The following is an interview with Scott Gere, partner and account director at Gere Donovan Creative, with offices locations in Anchorage and Portland.
I chose to interview Scott because I know him and his family personally and I admire their work ethic and quality of work. I also admire their business and the way they have chosen to build and run it – keeping it small and more personable and treating their employees well. Scott and his wife Monica are admirable people who, in my opinion, excel in the marketing industry.
Jessica: Who are you and what is it that do you do?
SCOTT: I’m partner and account director at Gere Donovan Creative, an agency that specializes in integrated marketing and particularly websites, email, e-commerce, etc. Among other things, we’ve been building websites since 1994.
Jessica: In what instances do you use WordPress and when do you choose not to?
SCOTT: WordPress started out as a blogging platform, and while it can be used as the CMS for just about any website, it’s still best for sites which are “bloggy” — with articles or news or announcements or features taking center stage on the site, with some supporting static content around it. WordPress is good when social media integration is a central requirement, and hosted WordPress setups with themes that are free or don’t cost very much are quick and inexpensive.
Jessica: What are some of the reasons you like WordPress?
SCOTT: One of the biggest advantages is that so many people use it — and there are all sorts of books and tutorials. So when we give a website built with WordPress to a client, they can’t really say “the admin interface is too hard for me to use” — when millions of other people DO successfully use it. There’s a built-in level of client acceptance with WordPress which is hard to replicate with any other CMS.
The fact that you can install it yourself, or use a hosted solution, is useful. And the number of themes which you can use almost out of the box — or which you can customize to suit your own design — is a plus.
There are lots of people who know how to work on WordPress, so that’s an advantage for our agency, too.
Jessica: Are there things you dislike or would change about WordPress?
SCOTT: I always hear from developers that WordPress is harder to work with than other CMSs — which means it costs the client more money, and that makes my job harder. So being more developer-friendly would be a good change. And it’s a small detail, but why did they put web and file root paths in the database? That stuff should be in a config file, where you can wrap some conditional logic around it, and have it move from a staging server to production server without modification. As it is, when you move a WordPress site from one server to another, you have to remember to update all that stuff.
Jessica: Would you choose WordPress over other content management systems, such as Drupal, and why?
SCOTT: Well, we’d choose WordPress over Drupal for 99 out of a 100 projects, and it’s because Drupal’s admin interface is not very user-friendly for the clients… And mostly it’s self-indulgent programmers who love Drupal, and they’re difficult to work with. But we use other CMSs on a regular basis, like Expression Engine, Concrete, Perch… Really depends on the client and the project.
Jessica: When working with clients and WordPress, what response do you get from folks who have even a basic understanding with web development and design and those who don’t?
SCOTT: That’s easy, because none of our clients have even a basic understanding of web development and design, nor do we expect them to. That’s not their job — it’s our job. Of course many clients need to keep their website updated, so they have to learn how to administer it — but anyone with basic Internet and communication skills ought to be able to do that. We’ve had some pretty non-technical clients set their minds to learning how to keep their WordPress site updated and do a good job of it.
Jessica: How important do you feel it is for up and coming web designer/developers to know the ins and outs of WordPress?
SCOTT: Have to know it — it’s so ubiquitous, not being able to say that you’re good at whipping WordPress into shape is a pretty big hole in anyone’s resume.
Jessica: As we all know, it is quite necessary for designers to have an understanding of code and development but do you feel it is as necessary for designers to know WordPress as it is for developers?
SCOTT: Yes, because you have to know what’s possible. There are few things in a project which are worse than a designer creating something which the client loves, but which is going to be really hard/expensive to implement. That’s why we have our designers and developers working pretty closely throughout our web projects. And the line between designer and developer is becoming pretty blurry, too — the days of creating designs in Photoshop, getting them approved, and then handing them over to a developer, maybe with some slice guides, are just about over.
In conclusion, I thanked Scott for giving myself and others an insight on WordPress and its usage in the industry. I particularly liked the part about WordPress versus other CMS’s. I have read many articles and blogs about people’s opinions comparing WordPress and Drupal. This is hard because WordPress and Drupal are like comparing apples and oranges. WordPress is for smaller sites, generally with a blog-like area with static pages around it. Drupal is geared more towards giant sites, though WordPress is used on huge sites like the NY Times and CNN.