Meet Chris Ford, Design Expert

Chris will be presenting during the Design for Developers session, which you can watch LIVE on September 20. During her presentation, Chris will teach us how to build products that people love to use, and that other designers and developers will love to work with and recommend. Are you building products in any capacity (websites, plugins, themes, even services)? Chris’s talk is for you.

Check out her interview answers below.

Where can we find you on the internet?

I blog mucch less regularly that I’d like to at creativityincluded.com. Probably because I tweet way more frequently than I want to @ci_chrisford.

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I’d been a web designer since 1996, but for three years I took this weird side road into being a professional scrapbooker (yes, that’s a real job). I designed a series of idea books for a major manufacturer and created the brand and publication design of a scrapbooking magazine. I also art directed several issues. During that time I met a lot of really cool women who owned their own photography studios, kit clubs and manufacturing companies. One of them, Pink Paislee, wanted me to build a website using WordPress and a Revolution theme. The rest is history!

What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?

I read like, constantly. Blogs, Twitter, Medium, books–pretty much anything and everything I can get my hands on. If you’re interested in seeing what I’ve been interested in lately, here’s a recent reading list:
Design is a Job by Mike Montiero
The Art of the Pitch by Peter Coughter
The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun
Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

I also like to talk with people who are smarter than I am, so I go to local Meetups and WordCamps to have actual face-to-face discussions. I love being in the same room with people like Chris Lema, Wes Chyrchel, Jessica Barnard, James Archer, Taylor Aldridge, Bryan Monzon and Thom Meredith and getting to talk about everything from Minecraft to horror story authors to teaching techniques.

I think constantly learning is the best part of my job. Everyone you meet has something to teach you if you listen and are open to it.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

My favorite feature of WordPress is modularity. I’m a designer. I can write code, and I have written code, but it’s not what I love to do, and it’s not what I’m best at. It’s a necessary evil, at best–so being able to install Gravity Forms and use conditional logic to build a form that solves a design problem without having to write a Perl script makes me happy 😀 (Yeah, I’m old enough that I had to do that on a lot of projects. It sucked.)

What attracted you to design?

I was always a storyteller. In the 7th grade I was co-editor of the yearbook and was introduced to proportion wheels and proper croppers. In high school I was on the newspaper staff and was introduced to a Macintosh and Aldus Pagemaker. I took drawing and painting classes my first go-round in community college. But it wasn’t until I went back to school in my mid-20’s that I knew I was going to be a designer. I was taking a bunch of general ed classes so I could transfer to a four year university, and added a graphic design class because it sounded like a fun break from everything. I went in to a class taught by Candice Lopez and knew I’d discivered what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I promptly dropped all of the other classes and took a full load of design courses.

What is your favorite aspect of design?

Telling a story. I use the words “visual language” a lot, because to me, that’s what design is–telling a story with color and rhythm and contrast and type. When I was younger, I wanted to be an author or a journalist. I still write a lot of my own copy and enjoy the challenge of writing a really good headline, but my best stories are told visually.

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

Practice. I see so many people who want to become an expert in a year. When I was scrapbooking, people would come up when I had a computer at an event and ask me how I got so good at Photoshop. They’d always looks so disappointed when I’d tell them “Well, I’ve practiced eight hours a day for the last 15 years.” Even when you have a natural talent, the more time you spend practicing it, the better you’re going to be. Another bit of advice is to be a sponge. Hang out with people smarter than you. Ask questions. Observe. And finally, once you know something fairly well, teach other people. Nothing has made me think about how and why I do things quite like sharing it with other people in a class or presentation.

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

I took Roller Derby classes a couple of years ago. I learned how to do a 180 degree knee spin, baseball slide and whip. There is nothing that feels as awesome as skating so fast you’re just on the verge of losing control 😀 I loved it because it taught me I was capable of doing so much more than I ever thought I could.


wpsession15_thumb Thanks Chris!

Make sure to get your ticket for “Design for Developers” so that you have an opportunity to ask Chris questions of your own during the live event.

Meet Michelle Schulp, Design Expert

michelleMichelle will be presenting during the Design for Developers session, which you can watch LIVE on September 20. During her presentation, Michelle will teach us how to talk like and talk to designers, explaining many of the nuances of design language and how designers work. Do you want to work with better designers? This talk is step one.

Check out her interview answers below.

Where can we find you on the internet?

Business: http://marktimemedia.com

Personal: http://mynameismichelle.com

Twitter: @marktimemedia

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I’d heard of WordPress back in college but didn’t start doing any work with it until maybe 2010? I attended a WordPress session at the CMS Expo, and later my first WordCamp (Chicago 2011) and became hooked. The more I learned (and the more involved I became with the community) the more I wanted to work with it! I guess you could say I drank the Kool-Aid 🙂

What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?

For all topics I have an interest in (design, web, and WordPress included) I have a core library of actual books that cover a lot of the high level education. Outside of that I’ll typically turn to a combination of Google and People I Know to find answers. I’ve got a list of trusted design and WordPress sources that I know I can find quality answers from online when it’s for work, otherwise it’s sometimes a bit of a trip down a rabbit hole to see what I can learn!

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

My favorite thing about WordPress is the Template Hierarchy. One I wrapped my mind around how it worked, I realized how powerful it was. The ridiculous amount of flexibility and granular control it gives you over the display of content without having to hack or break anything is fantastic. The fact that it allows you to create new page templates, child themes, etc. has enabled me to build some pretty custom sites for clients for a reasonable cost. And the fact that many plugin developers are emulating this functionality for their own templates is pretty awesome too.

What attracted you to design? What is your favorite aspect of design?

I’ve actually been doing visual things my entire life, whether through traditional art mediums or on the computer (one of the first programs I ever used was Kid Pix when I was in preschool). But though I did “art” for all of my life, I was always much better at technical execution (drawing what I could see) than personal expression (drawing what I felt or thought). What attracts me to design is that it isn’t really “art,” but visual problem solving. You still need a strong sense of aesthetics, but it’s for a specific goal. I think the fact that design is as much social, economical, and psychological as it is aesthetic is one of my favorite things about it.

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

1) Get involved now. Whether that’s attending meetups, hanging out on the forums, showing up at WordCamps, speaking, teaching, whatever your local or online community is doing. Being involved helps get you name recognition for sure, but it also gets you a network of people that can help you OR that you can help! Yay community!

2) Read read read! There are so many great online resources- blogs, news sites, magazine articles, the Codex- and several books available written by prominent community members. If listening is more up your alley, there are lots of podcasts as well. There’s almost TOO MUCH information out there about WordPress! So you can definitely find resources that suit your needs.

3) Be active on Twitter. I know it can sound kind of lame to people that don’t know what I mean (140 characters? Really?) but I have gotten so much help, feedback, support, and even work referrals from the community members and friends that I converse with on Twitter, as well as solidifying relationships with people I have met at WordCamps.

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

I’m a band/marching band geek. Played flute and piccolo through college, where I had the opportunity to perform in such awesome places as Carnegie Hall and the Great Wall of China. I still have my flute and pick it up on occasion.

I also like to occasionally paint (and sometimes sell) impressionist versions of iconic things, like cityscapes or scenes. Right now I am on a sci-fi kick and I’m going to do more in this series 🙂

Here’s my shop: http://mynameismichelle.com/shop


wpsession15_thumb Thanks Michelle!

If you’d like to hear more from Michelle, specifically about “How to Speak Unicorn” and understand common design terminology and methodology, make sure you get your ticket for “Design for Developers”

Meet Natalie MacLees, Design Expert

natalie Natalie will be presenting during the Design for Developers session, which you can watch LIVE on September 20. During her presentation, Natalie will teach us about functional design and how it’s even more imperative than aesthetic design (both are important). Our users are NOT robots, so we should be designing our tools to be used by real humans.

Check out her interview answers below.

Where can we find you on the internet?

Business site: http://purplepen.com
Personal site: http://nataliemac.com
Twitter: @nataliemac
Facebook: /nmaclees

Those are probably the best ones. 🙂 Of course there are like 100 more, but that’s the stuff I use most often.

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I got started with WordPress in 2005 when a client requested a blog she could use for her poetry and photography. I did some research and decided WordPress seemed like a good direction to take. I modified Kubrick to make her a ‘custom’ theme and the site is still live today. 😀

What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?

If it’s something completely new to me that I’ve never done before, I like to start with a book. If I’m looking to further my knowledge on something I already have some familiarity with, I’ll usually stick with blogs, podcasts, and community. I love reading Little Big Details, Sidebar, WP Beginner, WP Tavern, and, each December, 24 Ways. For podcasts, I listen to Jeffrey Zeldman’s Big Web Show, Boagworld, Unfinished Business, Businessology, DradCast, UIE Brain Sparks, and WP Watercooler. For community, I like meetups, but online, I like Facebook groups like Advanced WP and Stack Overflow.

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

I love that it puts the ability to add and edit content into the hands of users who aren’t proficient in writing code. When i’m creating sites for clients, I go out of my way to ensure that as much of the site as possible can be easily updated or changed around by my clients.

What attracted you to design? What is your favorite aspect of design?

I’ve always loved making things. Even as a kid, I preferred toys like Colorforms, Fashion Plates and LiteBrite to toys like dolls. I desperately wanted to go to design school after graduating from high school, but got talked out of it and into earning a more ‘sensible’ college degree instead. But if you’re meant to do something, it’s going to find you, so I found myself designing stuff for a living anyway, even though I didn’t get the degree. I started in the world of print doing posters, flyers, catalogs, and packaging. I briefly worked designing trade show booths. Then I discovered the web and haven’t looked back. Web design wasn’t even a career option when I graduated from high school, so I had to spend time doing other stuff while the web was invented and grew popular enough to be a viable career option.

I love the feeling of solving a puzzle – working out how to tell a story, how to make a layout work, how to fit pieces together into a cohesive whole.

What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?

Get involved in the community! WordPress has one of the most open, generous, gracious, welcoming, awesome communities out there. You’ll meet person after person who is smart, cool, nice, and fun. Get out to meetups and WordCamps. Participate in online communities. If there isn’t a meetup in your town, start one!

What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?

I’m an extreme introvert, which I think surprises people sometimes because I do work so hard at organizing meetups and speaking at conferences. But I’ve found that when I put forth the effort to organize a meetup or present a talk, people will approach me to start conversations and I don’t have to worry about being the one to approach people.


wpsession15_thumbThanks, Natalie!

If you want to see Natalie present “Your user is not a robot: Bringing design thinking to your development process”, get your event ticket today!

“The Great Big Give-Away” Winners Announced

If you follow @WPSessions on twitter (and, really, you should), then you saw “The Great Big Give-Away” winners announced the day the contest was over:

It took quite some time to collect all of the details I wanted for this blog post because, as it turns out, it’s really hard for anyone to decide which education site is the best place to dig-in and invest yourself for a whole a year.

To recap, here are the prizes that were offered to 4 VIP members drawn at random:

  1. Grand Prize: $2000 cash to attend WordCamp San Francisco 2014.
  2. First Runner-Up: One Year Membership to any education-based site.
  3. Second Runner-Up: One Year Membership to any education-based site.
  4. Third Runner-Up: One Year Membership to any education-based site.

After much deliberation, our winners have all decided where they wanted to plant themselves. I sent them all a few interview questions so that you can learn more about them and, for the runner-ups, which sites they chose and why.


Grand Prize Winner: Diane Kinney

Prize: $2,000 cash prize to attend WordCamp San Francisco 2014

Diane Kinney is the Creative Director and co-founder of The Versatility Group, a full service firm providing websites and other online solutions for 15 years. She is an award-winning designer focused on WordPress design and development, graphic design, and marketing services. In her previous corporate life, she led large scale application development projects, managed multi-disciplinary teams, and oversaw Operations including marketing, customer service, and business development. She gets excited about applying the lessons from her diverse background to web and marketing projects.

After a very successful stint in the corporate world, she took the plunge and started her own business providing consulting, marketing and web design services around 2002. In 2007 she had her client with a WordPress blog. As WordPress evolved, Diane and her team focused on it as their tool of choice. In her own words, “I like projects where we are solving real problems, with a strong focus on business goals, processes and marketing. In addition to being a designer and developer, I have significant experience running both large operational teams and application development teams and that gives me some unique skills to offer clients.”

What is your favorite thing about WPSessions so far?
I enjoy seeing people I know or have admired share their knowledge. We all have a tremendous amount to learn from each other.

What is one specific thing you want to learn in the next year?
My greatest interest is in best practices. There are millions of code snippets and tutorials, but I’m interested in the best way to achieve results from code standpoint, i.e., don’t write a new query, modify the loop, or this method is outdated or performance heavy. I’m also interested in plugin development and the newer developments tools like Grunt. I guess that’s not one thing!

What would you tell someone who’s on the fence about getting a VIP membership?
Get a VIP membership because you are supporting a growing business that is bringing the best of the WordPress community to you in a convenient format.

Follow Diane on Twitter


First Runner-up: Michael Beil

Prize: One Year Membership to Treehouse

Michael Beil is from Belleville, WI. He spends most of his time working on the web, playing music, and drinking coffee. He also wants you to know that his last name is pronounced “bi-el”, as in “liver bile.”

Michael chose Treehouse specifically because they gift a membership to students for every membership purchased. The moment he saw that he wanted to buy a membership so that he could donate one. This offer only exists for their premium memberships, though, which were beyond the $350 prize he had won. So, Michael chose to pay the $140 difference to get the premium membership.

What is your favorite thing about WPSessions so far?
WPS is a great way for me to digitally connect with various leaders in the WordPress community, further sharpening my skills.

What is one specific thing you want to learn in the next year?
NodeJS. Ok, not really. I really want to learn how to make my workflow more efficient.

What would you tell someone who’s on the fence about getting a VIP membership?
Just do it. You won’t regret it. Brian has only the best people on WPSessions.

Follow Michael on Twitter


Second Runner-up: Yael Reinhardt-Matsliah

Prize: One Year Membership to Christina Sell Yoga Class

yael Yael is a life-long student who loves to learn. She studied Economics and International Relations while in college, and POLS/Public Administration in graduate school. She then took it upon herself to learn about design and development. Additionally, Yael is a certified yoga teacher and intends to open a donation-based yoga studio soon!

In fact, Yael opted to invest her $350 membership prize money into yoga instruction in order to increase her own hours-based certification level for opening and running her own studio. How cool is that!?

What is your favorite thing about WPS so far?
I have learned so much the last 5 weeks. I’ve incorporated WordPress security into my design packages (I was kind of ignoring the security threats before listening to the security webinars) and started using Exchange (again, because of the eCommerce webinars). I love that the webinars address both site owners and developers.

What is one specific thing you want to learn in the next year?
Well, I’m really working on improving my coding skills, but my biggest need is learning how best to manage client relationships, how to set beneficial boundaries with clients, and how to price.

What would you tell someone who’s on the fence about getting a VIP membership?
First, the VIP membership is a great savings versus a month-to-month payment. It also helps you commit to the learning opportunities that will be on WP Membership each month. I am committed to learning as much as I possibly can over the next year from those who have excelled and succeeded in the WordPress community. Surrounding yourself with those more skilled and successful will help improve your own set of skills and practices, which will naturally bring more success to your business.

Follow Yael on Twitter


Third Runner-Up: Karin Taliga

Prize: One Year Membership to Lynda.com

Karin is a mostly self-taught digital aficionado with her feet firmly planted in the analog world. In a way, she is addicted to learning in whichever field she finds herself. She claims that this, combined with her perfectionism, can be both a weakness and a strength (but she’s working on making it more the latter than anything else). Karin is Swedish with a background in performing arts.

Karin chose Lynda.com mostly because of how well it will fit in her current schedule. With a new baby, she doesn’t have large blocks of time to dedicate to herself. The bite-sized chunks in their courses, paired with the ability to watch videos on a tablet – even while offline – is what she finds most appealing.

What is your favorite thing about WPS so far?
The expertise and generosity of the presenters. They really know what they are talking about and are willing to share their knowledge with us.

What is one specific thing you want to learn in the next year?
Multisite. Managing a site network and bending it to your will, both from a developer and site manager’s perspective.

What would you tell someone who’s on the fence about getting a VIP membership?
It’s an incredible value for the money. For less than going to an actual conference, you get a wide variety of topics presented by experts in their field, plus the ability to ask questions and get them answered live. All while not having to travel anywhere. This is great for Europeans like myself that rarely get to WordCamps in the US.

Follow Karin on Twitter


Help me say “Congratulations!”

Drop your comment below and join me in congratulating each of these awesome people.

I have truly enjoyed giving each of these gracious winners their gifts and am thrilled to have created this opportunity. I can honestly say it won’t be the last time WPSessions hosts a give-away like this (and odds are fairly good that existing VIP members will be included in future drawings as well, in case you’re holding out). So, if you’re on the fence, now would be a good time to join the VIP program 🙂

Join us for “Design for Developers” on Sept 20

wpsession15_thumb How would you rate your design skills and sensibilities?

So often we hear about how designers should learn development. Very rarely do we hear anything about how developers should learn design. And yet, so much of the decision making for user interface and interaction – decisions often made by developers – are actually in the design domain.

This month we’d like to turn the tables and bring about awareness and better decision-making when it comes to building products that will surprise and delight their users. We’d like to underscore the importance of leveraging, at the very least, a basic understanding of design and interaction principles and the profound impact that can have at every level of project development.

Your Instructors

It is my pleasure to announce that Michelle Schulp, Natalie MacLees, and Chris Ford will be leading us through a wide gamut of design fundamentals. I cannot imagine a better team who is more adequately prepared to speak on this topic.  These three women are leading authorities on the matter, and they’re here to share from their vast depths of wisdom and experience.

Topics Covered

Michelle will be kicking off this month’s session with “How to Speak Unicorn”, a fun presentation that will bring you up to speed on common design language and terminology. This is especially useful to help bridge the communication gap between designers and developers, and clients as well.

Next, Natalie will teach us about all the ways in which “Your User is NOT a Robot.” This is an extremely important reminder to all of us who are completely entrenched in problem solving. There is this tremendous expanse separating us from the real humans who actually use the tools we’re building, and it’s so difficult for us to see things with fresh eyes from their perspective. Too often we fall into solving the wrong problems, or solving the right problems in the wrong way. Natalie will help you guard against that.

Finally, Chris Ford will walk us through five principles to “Write Better Code by Design”. Through this presentation she will help you to build products that your users and other professionals will absolutely love. They’ll help you sell hundreds of copies because they themselves will delight in using and working with the product. You’ll also learn the five simple ways you can improve your theme or plug-in’s code by leveraging the same thought process designers use.

Join Us Live, Septmber 20, from 1-4pm EST

If you’re a developer or a designer looking to improve your footing, this is the session for you. Learn to solve the right problems and forge stronger relationships with your peers.

Save 20% if you buy your ticket by September 12 by locking in the early-bird discount.

Get your ticket today!

Announcing The Great Big Give-Away

WPS Great Big Give-Away

Finally. Finally I get to blow the lid off with this announcement I’ve been sitting on for months. MONTHS!

I’m paying $2,000 to bring one VIP to WCSF.

I’m giving one (1) lucky VIP Member a $2,000 USD cash prize specifically so they can join me at WordCamp San Francisco 2014 (WCSF). For everyone in the US, this should be enough to pay for your entire trip. For everyone outside the US, well, it should pay a good chunk of the way to get you here.

After four years of talking myself out of going, in 2013 I attended WCSF for the first time. My experience was beyond amazing, and I want to offer the same opportunity to you. If you’re serious about building websites with WordPress, you’ll seriously want to attend WCSF!

I’m also buying 3 VIPs a full-year membership elsewhere.

In addition to the grand prize of this give-away, I’m also providing three (3) other VIPs with a full year membership to any other training site of their choice, up to $350 per membership. Yes, I will pay more than what you paid to become a VIP for a premium membership at Lynda, or Treehouse, or Tuts+, or whatever other site you’d like to join – even if it’s not strictly related to web development!

The only hard requirement is that the site offers some level of instruction or education in order to help you better yourself. And, if it’s a really awesome site, I might join, too!

Who can win?

This give-away is exclusively for VIP Members. Plus, with the VIP program currently capped at a max of 100 members, this means each VIP has a 1 in 25 chance (or better) of winning one of these awesome prizes.

This is just my way of saying “thank you” to all VIPs for putting their faith in me and what I hope to accomplish with WPSessions in the next year.

Not a member yet? There’s still time!

The drawing for this give-away will not happen until August 1st. Everyone who registers as a VIP Member by 11:59pm PST on July 31st, 2014 is eligible to win. So, if you haven’t registered already, register to be a VIP today!

Become a VIP Today!

Rules for Entry

This give-away is restricted to VIP Members only. All VIP Members are automatically registered to win, no additional purchase is necessary. Must be at least 18 years old at time of drawing to win. Open to all VIP Members, worldwide.

The grand prize cash prize will be disbursed only after winner submits flight and lodging receipts as proof of intent to travel. I earnestly want you join me at WCSF, that’s the whole point!

Read the full legal terms of the give-away.

Get The Word Out!

I’d appreciate it greatly if you would share your thoughts about the give-away on your blog, via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, your local meetup, and anywhere else you talk about WordPress. Feel free to use the hashtag #WPS2WCSF. This has no impact on your chances of winning (neither positively nor negatively), it would just be you taking some time to be awesome. Of course, if you promoted it using an affiliate link, it could put money back in your pocket (30% of all referrals, in fact, if you’re also a VIP member).

VIP Prices Announced

wpsession_vipmember_thumbToday is the day! VIP Memberships are officially on sale.

For now they’re available by invitation only. I’ve already emailed my first 100 invitees with the opportunity to join. If you missed out on joining the invitation list, you can still sign up for the waiting list.

If any of the first 100 invitees fail to register by 9am EST on Tuesday I’ll be extending the same invitation to everyone on the waiting list.

The Price

VIP Memberships will start at $297/yr.

Yes, for less than the cost of a single college credit, you can get an entire year of education from the world’s foremost WordPress experts. That’s less than you would spend on a flight, or even a hotel room, when traveling to any WordCamp event – and those are only a single weekend!

How good is this offer? Well, let’s do some quick math.

At the rate of attending one $30 session per month, you’re already saving $63 per year. If you choose to attend both sessions each month, you’re saving $423 per year!

This doesn’t even factor in the many different benefits like your ability to download every video, watch all past sessions (a rolling $300 value), and all of the additional content that is VIP exclusive (in-depth courses, speaker video interviews, discounts to other WP shops, etc).

The Savings

All told, a VIP Membership contains approximately $1440 worth of priceable goods. At $297/yr, that’s already an 80% discount.

Early adopters won’t be paying $297, though. This week only, I’m introducing VIP Memberships at $247/yr, an immediate $50 savings to all of you amazing people ready to journey with me.

If you’re among the lucky group of people on on my invitation and waiting list, your price is even lower.

The first 100 people to register from either the invitation or waiting list will receive an additional $50 discount, bringing their grand total down to $197. That’s a full $100 off!

How do I register!?

Registration is currently by invitation only. You can request an invitation by clicking the banner below.

vip-button

Introducing the New VIP Program: Level Up Your WordPress

Update 2014-07-05: The VIP Invitation list is now full, but you can join the waiting list to be invited as soon as space is available by using the same registration form, linked below.

For months I’ve been coordinating, planning, and building the “next big thing” for WPSessions. Today I’m thrilled to share it with you: WPSessions VIP.

vip-benefits

I’ve grown tremendously as a developer in the past year – real, measurable, meaningful growth – much of it thanks to WPSessions instructors. WPSessions has budded into an incredible resource, not only for myself but for hundreds of others, too. I alluded to all of these things, plus the hint of more to come, in my Year in Review post a couple weeks back.

What is WPSessions VIP?

You can read all about the perks of being a VIP member on the VIP announcement page, but here’s the tl; dr version:

  • Access to all sessions – past, present, and future – for as long as you remain a member.
  • Access to all-new long-form courses – Pre-recorded, deep dives into specific WordPress topics (e.g. “Writing Your First WordPress Plugin”, “Understanding and Leveraging Caching”, “Building a Portfolio Site”, etc.).
  • Consistent New Content – Last year I committed to add 12 new sessions, we’re already at 8 this year and we’ve only just begun! I’ll continue to add live sessions and pre-recorded courses every month to the benefit of us all.
  • Downloadable Videos – Take the entirety of the WPS library wherever you go, even if you’re going – gasp – offline!
  • Exclusive Speaker Interviews – Watch and learn great behind-the-scenes details from many of the experts who present on WPS (and even some who haven’t, yet).
  • Member-only Discounts – Save bundles of money on quality products and services from companies you know and love
  • Better Affiliate Payout – VIP members will earn a 30% commission, instead of the standard 20%, on the affiliate program we just announced.
  • Community Forum – Discuss the sessions, courses, tricky project issues, whatever you have going on (note that StackExchange is an excellent place for WP-specific coding problems).

As you can see, the new program includes a ton of new benefits. Prices will be announced soon, and those on the invitation list will get the best deal.

Available by Invitation Only, with a discount

In order to provide the best possible experience and level of attention for VIP members, I’m limiting the registration to invitation only.

The first 100 people to register for the invitation list will also receive a nice discount towards their membership.

I’ll begin sending invitations early next week, so you have until Friday to get on the invitation list.

Is WPSessions VIP for you?

I know this program sounds pretty incredible, and I truly believe it is, but it’s not for everyone.

There are a lot of people looking to “become a WordPress expert in 24 hours”, and this isn’t going to do that (honestly, nothing can do that, and anyone who says differently is selling you lies). There are even more people looking to become incredible developers without putting in the necessary work. The VIP program isn’t for them.

The VIP program is for people who are serious about improving their skills, who understand that it’s only through determination and hard work that they will see measurable progress, and who choose to press forward because they know it’s worth it – both for themselves, and for their career. WPSessions VIP enables that process to happen faster, more thoroughly, and with a higher quality of mentor than you’ll find anywhere else.

I’m not selling some kind of magical shortcut here. I’m selling the right answers from the hard-won experience of other expert developers. It will help you to learn faster, but you need to put in the time to soak in these experiences and shared knowledge, and maximize your return on investing in yourself.

Request an invitation today

You can read all about the new VIP Program using the link below. Thank you for believing in WPSessions, and I truly hope I can help you be empowered by WordPress.

vip-button

Step 1: Tell everyone how much you love WPSessions; Step 2: Profit!

Earn money for referring WPSessions

Today I finally get to invite you to join the brand new affiliate program here on WPSessions. For the first time ever, you can earn money for every person you refer who purchases a session, starting at 20% per sale.

I’m telling you about it today because on Monday I have an absolutely colossal announcement to make, and affiliates are going to be the first to hear about it. In fact, they’ll be the first to hear about many new things coming to WPSessions this summer and fall.

If that’s piqued your curiosity, hop over to https://wpsessions.com/affiliates/ to register. It should only take you a minute, and if you’re already a customer you can login using an existing user account.

Oh, and by the way, don’t forget about Working with BuddyPress this weekend. I’ve seen a preview of the speakers’ slides, and they’re awesome!

WPS Year in Review

As of this month, WPSessions is officially one year old. This has been an incredible trip!

I built this site in order to better educate myself. The problem I was facing at the time is that I simply didn’t know enough about a certain topic to execute it well in my job. I was frustrated by this for two reasons: 1) I needed to know the information relatively quickly; 2) I didn’t know where to acquire the knowledge. I knew that there were people much smarter than me, and I thought, “wouldn’t it be great if I could just hire them to teach me?”

And then I did exactly that.

In this moment I realized I could do this for a lot of topics, and hire the experts who I believed to be best positioned to teach me more about the things I needed and wanted to know. WPSessions was born!

What have we learned?

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In twelve months I have hosted twelves sessions, and I have learned something new in each and every one of them. Here’s a short list of some of the things I’ve learned personally:

  1. Building WordPress Plugins in this I learned that WP’s HTTP API is simpler than I realized, and that the plugin submission and review process for WP.org is very, very awesome.
  2. Building a WordPress Businesshere I learned about how important the right team members are, and how instrumental many small decisions are to the longevity of a business.
  3. Performance-Driven Development this is where I learned how to easily stress-test a website, cut some bulk from each page load, drive WordPress via command line, and how caching actually works.
  4. WordPress Theme Bootcamp I learned neat things about icon fonts, Sass, how styles actually cascade in a browser, how to easily extend the Theme Customizer, and some facts about internationalization (i18n) I had never heard anywhere else.
  5. WordPress Unit Testing this was a big one for me: I learned how to write testable code, and how to actually test that code.
  6. WordPress and Backbone.js I learned here that Backbone is a very accessible and lightweight framework  for building very robust, interactive websites. It’s even great for simple things, because it adds much-needed structure around what could otherwise be a spaghetti-mess of code.
  7. Running a WordPress BusinessContent marketing and building products people actually want. I learned about promoting a business without becoming a corporate shill or sellout.
  8. Building a Membership Site – I learned that there are more questions than answers when it comes to building and running membership sites. The insight from Shawn Hesketh on running WP101 for five years was just incredible.
  9. eCommerce for Site-Owners I learned about so many little things that each of the WP ecommerce plugins offer. This is VERY good for deciding which platform is right for a website’s needs.
  10. eCommerce for Developers In this course I was surprised to learn how easy it is to write an extension for each of the popular ecommerce plugins. I had written for a couple, and I knew those were easy to do, but I didn’t think that was true for each of the big four.
  11. Security for Site-Owners I picked up a couple of useful plugins during this session, and learned the proper way to go about preserving data after a site has been hacked.
  12. Security for Developers I finally learned what each of the common web exploits can do, and several of the many things that can be done to clean a hacked site. Sucuri is amazing and their team is well-versed.

Who have we learned from?

I was floored in 2013 when I asked a number of well-known WordPress experts if they would teach me – and random strangers on the internet – and all of them said, “of course!” Over 50 different people, in fact.

We couldn’t hear from all 50 in just one year, but we were able to hear from 34 WordPress experts. I was also able to briefly interview almost every single one of them, and you can click through to those interviews below:

speakers

  1. Pippin Williamson
  2. Daniel Espinoza (second interview)
  3. Topher DeRosia
  4. Chris Lema (second interview)
  5. Cory Miller
  6. Carl Hancock
  7. Aaron Jorbin
  8. Daniel Bachhuber
  9. Zack Tollman
  10. Lisa Sabin-Wilson
  11. Sara Cannon
  12. Brad Parbs
  13. Chris Cochran
  14. Paul Clark
  15. Alison Barrett
  16. John Bloch
  17. K.Adam White
  18. Carl Danley
  19. Brianna Norcross
  20. Andrew Norcross
  21. Matt Medeiros
  22. Adam Pickering
  23. Mika Epstein
  24. Benjamin Bradley
  25. Patrick Rauland
  26. Justin Sainton
  27. Andrew Munro
  28. Glenn Ansley
  29. Dre Armeda
  30. Jason Cosper
  31. Daniel Kanchev
  32. Chris Wiegman
  33. Brad Williams
  34. Tony Perez

How about the stats?

I suppose the real interesting metrics are the behind-the-scenes details, right? Well I’m going to share many of those, too. First, lets get the base metrics out of the way, then we’ll dive into sales and revenue.

Traffic

traffic

According to Google Analytics, WPSessions has seen over 18,000 unique visitors in the past twelve months, serving out over 100,000 page views across 31,000 different sessions. Can you guess from the spikes which days I announced the next session, and which days held each session?

Email Subscribers

subscribers

The most steady graph of all the charts I’m able to produce with my stats is my email subscriber list. I started with exactly zero subscribers on June 1, 2013. I now have over 700 people registered to hear from me 2-3 times per month (if you’re not subscribed and you now want to be, scroll all the way to the end of this article and opt-in).

A useful tidbit for anyone who is questioning, “should I start a mailing list?” – Yes! All of my awesome subscribers have been one of the greatest things about WPSessions. 50% of my list regularly opens my emails (thanks!) and of them roughly 20% click through to whatever I’ve referenced. My numbers are definitely better than many others, and I’ll be writing another blog post that dives into the whys of that in the near future.

Social Media

twitter

On the social media fronts, I saw the same gradual growth on Twitter (@WPSessions) as I’ve now reached 620 followers. Facebook has been a lot slower, only reaching 200 fans in roughly the same period of time. Engagement on Twitter is also significantly higher than engagement on Facebook, and I’m not surprised by that.

Sales

I launched WPSessions in 2013 with three major and specific goals in mind:

  1. Educate myself and others.
  2. Pay presenters for sharing their time and expertise.
  3. Provide education for free to those who cannot afford it.

 

customers

By those metrics alone, I have to say that WPSessions has been far-and-away a smashing success! I have learned a ton, and I know that many of the 709 customers who have registered for 1,304 sessions since June 2013 have learned quite a bit as well. I can’t speak for every attendee, but I know that my skills are measurably better thanks to WPSessions.

To date, WPSessions has paid $4,450 to presenters. There were a few who refused to accept payment, and a few others who requested their payment be given directly to a charitable organization. I’d like to see the amount paid to speakers more than double in the next year, because these experts are amazing and they deserve it.

The “given away for free” metric is the one I’m most pleased about, and grateful for the opportunity to provide. So far I’ve given away more than 785 free sessions by making each session available for free after 6 months. I also gifted 2 VIP Passes back in November and 12 different scholarships for all of the 2014 sessions. All told, that’s over $30,000 in free education.

Demographics

In the early spring I sent a survey to all existing customers. I received 85 responses, which is a sample size of about 16%. Here are some of the stats I collected:

income

  • 5% only use WordPress for fun/hobbies, not profit.
  • 38% do part-time/occasional paid work with WordPress
  • 57% build or run WordPress sites full-time.

ability

  • 15% self-identified as Power Users (comfortable installing themes and plugins, but not with code)
  • 40% identified as Beginner Devs (comfortable with small amounts of code)
  • 32% identified as Intermediate Devs (have written a custom theme or plugin)
  • 13% identified as Advanced Devs (live and breath custom queries, external APIs, etc)

And here’s a stat I thought was particularly neat: half of the respondents who identified as power users (not developers) also said they build and run WordPress sites full-time. A full-time income because they understand their tools extremely well.

Revenue and Profit

I’ve been hesitant to share these numbers, but in the spirit of openness I think it’s only right that I include them.

I should preface this by saying I had absolutely no expectations for profits when I created the site. Ancillary to the three goals I listed above, my only directive was to spend less money than the site was able to generate. I invested a few thousand dollars of my own money up-front to secure presenters and get the site started with the simple hope that I would see that money return to me after the first three sessions. It almost didn’t, and you can see a drop in all the charts where I took some time to evaluate whether or not I could afford to keep the site running.

But, I pressed on and was thrilled to see that the site continued to grow month-to-month.

revenue

The blue line in this graph is the site’s revenue, and you’ll notice that it has more or less hovered in the same area. Overall, WPSessions had roughly $17,000 in revenue, and roughly $6,500 in expenses. The addition of sponsors in the past two months has aided in WPSessions growth tremendously. That puts the site at roughly $10,000 in profit, which is almost $900/month on average. I think that’s just incredible!

Except, it doesn’t stop there…

Those profits have already been re-invested into something that I’m really excited to share with you in the next two weeks. There are a lot of great things that will be coming to WPSessions in the next 12 months, including multiple thousands of dollars in prizes and give-aways.

So, that’s 34 experts, 12 sessions, $17,000 in revenue, $30,000 given away in free sessions, $4,450 paid out to presenters, and almost $10,000 invested in what is sure to be an exciting and much-talked-about release coming in another two weeks. I can’t wait to share it all with you 🙂

What’s next?

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing more behind-the-scenes stats about what makes WPSessions tick, including the plugins I use to keep the site running, the customizations I made to meet my specific needs, and the research I conducted before deciding on each product and service. The most fascinating news, though, is the evolution of WPSessions, happening at the end of the month.

Until then, I hope you join us for this month’s double-session, Working with BuddyPress, featuring six of the foremost BuddyPress experts. It’s going to be really great!

What do you think?

I’m most interested to hear what everyone else thinks about this year in review. So please, share your thoughts in the comments below. Are you a customer? A casual visitor? A stranger who has just been watching WPSessions from the sidelines? Please don’t be shy 🙂