10up

Interview with Eric Mann

I recently had the chance to interview Eric Mann of 10up.com, a web development company that specializes in WordPress. Without further introduction, here is the interview:

JB: Who are you and what kind of work do you do for 10up?

Photo of Eric Mann of 10up.com
Eric Mann of 10up.com

Mann: First and foremost, I’m a web developer. My actual position at 10up is “Senior Web Engineer,” a role in which I write code, review code, and train other developers. Most of my projects are heavy on the back-end with PHP but I’m also fairly adept with JavaScript as well. At the moment, I’m working on the development and refinement of a few WordPress themes and two different advanced plugins.

JB: What makes WordPress the best system for 10up to work within?

Mann: Our clients tend to be publishers, and WordPress is an excellent publishing platform. The open source model also helps us pull from a rich network of savvy developers when we need to bring in additional resources to complete a project.

JB: How do you like working with WordPress as opposed to standard non-CMS web development?

Mann: In my past jobs, even when not working with a CMS I found myself building a CMS to manage projects. When there is a rich body of content to publish, you will eventually need some source of management system to house and publish it. Working with WordPress is easy because the tricky bits – data management, roles/permissions, URL structures, etc – are already taken care of.

In a non-CMS world, you often find yourself building workarounds for the above features. Starting with a CMS makes life easier and expedites project delivery. It also frees up development resources to focus on the real differentiating factors of a website or project.

JB: Is there anything that you do not enjoy about developing for WordPress, or would like to change about it?

Mann: There are a few features I nitpick about on occasion. But as far as features go, I think WordPress is doing a great job to establish new ones and polish the old. However, I think WordPress could go a long way in terms of code standardization. Documentation is often sporadic and the syntaxes/patterns used by developers differ so much it’s hard to wrap your head around the whole project.

Some parts are procedural. Some are object-oriented. Some attempt to blend MVC patterns with MVVM ones. It’s a mess, and just about every line of code in the project is fraught with opinions on how it should be implemented, maintained, and extended. Having a definitive set of guidelines establishing the patterns we follow while building, testing, and documenting code will go a long way in helping WordPress itself to maintain internal cleanliness. Not to mention, it would be easier for developers to learn moving forward!

JB: What do you think about the other Content Management Systems that are out there?

Mann: There can be a different solution for every project, and occasionally WordPress just isn’t the right fit for a given need. In those situations I freely recommend other CMS platforms if they fit a client’s requirements. WordPress is fantastic and always my preferred tool – but I don’t shy away from recognizing that it might not be the right tool for a specific job.

Having built my fair share of CMS platforms from scratch, I understand some of the flaws a system can inherit better than most. I appreciate WordPress’ extensibility model – actions and filters. Few other CMSs have a feature like this, and those that do are often so bogged down with technical details and higher-level code that the feature goes unused or is abused by developers.

JB: Many hate the Visual Editor in WordPress. How do you feel about it, or about WYSIWYG editors in general?

Mann: The Visual Editor in WordPress has its merits, but is vastly misunderstood. Too many people try to use it as a layout-control engine similar to formatting and layout tools used for print media. The Visual Editor is not a print media editor.

It is a rich text formatting editor, and when used as such, it really shines.

Do I hate it? No. Does it have it’s problems? Absolutely. Do I use it? Actually, yes. Just about every time I write a blog post – I write my drafts in WordPress, using the visual editor.

JB: What types of coding languages do you use when developing for WordPress?

Mann: WordPress is written in PHP and JS, so I use those languages pretty exclusively. I have a few tools I use while I develop that are scripted in Ruby, though. But there’s not much call for languages other than PHP and JS.

JB: What do you think about the integration of WordPress into the Web Development program at Clark College? Is this a big part of the future of Web Development?

Mann: I think it’s a fantastic idea. WordPress itself is changing the landscape of the web, and having new web developers enter the workforce already knowing how to work with WordPress is a huge advantage – both for these developers and for the WordPress community. Whether or not this plays a bigger role in the future of web development remains to be seen, but I’m confident courses like this will have a lasting impact in the direction WordPress takes at the very least.

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