Chris Coyier is a veteran to the web. He dabbled first with WordPress and has used it for years. WooCommerce also drifted in and out of Chris’s web life, and recently he took it a bit deeper on his site CSS-Tricks. Although he isn’t deep into the WooCommerce community, he is a huge fan and and we can gain useful insights and perspectives from his web experience.
A Chat with Chris
In episode 66, Mendel and I chat with Chris about:
- The start and evolution of CodePens and CSS-Tricks
- When Chris started WordPress and his fond memories of that first install after downloading a zip file
- Cowboy coding and does Chris still do it
- How Chris views local installs vs. working live on a WordPress site
- A bit of history with Chris and WooCommerce
- Selling t-shirts of CSS-Tricks
- Adding posters to sell on CSS-Tricks
- How Chris is making out during these challenging times
- More on the evolution of both CodePens and CSS-Tricks and where this has led Chris
- His perspectives on the WordPress and WooCommerce communities
- What it means to him to have his site under the WordPress roof
- Why he applauds the devs in the WordPress ecosystem
- The tools Chris uses most in web design and development
Connect with Chris
Yes, this is the transcript. But not in the traditional sense, transcribed word for word. We do not speak as we write. Often the flow of transcribed content is hard to follow. So I have taken it a few steps further by seriously editing, at times, the conversation and even using my editorial freedom to clarify some points. So enjoy.
Bob: Hey everybody, BobWP, and we are back with Do the Woo. My cohost that was supposed to be here is stuck in a hurricane, and I hope he's safe. Brad Williams let me know about an hour and a half ago he lost power, and I'm just hoping that he's still continuing to find ground, I guess is what I would say. But I had to reach out and get Mendel "who is always there for me" Kurland. Mendel, how you doing?
Mendel: Hey, Bob, how you doing? Hey, what episode are we on by the way? Is this 66?
Bob: Let's see. What episode are we on? 66. Yeah, we are on 66.
Mendel: I'm really excited to be on this particular episode just because both numbers are the same number. I know it's silly, but I love double numbers. Six, six, that's awesome, super awesome.
Bob: I'll keep that in mind as I schedule these and try to move them around a little bit, just to make your day. I want to add to your enjoyment.
Mendel: Hey, thanks a lot, Bob. So how's the weather over there?
Bob: Weather is fine. We're a little foggy this morning, but no hurricanes, no big winds. How about yourself?
Mendel: Doing well over here. I say we get this thing kicked off.
Bob: Cool. Before I do that, quick shout out to our sponsors.
WooCommerce.com, they are our community sponsor and, just to let you know, a couple of days ago they released 4.4 Candidate. So want to make sure you get that checked out. I believe it's on track for the 18th.
We have Recapture.io, an abandoned cart and email marketing solution. Make sure you get that taken care of.
And Sezzle. It's a buy now, pay later option, allowing shoppers to purchase today and pay later with no interest. And they have a pretty slick and easy to-set-up plugin for WooCommerce. So get on that.
Well, without any further delay, I'm excited to bring our guest on. I've never met Chris in person or actually virtually. This is the first time, but welcome to the show, Chris Coyier.
Chris: I couldn't be happier. Thanks so much for having me. Hey, I'm very glad you have WooCommerce as a sponsor on your WooCommerce podcast. It feels like a good fit.
Bob: Yeah, that seems like a natural fit.
Chris: I hope so. Shopify would be a really weird mix. I'd be like, "They reached out?"
Bob: I just had somebody email me, and they pulled out one post on my site that's had Shopify in it, and they said, "Dear Bob," which was really weird they called me dear Bob. But they said, "Dear Bob, we see that you love Shopify." And then went into trying to get me to put a link in or something. But I thought, "Well, I guess if one post out of about four or 500 posts means I like Shopify or love it, well, so be it I guess, in their eyes."
Anyway, Chris, for the people that don't know what you do, before we even get into the Woo and the WordPress and all that good stuff, what does Chris do these days?
CodePen and CSS-Tricks
Chris: Well, my main job is I work at CodePen. I'm a co-founder of CodePen, which doesn't have much to do with WooCommerce, but it's an online playground for front end developers. It's like a social browser. You go to CodePen and have a free account, and you can make pens. That's the primary feature of CodePen, which is chunks of HTML, CSS, and Java script. So it's an editor right in your browser.
I talked to just a professor this morning that uses us at their classes at the University of Miami. And they taught all their classes for the whole semester in it, because it's nice for them, particularly in these times, everybody being at home. You can have a student and say, "Hey, I want you to learn a little something about HTML and CSS. Just go to this URL." And that URL spins up, and there's an editor right there. Instantly they're working and learning about HTML.
It's not like, "Download this piece of software. Install this. Hopefully this works. Oh, shoot, I'm on a Linux machine. That doesn't work." There's none of that going on. So it's not necessarily an education specific tool, but I think people think of CodePen and education together a lot because there's a lot to learn from it. If you Google something like, "How to make tabs in React," or something, you might land on a CodePen, because that's the purpose of it, is that there's a demonstration of how to do tabs in React. And two seconds, you're looking at the code to do that. That's it. And there's this social layer on top of it where I can heart things, and you can comment on things, and I can follow you, and you can follow me.
So it's like a social network in that regard as well, which is nice. It adds some fun to it, some community, and fuels it too in a way. Because if you search for React tabs, like that example I just talked about, because there's people that heart, and comment, and add it to collection stuff, we can use that data to assume that that's popular in a way and make it show up higher in search results for example. We know that that's a good one to show you. Anyway, that's a whole spiel about CodePen. That's my primary job.
But I also run a site called CSS-Tricks, which is a WordPress site, runs WooCommerce on it, which I'm sure we'll get to, not it's primary thing. It's primary thing is really just a blog. I blog, but I have guest writers, and staff writers, and a lead editor on the site, and it's a business publication in the world of talking about front end, largely, about building websites.
The name CSS-Tricks is terribly cheesy and makes it sound like it's just going to be this sight full of cheesy CSS tricks, but it's grown up over the decade and a half it's been alive. And it's really just a resource site for all things about building websites.
Mendel: Now Chris, I have a question about the birth of CSS-Tricks, because apparently it was launched on July 4th, right?
Mendel: 4th of July. So why? What was significant about this moment? Was it just a morning of July 4th that you were like, "Hey, I'm going to hit publish," or was there some method behind that madness?
Chris: Yeah. I don't think the date has anything to do with anything. And in fact, I probably only started celebrating its birthday many years into having the site. In the early days it just didn't matter as obviously it was just me. It's just this baby little stupid side project I have.
Mendel: Just the thing you did.
Chris: And then at some point either somebody noticed it, or I did, or something. You just go look at that very first post you ever published, and of course, just being a WordPress site, it has a date on it. You're like, "I guess that's the day we turned this site on." I don't have any specific memory of why, or when, or what that day was all about or anything. It just happens to be the first post. So that's that. No method to the madness at all.
Bob: So obviously you started it on WordPress, and because of the age of the site, obviously that was way back when WordPress was still a baby.
When Chris Started Using WordPress
Bob: What made you decide to use WordPress? Had you been using it already? Was it the, "Let's give this a whirl," type of thing?
Chris: Yeah. It definitely wasn't my first website or even my first WordPress website, I don't remember what made WordPress catch my eye necessarily then. I also didn't know anything. So at that point in your learning, you just pick something. You're not intelligently analyzing all the options you have in front of you. Something catches your eyes, and you just give it a go.
What is This Zip File?
And I think I had luck, I remember, because this was the only way to use WordPress at the time, was you download it. And still, you go to WordPress.org, and you click something, and it gives you a zip file on your desktop, which is amazingly unhelpful. It's amazing that that's still the way it is, but that's just the way it is. And then it's on you to do something with it.
Now, I'm sure I opened that zip file, and looked at a confusing group of files, and probably tried to double click on them or something. I don't know. But you don't have any luck there. And then you start looking around, reading docs, seeing what it's asking of you to do this. And you get the basics information like, "Look, these are PHP files. They need to be on a server that's running PHP," since you follow the basic docs and they're all telling you, "Well, you got to buy some hosting. You got to log in to that hosting. And then this is where you put the files." And the hosts wants to help you do that too, because the hosts are making money off of you. The second you buy hosting with them, they want to help you get your site install over there. This is like 15 plus years ago.
Not that it's that different now, but I just want to emphasize that. So I remember buying a domain name. That's a little process to itself too, and you got to be pretty sure of what you're doing, because you're about to spend $20 or whatever it is. So hopefully you got a real reason to do it.
And then you got to buy hosting separately generally. I think at the time, wherever I bought the domain name didn't really encourage me to also buy hosting from there. They just only did the domains thing. And then I picked some hosting for some reason. I'm sure I was very price conscious about it and tried to pick something that was very inexpensive, and it was good find. And then you'd get an email, and you're like, "You're hosting a setup. Congratulations, here's your FTP credentials."
Mendel: And you're like, "What now?" right?
Continuing to Install WordPress Way Back When
Chris: Yeah. But I knew about FTP, because I was a a computer nerd before websites. Once in a while, even as a kid, you'd get access to some FTP server that was probably largely for the purpose of trading illegal software or something. It's like a more nerdy Napster thing. "Here's my FTP server."
Anyway, at least I was aware of what FTP was. Then you get some FTP software; you plug in the credentials, and, "Look, there's the server I just bought, I just spent money on." Then you drag that folder of WordPress files on there, then struggle through the idea of DNS, which is, good luck when you're a beginner. But you got to point the DNS to the right place.
If you get through that and you reload it, then you're probably greeted with the WordPress page that's like, "There's no database here." You're like, "Oh, cool. God dang it." And then you figure that out. So it's probably a week-long process to struggle through all this. But I think once you do it, first of all, then you've learned it.
Then the next time it will take you 20 minutes instead of a week. But I remember being like, "Dang, I did it. This is rad." Now everything's a lot easier after that. You can go in there and start editing those files. If you see something as red and you want to change the color, you can probably find the word red and the right file if you look hard enough, eventually. And in my early days WordPress were very much just find the right file and edit it. It wasn't too long after that that the software didn't end up being Cyberduck or whatever.
Along came Coda. I'm a Mac guy. Mac software called Coda that was FTP and an editor combined. So it was your FTP client, but is the code editor too. Now you can click on those files, and edit it, and hit save, and it's like this amazing workflow. Now every time I change, I can just go refresh the live site, and there's my changes, and like, "Oh man, now I can look at other sites and try to emulate what they're doing." And you just learn a lot real quick about web development and have that feeling of power like, "Wow, I can do a lot here."
And you didn't have to learn any computer science to do it. I didn't have to write a login system. I barely knew what a CMS was, but in my mind, solidifying these concepts like, "Oh, I see this software is producing more pages for me. So if I blog, all I have to do is hit the publish button and I have a new URL." It's not as manually that your early days are led to believe. "Make a new post, you have to make new files." I think there's an intuitive understanding of what a CMS is.
Mendel: Do you still cowboy code?
Chris: No. Never ever, for any reason.
Mendel: The unfortunate part is since this is audio, I don't even know if I can tell if that's truthful or not, but hopefully you're not.
Chris: I lived through that transition. I was probably, not necessarily leading the transition, because I think a lot of times people got to drag you kicking and screaming from old workflows. At least it is for me. Every new technology is because I joined some other project, or team, or something that did things a different way and I'm like, "Okay, I guess I have to do it this way now."
And it wasn't until really working at a startup where they used Subversion at the time, pre-Git days, that I learned what the value of source control was at all. But then once you start doing it, you're like, "Well, that's obviously the way to go." But I don't think this is ubiquitous yet.
Local Installation vs. Working on the Live Site
These days you think of the way that you work on WordPress: you have some local installation of it; you work on it, and then you've managed to wire up some deployment process for it. And everybody does it differently and has different ways, and that's cool. But that seems to be the healthy way that probably the majority of WordPress development works, but certainly not all of it. I hear from plenty of cowboy coders still. And not just cowboy coders, but I think there's a big contingent of people who just don't have a local install at all. They just work with WordPress because it's possible to work online without coding anything.
I was mentoring a woman who works on a site that's pretty ambitious and what it's trying to do, and it's this combination of ACF and some plugin that locks down content to paid members. And there's a fancy theme framework in there somewhere, because that was a prerequisite to some pagebuilder she wanted to use. It's this ball of WordPress plugins that enable all the functionality that she wanted, and there's no source control at all. It's just like, "You just change that." And in fact, she wanted to show little bits of content on one page depending on if you're a member or not. And that content was in an advanced custom field. And there was no way to do that within the pagebuilder.
So then there's this other thing called Woody snippets in there, which I'd never seen, but it was a way to use the WordPress admin to write little pieces of PHP, and that would give you a shortcut to that, and then you could put the shortcode in posts that would execute that little piece of handwritten PHP. And it just was like, "Wow." That works. She's feels productive to some degree I think.
But then she installed the plugin the other day that changed something in a fundamental way. It locked her out of her own site, and that was that. You're done. You can't roll back. You can't FTP in and change things. And maybe she could, but it doesn't work that way at all. It doesn't have any local environment for the site at all. And I just was feeling how dangerous it was. It's truly dangerous.
Mendel: That's what's awesome and what's not awesome about WordPress and about WooCommerce, is its super easy to do stuff, super easy to make changes, super easy to add functionality and remove functionality. But then, like you said, it's super easy to lock yourself out of your site or not have a differential backup or something like that.
Chris: You can miss one semi-colon or something in PHP and the site is toast.
Chris: Yeah. That's just the way web technologies work.
Bob: I remember and I'm talking long time ago. This was maybe in the '80s sometime when I was taking computer programming, which obviously I did not endure or pursue as a profession. But I was riding in COBOL. And I remember my first experience was a missing semi-colon or something. I think maybe that's why I never became a developer, because of that one missing semi-colon. I don't know what it was, but it was the most frustrating thing in my life that I've ever experienced.
Thanks to our sponsor:This episode is brought to you by Sezzle and their Buy Now Pay Later plugin for WooCommerce. If you have been looking to offer your customers installment payments, well, look no further. Sezzle allows online shoppers to split their purchases into interest-free installments which increases conversions and average order values by an average of 20%.
At the same time it empowers shoppers financially as it helps them to grow their credit and offer options that are not available on other shops.
Sezzle pays the merchant in full at checkout and assumes the risk of fraud and chargebacks. I know that it has been rated at the best Buy Now, Pay Later solution, Sezzle has more than 14,000 merchants and well over 1.4 million shoppers. Sezzle is available in the US & Canada and just recently in India. and they are looking to expand that to new markets during the remainder of this year. Their plugin is slick and easy to to install. Just a few minutes and you are on your way. So make sure and visit get.Sezzle.com/dothewoo and get a 30-day free trial as a listener.
Now let’s head on back to the show.
Chris and WooCommerce
So WooCommerce. Where did WooCommerce come in along the way? I know that you have recently added it to CSS-Tricks, but did you have any exposures before? Were you working with them before? How did you get to WooCommerce?
Chris: Sure. I have used it before, and I have used it on CSS-Tricks before too. There's been little on and offs over the years when I just needed it for something, and experiments with other eCommerce software and stuff too. Sometimes it feels you have this moment you need to sell something.
In the past, it's been like, "I should sell shirts, and hats, and stuff," because I had a brand and whatever; somebody wants to buy a shirt, or you just have this idea, "Maybe there's a little money to unlock over here if we did this," or you have some little jealousy because you see somebody else doing it, and you're like, "I could do that too. Passive income rules. What if we could get a little minor, steady stream of commerce money happening somehow."
And once in a while the kettle boils over and you're like, "All right, I'm going to do it." You look at what the options are out there, and you need somebody to produce the stuff for you. You need to actually sell it, and then you need to fulfill the orders, ship the stuff, if it's a physical product. And so the temptation to use something that can just do all that stuff is so high. It's like, "No wonder why people pick Shopify. You just go, and click some buttons, and go, and they just provide it all under one house for you."
I've tried different ones in the past. I'm not sure if I've ever had a live Shopify site, but I've had live sites using other software in the past. And some of the stuff I've done has been like a Rube Goldberg machine of making it work. One of my most recent experiences was selling some merchandise at CodePen. I wanted to make sure the shirts were super high quality. So we found a shirt printer that I liked, and you had test shirts made, and they had this cool way of printing it and all that. But they're just a shirt printer place. So you're really on your own then. Now you have this box of shirts. How are you going to get those to people?
Selling T-Shirts on CSS-Tricks
So for a long, long, long time on CSS-Tricks, I had an actual human being doing it that was paid on staff, and her house was full of racks of shirts. So when orders came in, she would literally take one off the shelf, put it in the container and take it to the post office to mail the thing. And that was okay, but she couldn't do it every day. And then I was like, "Well, can you do it twice a week, once a week?" I don't know, it just became like this. And then you're paying her. So whatever profit you make, you got to slice off a human being salary off the top of it. The chance of you selling enough shirts for one small company to pay a whole human being to do all that work, whew, that's hard. The economics of that don't always add up.
And then this t-shirt place is saying, "Well, we're experimenting with fulfillment too. So why don't you do it that way. Send your orders to us, and we'll just fulfill them." And they have a whole infrastructure for it. So then there's not somebody on staff. There's just a company doing it for you. And now these days there's print-on-demand and drop shippers. So you don't even have to source your own shirts. You can just be like, "I don't know. Here's a design. When you get an order for one, print it and send it." So there's been evolutions of that. How much control over this process do you want? And lately, my thinking is, as absolutely little as possible.
And Now Selling Posters on CSS-Tricks
But what brought me back to WooCommerce is that I had this idea to sell some posters on the site. I was a little less worried about the quality of a poster than a t-shirt. I think people are a little pickier about t-shirts, like, "I don't know that I trust a $2.99 drop ship t-shirt to represent our brand well enough." But a poster, who cares? It's just a piece of paper. You have to stick it in a frame or tack it to the wall or something.
And I tested this, I don't know if they're a drop printer. I don't know if there's a classification of these or what, but I just happened to notice that they advertise WooCommerce support. So it's this company that specializes in just uploaded design, and now you have a little store with this poster on it. And it has a direct connection to WooCommerce. So you click another button, and it turns that into a product on your WordPress site. Now all the wiring is all wired up.
So when somebody orders one, that order is automatically sent to them. They print one copy of this poster, fold it up into a little shipping container, and send it to that person. The only work that I had to do was design the poster, which I even had somebody else do for me, and then just have WooCommerce installed and make sure that was ready to go on the site. But the eCommerce nature of it is just so easy. I don't need to have anybody on staff. I don't need to manually print these things. I don't have to deal with inventory. I just don't do anything.
And that's just one tiny little way you could use WooCommerce, as I'm sure you all know. WooCommerce can basically do anything eCommerce wise. But that's what brought me back to it, was just this idea that I can pull this off with very little effort. I don't have all day. I'm not banking my businesses on the sale of posters. To me, this is just a small income stream thing that I want to try out, and WooCommerce handled that nicely.
Mendel: So I'm curious, talking a lot about WooCommerce, talking a lot about the things that you're involved in. I want to switch gears slightly and talk about how you live your life, especially right now. I've done some looking and seeing that some of the things that you really value or are spending time in coffee shops, taking a break, being outside, hanging with family and stuff like that.
But right now is an odd time. And I think there are a lot of people that are either trying to make big life changes, whether it's changing a career path, or building a business, or they're just trying to deal with the daily grind as a developer, designer, an entrepreneur, or whatever, even in the corporate world, and a lot of people working from home that hadn't been working from home before. So what are your thoughts on, A, disconnecting and finding something to provide some sort of release or relaxation, and B, maybe some advice on how to deal with some of these big life changes or how to approach them?
Easy Adaptation to Today’s World
Chris: I lucked out. I don't live in a terrible hotspot for any of this stuff, and I'm introverted by nature. So I'm a little less effected by the quarantining and the not being able to see people as much. I was a little bit traveled out sort of by the start of this thing anyway, so not traveling has felt good. I have it lucky in so, so many ways. I'm sitting here in my office too. It's an office with just me in it, which is not at my house. So even during quarantine, I was able to come to this office. I was a little less into the cabin fever thing that a lot of people experience.
So yet again, I've lucked out in my life in some awesome way. I'm probably not the best person to be giving anybody advice. "Have your own awesome office in a town that you love in the mountains," not the most useful advice probably that's generally applicable.
The Magic of CodePen and CSS-Tricks for Chris
Mendel: What about working on a big projects? Whether it's weight loss or career paths, big things that take time to accomplish and they seem almost insurmountable. I'm sure you've been through things in your life that maybe take time to coordinate in your mind at least. Is there any thoughts there?
Chris: Yeah, I'm hit and miss on projects like that, but it's definitely how I think is long term on projects. CCS-Tricks is as old as it is only because of me just hanging on to it and telling myself, "I'm just going to work on this thing forever." It's my baby. I say that because it's like there's probably lots of moments where I could have given up on it or just stopped caring about it and worked on something else. But definitely there's some part of me that's just like, "That? No. That's not what I do." I work on things longterm because I think any success I've ever had is through just keeping at things.
I've had failures in that regard too, but I think the longer you keep at something the chances of that thing having returns for you. And I'm not bored of it either. That's a nice thing too is that I very on purposely have trimmed my life to just be working on primarily just CodePen and CSS-Tricks. I've trimmed away things that were taking up my time in other ways or that didn't feed back into those things in a useful way.
And now they've reached this critical mass of success where I don't really need to worry about them totally failing, which is nice. I think there's a moment where I think if a project or one that you really care about is just not doing well enough to some point where there's a chance that it could just fail. There's a moment where you might actually be smart to bail on it, because then you can start something new and give something a new a shot rather than just spinning your wheels on something that might not be working.
But both of these projects have crossed that point where what they need is just more ideas, and more work, and more thinking, and more people, and stuff, because they're already successful enough that I'm not worried about them just outright failing. I don't know if that was a cohesive thought.
Mendel: Yeah. It sounds like doing something you love and persisting at it is your formula, at least with some things.
Chris: Yeah. I know I've seen people give up on things too early or bounce around to too many things where I'm just like, "I don't think you're having success because you're not digging into it as deeply as you need to."
Mendel: Yeah. Because you have to solve real problems sometimes with things you're working on and getting over that hump that allows you to actually do something that successful.
Chris: Yeah. It helps that I like it too. Just another way that I'm lucky I get to sink all this time into these projects, and enjoy it, and know that each passing day is like buying me a little bit more, I don't know, resiliency too. Because I think some of the things I work on like CodePen, in the first year of CodePen, "Do you trust CodePen?" People are like, "Should I invest time in this place?" I'm asking people to do that, because it's this public place where you do work and store your code and stuff.
When you're so young into your life as a company, you just haven't bought the trust yet. I don't think people are as willing to use your thing. If there's a brand new eCommerce plugin for WordPress tomorrow, would a lot of people up in switch to it? They haven't done their time yet. The trust wouldn't be there for them yet.
Mendel: But of course success breeds success, right?
Chris: Yeah. They'd have to have some big names behind it. They'd have to have some good example sites. They'd have to have a clear technological superiority. There'd have to be something. But I think the trust is the biggest part of the formula they'd be missing.
Thanks to our sponsor: This episode is brought to you by Recapture Abandoned Cart Recovery and email marketing for WooCommerce.
Anyone who runs a Woo shop knows how frustrating abandoned carts are. And getting them back with Recapture is easy and setup takes less than 5 minutes. With their ready-to-use emails you can take them out of the box and start working for you right away. You’ll save time having to start from scratch.
Abandoned cart emails are managed for you automatically as the email service runs outside of your store ensuring the best delivery to your customers. The easy to ready analytics reports will help you to monitor your cart recover. And what’s really cool is you can watch what is happening live on your store with Recaptures Live Cart Feed.
The plugin is highly optimized so don’t worry about it slowing down your site. And their guarantee of email delivery, traffic increase loads and support make it a valuable investment compared to the free plugins out there.
From what I hear, if you sign up you will be joining thousands of merchants who have already recovered over $115,000,000.
Make sure and check them out and as a listener, get 60 days free with Recapture. Just go to Recapture.io/dothewoo-special
And now, back to our conversation.
The WordPress and WooCommerce Ecosystem
Bob: You've been around the web a long time. If I have a nerd-ability scale, I guess you would be there way up at the top as far as how people perceive you and who you work with. And it's been a lot of years, and you're not just focused and sunk into the WordPress community or the WooCommerce community. But from your perspective, looking at the ecosystem of WooCommerce from your viewpoint, what do you think is being done right, and is there any things that you're thinking, "Well, I still wish it would do this," or, "I think there's room for improvement?"
Chris: Yeah. I should have had a better thought on that probably, because I'm sure there's stuff. I think you're right though. This is as deep into the WooCommerce community as I've ever been right now. I'm not super deep in this world like y'all are. Even WordPress itself, I've tried to be involved, and I love WordPress and have been more in the past, but it's not my core circles, I guess. My core circles is just the web in general and front end development. And I think I try to teach that a little bit too. It doesn't matter that much. The website is what matters. Doing right by your users and making a successful business is what matters. I don't care that much about the technologies that you choose. I want to be free to choose whatever I want that's going to be successful for me, and the business, and my users. So if that happens to be WooCommerce, great.
Under the WordPress Roof
It has been for me, because there's this concept, I'm going to sidestep the question a little bit, of keeping things under the WordPress roof has been so good for me in the past. I used to have forums on CSS-Tricks that I installed some random forum software, and then the forms were like sub-domain or something. They were just some other part of the site. And I did that with the newsletter. I'd just write the newsletter in MailChimp and send that out. Well, that's yet another piece of that has to do with this.
And then eCommerce too, the sales is over here at store.css-tricks.com, and that leads you to some other piece of software that's doing that. And I've made choices over the years of bringing things under a regular WordPress roof. Your forums can be powered by bbPress or whatever. You can do social stuff with BuddyPress or whatever. You can do eCommerce with WooCommerce. You can do a newsletter by any number of newsletter sending tools. But recently for us it's been like, "Just publish it as a custom post type, and then send the RSS feed over to MailChimp and send out your newsletter that way," but you're offering it in your WordPress site.
Anytime I've made a choice to bring something under the umbrella of WordPress has been awesome, just less maintenance, and I'm learning to master the tool a little better. Whereas if you have 10 tools, you're not going to be the master of many of them. Have fewer tools that you're the master of.
Chris Applauds the Devs in the WordPress Ecosystem
So I applaud the WordPress ecosystem in that and that some devs that are heavy on WordPress and just stay in that world. It's cause they're masters of that. And I think that's smart sometimes. I do like to reach for whatever tool I need, but at the same time, just being like, "Nope, we're just a WordPress shop," all these like agencies that just do WordPress work, I don't blame them at all, because they're just really effective there and the market is there to support it.
It gives you blinders sometimes to what's happening in the rest of the world. I think the WordPress world is currently in shock a little bit about, "What? I have to write React to make a freaking block. Are you kidding me?" Because React has nothing to do with WordPress. WordPress people haven't been writing in React traditionally. That's not a big part of the thing. But to me I'm like, "Oh, sick. That's great. I love that. I like writing in React. I'll write my own blocks in React. That's just as comfortable to me as anything else." So I think there's advantages when you are part of the wider ecosystem too.
But WooCommerce specifically, what they're doing right and wrong? I don't know. I don't have a good sense of it. I don't even have a good sense of how big the slice of pie of Automattic is, because they have big stuff. They have Jetpack, which is big, but I don't think it's probably nearly as big as WooCommerce. And they have WordPress.com, which is big, but is it as big as WooCommerce? I don't know. They have all kinds of ways to make money at Automattic. I would not doubt though that WooCommerce is the largest slice.
Bob: Yeah. No, that's a good question, looking at it as a slice. What do you think Mendel?
Mendel: Oh, I'm never going to go on the record with that. Are you kidding me? Bob, you're always trying.
His Favorite Tools
Hey, before we wrap up the show, I want to ask one more question, Chris. And that is, what tools, maybe one or two, do you use in your daily work life that are super useful, whether it's for podcasting or whether it's for general web stuff? A lot of people use CodePen. What do you use?
Chris: Sure. I do my local WordPress development with Local by Flywheel. I don't know if you all use that, but it's a really super nice tool for spinning up local sites. I also host with them just because I think that integration is pretty clean, and they bought my trust with such a good developer tool. So that's cool.
I do tons of note taking, and organizing, and to do lists, and Wiki style document management. I think a lot of my work life happens in Notion. If you haven't seen Notion, it's a pretty sweet app for just keeping yourself organized on a team. I think it's best with teams. I think their permission system in there and the way they do nested documents is pretty amazing. And that's true for all my businesses. They all have a workspace and Notion, and that's where that primary business stuff happens in there.
That's not like Slack, because of course you use Slack for real time-ish chat. Pretty obvious there, I guess. Podcasting, I don't have anything to talk about. I wish I had a cool tool like this to share with you. If people don't know, we're using Squadcast.fm. I don't know if you've ever talked about it on the show, but it looks pretty nice. We just go old school, and have a video call, and then have everybody record locally, just send the file in, which is just a remnant of old days. I think we need to level up.
Bob: Yeah, it is. I think I started using it end of last year, and it was in beta actually. I'd been using a couple of others. I tried some others, and this one I just got into. And the more I used it, it was perfect for podcasting. That's what it's built for. So I've been really happy with it, and they've been improving on it over these last few months. It's a pretty solid tool for sure.
Mendel: Well, Chris, I want to thank you for being on the show. I also want people to know exactly where to get ahold of you if they want to take a look at what you're working on, maybe shoot you a Twitter message or something like that. How can people get in touch?
Chris: Well, a big fan of people having their own personal website. Mine is my name, chriscoyier.net. Gives you a link to everything that I do in the world, and social media links and all that stuff is there.
Mendel: Cool. Awesome. Well, hey, I want to give a one shout out to our sponsors, an additional shout out, a final shout out to Recapture.io, to WooCommerce.com, the place you know and love for WooCommerce, and Sezzle.
Of you can subscribe to this podcast on all of your favorite podcasting apps. Sign up for the Woo news post or podcast. And please, if you can, if you've got a little change in your pocket, become a friend of Do the Woo, because Bob pours his heart and soul into this podcast, and you should pour a couple cents in there. That's all for now.
Thanks for joining us, Chris. Thank you so much for being on, Bob. Thanks for letting me ruin your podcast, and have a great day everybody.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.