Warren Laine-Naida is a digital strategist, teacher, and author with a career spanning over 25 years in the WordPress industry. When he created his first website in 1998, it marked the beginning of his journey and ignited a passion for digital thinking that he now offers through his consulting, workshops, and coaching. Laine-Naida has a portfolio of over 300 digital projects and websites for global clients in diverse sectors.
In addition to advising, he has written the books “Digital Thinking” and “SEO All You Need to Know” and teaches online marketing.
On the occasion of WordPress 20th Anniversary, it is important to celebrate mentors like Warren Laine-Naida who paved the way for future generations.
Devrims: Hi Warren, thanks for your support and I’m looking forward to making this interview very exciting 😀 Please tell us what’s your background and what are you working on these days?
Warren Laine-Naida: Hi! Thanks for inviting me to drop by for a chat! That’s a big question. LOL! I’m 60, so I was in high school before the gaming consoles came out! I started making websites full-time in 1998. I was working at a startup in Munich, Germany. It was a pretty cool time–before WordPress even! I studied Marketing, so websites weren’t so far removed. There just weren’t any websites when I was studying. Currently I teach about 50% of the time, then I have a lot of small business clients and nonprofits–that’s about 25% of my time, and the other 25% is writing for clients, myself, or for my books that you can find on Amazon.
Devrims: What inspired you to pursue a career in WordPress development, and how did you get started in this field?
Warren Laine-Naida: I wanted to build a website to showcase my art and stuff – this was in 1997 or 1998). Then, I got the chance to work in an agency. In 1999, you could get hired if you were able to walk through the door. Everyone was needed! I was making a lot of websites in Flash, HTML, PHP, and then I met Drupal. It took me a long time to want to use a CMS. It didn’t feel like I was connected to my websites over a CMS. When responsive web came out in 2012, I got into WordPress, which offered the first responsive theme. I started using it for smaller sites that didn’t need Drupal. The rest is history.
Devrims: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career as a WordPress developer, and how have you overcome them?
Warren Laine-Naida: You can’t know everything. That I do know. Regardless of challenges, WordPress has a great community. It’s easily approachable on Twitter. Keeping the politics of WordPress aside, there are a lot of people who want to make websites out there and who care about the community. Networking is the best support tool you can have. Also, there are Udemy videos. LOL! There are so many people out there sharing their knowledge, and WordPress has so many plugins, that it’s only a matter of a very short time before you get the answer to your question. I get by with a little help from my friends.
Devrims: Could you share a particularly successful project you have worked on using WordPress? What was your role in the project, and what made it a success?
Warren Laine-Naida: Probably relaunching a university website. I was in charge of the project. I got the agency on board to help with the heavy lifting. I built all the microsites, and did all the training and community outreach. It took about a year, and we did this three times over the course of 12 years! WordPress was important because it’s accessible. I’ve built more than 100 microsites for university programs, people, services, etc. in WordPress while the main website was done in Drupal. I think the success came from the ease of use of WordPress. It’s so easy that people enjoy working in it! That makes it all easier.
Devrims: How do you stay up-to-date with the latest WordPress developments, trends, and best practices? What resources do you rely on?
Warren Laine-Naida: Twitter, baby! Without Twitter I’d be lost. 😃 It’s all Twitter.
Devrims: What’s your thought on the recent WordPress update? Have you already switched to the latest version?
Warren Laine-Naida: I’m no great fan of Full Site Editing (FSE) at all. I teach WordPress and I see how confusing it is for absolute beginners. Blocks are brilliant. ClassicPress is great too. I think FSE is fine if you have experience with WordPress, but the FSE trend is not something I’m happy about. That said, I really HATED the blocks when they came out, so let’s see what next year brings.
Devrims: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in WordPress development? What skills and knowledge should they focus on developing?
Devrims: What are your thoughts on the current state of WordPress hosting? Particularly, please tell us what we should look into before picking up any hosting provider.
Warren Laine-Naida: Well, there’s shared hosting which most people have. That’s the cheap hosting we mostly rely on and for most of us it’s fine. Managed hosting – so your own server with 24/7 support, is much more expensive but if your website is the most important part of your business then you need to go with managed hosting. You should be looking for customer support and, most of all, you need knowledgeable customer support!
Devrims: How do you ensure that the WordPress sites you develop are secure, performance, and accessible to all users, regardless of their devices or abilities?
Warren Laine-Naida: Funny you asked. I’ve never had a compromised website, until last week. That’s over 300 websites over 25 years, without a problem until last week. However, I follow the best practices–light websites, secure hosting, data protection, and a “less is more” approach. That said, nothing beats managed cloud hosting. It’s fast, it’s secure, and it’s supported like no other service.
Devrims: How do you approach customising WordPress themes and plugins to meet the specific needs of your clients? What tools and techniques do you use?
Warren Laine-Naida: So, themes are either made to order, or we’ll use a standard theme like Neve or GeneratePress. Nothing fancy. We have the same standard process I expect as everyone else. As for plugin customizations, we only had to do it once. We were lucky in that the plugin vdevelopers were very open to customizing and it didn’t cost us more than a hundred bucks. That plugin still works 100% after 5 years.
Devrims: What are some of the most exciting developments you see happening in the WordPress ecosystem, and how do you see them shaping the future of the platform?
Warren Laine-Naida: Honestly, I think websites don’t have a long future. We’ll get more and more of what we need from larger websites like Amazon, Google, etc. Apps more than websites are probably the real future. Think about how much time it takes to build a website – I mean all the content creation and updating content. Since (generative) AI appeared at the end of last year–and it can make websites already by the way–I think people building websites isn’t a future-safe concept. WordPress is also trying to emulate page builders with FSE, and might lose those people who liked the classic editor and blocks along the way. I don’t know. WordPress is 20 years old already.
Devrims: Could you share a particularly meaningful or rewarding experience you have had as a WordPress developer, and how it has impacted your career or perspective on the industry?
Warren Laine-Naida: Probably, my students are the most rewarding. Meeting people for the first time who don’t think WordPress is for them, don’t want to make websites and hate tech. But then, 2 years later they send you a link to a website they made and thank you for inspiring them. That’s pretty awesome. I use that to keep plugging away when people say, “Oh, WordPress isn’t for me.”
Devrims: The WordPress community would love to see your working environment. 🎉 Please share a memorable picture with you.