Meet Paul Clark, WordPress Expert

Paul Clark Paul will be joining us for WPSession #4: WordPress Theme Bootcamp on September 18th, 2013.

Where can we find you on the internet?

When and how did you get started with WordPress?

I was working my way through college doing graphic design and computer work. I was one project away from swearing off website work altogether, because I was so tired of getting maintenance calls from clients: “Can you change this comma? Update this text?”. I wanted to be creating solutions for people, not acting as a gatekeeper to their content!

I tried WordPress on the website that I swore would be my last. It was a game changer! I finally felt like I could provide an experience to clients I could be proud of. That was in 2006. I’ve been creating sites with WordPress ever since.

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

I rely much less on the large publishers (TutsPlus, Smashing Magazine) than I used to. You can get so much more information by jumping in with the people who are dealing with problems every day.

I read the WordPress source, and scan through the source of new plugins I find interesting or are by authors I respect. Pippin Williamson, for example, is known for his great tutorials AND has awesome source code to read through.

Regardless of what you’re trying to learn, or where you’re going for information, there is one strategy that will always hold true, and will always get you ahead many of the people out there: If you want to learn something, break something!

You have to dig in, and you have to fail — over and over again. Once things break, go onto, or look at example solutions from great thinkers on Learn from them, then find ways to make things better.

It’s much, much easier to pump out a hacky solution than to read through someone else’s code, understand it, and adapt it. That’s what turns people into skilled and mature programmers: putting ego aside so that you can learn before you do (and then fail… and do again).

What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?

The Customizer! Duh!

The new JavaScript features are a place where people working on WordPress Core have really pushed the envelope in making use of modern techniques. The new Media Library (with backbone.js) and the Customizer are awesome examples of this. Because of all my time spent with the Styles plugin, I’m partial to the Customizer. 🙂

What is one thing you wish you knew about WordPress themes when you were getting started?

Oh man… I don’t know if I could narrow it down to just one! Let’s do three:

  1. A lot of the things you might put into functions.php should probably go into a plugin. There’s no difference in how the code operates, but packing features into individual plugins will increase your re-usability, stability, and make it a LOT easier to identify what your code is doing (because you have to write a description!).
  2. Understand the template hierarchy. I see programmers doing somersaults all the time to achieve things that are built into the naming conventions of a WordPress theme. A lot of flexibility can be achieved just by naming your files correctly.
  3. Look at the body classes. Again, I see programmers frequently go to great lengths to target styles for some custom post type or home page element… When really all they need to use is .home or .page-id-5.

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

Read the source (of WordPress, and of plugins). Break something every day.

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

Again with only one? I’m going to do three again. 🙂

  1. My wife and I have an Irish Wolfhound. They’re super-sweet, but super-huge!
  2. My favorite way to relax is Boxing.
  3. When I started freelancing, I was sleeping on couches in my college dorm lobbies. When I started growing the team at Brainstorm Media, I was maintianing relationships with clients in America while working nights in Southeast Asia. That’s the awesome thing about working on the web — you can get started from anywhere!