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Matthew Pritchett

Christian, husband, father, business owner, developer.
Underscores LESS Theme

I’m retiring the Underscores LESS (_s LESS) WordPress Theme

After much consideration (and not a small amount of neglect), I'm retiring the _s LESS theme that I forked from _s years ago. LESS was hot when I forked _s and created this theme and I was actively pushing for it at the agency I was work on. But in the last 4 years, SCSS and Post CSS have risen to almost completely replace LESS. I haven't used LESS in years. Thank you to all those who encouraged me and contributed!

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A Look Back At 2017

A Look Back At 2017

2017 has been perhaps one of the hardest, and best, years of my adult life. Our family went through great upheavals. I lost a friend. We moved in December of 2016 and then moved again in July of 2017. My wife and I both gained and lost jobs. We celebrated the birth of our son. My business grew. I worked on several large client projects and laid the framework for more product revenue growth in 2018. Overall, my wife and I learned so much about ourselves, each other, our children, and life in general. Here are some of our major events and takeaways.

Honoring Jesse Peterson

Until mid 2017, I worked remotely. Doing so for more than three years, I am often reminded what a strange age we live in where some of my closest friends are people that I've never met in person. People that I talk to every day have never heard the sound of my voice. That's so odd. But this is one of the positive things made possible by the internet and social media. It's allowed me to make friends and relationships that have had profound impact on my life and the life of my family without ever being in the same room. Sometimes even the same country or state.

Jesse Peterson was one of those friends. Jesse and I first got to know one another on Twitter through our connection with WordPress development. But later, we connected over our relationships with Christ, our love of family, a love of all things Dave Ramsey and Jon Acuff, and our chronic illness. Jesse and I shared similar values and we would discuss the application of those values on things like parenting, society and social interaction often. Every conversation with Jesse left me encouraged. Whether it was a code review, a debate over spanking in parenting, or almost anything else, Jesse was someone who always left you feeling encouraged.

While his condition over the past year was much worse and much more life threatening than mine, he was constantly encouraging me, checking on me, and along with our friend Steve Blackwood, would constantly give me what for.

Jesse loved his family. That was evident to everyone. Reading the posts, tweets, and other messages that are making their way around our community right now it shines through in every single one. Behind being a Christian, Jesse was a husband and father, then everything else. He loved his family and friends fiercely and without compromise. It was something that I have learned a lot about just from knowing him.

Jesse worked hard to provide for his young family, including the two boys that he and his wife adopted in the past few years. He worked hard to provide for them not just here and now, but in the event that something should happen. Even so, a donation page has been setup for the family to help with funeral costs and ongoing support. You can give to help support his family here. Jesse was a good man, father and friend. While I know that my pain is nothing compared to that of his family, his loss affected me. Thankfully, I full believe that I'll see him again one day.

Moving To Gainesville

In late July, I moved my family down to Gainesville, Florida to take a new position with the University of Florida Health web services. Landing at UF Health has been a huge win for my entire family. The benefits of working for a large, established organization are many with plenty of time off, great health benefits at great prices, structure, and one of my favorites, regimented reviews with a boss who gives extremely helpful advice and encouragement. We're in a time in our lives where good benefits at reasonable rates have been extraordinarily important and having excellent health coverage has not only saved us loads of money, but has helped us get on a better track physically.

We jumped right into life in Florida and are really enjoying our new home. We've seen manatees up close and been to the Crayola Experience in Orlando, a designers nightmare of sound, smells, and color. We haven't made it to a Gator Football game yet, but did tour The Swamp during a office Christmas party. I'm excited about the projects I've already worked on and will be working on in the future that are directly going to improve patients' and students' lives and healthcare experiences. As someone who has used a lot of healthcare websites and found the experience lacking, being able to directly influence this has been uniquely rewarding for me. I'm incredibly grateful to the team for not only hiring me, but also making my first six months incredibly enjoyable and stretching.

Our office Christmas party was at The Swamp

Pritchett Media

My company took a roller coaster ride this year. I did more client projects as a freelancer than I've ever done. I did larger projects than I've ever done. But with all the turmoil going on in our personal lives, it was difficult to find time to invest in the products that I've been working on.

BuddyDrive got a few minor releases to fix bugs. Unfortunately, it didn't get a fix for a rather large bug left over from a previous developer's release. I'm still working on that one, but am also working on rewriting the entire plugin from scratch and may need to just fix the issue with the new release because of the size and scope of the bug within the legacy code base.

Mission Plannr, my mission trip planning Saas, got a few small updates here and there, but much of my investment in this area was towards version 2.0, which I'm hoping to release by Summer of 2018. I'm rewriting the application from the ground up with new features, faster response times, and a more user friendly interface.

Overall, Pritchett Media had a relatively successful year with major time constraints placed on it. I'm happy with the progress it achieved, especially after doing the books for the year, which gave me a clear indication of our failures and successes.

Want To Be A High Performer? Here’s How To Start.

In case you haven’t read any other posts of mine, I talk about Chris Lema, a lot. Chris is someone that has made several big impacts on my career and life. He hired me at Crowd Favorite to solve big client services problems. He helped me build a foundation and vision for my own business at CaboPress. He has been a constant source of wisdom and encouragement to me, both professionally and personally, since I first introduced myself at WordCamp Austin in 2014 about as awkwardly as possible. 🙂

But I bring Chris up today to tell you to go read his latest post on hiring amazing people. Seriously, stop reading this and read that first. It’s awesome. Not only because Chris has hired some amazing people in the past and is doing so now at Liquid Web and can teach you how to do the same, but he is also showing you how to BE an amazing hire and high performer in the process. Here are the lessons that Chris writes about and that I believe he’s shown me.

 

Always be learning

One of the things that I hear great leaders talking about constantly is what book they are reading, what principle they are studying and a new skillset they are working on. This has always stuck with me. So I work very hard to find time to read. I always want to have 3-4 books going at one time. This way, I can read based on what I’m in the mood for. Believe me, as a father of 3 kids, a husband, a person involved in dozens of commitments, I know busyness. But I can always find time to read a few pages here and there and find that I finish books much more quickly than I ever thought I would. I also invest in my craft. Whether it’s taking a course on the latest JavaScript framework or trying to better understand the underlying code behind WordPress or Laravel, I am working on my skill set and mind whenever I can in a way that is both healthy and specific. High performers better themselves. It makes them more marketable and more helpful. It future proofs them. Someone who can always learn and adapt will never be without work for long.

 

Completely understand the problem

One of the things that I’ve always considered a true differentiator between senior level employees and mid-level or even junior employees is how well they understand the problem presented by a client, boss or other entity. Do they just read the given notes? Do they research? Do they ask questions? Do they take the time to think about the problem and not just solutions? These are all important steps. I know as a developer, my first instinct is to jump into a solution. My second is to think of as many solutions as I can and then pick the best one and dive in. But the truly best way to solve a problem is to tackle the idea of what the real problem is first. The person that understands the problem the best will always perform higher in the long run that those who just seek the fastest solution.

 

Never do something because it is easy

Stick around any agency long enough and you’ll hear a conversation like this between developer and project manager. One will say something like “the client wants to know if we can do X.” The developer will say, “sure we can do that, but it will be really hard and really expensive.” Or maybe even just flat out say no, because secretly it is “too hard.” One of the lessons I learned while working for Chris is that saying no because it is too hard is a missed opportunity for you and for the client. First, you could have presented the new request as a change order and made more money and been the hero. Secondly, a hard opportunity is almost always a place to grow not just your skill set, but also resilience and fortitude.

Build relationships

Chris points out that one of the keys to finding amazing people to hire is to always be building relationships. Not just to further your own goals either. Truly caring about people and their success is a great way to make friends and to build a network that is caring and passionate about you and your business. But that same principle is true for employees too. Care about your coworkers. Your boss. Your clients. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen coworkers become bosses, bosses become partners and clients become both. Business and life are always changing. How you treat people could be setting the stage for your next job or your next important relationship on a personal level. But beyond that, treating people well inside and outside the office is important. Don’t be a jerk.

Communicate Always

I and a growing group of people work remotely. I love working remotely. It allows me the freedom to spend time with my family while also solving complex challenges for clients all across the globe. For remote workers, communication is the single most powerful tool at your disposal. But beyond that, communication is vital for ALL people. My simple rule of thumb has become communicate early, often and always. I’d much rather be someone who over communicates than face the consequences of not communicating enough or at all. Communication opens the door to grace, mercy when things don’t go well and helps everyone feel the victory when success happens.

[bctt tweet=”Communication, more than any other skill, will take you far in life and in business.” username=”mrpritchett”]

Take Ownership

The single biggest idea that I took from my time with Chris Lema was about taking ownership. The idea that I don’t just work for a business. I’m not just pushing code. I own that code. I’m an owner of our business’s reputation and culture whether or not my name is on the building. People who take ownership, who strive to do their best work, be their best self, and make sure their team is doing the same, are performing at their best. Their desired employees. They are trusted colleagues. Managers don’t have to worry if something will be done right because those employees take ownership of making sure it’s bug-free, tested and ready for the client. They don’t just do “my part.” They make sure every part is in sync, ready to go and flawless. It’s not about perfection, it’s about responsibility and passion, caring about your work, and making the effort to improve everything around you. As a developer, we often delivered one section of code. A feature, a page, a set of styles. But ownership requires that we test to make sure everything else still works after integration. Ownership tests the entire project to make sure bugs haven’t come up. Ownership makes sure that the functionality doesn’t just match the spec, but achieves the client’s desired outcome.

Wrapping Up

So you want to be a high performer? Do you want to be someone who is sought after instead of having to interview at dozens of employers? You have to work on yourself. Work on these things. Improve them. Work hard. Build relationships. Communicate. Make a difference. Take ownership. Those are the people that I notice. Is that you?

 

Building A WordPress Plugin Business From Scratch

Building A WordPress Plugin Business From Scratch

Have you met my friend Daniel?

Daniel is a super nice guy who has tons of eCommerce and WordPress experience. He’s written lots of plugins and consults on awesome WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads projects. A few years ago, Daniel started Shop Plugins as a marketplace for some of his excellent plugins. But more than that, Daniel has his wife Amanda, have been a source of inspiration for my wife and I. You see, they have traveled extensively with their kids, they homeschool and are just generally kind and generous people.

As my family explores the next few years and what we want our lives to look like now that we’re a family of 5, we’ve been giving a lot of thought to homeschooling, work, and our goals. We’ve found that we value several things very highly. One of those things is investing time and energy in being together as a family. Another is our education, both the kids and our own. Another is financial freedom. We arrived in Chattanooga with a fair amount of debt. We’ve been working hard to get rid of it. But one of the things we have been working on to get us out of debt and into financial freedom faster is building products and offering services outside of our normal work life. For me, this is selling products. For Cindi, it’s tutoring, writing, and editing on the side.

As part of this journey, I want to catalog some of the lessons I’m learning as I’ve started my business, Pritchett Media. It’s been a trying time but filled with awesome rewards and learnings. Recently, we began to see the first real financial fruits from this pursuit. While in no way do I believe this makes me an expert, it does give me an awesome opportunity to share. So over the next few months, look for a series of posts on building a plugin business from scratch as I journal thoughts, trials, and victories.

Constant Improvements Make The Host – Liquid Web

One of my goals for 2016 was to get several plugins into the WordPress.org plugin repository. Not only do I value giving back to the community which has given me a job and lots of friends, but I saw this a viable way to raise my professional profile and possibly a way to start a business. I adopted a plugin, BuddyDrive, in 2016. Unfortunately, it took me into 2017 to create and submit my own plugin, WP Media Size. But now that I have two plugins in the repository, I can’t just sit back and wait. There are new features to write, updates to make, and bugs to squash. As a plugin author, I also never want to see that dreaded notice above my plugin that “This plugin hasn’t been updated in over 2 years!” that is such a turn off to so many. So I work hard to write new features and make updates to my plugins.

Updating Features

In much the same way, we’ve seen web hosts pull off massive brand and identity changes by releasing impressive new features, focus on customer service, and really invest in their product. Remember GoDaddy a few years ago? Most people shudder and quietly admit that they used GoDaddy back then, because they had no other choice. But now, GoDaddy does great things and has revived their brand and their product.

But then there are also hosts out there who don’t update. They are the same as they were in 2007. They promise everything and anything for three bucks per month. Never mind that they are shared hosting on outdated, overcrowded servers that haven’t seen a PHP upgrade since 5.2. In fact, I just worked with a client who was still on one of these hosts this past week. I brought the entire shared server down by running a migration script that I’ve run on hundreds of other sites and servers. It wasn’t a good experience.

Liquid Web Does Updates Right

So when I say that Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting platform is releasing an amazing set of new features at lightning speed, I’m not just talking. Chris Lema and the rest of the awesome team at Liquid Web have been working hard to add features and really listen to their customers wishes and needs. They’ve made improvements to speed, security, image processing, caching, staging sites, migrations, domain redirects, SSLs, and much more just in the time I’ve been using their platform. I’ve never worked with a host that has moved so fast on so many items in a way that was both well thought through and responsive to customer needs.

A lot of places try to respond to customers’ needs and end up screwing up their platform or building too many features to maintain. But Chris and his team have been in this game a while. Chris has been using and writing about hosting in detail for years. He knows what questions to ask and what the right solutions are. So when requests come in for a change to their platform, his team knows whether a solution is viable as well as if the problem presented is one worth solving. Here’s what Chris had to say about the innovative new features they have and are releasing at Liquid Web:

 

“Innovation is not just about playing with new toys – though we’re playing with lots of new stuff. Innovation is about thinking about problems in new ways – ways that change how we define the realm of solutions. It’s how we came up with our visual comparison feature.”
– Chris Lema

It’s why I’ll be sticking with Liquid Web. It’s why I recommend Liquid Web to anyonewhose site IS their business, not merely a part of their business. If Liquid Web sounds like a company you’d like to partner with, click here.

Have You Tried Liquid Web Managed Hosting?

I’ll admit, I never saw a post about Liquid Web managed WordPress hosting coming.

Don’t be scared, but note that there are affiliate links in this post. I only recommend products I use and enjoy. You can read more here.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve used a web host or two in my day.

In fact, I’ve used several dozen in the past nine and a half years of professional WordPress and web development. Only a few have made the list of recommended. Great places like WP Engine and Flywheel. Managed hosts with great customer service, excellent product, and narrow target audiences. These guys know WordPress, they know hosting, and they know how to create an experience that impresses.

But this post isn’t about them. It’s about a host that is relatively new to me. But one that is making impressive leaps in technology and in securing impressive market share in the WordPress space.

Enter Liquid Web

When I heard my friend and former coworker, Chris Lema, was joining a host, I was intrigued. Having spent time working in client services as a developer under Chris, I know that he’s a pro at team building, managing developers, and growing leaders. He’s also got a knack for knowing what clients need, winning big projects and sharing incredible stories. While he writes posts about great hosts and fantastic experiences, joining a hosting company was the last place I thought I’d see him.

But he did and I am glad that he did because what he and his team are creating over there is impressive to say the least.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress hosting solution and I’m impressed in every way. From support to speed, features to communication, Liquid Web is making a strong foray into the managed WordPress hosting space. I’m excited to see how they grow the platform. Every week I seem to be getting another look at some awesome new feature that I never realized I really needed. From automatic image processing and automated plugin upgrades with front and back-end bug checks. I’m so impressed that over the next couple of weeks, I’ve got a series of posts detailing my experience and some of my favorite features. Stay tuned!

 

2017 Travel Plans

Will I See You In 2017? Let’s Find Out!

UPDATED 3/9/17 6:38 AM – Again, unfortunately plans change sometimes. after much discussion, the wife and i have decided that cabopress wouldn’t be in our best interest as a family this year and so I have withdrawn my application. i will miss the event and the incredible people a ton this year, but know that i’ll be applying next year! If you’re going to cabopress, have a great time and drink a jack & coke for me!

Updated 2/7/17 2:35pm – Unfortunately, my plans for Pressnomics 5 this year will not be coming true. Several priorities have changed for us as a family since planning this trip and I will not be heading to PN5. I do have a ticket which I am looking to sell. So if you’d like to grab a discounted ticket, hit me up on twitter or in the comments. That said, all of the other events below are still on!

The older I get the more I realize I function better and am less grumpy if I have a plan well ahead of time and allow that plan to work itself out in my brain. For those that have known me since I was a teenager, this is a fundamental shift. I grew up very disorganized. I constantly lost coats, lunch boxes and pretty much anything that wasn’t attached to me permanently.

Around the time I got married, I experienced a shift in my attitude about work, patterns, and started to become more mature. I attribute this partly to my wonderful bride who encouraged and continues to encourage me to be a better man. I also attribute it, in part, to graduating from school. I always hated school. I love learning, but always struggled with busy work (i.e. homework) and sitting quietly through lectures. I did very well on tests, papers and presentations, but terribly on homework. Graduating from college and beginning to work was a dream come true (even though I had been working in some capacity from a very early age).

Fast forward to 2017 and I have begun to plan an entire year’s worth of travel between December and January. Secretly, I’ve even started planning 2018’s schedule, but don’t tell anyone. I’m hitting four events this year. That’s actually an increase by one for me over previous years but since each event is planned in advance it feels much less stressful.

I traveled extensively as a teenager and early in college. I’ve visited most of Latin America and many of the United States. However, as I’ve grown older I’ve also started becoming more and more of a homebody. In fact, I barely traveled the first few years of my marriage and it took work trips to bust me out of that! So this year I’ll be expanding to four trips and would love to see you at one of them! I’m excited about each of these trips as two of them are completely new to me and have been on my wishlist for years and two are events that I have immensely enjoyed in the past and am excited to visit again.

I’m also planning on brining my wife and possibly my kids on a few of these as I believe that they would enjoy them and people like Katie Richards, Lindsey Miller, Cate DeRosia, and more have all reached out and said that my wife should come or have just been generally encouraging to the women in our community. Each of you has been so welcoming without having even met the much better Pritchett.  I sincerely hope that she gets to meet each of you and that she becomes friends with you as you and your families have become with me!

WordCamp ATL

After leaving Dallas a few years ago where I had my first WordCamp experience in both attending (technically Austin, but it’s all Texas, right?) and my first two years of co-organizing (I blame Carrie Dils for this), WCATL and the awesome organizers there welcomed me in and put on a fabulous camp. Seriously, I loved this camp and it’s different vibe from WCDFW. I met some long time friends from online and got to see old friends. I don’t live in Atlanta anymore, but I’m still close enough for a short drive down for this camp. Can’t wait.

Pressnomics 5

This year I’m giving equal time to WordCamps and WordPress-centric events outside the Foundation. Pressnomics gets rave reviews every year and has been on my list since the original event. Well, I finally bought tickets and am going to be in Arizona come April! I really am excited to meet some of the awesome business owners that hit PN as well as spend some time growing my business, getting new ideas and I’ll even get to hang out with the owners of my day job Chris Wallace and Brad Miller (plus I’ll be meeting Brad for the first time in real life. 🙂 )

WordCamp US

San Francisco was on my list until it became WordCamp US. Sadly, the first year fell during a bad time for our family to be traveling and last year I had tickets but needed to cancel last minute as we ended up moving during December. But the next two years WCUS is in Nashville, just a stone’s throw from my new hometown of Chattanooga. I’m very excited for this camp as I’ve never been to one this large and I’m excited to meet new people, experience the largest WordCamp out there and parTAY!

CaboPress (maybe?)

I got the fabulous opportunity to be invited to join Chris Lema and so many other wonderful people in Cabo for 5 days of growth, community and business building in November in 2016. This event changed my life as well as my business. I’m STILL going through my notebooks from the event in January and coming up with new ways of implementing the things I learned there. Because it is such a focused event, it’s limited in the number of people that can go. So being an alum, there are only so many spots open for those that have gone before. So I’m very hopeful I’ll be invited back, but don’t want to take up spots for those that haven’t experienced this awesome event. But if I’m invited, I’m hoping to take my wife and I on an extraordinary trip to grow out business, relax, drink, and grow new and old friendships with fabulous people in our industry.

So, will I be seeing you in 2017? If so, leave a comment, tweet at me or drop me a line in my contact form. I’d love to meet you, say hello, grab a drink or catch up.

Want To Change Your Business? Start With CaboPress.

A business conference in Cabo? Sure…

This was the response I received from many of the people that I told about my recent trip to Mexico for a conference. While humorous, my experience was much more than margaritas on the beach. I had the awesome privilege to spend five days in Cabo San Lucas at Chris Lema’s CaboPress. Chris has put together the top minds in several different verticals and disciplines inside of WordPress and created a truly unique and insanely helpful experience in the WordPress community. Having launched one Software as a Service (Saas) product in 2016 and preparing to launch my second in early 2017, I was ready to start attending conferences that would help me grow as a business owner and not just as a developer or WordPress community member, which has been my focus in the past. CaboPress was a truly transformative experience for me in regards to my business. Here are a few of the reasons why:

The host

Chris Lema, in case you didn’t know, is a fantastic leader, conference organizer and all around good guy. I read Chris’s blog long before I ever met him. My first real interaction with him was to say hello awkwardly at WCATX in 2014. Just a year later I would be interviewing with him to join the team at Crowd Favorite as I came to trust his skills as a leader and was excited to work with and under him as a developer to grow my talents. While neither of us is at Crowd Favorite anymore, working for Chris elevated my respect for him and the knowledge that he can bring to growing companies. So when he put out the call for CaboPress and then accepted my application, I was floored. Having now spent five days with Chris at his favorite resort and getting to speak to him one on one about life and business, I can say that I can think of no greater person than Chris that I would want to head up such an amazing conference. I only travel 3-4 times per year for business and anything from Chris in the future is on my list.

The sessions

The sessions were overseen by “hosts” whom Chris had brought on to lead conversation in a general direction. While anything was up for discussion, there was a specific topic for each hour and a half discussion. Ranging from hiring to branding, the discussions were a place to ask scary questions, hear from industry experts, and offer advice on things you had been through that were pertinent to other’s lives and businesses. Each discussion was needed by at least a few people in the group and most of the time they were fairly even in attendance as the topics were desirable and helpful to most everyone in some way. Each session left me with actionable intel on what to do in certain areas of business. On top of that, how easy is it to talk about business while hanging out in a pool?

The people

Wow. To say that Chis lined up an extraordinary group of business owners would be a massive understatement. People came from all over the United States and the world to grow and learn. There were agency owners, freelancers, product makers, podcasters, and bloggers. Each person was there to learn, but also to share. Rarely do you meet a group of people that pay that kind of money to grow and invest their business who are so willing to listen as much as share and truly care about helping the person sitting across from them reach the next level without ulterior motives. I was paired with two amazing couples for lunch the entire week and cannot say enough how encouraging and smart they were. To have face time with such awesome people and to listen, talk, encourage, and share with them was an experience I would have paid 3-4 times what I did. Thanks to the Danner’s and Levesque’s for being so welcoming, encouraging and real. Thanks to all the other folks that took time to sit down, learn my name, and just talk about life, business, and struggles.

The Resort

The Fiesta Americana resort is one of only two five star resorts in Cabo San Lucas. The rooms were spacious, well decorated and the beds were comfortable, even for a big guy like me. Having spent a lot of time in Latin America growing up, I didn’t feel like I was anywhere but the highest quality resort. The staff at the resort were some of the best staff I’ve ever encountered. Whether they were desk concierge or hedge trimmers, the attention to detail, friendliness and passion for their work spoke volumes about why the Fiesta Americana is awarded so highly. The restaurants were amazing and there were plenty of places to choose from everyday. The food was a healthy assortment of flavors and palettes from throughout the globe and I didn’t have anything that I didn’t enjoy. Part of the experience is that everything is included. So food and alcohol were available to you any time day or night and came with a friendly “can I get you anything else?” from the staff. My wife and I are considering vacationing at Fiesta Americana ourselves in the future based on my stay at CaboPress.

Chris, I want to say thank you for this incredible opportunity. CaboPress 2016 changed my business in so many ways before I even got back. It changed my thinking, my priorities and my community. I built new friendships, revitalized old ones, and came back with a renewed vision on what my business could be. If you’re looking for a way to change your business for the better, CaboPress is a great investment and definitely a must have. Here’s to seeing you there in 2017!

My Workflow

My Workflow 2016

I’ve written in the past about some of the tools I use to do everyday development. In the past six months, I’ve updated my workflow to include some new tools, get rid of ones that weren’t effective anymore, and overall upgraded my development chops. Here are a few of the things I use and how I use them.

Code Editor

I learned web development using Dreamweaver, like many others. What started out as a job responsibility to manage the website led me to doing things with Dreamweaver’s drag and drop editor. Eventually this led me to changing the code manually. That led to an intense love of coding and eventually I settled on Coda 2 as my editor of choice. Coda had so many of the tools I needed baked in that it lasted me through 5 years of development. Recently, I’ve been trying other editors and IDEs. Finally, I’ve settled on Atom, an open source editor from GitHub.

Atom is one part editor, one part community. It’s a hackable editor where almost anything you see can be styled, configured, or edited. There’s a thriving community surrounding the application that create style themes, plugins, and tutorials on how to make it do just about anything. Since I do mostly WordPress and front end development, I have several plugins installed to help with that.

Local Environment

If there is one thing that has helped me move from amateur to professional in web development early in my career, it was the idea that development should occur locally and then be deployed to servers. This paradigm is of the utmost importance as it places safeguards into your workflow preventing many of the mistakes, fatal errors, and production level downtime that can plague a site, app, or project.

Since I need PHP and mySQL for WordPress development, I can’t just use files and then view them in browser locally. Over the years I’ve used lots of different types of local environments. I’ve used my MacBook Pro’s base installs of those applications, I’ve used virtual machines like VVV and HGV sitting on top of Vagrant, and I’ve even explored custom setups and Docker boxes.

Currently I use an assortment of the above environments. I have some sites on VVV, a vagrant setup that was created by 10up, but is currently a community maintained project. I also have a few projects on HGV by WP Engine. This is also a Vagrant setup that is heavily linked to how WP Engine’s servers are setup in production. It includes the ability to switch versions of PHP and several other goodies under the hood. But lately, I’ve been testing Pressmatic, a GUI interface sitting on top of a Vagrant setup. It has some very nice features built in like remote tunneling, SSL, and multisite out of the box and all with one click. It also seems far more stable than its other vagrant counterparts and therefore needs less time for me to be in the environment debugging instead of billing clients for code.

Languages

Over the course of my career, I’ve written code in everything from HTML, CSS, JS, Gulp, Grunt and more. I’ve written code for apps and frameworks like Angular, React, NPM, and more. In the course of most days, I write a lot of HTML, CSS, JS, and PHP. That’s where I live and breathe most days.

It seems everyday a new Javascript framework is popping up or a new JS to native framework takes shape. While I constantly want to be learning new things, I personally find it difficult to choose a framework to learn knowing that it could be out of style in less than a year. For now, I’m concentrating on learning Javascript itself deeply and brushing up on software development core concepts.

Flexibility

Overall, flexibility is the name of the game. Working with small nonprofits, I get to choose the stack and workflow. This means a LEMP stack, Pressmatic as my local environment, using Gulp to compile scss into CSS, and running everything through PHPCS with the WordPress Core standards turned on.

But other times I work with large, international enterprise level clients. In these cases, they almost always have a workflow that must be followed. These can include deployment procedures using applications like Rundeck. Many times they require accessing servers and applications using VPNs which can limit the local environment solutions available to that project. Learning to be flexible and solve problems quickly and efficiently is one of the best skills a developer can have.

In the next post in this series, I’ll cover deployment processes, QA and testing, and source code management.

Career

I’ve Joined The Lift Team

As of Monday, August 1, 2016, I’ve joined the team at Lift, a digital product agency. I’m super excited about the work these guys are doing and excited to see where the future takes us.

Unfortunately, this also means that I have left Crowd Favorite. Working with Karim and the team was an incredible experience and I feel like I learned far more than I would have thought possible. I got to work on some super projects, befriend some incredible people, and gain valuable insight into working with enterprise clients to build on my knowledge in that area from previous gigs. I leave on the best of terms with Karim and the rest of Crowd Favorite and wish them all the best. This was a situation where I wasn’t looking to make a change, but the right position came along at the right time.

I’ll be working with a breadth of clients ranging from enterprise to nonprofit. I’ll also be doing a bit of product work on Lift’s series of products. I’ve already missed the Crowd Favorite team since I left, but I’ve been warmly welcomed by the Lift team and they’ve made me feel right at home. If you’re looking for an agency that specializes in design and user experience, give us a shout!

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