The Future of WordPress & Gutenberg With Special Guest Rich Tabor, Project Manager at Automattic

We chat with special guest Rich Tabor about the future of WordPress & Gutenberg. Discover cutting-edge insights and tips for your website.

Join us as we delve into the future of WordPress and Gutenberg with a special guest, Rich Tabor. Discover key insights, trends, and predictions in the ever-evolving website building and design world. Gain valuable knowledge and stay ahead of the curve in this informative discussion. Watch the video now: don’t miss out on this exclusive opportunity to learn from industry experts.

#1—Rich, can you give the audience a more detailed description of your professional background and how you became involved with WordPress and UX design?

#2—Can you tell us some things related to Gutenberg that you are most excited about?

#3—Can you give us some insights into Gutenberg and WordPress that the general audience is probably unaware of?

#4—Regarding Gutenberg and UX design, are there areas that could be improved? If yes, what are these areas?

#5 – How will AI change web design in the next 18 months?

#6—If you had your time machine (H. G. Wells) and could travel back to the beginning of your career and business journey, what essential piece of advice would you give yourself?

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The Show’s Main Transcript And Links

[00:00:00.200] – Jonathan Denwood

Welcome back, folks, to the WP tonic show in WordPress and Bootstrap this week. Sas got a great special guest. I’ve been looking forward to this interview. We’ve got Rich Tabbar, the project manager, who is automatic. He’s decided to enter the Dragons Den. Brave, a brave autumn. He gets gold stars for his bravery under fire. This is just a load of rough issues; this is the viewers I’ve got to pump the show. It’s the age of YouTube and Twitter X and all the nonsense, but hopefully, we’ll have to get some insights about what Rich does and how he sees the Gutenberg project going. Hopefully, we have a great discussion and some insights. It is so rich. Would you like to give the audience and listeners a quick intro?

[00:01:05.780] – Rich Tabor

Yeah. Thanks, Jonathan. Rich Tabor and I’ve been involved in WordPress for nearly twelve years. It’s adding up and what I do today is very different than what I started. I started as a designer out of school, studying marketing. So I went to a local marketing firm and started building email templates. That’s how I began my journey. I went from email templates to corresponding landing pages just doing design work. The engineers would approach me and say, ” hey man, this is too complicated. Like we’re trying to use this thing called WordPress and it’s very different than email template designs. Like how can we work together? And I was like, well, you have to teach me. So I was like, I want to learn everything about this thing called WordPress and how you are implementing my designs. So, coming from that background, I jumped headfirst into development and tried to understand everything there is around the marketing side of things, the product side of things, like what we’re building for clients and how we’re actually launching these sites for folks so that I could design better projects for the engineers. And I turned that into products that I launched on my own.

[00:02:13.770] – Rich Tabor

I had a theme shop for a while. I did blocks when Gutenberg started turning around the corner with a project called Coblox and I went to GoDaddy, ran products on the WordPress experience team at GoDaddy for three years, which was a great learning time for me to level up and feel out how I could work with more people, more engineers, more, more designers, and went from there to another product team at extending doing similar work, trying to figure out how to make the WordPress experience better with focus on onboarding and themes and patterns. And that led me to automatic where now I’m contributing nearly full time to WordPress, doing all the same stuff, and trying to improve this thing.

[00:02:58.380] – Jonathan Denwood

It’s all good stuff. And I’ve got my co host, Kurt. Would you like to quickly introduce yourself, Kurt, to the new listeners and viewers?

[00:03:06.360] – Kurt von Ahnen

Sure, Jonathan. My name is Kurt von Ahnen. I own an agency called Manyana Nomas. We focus primarily on membership and learning websites. I also work directly with the great folks at LFTR LMs and Jonathan over at WP-Tonic.

[00:03:19.040] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s great. And before we go into the meat and potatoes of this great interview, I’ve got a couple of messages from our major sponsors. We’ll be back in a few moments, folks. Three, two, one. We’re coming back, folks. I like to say we’ve got some fantastic offers from the major sponsors. Pass a curated list of the best WordPress plugins and services, all created by myself for the WordPress professional. You can get all these goodies by going over to deals and wp deals, and you find all the free goodies there. What more could you ask for? Probably a lot, but that’s what we’re going to get from that bloody page. And please do that, folks, because it does support the show and the sponsors. And this podcast is one of the few independent voices in WordPress, so you’re one of the longest running ones. So your support is much appreciated. So. Well, I think you’ve answered question one with your intro. Really? So I’m just going to throw it over to Kirk and go into question two. Off you go, Kurt.

[00:04:41.830] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah, I actually would like to extend off of one if I could.

[00:04:44.950] – Jonathan Denwood

All right.

[00:04:45.820] – Kurt von Ahnen

And that is for those of us on the outside looking in. Right. So many of us are out there just in the outside circles. Right? What does it look like going from these other projects to automatic? How did you get your foot in the door? How did you contribute more? And then how did you grow in your presence there? If you could kind of share that with folks, maybe they’d find that interesting.

[00:05:11.480] – Rich Tabor

Yeah, I see. I mean, I’m always learning. I’m always striving to be curious and learn what’s next, like what’s important and how I can have the most significant impact on something. And going to each of these places, that’s been my number one drive. It’s like, why am I going here? It’s to learn because I’m curious and to have an impact and make a difference in what I’m working on because we only have so much time in this world to do something meaningful. So when I went to automatic, it was clear that there was a need to focus on WordPress to contribute directly to WordPress. And throughout all my years working in all these different environments, I’ve contributed, but very lightly compared to what I’ve been doing the last year and a half now almost, it’s been more of guidance or pushing ideas to potentially get them into the core through third party products, whereas now it’s much more direct. I can pitch ideas to everyone, and I have all day to pitch ideas, to have teams oriented at automatic and also contributors outside of automatic to really come together to build the best software we can for websites and for CMS in general.


[00:06:23.230] – Rich Tabor

So it’s really not much different being at automatic other than having that time dedicated to supporting WordPress.


[00:06:31.750] – Kurt von Ahnen



[00:06:32.330] – Jonathan Denwood



[00:06:32.670] – Kurt von Ahnen

So that really does lend us in the question too. And that is, since you guys are pitching ideas and you kind of have some sites on the inside, what’s there to be excited about in Gutenberg that you could share with us?


[00:06:44.140] – Rich Tabor

Yeah, there’s a few areas and they’re all closely related. The first, I call them big ideas, the big ideas, and none of these are secret or anything. They’re all everywhere on GitHub. We’re trying to keep them as transparent as possible so that we can get as many folks involved as possible on these fronts. But the big one that I think is important to at least zero in a little bit is this idea of granular, granular editing versus editing with broad strokes, like we have right now. We have individual blocks that we add to a page all at once with patterns. Right. We can drop in this pattern and you have a section of a site added at once. It’s great. But what I was thinking through is how do we approach editing with less granularity and with more of like a zoomed out approach, like a bird’s eye view of your site. So if I could zoom out of my page and I could either reorder sections or I could change a whole section or delete a whole section at a time, instead of trying to find the right parent block to select that I can delete that section, or the right group to select that, I can restyle it with a different color scheme on my site.


[00:07:52.370] – Rich Tabor

I think that we need to pare back a little bit on all those granularity pieces that we have to make editing feel more intuitive and less technical. Even so, that’s the first big thing that I’m, that I’m leaning in on right now. I think it’s, I think it’s important.


[00:08:09.630] – Kurt von Ahnen

Nice, nice. Thanks, Jonathan.


[00:08:12.790] – Jonathan Denwood

All right, so what, what, you know, what do you think? Some of things people don’t understand about the GuteNberg project in the world of WordPress, if you’re not part, if you’re not contributing in, you know, every week, every month, you’re in that, in that world of contributing to Gutenberg. And that, you know, it’s the bulk of people that use WordPress or in some way listen to this podcast or is a bit more involved in the general WordPress community, they probably don’t contribute still that actively. So maybe you can give some outline of, of what it’s like to, to work with something like GUTENBERG that’s so crucial to the future. WordPress.


[00:09:18.210] – Rich Tabor

Yeah. You know, I think, like what you mentioned, there is imperative, like, we need people involved. Like, like this is, as humans, like, this is our product, right? Like we have a say in how this company together, all of us do. And we need to be contributing in some fashion back to the project so that it can continue to evolve and level up throughout time. And one of the things that I think is the most important when, you know, when folks are asking me like, how do I, how do I get involved? Like, what is this thing? And like, I don’t even know where to start is, I tell them there’s this great new ish mentorship program, dot, that’s geared towards connecting folks who are interested with folks who are already in the loop to try to help glean some of that knowledge, that domain knowledge that’s just like in our heads or on our blogs, like direct one on one connections with people. When you do that, you really do learn, like, okay, like there is like a flow, there is a natural ebb and flow of productivity and where the project’s going.


[00:10:20.930] – Rich Tabor

But also in pairing things back, maybe sometimes we need to take the technical implementations and scale them back to something more understandable. And that takes a lot of insights from folks who don’t look at this every day. So there’s a ton of value in folks who are getting into contributing. For the very first time, 6.5 had WordPress. 6.5 had over 150 new contributors to the release, which is really great. I think it’s really interesting as folks are leveling up skill wise on across the board, but especially in Gutenberg itself, and starting to pick up issues. Like we have this polish board, which is smaller things that are clearly defined that folks can jump in on and we’re seeing folks to pick from that. We’re seeing folks jump in on the discussions on, comma, also on GitHub to really just put their say into the mix but also contribute with code or ideas or design pieces. But I don’t see why in the next releases why we can’t double or triple that number of new contributors. Now that we’re, now that we’re in this, you know, we’re in flight with Gutenberg. We’re moving fast. Like things are really going in the right direction.


[00:11:35.320] – Jonathan Denwood

What have been some of the surprise? I kind of follow through a question what, you know, because you evolved to GoDaddy on a high level, but moving to automatic and then getting involved with Gutenberg, like I say, which is crucial to some ways. Well, even though you had worked with GoDaddy, were there still surprises in this new position because how long have you been with automatic and, and in your, as project manager so far? Has it been a couple years now?


[00:12:08.620] – Rich Tabor

A year and a half? Yeah. Until last January, yeah.


[00:12:11.620] – Jonathan Denwood

So were there still surprises and what were they?


[00:12:17.180] – Rich Tabor

I don’t think surprises is probably the right word. It’s, I mean, I just, you just learn things. Like you learn, you know, you learn the value of passion. So like, I, what I like to do is find people who are interested. This is something I’ve been telling a lot of folks, too, is find people who are interested in the similar areas of the project that you are. And then they become like your team, like your folks that you’re like, okay, like together. Like we can pitch ideas to each other to get like refine this out and now we’ll pitch it greater, we’ll refine that out and then some of us and maybe, maybe another outside engineer will help push and shepherd this forward. And, you know, being at automatic and contributing full time, I’ve really been able to do that at a much greater scale where it’s just, it’s more than just outside of, you know, the localized Godaddy team or any other team I’ve been a part of. And it’s much more involved around any other contributors. It doesn’t matter which company you’re affiliated with or not. It really doesn’t matter. It’s just what you’re interested in as a contributor and what area you want to be a part of.


[00:13:20.980] – Rich Tabor

So like, I’m just trying to pull that out of people and put them in the right spot so that we can really push on things that we’re interested in because that’s how we really make progress.


[00:13:28.830] – Jonathan Denwood

Right? Over to you, Kurt.


[00:13:31.670] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah, Rich. I was just kind of thinking, you know, I remember what it was like when blocks was first getting introduced. You know, hey, there’s this new designer, Gutenberg. And I remember, do you want to stay with classic or do you want to go with Gutenberg?


[00:13:43.020] – Rich Tabor



[00:13:43.150] – Kurt von Ahnen

You had the choice. And I remember, like, how much I hated the change, but I kind of like forced myself to adopt it. And then I started bringing on like page Builder knowledge. So then I started playing in Elementor. I’ve got customers on Divi. I know somebody who’s very dear to me that has Beaver Builder and Jonathan. And so we have these things. But I’m going to be really honest on the podcast now. I found these page builders lately to be cumbersome to manage to install, to keep updating, to not have white screens of death during the update process, all these things. And then I come back to Gutenberg and we’ve started using it in like the Cadence Pro example with cadence blocks and kind of expanding that capability from that perspective. And it’s been working great. Like we’re super impressed with it. Like, like we’re really as an agency. On my end, I’m like this. Finally something’s working and I feel like I’m kind of sticking. Like I’m staying light and I’m staying with core as much as possible. But now there’s this split where there’s blocks and then there’s full site editing and that kind of seems to like be splitting things in half, almost the way that we perceive our websites.


[00:14:57.310] – Kurt von Ahnen

Do you have any insights or thought or a way to explain that to customers in a way that makes sense?


[00:15:03.010] – Rich Tabor

Yeah. The way I see it is the, you know, we had the block editor and that was essentially the first foray into building a editor that you can compose rich pages and really posts first and then pages with a tool for expression in WordPress. That was possible with third party builders, but not with WordPress core. And as we evolved the block editor, you know, it was more of like the ship of thesis, thesis where we’re building and riding it at the same time, like we’re building it as we’re crossing the ocean. So it’s tough. It really is tough. The site editor was the first 1st entry into kind of putting out a small section of this ship. It’s like this is where we’re going to explore a little bit further ahead. Like we have the block editor. It’s foundational. We’re comfortable with where it’s at. At the basis level, like you said, it’s like, okay, this is starting to work. Okay, there are plugins who are adding functionality that it’s great, and you can use WordPress in the block editor, the way that works best for you, and that’s great. But there’s this experiment, essentially the site editor, and this is years ago, where we are going to see how can we expose the entire site to blocks now, not just the post content.


[00:16:14.770] – Rich Tabor

And in the site editor it becomes much more complex because we’re not just building with paragraphs and groups, and now we’re building with logos and rows and columns and layouts and much more diverse structures to a page. So it is much more complicated. So the site editor, it’s right now different than the post editor and block editor, but there is a lot of effort going into unification. So taking everything we’ve learned in the site editor, you know, all the, all the experiments, we’ve kind of pushed in different areas and different diverse areas to find the best approaches for things and kind of like pair them back technically to something that’s more simple, like the block editor, and combine the two efforts so that they, they might not be the same foundationally technically, but they are the same experience. They should feel the same regardless of where you’re at. So I would say that it is constantly in motion and constantly evolving. And I do think that once we combine these ideas together and kind of pair it back to where it’s just like more intuitive, not necessarily simple, but just like intuitive, that it will start to feel more like the block editor.


[00:17:24.420] – Rich Tabor

I would say it’s almost a year or two behind where the block editor feels comfortable wise. But it is interesting what you can do today compared to what you can even do a WordPress release. The amount of progress we’re making for every release is significant now on the site editor and block editor, and a lot of the work we’re doing on both is now like persisting across all these WordPress experiences, which I think is a momentum gain that we’ve been picking up on the last couple of years.


[00:17:53.680] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah, as a follow up to your answer, because you had mentioned complication, but intuitiveness, and I can only imagine the weight of building a project like this and having that appeal to a wide swath of people. How do you think Gutenberg is aligning with addressing two audiences, really? So there’s developers that say, no, I have to have these extra page builder tools because I’m a pro and people in automatic and marketing are like, no, no, no, you can do everything in, you know, you can do everything in Gutenberg, but you got to keep it simple enough so that the end user can still manage their website. Like what can you explain maybe a little of that challenge?


[00:18:34.870] – Rich Tabor

Yeah, I wouldn’t say that. You know, folks at automattic are like, we want to keep this simple. You know, necessarily there’s a lot of teams at automatic hue leveraged the editor and are constantly asking for the same things that everyone else are asking for. Like, it’s all, I mean, most of it’s posted in GitHub anyhow on issues, but. But the challenge is, is we want to build something that, that out of the box is comfortable to use. It’s going to be challenging, right. But it’s okay to have challenge where you’re learning, just like with any other professional tool that you’re building with. But it needs to be intuitive and it needs to be friendly as a product. It needs to be something that, like, you can grasp the idea of. And you’re like, okay, like, I know what I’m doing and I can feel confident with this. So if core can nail that, that’s the huge, a huge margin that we’re getting that that will be amazing. The next level, and which I think we’re already doing okay at, is the extensibility and having these blocks that now third party blocks that are defined very well now that we’ve, you know, kind of had that period of, like, loss of exploration to figure out the best way to build blocks and to level up the development side of blocks to where now we have experiences in like cadence and a few others out there, I think generate blocks and whatnot.


[00:19:50.410] – Rich Tabor

Even code blocks that are adding to this experience and giving those folks who are like, yes, I do want a little bit more flexibility, a little bit more control with what I’m doing, or I like this opinionated way that this one product is doing things. And that’s the way WordPress has always been. Like, you can extend and add what you need for your team. I think as long as we keep that as a foundational part of the editing experience, which I don’t foresee us not doing, then we can improve the other side of it to where it’s like, okay, now every time you add something, it still feels just as friendly, just as intuitive out of the box.


[00:20:24.490] – Kurt von Ahnen



[00:20:25.090] – Jonathan Denwood



[00:20:25.950] – Kurt von Ahnen

Jonathan, over to you, sir.


[00:20:28.210] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I see where you’re coming from, rich, because I think, I think you’re spot on there that, and it’s a kind of, I think some commentators find that bit difficult to handle that. It’s always relied on third party solutions and it’s always been a bit of the culture where others, and I want to get, I want to tell you a story, rich. I had one of my chief, one of my lead developers, I was having a chat about a possible project with him yesterday and I said, um, and we’ve been using cadence quite a bit and I’ve been utilizing it for a couple of side projects and I’ve been getting used to it because, um, I kind of was using other page builders, animator and a couple others. And I said, I said to him, I said, we’re probably going to use cadence on this project. And his reaction, his reaction straight away, rich, was, I hate Gutenberg. That’s all he said to me. I hate Gutenberg. And I’m doing a podcast, actually, I’m doing a podcast with him in a couple hours time, and it’s going to be about Gutenberg and page builders in general.


[00:22:10.130] – Jonathan Denwood

And I’m going to be asking him, have you got any insights? Because I am, I think some people see me as a Gutenberg hater, and I resent that a bit because I don’t think I am at all. If I was a hater one discussing it, I wouldn’t have asked you to come on this show. But have you got the insights why they got this vision, this kind of, this kind of reaction? I hate Gutenberg. I’m gonna ask him in 2 hours time to flesh that out, because even if he hates it, if he’s going to do, if he’s helping us with this major project, if it does come to light, he’s going to be using Gutenberg. So, so have you got any insight why people got this vision, this kind of powerful reaction?


[00:23:09.330] – Rich Tabor

Yeah, I mean, you know, change is, is very difficult, right? And change is only and only viable solution if the result of change is worth it. And for some folks, it might not be at the point where it is worth it. And that’s something that as individual, especially if we’re talking about builders or agencies like folks that are leveraging this as a tool professionally, their expectations are different than the folks who are using this every day, who only had the classic editor and could not have done anything like that, like this. So we’re kind of approaching it again from those two sides. And just let me be clear. Like, I think WordPress core out of the box, like, is certainly a viable solution for agencies and builders in even enterprise. I think there’s a lot of potential and things that we can improve. But when comparing two tools that had a pretty massive head start and are very opinionated in the way that they work, you’re going to have folks that are just the same, like very opinionated in the way that those tools work. And what we’re trying to do is build something that can work across the board, and it’s not going to, it’s not going to be the right answer for everyone.


[00:24:18.140] – Rich Tabor

But I think we can get to a point where we eventually, and I think the sentiment has changed and has shifted over the last year. Even, I would even say by release, every release, I’m seeing much more sentiment, positive sentiment towards core WordPress and core Gutenberg. But I do think that we can polish and continue to improve those small things, like those tiny details that make you go like, wow, this is tough. Like in one instance, and it might not be for us, for us in the room who have worked and even a lot of folks who are listening to this, like we’ve worked with WordPress probably before Gutenberg, and we know a lot about all the page builders. We have a lot of context and a lot of information, and we use WordPress every day. We know how the system works and we hit those same stumbling blocks. But we were like, oh, wait, I have to do these two things over here first. And we just know that. So we’re like, fine, whatever is frustrating, but it’s not a deal breaker. But for a lot of folks, those things are deal breakers that don’t do it every day.


[00:25:12.800] – Rich Tabor

And I think if we hone in on those things, then, like, us here in the room and those listening will start to feel the same responses, like, wow, like, this does feel like something that I can leverage quickly and build science fast and I can build and reuse pieces of science across the board, which makes me even faster. And then, you know, if we start leaning into that concept of AI and site building, it’s like, okay, well, then we’re just, we’re just maximizing even more because now we have a system of, you know, a block JSon, a theme JSON pieces of this project that can be manipulated now quite easily, almost in any sort of fashion. So it’s, it’s very, it’s a very strong concept, but I think experience wise is where we need to improve so that it does line up a little bit better with the folks that want to build with it.


[00:26:00.410] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I totally understand. Got a couple more. Got some. I’ll follow a few questions about what rich has just said, but I think it’s a good time for us to go for our mid break, folks. We’ve got a couple more messages from sponsors. We will be back in a few moments, folks. Three, two, one. We’re coming back, folks. We have had a deep discussion with Rich. It’s been very civilized, the way it should be. But before we go in to this fascinating discussion, I just want to point out I produce a weekly newsletter. I write it myself. It’s a mixture of WordPress, whatever interests me, general text stories, bootstrap, startup stories, and WordPress all combined in one weekly newsletter. You can get this rag by going over to w hi w w p newsletter wp newsletter and please sign up for it. I am getting more spicy as I knock them out, so it won’t be a yawn. A yawn fresh in your inbox. So it’s, um. I’ve been thinking about this and what I would ask you, Rich, and this is, this is just coming from my own reflection on things. When I started using Gutenberg with cadence, my observation is this is, I don’t think it’s a terrible interface, but I don’t think it’s a fantastic interface, to be truthful about it.


[00:27:55.960] – Jonathan Denwood

And I think. I think there’s a lot of things that have been kind of linked together to produce a little bit of toxicity about the whole thing. And I do understand it in some ways. But the pure thing around Gutenberg and under your guidance and some of the other key figures, I think the situation has improved enormously. And I’m not just saying that because you’re on this show in front of me, I honestly think you’ve done an excellent job. But I don’t. This is my personal taking it. I just don’t think at the beginning of Gutenberg, enough emphasis was done on UX design and how. Because I think. I think to get any kind of end result when it comes to UX design is difficult. I think to get a different UX design is quite achievable, but to get a really good UX design that has to be utilized with a diverse user base is extremely difficult. And I just don’t think there was enough emphasis until yourself and other people came on board. And so before I waffle on some more, what’s your reaction to what I’ve just outlined? Rich?


[00:29:27.340] – Rich Tabor

Yeah, I think that, yeah, I think I agree with that sentiment. When Gutenberg was first turning the corner and becoming a viable piece of WordPress in WordPress five, it was important to, and it was important and also focus on the technicalities, like how is this system going to work and evolve in a way that we can keep working on it and keep evolving it. And it was almost entirely technical, right. We had, I mean, if you look at screenshots of Gutenberg from when it came out, when it first came out, like, it looks completely different than when it looks now. I imagine if you switched to that version of WordPress, you would, I don’t know, you probably would feel super lost because we’ve, we’ve evolved and adapted quite a bit since then. I do think that designers, we need more designers, we need more UX folks who have the context of WordPress and also who don’t. I think that those folks contributing ideas is paramount. Like, like simple things. Like, like what are your expectations? Like, I tried this one thing and I expected x, but why happened instead? And just knowing that from that perspective of not having the experience using WordPress often from those folks, it is, it’s more eye opening.


[00:30:41.300] – Rich Tabor

So we can get out of our bubble, get out of our, our space that we’re comfortable with and way the things that we understand and know and can see it from a different angle. And if we get more of those folks involved, I think we can continue pushing the momentum of the user experience within WordPress editing at an even faster pace. And I’m positive that we’re moving in the right direction and I’m pushing every day fast on that path. And I know a lot of folks are, but I think we could use many more voices and ideas on that front.


[00:31:13.930] – Jonathan Denwood

I see where you’re coming from there, but the thing is, I think when it comes to actually contributing to the code, I think it’s easy to choose a ticket and match it with the time resource that you’ve got when it comes to designing ux. And that, I think it’s a much more gradual process and involves a lot and having of too many chefs in the kitchen, especially when it comes to UX design can lead to effect where you have designed by committee. What’s your reaction to what I’ve just outlined there?


[00:31:56.250] – Rich Tabor

I don’t think we have too many chefs and I don’t think we’re designing by committee. So I think we, I think that there is, but we could use another couple of chefs for sure. I think we need, we need more ideas, more folks. It’s not the, we don’t need more folks to, I don’t know if complain is the right word, but we need more folks to say like, this is what I expected, and this is what happened because with that proposition the folks who are like, okay, like this is the project that I’m interested in. You know, I mentioned earlier about the passion, like, like I want to make the publishing sidebar better because I’m just annoyed by these few things and this is just something I’m interested in. Then you can look through all the tickets and see what are the things that people ran into. It’s not necessarily all those people are also contributing code and trying to push a bunch of things into the project. It’s just all the expectations of folks and trying to get a good idea of like, okay, this is generally what was expected and what happened and how do, and as a designer, as a UX designer, how do I approach this process now with all that information?


[00:32:54.590] – Rich Tabor

If we don’t have that information, we’re basing decisions off of instincts or research. And you know, those are fine, but you also need, you also need the data to support it. You need the insights from the people using the product. So I think we could use more cooks. I’m okay with that.


[00:33:10.920] – Jonathan Denwood

All right, start cook. Start practicing your recipes, folks. Yeah, but to get serious, I also think on the other side you get people of UX design, it should be, it should be so easy, you should be able to know how to use it platform. But in my experience there’s only so far you can go especially a very complex thing or semi complex thing. There’s only so far, there’s always, and it’s based on the previous experience of the individual the, and strange as it might sound folks, I actually know what I’m talking because I did a masters in Ux design many many years ago at a London school of print and design. God help them as me as a student. So there’s only so far you can go. But I just so on your own, I just felt there’s still something especially around the navigations system and, but I think you, I think you know that anyway and you’re working on it anyway, aren’t you?


[00:34:30.090] – Rich Tabor

Yes, yes. I mean there’s, I would say there’s progress on most of like the, most of the things that you can think of like how this one thing’s frustrating. There are ideas circulating, there are people exploring and then every once in a while, like I said, I’ll grab a team of folks. I’m like, hey, like I know you all are interested in this one idea or like one other person. I know you’re interested in improving navigation or link control or the actual site editor navigation pieces like let’s like work together for a week and try to like iron this out and let’s see what we come to. And I think we, if we have more folks doing that, you know, the pairing and the mentorship type pieces, it doesn’t have to be official even. It could just be like, I know this person’s interested in this problem and I want to work with them. And maybe you connected on Twitter or on Slack or or anywhere that I think we will, we will keep pushing in the right direction. It doesn’t mean that, you know, every idea makes it by any means. Like, most of them don’t and even most of my ideas don’t make it.


[00:35:24.840] – Rich Tabor

It’s, and that’s a good thing because they, sometimes they need to sit, they need to simmer, and we need more feedback just to make sure that what we put in here is the right direction so that we can keep moving forward in this direction in the future.


[00:35:37.060] – Jonathan Denwood

You said that some of your own ideas, but how, what is the process to decide which ideas do get accepted then?


[00:35:46.460] – Rich Tabor

I think it’s just a system of priority. Like what’s the, what’s the biggest problem right now, like in WordPress? And then what’s the biggest opportunity in WordPress? Like how do we, how do we narrow down those ideas and circling everything that’s in, you know, in GitHub, everything that’s on track, everything that’s published on, comma, like what are, what do we see in there? And from that pOv, you see, okay, like, you know, obviously the site editor needs a lot of work. Like we have a lot of experiments running essentially. And it’s like, okay, we need to figure out how to get this in a stable position so that this can be potentially become the future admin experience. Like this might be the pathway towards that. So that’s important opportunity and an important problem. So let’s push on that. Let’s see if there’s something here. And then we get learnings from that project. Maybe we figure out like list view, maybe list view, it gets elevated because of explorations on that front because we have lists of items on the sidebars. So we start abstracting those results into other parts of the product that also need work.


[00:36:47.650] – Rich Tabor

So it’s solving more than one problem at a time.


[00:36:50.350] – Jonathan Denwood

I got one more follow through question and then I’m going to leave the last two questions for Kirk to handle. I think you touched upon this. It’s another, like I say, I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit. And I think the other thing that has caused people a bit of friction is what you said about JSON and about if, if you’re, if you want to do a change, you can knock out adjacent file or, you know, if you’re good at react, you can dig in and develop your own blocks to achieve something. But I think there’s another crowd that expect that criticized Gutenberg around the, the actual code it produces through accessibility, but they also expect to be able to achieve things through CSS and HTML and be able to develop in a style, which I understand because it’s how, when I was active developer, I would expect. But I surmise that you’re probably going to answer is you can do both, but you’ve got to accept that you’re going to have to use a third party add on to give you that. And there are some out there, but do you think I’m on the right track?


[00:38:25.100] – Jonathan Denwood

Because you seem to, I seem to have these conversations with these two different groups and they seem to not be able to, they really didn’t understand what the other side were complaining about, or they thought the other side was just being difficult for the sake of being difficult, you know?


[00:38:48.340] – Rich Tabor

Yeah, and I mean, that’s a very valid observation too. You know, the way I look at it is I see parts of a website as essentially becoming interoperable, like the styles, the typography, the colors, the blocks already, you know, the patterns, like all of these pieces, the templates that we either put on a theme or put in a plugin, but essentially compose a site with, I see them as pieces that we can interchange everywhere. If we’re hard coding css tailored to one specific piece on one specific site, it’s broken from that system, that’s fine. If that’s like what you’re building, you’re like, I never want to use this pattern anywhere else. And I do want to use, I want to have some manual code in here to do something specific that I want. That’s fine, that’s an appropriate response as well. But I like to think that we could potentially evolve the system into something that, where every pattern can be used on every site, every site’s color palette can be used on any other site, every site’s typography styles can be used on any other site, and not just for, you know, for folks who aren’t as experienced for building sites, but also for the speed at which we can implement designs and execute builds for agencies and maintain them.


[00:40:04.010] – Rich Tabor

If everything’s maintained through theme JSON, which doesn’t have to be or block JSOn either way, or attributes. I mean, it doesn’t have to be like in global styles. Like you can write your own plugin that has your own way of using global styles, but it’s all the same system behind the scenes. Like, there’s nothing that will break at that point because it’s all the same code. It’s just, it’s just machine writing one file to another in the same fashion. And then as an editor, you’re doing the same thing as I’m just, I’m just changing those same values, but I’m just deciding on a granular level what I want to change. So if you. I think if we stick to that model and we keep some consistency in that, we will continue to push forward and evolve what we’re building. Other than almost. It’s not the old way of doing things, but like a very strict way of doing things where writing Css for one specific thing.


[00:40:52.510] – Jonathan Denwood

I totally see where you’re coming from now. Actually. That was very insightful. Thanks for that, rich. But I think it’s more old fashioned. Yeah, I don’t think. I think it’s a, it’s a kind of different mindset, a different way of seeing what web development is. And that’s why they put both sides get, because I kind of see both sides and where they’re coming from. So I try and keep abundance view, but I think in both communities I’ve noticed both that have a different concept of this. They’re very unwilling to see the other side’s view to a surprising level. Over to you, Kurt.


[00:41:41.540] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, rich already slipped and mentioned AI in one of his answers, so now I get to ask him, you know, how do you think AI, well, is changing and will continue to change web design over the next 18 months?


[00:41:56.030] – Rich Tabor

18 months. I like the specificity there. Okay, two years, two years ahead of us. It’s going to get better, it’s going to keep getting faster, and it’s going to get easier to get to a proper solution for building websites. And if you’re just doing straight HTML and Css, that’s fine. If you’re doing something with WordPress, there are some tools exploring that. Even is making some explorations on that front, everyone is. This is the area where there’s potential for impact on how we build sites with, especially folks building new sites and beginners. But what I think of is, you know, like AI is, is very complementary to how we built this system of attributes for blocks and for data driven styles. With theme Json. Even though we didn’t really see that coming, I don’t think, you know, as AI became a bigger thing, it was like, okay, yes, this is the right, like, we feel like this is the right path. Let’s lean in. But now it’s, it’s going to be. It’s going to be a tool that a lot of folks, if not everyone, building websites will leverage. Not just for like the actual output of a site, like help me spin up a site for XYZ, but also connecting the right plugins, the right fields behind the scenes for adding a new event to your site, or adding a ticketing system to your site to connecting to the right plugins and doing all the hard work that we all know with Woocommerce behind the scenes, it’s tough to set up.


[00:43:32.040] – Rich Tabor

But if we had a system that is going to do that for us and going to at least get us 80% there, get us there faster, then, which I think is going to be there, that’s a given in my POV. But design on the other side is tricky because it’s, how do you communicate, taste? And it’s possible, it’s not impossible. It just might not be completely practical right now. It might be a little bit tough to do. But I think about the interoperability of color across sites and how that potentially can leverage the AI system to where you have color palettes that you’ve designed, like you designed, like this color scheme, essentially, like in style. Book a style guide. And you say, like, this style guide is great for dark sites, and you could, you can manipulate this however you want, as long as it maintains this vibe, then that’s an appropriate entry into the eye to where you can be received and edited upon. But it has like a foundational base for what your intention is. I think that that might be the first step, but eventually it’ll get to the point where it can do much more than that, for sure, you know.


[00:44:39.870] – Kurt von Ahnen

In a way to kind of follow up with that. And I’ll do like Jonathan and tell a quick story. I spent a couple of decades in automotive teaching technicians how to, you know, problem solve and get through things. And as diagnostic computers came out and plug in diagnostics happened, a lot of technicians as, you know, aged out, meaning people that can actually diagnose something physically, they’re not in the workforce anymore. And now we’ve got young people that can plug in a thing and go, oh, your oxygen sensor through a code. But it’s not the oxygen sensor that’s bad like, they don’t have the background information to recognize something else in the system caused that fault code. And I wonder, and it doesn’t have to be a long answer, but is there any fear on your side as someone that is as high up in the food chain as you are working directly with WordPress? Are people coming in and relying on AI and some of these shortcut tools or being implementers like me and not really understanding code? And because people aren’t trained in the basics of code, are losing that foundation that they need to really be efficient or effective?


[00:45:48.780] – Rich Tabor

No, I don’t think so. I think it’s different, the analogy, because automotive is very physical. There are lots of pieces. And really, I of bet, you know, I’ve experimented quite a bit with this, like taking photos of things, and you’re like, tell me what’s wrong with this? You know, this had like a gas line. I was like, something’s wrong with this. Like, I take a picture and it’s like, these are the potential things. Like, I think that we’ll get to that point in the physical world even more soon. But in code, it’s, it’s, it’s much more black and white. It’s like this, this works. This works a specific way. It can generate a test for you. It’s like, this is the results. Is this expected? And you’re like, yes, this is expected, like, or no, this was not expected? And it’s like, okay, what do you want? And then you tell it what you want. So it’s this much more. Zeros and ones. Like, get to the result. Especially because everything is attribute driven. Like, there is an attribute for everything, every block, and for every style and theme. Json so you can really say, you know, I want, I want, I need, I need to fix my color contrast on my site.


[00:46:45.350] – Rich Tabor

And it’s like, well, here are some suggestions. And you’re like, I like this one. Like, okay, cool.


[00:46:49.720] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah. I also think people, they kind of misunderstand the purpose. You know, web design, web design isn’t, isn’t art. It’s. But on the other hand, what they tend, people that have had no formal training, is because of the way the human brain works and that we can process imaging much more quicker than written words. And you can, with the right image, you can get across a complicated concept much more quicker than the written word because, you know, that’s the difference between somebody that can write and somebody that’s a good copywriter, because they got to distill a message with a finite amount of words that still puts across the conversation the key concept of the message. And that takes experience. And it’s the same with branding or the graphics or the is that it should put across the message and that takes experience. Do you think I’m on the right track there, rich?


[00:48:07.700] – Rich Tabor

Yeah, I think so. You know, I do think that there is a component of art to a website. Like there is like personality and creative expression and or I encourage folks to put that in their work. I think that’s important as humans and what we create and what we present to the world. But it is about purpose. Like, their website has a purpose and it’s either to share information or to mostly to share information or to guide folks to doing something like purchasing a ticket or rsvping or subscribing to your newsletter for more information. Like, there is purpose driven, but art is important because it is creative expression of what your intentions are. And yeah, like I said, though, with theme. Json, I don’t see why we can’t get to a point where AI is generating artistically creative sites as well, just as well as sites that can’t, that have the right imagery, that have the right copy, that help you accomplish your purpose.


[00:49:06.590] – Kurt von Ahnen

Nice. Well, I think, rich, that takes us to the last question of the day, man. This is the fun one. If you had your own time machine, you know, HG Wells or, you know, doctor who, something like that, if you could travel back to the beginning of your career, your business journey, what essential advice or, you know, famous thing would you teach yourself?


[00:49:29.950] – Rich Tabor

I guess that’s a good question.

[00:49:34.970] – Jonathan Denwood

Don’t come on this podcast.

[00:49:37.530] – Rich Tabor

No, this has been great.

[00:49:40.050] – Kurt von Ahnen

Pretty kind today.

[00:49:43.290] – Rich Tabor

You know, like the, you know, there are things you learn about yourself, like throughout your career as, or throughout growing up, really as you’re, as you’re gaining wisdom and experience through life. But one thing that I would tell myself, like, as, like, you know, like as a younger me, it’d be like, hey, bro, like, stay curious, like experiment more and like, always learn. Those are the things that drive me today. So, like, if I would have known that when I first started, I mean, I eventually stumbled into those, but when I first started, like, I think that could have propelled me even further in the right direction. But those are just fundamental, I believe, to the human experience.

[00:50:23.710] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I think. I think it’s a contradiction. I think you’re right but on the other. But you have to combine it with a kind of religious focus as well because you haven’t got as much time. Yeah, but it’s a contradiction. You got to put, you know, you are right. I think you’re right there. But. But also, you have to somehow combine it with a kind saying. You don’t go on like the Aussies say. You go on a wander, you know, in. In the brush, you know? I don’t know.

[00:50:58.170] – Kurt von Ahnen

It was the advice he was giving himself.

[00:51:02.530] – Rich Tabor

Maybe so.

[00:51:05.170] – Jonathan Denwood

All right. It’s been a fabulous discussion. I think it’s been. I think Richard said some excellent insight. So, Rich, what’s the best way for people to contact you or learn more about your faults and what you’re up to? Rich?

[00:51:20.200] – Rich Tabor

Well, I have the most relaxed domain on the web, a rich blog, so I love it. Yeah. Richard blog. So you can follow me. Follow me there. And I’m Richard Taber on Twitter. Those are the prominent places I’m at.

[00:51:34.880] – Jonathan Denwood

And, Kirk, what’s the best way for people to learn more about you?

[00:51:38.790] – Kurt von Ahnen

Oh, yeah. LinkedIn is my jam, so you can find me on LinkedIn. I’m the only Kurt von Ahnen on LinkedIn, so, you know, you got me and everything. That’s manana. Nomas online generally leads back to me. I love to see you.

[00:51:49.840] – Jonathan Denwood

Yep. And if you’re getting value from this podcast, folks, and our great guests on the show, please share it on your social media and comment on it because that attracts new viewers and listeners, which leads to some quality sponsors. That covers the cost of the show. So if you could share it on your social media, that would be great. We’ve got around; I think next week we’ve got a round table show. It’s always great conversation and always a little bit spicy. We will be back next week. We see you soon, folks. Bye.


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