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Devrims #TechTalk 022: Jeff Star Talks About Classic Press, Plugin Planet, and His Books

Irfan Tariq

Devrims #TechTalk 022: Jeff Star Talks About Classic Press, Plugin Planet, and His Books

Table of Contents

It’s easy to define Jeff Starr. He is a Creator for all things WordPress.

However, it’s definitely not easy to be him. A few months back when my work colleague Anmol was writing a tutorial on how to connect Google Analytics 4 to WordPress, she mentioned Jeff Starr’s plugin in her work. She found it very intuitive and easy to use.

Apart from more than a dozen plugins, Jeff has written 5 books on WordPress and Web Development.

Devrims: Tell our readers a bit about your background and what are you up to these days?

Jeff: Hi, my name is Jeff Starr! I’ve been developing on the Web since 1999. I started with just general dynamic websites using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Then, I moved into WordPress development around 2004, with a focus on security, performance, and SEO. Currently my free and pro WordPress plugins have over 1.5 million active users. So that keeps me pretty busy. I also write books on WordPress and web development, for example Digging Into WordPress and WordPress Themes In Depth.

Devrims: At Plugin Planet you have a number of free WordPress plugins along with their Pro versions. How did you get into developing plugins?

Jeff: I started with designing WordPress themes almost 20 years ago. Then got into building custom WordPress sites, which led to plugin development. Back then you couldn’t always find a plugin or script to do what you wanted, add some feature, and so forth. So often it was necessary to build your own. Then by sharing your plugins with the wider WordPress community, your work helps to benefit others as well.

Devrims: You have a passion for writing, from writing books to publishing over 1,000 articles on web development. Do you write out of a hobby? And do you have any plans on writing a book anytime soon?

Jeff: Yes, I’ve got several new books in the works. My current books include Digging Into WordPress, WordPress Themes In Depth, The Tao of WordPress, .htaccess made easy, and my latest book, Wizard’s SQL for WordPress. I write mostly because I love to share information and help people succeed on the Web. Much of my writing is published at Perishable Press, DigWP.com, and WP-Mix.com.

Devrims: How did the idea of Perishable Press come in and what were your thoughts and goals at the time of its creation?

Jeff: Back in 2003, the Web was young and I was learning as much as possible. I devoured books and tutorials on everything from HTML and CSS to JavaScript, PHP, SQL, plus security, SEO, web design, graphic design, and much more. I created Perishable Press as a place to post and share all the cool tips and tricks I was learning. The site itself began as an experiment, a lesson in building, blogging, and sharing as much as possible. It really began to take off, and has been growing ever since.

Devrims: You are an early user of WordPress. Which era do you prefer: Gutenberg (Block) Editor or Classic Editor? Did you get a chance to play with WordPress 6.3?

Jeff: I prefer Classic Editor for my own work. It’s dead simple and just works. It enables me to stay as close to the content as possible, so way less clicking around and fussing than is required with Gutenberg/Block Editor. Plus, Classic Editor loads more quickly and does not pollute the database with tons of HTML comments and other Gutenberg artifacts and bloat.

Some of my clients prefer Gutenberg, and I happily oblige them with all the latest bells and whistles. Also some of my plugins are written to support/work with Gutenberg, so I’m looking at it from both sides of the fence.

And yes, WordPress 6.3 is out for a while now, and it soon will be replaced by version 6.4, which is due out beginning of November. So much is happening with all of the JavaScript/Gutenberg development, thankfully the WordPress team is great at leaving options open and not breaking existing functionality.

Devrims: What are the top three factors influencing your decision when choosing a managed WordPress hosting service?

Jeff:

  1. Trust and reputation. Is the web host trustworthy? What is their reputation? A few searches reveal all in this department. Only roll with reliable, trustworthy hosts.
  2. Performance and security. The server has got to be fast, stable, and most importantly secure. I try to stick with dedicated or VPS servers whenever possible.
  3. Support. Can a user call (or chat) at any time and get help from a live human being. Humans are the best, at least when it comes to providing technical support.

Devrims: Let’s do some quick rapid-fire questions:

Devrims Jeff
Mountain or beaches Depends on current mood 😀
Jetpack or not Not
Tea or coffee Tea (or just water)

Devrims: Since you develop plugins and themes yourself, name your favorite plugins and themes for our readers?

Jeff: I develop most of the plugins that I use when building sites, so among those, my favorites are BBQ Firewall and Blackhole for Bad Bots. Also as a big Classic Editor user, I like Disable Gutenberg, which restores the Classic Editor and Classic Widgets, and also provides a lot of options for customizing when and where the block editor is enabled.

Beyond my own army of plugins, there aren’t too many that I use on a lot of sites. Of those, I would say UpdraftPlus backup plugin and Broken Link Checker are almost always in the mix. I also enjoy utility plugins, like WP Crontrol for managing cron events, and Loco Translate for working with language translations. So many great utility plugins available at the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Devrims: Is there any project(s) that you are currently working on? If so, share with us what can we expect to see in future.

Jeff: Yes, I am always working on new projects. Currently working on a pro version of my Head Meta Data plugin, as well as pro versions for some of my other free plugins. Book-wise also working on some new stuff. And of course always working on writing new blog posts and sharing tips and tricks with the web development community.

Devrims: Can we have a peak at your workspace?

Devrims: What advice would you give to anyone who is getting started with their WordPress journey?

Jeff: Survey the landscape first, don’t just assume anything. Reach out and talk to a few established developers or builders, listen to what they have to say. Get to know the community and familiarize yourself with open source and how things work. Beyond that, just be yourself, work hard, and have fun 🙂

Devrims: Lastly, who would you like us to interview next?

Jeff: Chris Coyier!

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