take your phone and just show around with the camera around your foot, [inaudible 00:38:10] foot. And it takes a measure of your foot, and then it's going to choose the right size for you if you upload that information to the website. That is not difficult to do actually, it's not practical right now. So what are we still missing in the next five to 10 years, is that this technology that it makes it possible to very easily make a 3D object scannable by a mobile phone, is not on the hands of millions of people right now.

It's just not that popular right now, but it's going to be a trend. You're going to be doing 3D objects with your phone. And it could very well be for your foot and just try different shoes, or you can even do a 3D mapping for your whole self, and put different clothes on and different shoes on and-

Christopher: 3D map it, route it to my CNC router, it'll cut out wooden clogs for you that are the exact measurements, and we'll ship them out. I think you did hit on something though. I mean, as you can see it's a woodworking, but there's a lot of movement in additive manufacturing lately as well, rather than reductive manufacturing. So if I can see the future where you're 3D mapping something and making it exactly, it's 3D printed or custom built off of that, using like a CNC type-esque machine on the other end. That you're getting truly customized pieces of clothes or whatever that are just automatically run out, rather than having that mass manufacturing approach that we've had previously.

Robbie: I just actually saw a Kickstarter, and basically they are doing sunglasses, but the sunglasses are custom made to fit your face. So if you need a shorter... Yeah. So I was like, "Wow, that's really cool."

Christopher: That makes sense. Yeah.

Robbie: I think it was still trying to get funding, but still, I was like, "Oh." I think we're going to see this. Just like you said, I think we're going to see this on more items too. So when those kind of things happen, we've got to have the capability of asking a lot of different questions into that WooCommerce shopping experience, to be able to get the right information to do customized products. So Marcel, and Christopher mentioned you're doing headless in the headless space, and obviously you have to go headless to go to the iOS. But do you also then do headless just in the browser as well. Are you only going headless when you're going to mobile devices with WooCommerce?

Marcel: So it depends on the customer, depends on the amount of products that they have, the expectance that they have in terms of the audience, or in terms of the viewers, or the visits they're going to get to the website. I don't jump in immediately to headless, just because it's cool and it's modern and it's going to solve a lot of problems. It's actually, for the expert maybe, a little bit more difficult at first to deal with and to set up than anything else. For sure it has its advantages. It is super fast, and people are comparing milliseconds of differences between loading headless or not headless, and just getting servers out there that are more capable than others.

And just the whole discussion about which is best is for me not a discussion, it is only just another tool that I have in my tool sets to provide to the client, if everything else that is easier for me and less expensive for the client fails, right? That's what I'm into headless. I love it. The concept is awesome. I do not see us honestly going to have a 95% of the website being headless and just the checkout being a direct experience, because it has its problems as well, right? And we actually don't need it that much as people say, right? So although is is a very cool academic, awesome way to solve a lot of problems, I'm not seeing it as to be applicable, I wouldn't even say to 10%, even 5% of the WordPress WooCommerce websites out there. But that's just my opinion.

Robbie: We also wanted to know, do any of your teammates or yourselves contribute back into Woo? Any code base coming back from you guys or people around you?

Christopher: Woo, yeah. Specifically, I'm an active member of the WooCommerce developers community on Slack. Particularly woocommercecommunity.slack.com. I've done some contributions there, helped out on their Facebook group as a volunteer there as well at times. I know committed some code back at some point, I think. Yeah, definitely. I think it's an important thing across the board to do. Eventually I'd like to see... I love what they're doing lately, where they're signposting a lot more on how developers should get involved and stuff. I think that's really important. I think Allen, Mr. Smith, is doing a great job as dev wrangler there at the moment. Yeah.

Robbie: Christopher got his gold star. It's your turn, Marcel.

Marcel: So I wanted to ask Chris for advices in that regard, because I do not do as much as I would like to.

Christopher: Oh, I'll get you on board, don't worry.

Marcel: I struggle a bit in getting my schedule organized, and find free time for me is a little bit difficult. I did contribute back in the days a little bit to the mobile team. I did also some contributions, not in term of core contributing, but in terms of discussions that were going on. And I'm really looking forward to maybe do some more of that community work. We were talking also the other day about that, and also here locally in Portugal. And in Portugal, I definitely would want to get into a phase where I could separate a couple of hours in the week for that. And if there's anybody out there who has tips on how to do that, the organizing part in terms of the scheduling, I would really love to do that. Yeah. But right now, it's so much work and so much new stuff to try out and to experiment, that I'm probably more inclining to that than doing... But I think it's super, super important.

And I probably feel bad, I would say, not having as much time as I would like to contribute back, for sure.

Christopher: To not be too hard on you, Marcel, you do have a family and children and everything else as well in between.

Marcel: Yes, of course. But not to get too much talking about this, it's also because what I provide to the family and what I can do as my day job, it's also because other people spent their time contributing and doing their part. So I just feel like it's... I'm not feeling very, very bad about it of course now, but I feel that I have to give back more than to take, and I've taken a lot and not given enough. So that's in the state that I find myself right now.

Robbie: I think a lot of people who are in any open source community, quite honestly, that are making money with the open source products that they're using, or even for paid for plugins, things like that, they still feel... One, you're super busy, I totally get that. So it makes it hard. And you have to find a balance. And I see a lot of people who they don't balance it and what happens is, then they go down the volunteer route so much that there's a detriment to their business or whatever. So you're right, it's all about finding that balance, and maybe finding other ways that you can contribute. I mean, not everyone can write code, right? And I mean, you guys can, but I'm just saying that there's a lot of different ways.

You guys are contributing right now by sharing your knowledge, whether it be on podcasts, whether it be conferences, whether online or hopefully back in person soon, that's a contribution. You guys are contributing here. Just write a blog post every now and then that gives some sort of knowledge out there too. That helps. It helps other people, it helps the community itself and the project.

Maja: And since we don't have too much time, so it's a great time to ask a philosophical question, right?

Robbie: Yes.

Maja: From your personal opinion, who develops online business or the vision of owners of business, or the technical capacity and ability what the platform can do? So who is actually taking the lead there?

Marcel: I honestly think there's no right answer, but to my experience I wouldn't be able to give owners ideas that I have, if I wouldn't be able to contact them. And they wouldn't be able to fulfill their ideas if they didn't have the technical help, which is contributing more. I don't think there's ever a moment where one is more than the other. It's a forth and back, it's a game. The technology is there and it's created, then a store owner comes in and says, "Hey, I could use that to solve my problem." Or the other way, there is a problem and there is no solution for that, and there are a group of developers to develop that solution.

So I think it's a never ending circle, which doesn't give any more... how would you say? It's not more the owner or more of the developer, it's both. They wouldn't exist if they didn't work together. But maybe I would say the technical part is a little bit more important.

Christopher: I think I agree with Marcel. I don't think the technical part is particularly more important without... To be a successful online ecommerce business, you need to be a customer that is willing to give up particular things, specifically control of particular decisions to an expert that knows what they're doing. Otherwise, you're not going... If an expert is telling you, "Don't use a carousel with 50 megabyte images in it." If you're stubborn enough to say, "I want my carousel." Then it's your own fault. But I also think the opposite is true, the expert also needs to know that they wouldn't be there without that customer having that idea and having the money and putting it in. So it's six of one half of another. A successful business is one that is able to meet in the middle between those two parties, I would argue.

And meet in the middle successfully between those two parties, merge the best of one and the best of the other to be able to deliver at the end something that is going to be successful. Both parties need to listen, both parties need to understand the other point, and both need to dance around until what's produced is something beautiful, I suppose, as I say.

Maja: So it's a mix of empathy, technology and some will to succeed, right? Because it means that everybody has to have a compromise on all these things. Because I'm sure clients come with their own opinion, and then there's the developer saying, "Hey, okay, these are the dreams. Okay, let me move you back to reality. This is how it should be." So there's this adjustment part, right?

Christopher: There's also people will come with a load of dreams. I don't think people come with dreams, people come not knowing or not understand... Someone quoted at me yesterday, the Java developer isn't to execute, it's to provide clarity. Which makes sense to some degree. People will come with loose ideas, and they're not sure how to achieve these things. They've seen something, but they want something that's similar, it's never a carbon copy. The owner's job isn't just to produce code and give it to the customer, a developer's job or an expert's job is to manage expectations, to understand when to push back and what battles to fight. And it is to take that jumbled mess of creativity or idea spurt that the customer has had, and turn it into something tangible. And understanding what they want is probably the most difficult thing.

I have another developer I spoke to a couple of years ago and he said, "Our job is requirement extraction." Which is another good way of putting it. It's how do you get from the what's in someone's head, and put it so that you're matching the idea they had in their head. There's a great book by the guy from MythBusters, Adam Savage, I was listening to the other day and he said, "Take an idea of something you want to build and describe it to someone and ask them to draw it. I bet you what they draw, isn't what you have in your head." A developer, their job is to understand what that person's describing, and deliver what's in their head. And to do it effectively, you need to be in sync with that person. You need to understand what that person's thinking before they're thinking it. You need to be merged, you need to be in the middle, if that makes sense. Does that answer the question?

Marcel: But Chris, if I can interject, is that if the developers ask, "Is this the right picture? Is this what you were thinking?" And the answer is no, then it is probably your job to tell him maybe what are options he has to describe to me the picture, but I can visualize the picture, right?

Christopher: Yeah, of course.

Marcel: And that experience only comes with time. As long as you've seen a lot online businesses, a lot of clients, a lot of ideas, that you try to develop and they didn't work. Those were unfortunately failures for a store owner, of course, but they only enriched your experience into knowing, "Oh, you're trying to tell that you want six wheels, not four. But you're not using the right tool to describe that." So that's also the part of the developer. So that's why I would probably say more technical, but it's both parts of course. It's both parts.

Christopher: Yeah. But in that analogy, to use the same one, it's the developer's job to give the customer a pencil and understand that when they're talking about the swirly thing on the front page, they mean the carousel. That's what they mean. That swirly thing on the front page you're talking about, it's the carousel. We have a vocabulary that we've learned over time, that clients, they don't necessarily have, that we need to understand how to translate some requirements that people will write down sometimes. The swirly thing on the front page is an actual examples of someone.

Maja: Wow. Amazing.

Christopher: I have a team of people whose job it is to help customers express what they want in particular ways, and then help match them with a person that will be able to understand them moving forward. A literal team that that is their job, concierging projects and understanding opportunities and manage them across the board. To put them in front of the right expert at the right time. And they do a great job. Joseph, Ripple and Liz Lockwood, they do an amazing job.

Robbie: And I call it translating too. What that customer is saying, and you're translating it into speech that the technical side can understand, so that they are talking about the same thing. It's no different than if you have two different languages here and your translator between. And you do need a translator to have successful projects, because otherwise this person is talking about something totally different from this person over here. And they're talking a whole conversation, not even knowing that they're talking about two different things. So I think that's key.

All right, guys. Thank so much for coming on the show. We really appreciate you spending this time with us.

Christopher: Thank you. I wanted to thank both of you for an amazing hosting Robbie. Thank you for having me, I know myself personally. And thank you, Maja, as well for being great. It was really fun.

Robbie: Awesome. Thank you guys.

Marcel: Thank you very much.

Maja: Lovely to see you, always. And regards from Bob and everyone in the team. And we'll see you next time in the Woo BizChat

Robbie: Thanks a lot guys.