Pippin Williamson, one of the most talented WordPress developer and creator of PippinsPlugins blog.
He writes a load of high quality plugin tutorials, on his plugin development blog and sell premium WordPress plugins on CodeCanyon.
Thanks to Pippin for taking the time to talk to WPKube.
Q. Can you tell readers a little about yourself?
I am a WordPress plugin developer based in Lawrence, KS. I run a website called Pippin’s Plugins.com, which I use to provide extensive tutorials based purely around WordPress plugin development. Most of my time is spent working on a variety of WordPress plugins, though I also do some freelance contract work for an established set of clients.
Q: When did you start using WordPress?
I began working with WordPress 5-6 years ago, about the same time I starter school at the University of Kansas. My brother was running his website on WordPress and wanted some help customizing his theme. At the time, I knew nothing about WordPress, PHP, or mySQL; they were all very foreign to me, and I hated them all at first. After I spent a few very long hours figuring it all out, everything started to make sense and once it did, I became completely obsessed with it. I’ve never looked back on it or strayed away from WordPress since.
Q. What do you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses with the WordPress platform?
One of my primary strengths, in my opinion, is my constant desire to create more and more extensible code, and to never stop improving the quality of code I write. By far one of my greatest weaknesses, however, is my inability to stay on any one project for very long. I tend to start a lot of plugins but never finish them. I have probably 20-30 plugins that have never seen the light of day because I’ve never taken the time to go back and finish their code. I will be working on a project and then suddenly get an idea. When this happens, I tend to switch over to that project immediately, crank out a lot of code, and then stop working on it.
Another of my major weaknesses is my overall lack of complete understanding of object oriented programming. I understand the concept, but for some reason, it’s just never really clicked with me. It is probably just one of those areas I need to force myself to learn one weekend, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Q: What would you like to see added to the WordPress core in 2012?
The number one improvement that I feel needs to be added to WordPress core is an improved media library. The current system we have in place is alright, but when compared to the other systems within WordPress, most of which are beautiful in terms of how they function, the media library is archaic and extremely inflexible.
Another change I’d like to see, and this is a much simpler one, is complete support for custom post types and taxonomies in all default widgets. I see no reason why the Recent Posts widget shouldn’t support custom post types, and no reason why the Categories widget shouldn’t support custom taxonomies.
Q: Is there anything you think that most WordPress themes lack?
Yes: quality admin interfaces. I am always surprised at how difficult many themes, even top selling premium ones, are to really use in the backend. The worst offenders are image heavy themes. The author’s often times forget to include the small elements that make a theme easy to use. For example, how many times have you used (or seen) a theme that asked you to paste an image URL into a post meta box? This is, from a useability perspective, almost completely worthless. If a theme needs to make use of an image, and isn’t using the built-in Featured Image system, then there is absolutely no reason an upload box or button shouldn’t be included.
What many theme authors do not realize (or choose to ignore), is that the ease of use of the theme in the backend, is just as important as the presentation of information on the front end. If your theme is difficult to add content to when in use, then users are not going to enjoy using it.
Q: Who do you admire in the WordPress community?
There are a lot of developers and designers that I really admire, but I’d like to throw out a few names. First of all is Matt Varone; he does some truly spectacular development work and has been very instrumental in a lot of the development done on Easy Digital Downloads, which is an extensive plugin he and I have been working on for a few months now.
Another developer that I have the utmost respect for is Carlos Escobar. He works almost purely for a large corporation, so you have most likely not seen his work around, but he has done some truly spectacular work with WordPress on the enterprise level, and he is my number one bug reporter and beta tester. I owe him many, many beers.
Q: What are your favorite 5 WordPress plugins and why?
I have a hard time putting together lists of favorite plugins; every site is different and there is no such thing as a plugin that should be installed on every single site, except perhaps Akismet.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Posts 2 Post by Scribu. I don’t believe there is a plugin that displays a better implementation of related material across a WordPress site. The way that posts, pages, and custom post types can be connected is absolutely genius.
- Duplicate Posts by Lopo is one of the plugins that I have running at all times on all of my development installs, and it is so perfectly implemented that I forget it is there. When I get into a WordPress install that doesn’t have the plugin, I have a double take because I can’t figure out what is missing.
- bbPress by JJJ and others is by far the best implementation of a forum anyone has ever done. Since v2.0, the plugin is nearly perfect. Sure it has its bugs, just like every other plugin, but I can’t imagine a single other plugin (for WordPress or otherwise) that allows you to have a complete forum system up and running in less than five minutes.
- User Switching by John Blackbourn is one of the single most useful plugins I’ve used in a long time when working with membership-based sites. It lets you effortless switch between different user accounts so you can see exactly what your users see. It’s great for testing member areas and profiles.
- Regenerate Thumbnails by Alex Mills is the best tool you will ever use when building out a WordPress theme that users post thumbnails. Period.
Q: What’s your favorite theme or theme framework? Why?
I’m not a big themes guy, but when I do build a theme, I always write it from scratch myself, so my favorite framework is my own. It’s not really even a framework, but rather a blank canvas theme that has most of everything I need already laid out.
If I were to use another framework, however, I would, without question, use the Theme Blvd framework by Jason Bobitch. I purchased a license to his Swagger theme for my site, Pippin’s Plugins, and it was an absolute joy to use. I have since written child themes for it for a couple of other sites, and I’m pleased with it every time.
Q: What future plans do you have for your WordPress blog PippinsPlugins.com?
In terms of the site, there is not a whole lot planned at this point, except to continue releasing tutorials every week. At the moment, I release 2-3 tutorials per week on average; I would like to make sure that I can keep this rate steady. I would also like to continue releasing more and more tutorial series. I believe that long, in-depth tutorials are (on average) much more beneficial than single one-off tutorials. In a series, the number of topics and techniques you can cover is expansive, but more importantly, a tutorial series (such as the one I did on creating a User Submitted Image Gallery) demonstrates a lot of techniques in a real world situation, which always make the concepts easier to grasp and take to heart.