WordPress Developer’s Experiences Using GeneratePress in 2024

With Special Guest Jonathan Jernigan.

Get the inside scoop on GeneratePress from WordPress developers in 2024. Elevate your site with cutting-edge strategies and techniques.

Join us as we journey through 2024 with WordPress developers sharing their stories about using GeneratePress to create stunning websites. Get an insider’s perspective on how this versatile theme streamlines workflows, enhances user experiences and drives innovation in web development. Curious about what lies ahead?

#1—Jonathan, can you give us some bio info about how you got into web design/development, with an emphasis on using WordPress?

#2 – You seem to be publicly a big fan and user of GeneratePress. What key things do you like connected to this page builder compared to something like Bricks?

#3 – What are some of your own views connected to Gutenberg and full-page editing and the general direction of WordPress at the present moment?

#4—Can you provide some information on the most significant things you have learned about one of the leads behind the Pie Calendar?

#5—You now seem to be doing some work for HEY Calendar and its team. Can you give some insights into what this has been like?

#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


[00:00:01.880] – Jonathan Denwood

Welcome back, folks, to the WP-Tonic show. This is episode 917. We’ve got a great special guest. We’ve got Jonathan Jarrett. God, let’s do this again. How do you pronounce your second name, Jeremy? Jericho. Jericho. Right. So three, two, one. Welcome back, folks, to the WP-Tonic show. This week in Sass we’ve got a great special guest. We’ve got Jonathan Jericho with us. I probably butchered his surname, but I’ve had a good attempt at it. In this episode, we’re going to be talking about GeneratePress, Gutenberg, and a couple of other things. Should be a great discussion. So Jonathan, do you want to give yourself a quick intro?

[00:01:26.780] – Jonathan Jernigan

Sure. Thanks for having me. I’m glad to be here, Jonathan. It’s very common for people to butcher my last name, so there’s absolutely no problem there.

[00:01:35.680] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, I did a fantastic job, better.

[00:01:39.270] – Jonathan Jernigan

Then most people, quite honestly. I’ve been using WordPress basically every day since 2014, so very nearly ten years now. And I started just building websites for local clients, very, very small projects. Initially, like most people, I started out buying themes from Themeforest and used WP bakery and Divi, and, you know, all those products did that.

[00:02:05.280] – Jonathan Denwood

I’m getting a bit hot there, Jonathan.

[00:02:09.280] – Jonathan Jernigan

In 2016, I found and started using Oxygen Builder, which was then my primary builder of choice.

[00:02:17.440] – Jonathan Denwood

I’m getting even more hot-bothered, Jonathan.

[00:02:21.020] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah, great product. I loved, I loved oxygen, and then in 2022, I switched to generatepress and generate blocks. Those have been my builders of choice for a good number of years now. And, of course, I have a YouTube channel that’s under my name. I create WordPress-related content there. Also, I created a plugin called Pie Calendar. And so these days, my time is spent primarily on the YouTube and courses side of things on the pie calendar and then some contract video work. So I’m mostly out of the client website game, but it’s still near and dear to my heart. I still have many retainer clients from the last couple of years of work. So that’s me in the WordPress nutshell.

[00:03:08.890] – Jonathan Denwood

Fantastic. And I’ve got my co-host, Kurt. Would you like to introduce yourself? Kurt, welcome to the new list of some views.

[00:03:16.770] – Kurt von Ahnen

Sure thing, Jonathan. My name is Kurt von Ahnen. I own a company called MananaNoMas. We focus largely on membership and learning websites for middle—to larger-sized companies. I also work directly with WP-Tonic and the great folks at Lifter LMS.

[00:03:30.800] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s fantastic. And before we go into the meat and potatoes of this show, I’ve got a couple messages from our major sponsors. We will be back in a few moments, folks. Three, two, one. We’re coming back, folks. Just want to point out we’ve got some great special offers plus a curated list of the best WordPress plugins for different solutions for the WordPress professional. You can get all these goodies by going over to WP-Tonic.com/deals and www.WP-Tonic.com/deals.com What more could you ask for as a WordPress professional? Probably a lot more, but that’s all you’re going to get on that page. Sorry to disappoint. I’ve made a career of it. Jonathan’s looking at my godfather. It’s only going to get worse.

[00:04:28.580] – Jonathan Jernigan

Jonathan, I’m running into trouble.

[00:04:31.720] – Jonathan Denwood

Jonathan, you gave a quick outline of your background. So, why web development and design? What led you? Was you into graphic design? Were you doing an associate or graduate course? What led to this journey that led you to become a full-time WordPress professional?

[00:04:59.220] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah, in my, in what we would call here in our middle school, my 7th-grade class, I took an intro-like basic web design course. So we were writing HTML and CSS using Dreamweaver at the time. And that was kind of my first introduction to it. And then I actually got into the IT space. I was doing computer repair and networking for a local company here. I did internships throughout high school and ended up working for them. But my schooling was in computer engineering, and so working for this company, I spent about three years with them. And then I decided that I would go out on my own and try to offer computer services to local businesses. And nobody wanted it. But everybody asked, do you do websites? And for a long time, I said no. But then stupidly, I was like, nobody’s calling me for computer repair, but they’re asking for website design. What am I doing? So in that kind of transition period, 2014, as I mentioned, that’s when I started offering websites. The first one was Dollar 300 and looked like a Dollar 300 website. And then, of course, it just grew and grew from there.

[00:06:13.240] – Jonathan Jernigan

My skillset grew. And then eventually, you know, like most people who kind of go down the agency route. I was offering everything. Social media, graphics, email marketing, websites, everything. And then I just decided to strip it down and focus exclusively on websites. And that’s what I’ve done since about 2020, really. I mean, right when COVID kicked off is really when I just decided, like, I gotta. I gotta be focused on just websites. And my business has grown accordingly. So.

[00:06:45.890] – Jonathan Denwood

Is there a particular niche that you specialize in? Websites?

[00:06:50.420] – Jonathan Jernigan

I kind of went down the route of those monthly subscription-type websites. So my goal was to focus on home service businesses. Plumbers, roofers, and people like that never really grew any legs because my YouTube and course business kept growing. And so my goal was to go down that route, but I never truly chose and focused on a single niche.

[00:07:17.870] – Jonathan Denwood

All right, so what about the pie calendar? How did you get into that? And what is it?

[00:07:24.910] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah, pie calendar is a product I love so much. So that came about. I had a client who is a real estate law attorney, and they do real estate closings, and there’s very strict deadlines with those contracts. And whether you’re on the attorney side or the agent side, you have to comply with these deadlines where you can void the contract. So they wanted a tool to track these deadlines and give notifications both to their team and their customers. And so I looked around, looked around in WordPress and tried to find a calendar product that would allow me to do something like that. I knew I had to build something slightly custom, but there was just. There was nothing that could even remotely get close. So the idea was I just wanted a tool that could take a date and time and just show it on a calendar. Just something super simple. And it turns out that was way harder than it should have been. So my good buddy and I, Elijah Mills, we partnered up to create what is now pie calendar. And the idea is that it’s just. It’s a dead simple events calendar.


[00:08:33.270] – Jonathan Jernigan

There’s just no. There’s no fluff, there’s no bloat. We intentionally stripped out a lot of features that other, you know, the incumbents have, and people love it. It’s just the idea that you have a simple, easy to use calendar that you can get running in five minutes. That was the whole approach. So that came about from a client project, actually.


[00:08:56.120] – Jonathan Denwood

I don’t know if I got this wrong, but I did when I was doing my research on you. I think you’re into homeowners association websites, is that right?


[00:09:06.920] – Jonathan Jernigan

I do have quite a few of those in my repertoire of previous clients. And so my agency site actually shows that as my niche that I aim to go after, but it never really grew any legs. And like I mentioned, I’m kind of out of the client website space these days, so it sits there. I’ve honestly been meaning to change that to just kind of focus on custom WordPress development, but it’s not a. Not a high priority at the moment.


[00:09:33.630] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, sure. Over to you, Kurt.


[00:09:37.250] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, since we jumped down to the pie question, I just wanted to kind of follow up with that. Jonathan, I didn’t even know that the pie calendar was out there. Right.


[00:09:47.490] – Jonathan Denwood

So does that mean that you don’t really want to ask question two? You want to leave that?


[00:09:53.200] – Kurt von Ahnen

I’ll get to it.


[00:09:54.120] – Jonathan Denwood

You can leave it to me.


[00:09:56.880] – Kurt von Ahnen

It’s a follow up to the leap scotch and jumps we’ve been doing today. So I was on a WordPress meetup call, one of those virtual zoom calls, and someone wanted a simple calendar. And then some smart aleck on the. On the WordPress meetup team said, hey, what about that pie calendar thing? And I was like, what in the heck is that? And it’s just one of those things where, you know, there’s so many options in WordPress, you can get lost. You know, I was like, what the heck is this? And then, to your point, we downloaded the plugin. We activated it. You know, everyone was trying to take a stab at it, like they didn’t know. And I said, hey, why don’t we read the directions first? And so, you know, and it said that the settings were right in the post, and right in the post just said, you can turn any post, any page into an event, and then it pops up on that calendar. I was like, this is brain dead simple. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this. What a cool tool. Because I’ve done a lot with the events calendar and stuff like that, because that seems to be a stable run, right?


[00:10:54.790] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah, the pie calendar, dude, you got a real thing there. That’s a really solid. I wish more people knew about it or could spread the word about it. So I just wanted to really emphasize how successful that was for us.


[00:11:06.640] – Jonathan Jernigan

That’s fantastic. I appreciate you sharing that. I mean, that’s the whole idea. Like, I, of course, recognize that the events calendar and some of the other big players out there have built a product that many people use, but most people don’t need the level of complexity and the features that exist in those products. And there’s. There are cases where there. There are things that pie calendar can’t do like event tickets if you want to sell physical tickets or seats at an event. We, we chose not to go down that route and maybe we will in the future. But that adds such an intense level of complexity that most of our customers are people like churches or civic organizations or companies like that, where they just need essentially a Google calendar on their website. But for whatever reason, Google Calendar is just so difficult for people to use and they’re already creating the blog post or the press release post or whatever in their site anyway. So you can just, like you said, turn that into a post. To your point though, I appreciate you mentioning that. It wasn’t immediately clear how to get started with it.


[00:12:10.740] – Jonathan Jernigan

In some ways we stripped it down so much that there was no onboarding flow. We need to integrate some sort of information, like a quick little getting started. We don’t want to add to the admin bar takeover that most plugins contribute to these days, but a little bit of guided assistance might, might be helpful.


[00:12:30.300] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah. So you don’t want to automatically install monster insights on top of your plugin, huh?


[00:12:34.840] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah, certainly not.


[00:12:37.160] – Kurt von Ahnen

All right, well, I’ll go to question two. And question two was publicly you seem to really endorse generatepress. So what are the key things that you like about that page builder compared to the others? You know, our question says, you know, others like bricks, but I’m an elementor user, not a bricks user. So I mean, if you could kind of just jump into what’s, what’s the main features and benefits of generatepress that get your blood boiling and make you happy?


[00:13:02.670] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah, I mean, it’s a great question I mentioned coming from the oxygen builder world, which is pretty much the predecessor to bricks. It paved the way for that hyper advanced builder interface where you can do everything. You’re interacting essentially one to one with CSS and HTML. And I loved it. It was a great product. I built a lot of really complex websites with it. And then as my business was evolving, and especially as I got more clients who were reasonably technical, not true web developers, but also not people who have never logged into WordPress, they needed the ability to just go do simple things, change some content here and there, swap out an image or change some text. And oxygen builder just didn’t facilitate that. And quite honestly, neither does bricks. You would not let your client into those products because they’re going to screw something up so drastically that it will break huge portions of the site or destroy the way it looks visually if they change the wrong class and it changes every section on the site. The idea for me was I wanted to be closer to WordPress core. And two years ago there was still a lot to be desired with just the block editor.


[00:14:20.330] – Jonathan Jernigan

But I recognize that a product like generate blocks brings so much power. I mean, even the free version of generate blocks is ridiculously good. And so I wanted to be closer to WordPress core and I also wanted to put my money and my business on a product that had a proven track record, that had years in the business. And generatepress just this week is celebrating ten years. There’s not that many WordPress products out there that have ten plus years. I mean, we can name them, but there are many, many more that have far less under their belt than that. So that was a huge thing for me. It was primarily the, I wanted rock solid stability. I wanted a proven track record of a business that has been around a long time and likely will be around for the foreseeable future. And then, like I mentioned, just the ability for a client. I could, I could let my client get in there, make basic tweaks and not worry if they’re going to detonate the whole site when they try to click the wrong button. And there’s arguments both ways. Some people say, never let your clients in, but we all know the vast majority of them are not going to.


[00:15:32.080] – Jonathan Jernigan

They don’t want to break the site, they just want to do something simple and not have to wait four days for them, for their agency to get back to them. So yeah, hopefully that answers your question. I think they’re fantastic tools. I love generate price.


[00:15:45.790] – Kurt von Ahnen

It answers my question. But you in your answer created another question that you kind of half answered. We recently interviewed people on this show that were like, absolutely not. I build the websites, I maintain the websites, I do the why are you, why would you let your customers into the website? And to me, just being transparent, I’ve never thought that way. I’ve always been like, whenever I build a product, I gotta show the customer. So I always build like a one or a two hour session on the back of a project so I can get on Zoom, walk them through all the main menu features and how to change something and whatever. You can record this, it’s your tutorial forever here. And then will they use it? No, they’ll probably call me for things later, but at least they knew. It’s like, do you know how to change the oil on your truck? You might go, yeah, I do. And do you do it? You’re like, no, I take it to Jiffy lube. I think of it that way. What are your personal thoughts on that, that echo system?


[00:16:41.060] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah, I am kind of in the middle of that camp. Like, I am 100% on the same page with you, that the vast majority of the clients that say they want to get in there and edit and change things almost never do. They don’t even know how to log in, even though we sent them the login link with their password and a tutorial video. That’s just not something that they’re interested in. But for a lot of, for a lot of smaller clients, like local businesses, when I was selling, I found some of the things that resonated the most in the sales process was the fact that they could get in there. Not that they will, but they could get in there. And of course, it being WordPress, I was able to confidently and truthfully say that they own their website. And those two things really resonated with people, especially if they had been kind of burned along the way by another agency or if they had a website in squarespace that was stuck forever in squarespace. And so 90% of the time, out of all of my clients, I could think of maybe just a handful that maybe once logged in and even fewer that would log in regularly.


[00:17:47.890] – Jonathan Jernigan

And of those few, it’s like they’re not going in to try to create a whole new section or a new layout. They simply want to go change their pricing or update their hours or swap that photo or, you know, set up a little notice that says we’ll be closed on Monday for a holiday. It’s like that stuff is just, it’s just so doable. Why would you want to burden your own email inbox with something like that? That they could have done quicker than sending an email. So I think the, I do recognize though, that Joe the plumber doesn’t really need to be poking around in WordPress, but a marketing director for a company of 50 people, that person is probably adept enough to, you know, change some content. And those are typically the types of people and companies that, that I’m working with.


[00:18:33.510] – Kurt von Ahnen

Excellent, excellent. Jonathan, over to you.


[00:18:36.130] – Jonathan Denwood

So you mentioned you were using oxygen and you move over to generatepress. That’s what were some of the key elements that led to that decision. Because it’s not a small, if you’re using a particular tool and you invested time learning it, it’s not a small undertaking to move to another tool as a WordPress professional. So what led to that particular decision, if you don’t mind me asking?


[00:19:04.310] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah, the, that switch really came about because I had been using oxygen like I said, pretty much every day since the kind of late 2016, 2017 is really when I started using it. So I had been, I’d been using oxygen to build every single site my own, for clients, for everybody, for coming up on five years. And I realized there was a significant degree of overengineering required to build a website for clients there. You fire up oxygen or bricks and it’s just literally a blank white screen, there’s nothing there. And starting from that level of ground zero was just becoming too taxing for the types of things that I was trying to build and, and for the clients that I was working with. Like, do I want to have to be responsible for setting every single HTML semantic tag? No, I just want to build the damn page, you know, and the, to some degree that is a benefit, especially when it comes to accessibility or, you know, proper HTML semantics. But like, for instance, comparing an oxygen to generate oxygen has essentially nothing. If you create a template, it’s just the HTML tag, the body tag, and that’s it, it’s empty.


[00:20:19.910] – Jonathan Jernigan

But then generatepress lays a bit more of a foundation. It sets a main tag and a nav tag and an article tag and those kinds of things that are important and critical, and that’s why generatepress does it. But I don’t want to be in that level of minutiae. I don’t want to have to worry about those tiny little things that became taxing over time. Initially it was fun. It taught me a lot, taught me a lot about proper HTML and accessibility and those kinds of things. But eventually it’s just like, I just, I need to build a site. I don’t want to, I don’t want to spend hours and hours before I even see something. And then, and then of course, like I mentioned, the, excuse me, the stability side of things. There was a bit of, a bit of a row, shall we say, when.


[00:21:04.960] – Jonathan Denwood

Never, never in WordPress.


[00:21:07.750] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah, no controversy ever. They, the founder of Oxygen released breakdance builder out of nowhere and out of just complete, like, there was total silence and then boom, breakdance just showed up and everyone was just in. The oxygen community at that time was like, wait a second, he had a.


[00:21:26.910] – Jonathan Denwood

Notorious live stream yard or zoomed in. He had a live event with me. Oh, it was with you, wasn’t it? Sorry. All birds I’m dealing with, so I’m old and I’m dealing with so much every day, Jonathan, I’m not.


[00:21:42.220] – Jonathan Jernigan

Also been coming up on two years now.


[00:21:44.140] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, that was a bit of a, that was a bit interesting. I think some people said it was a little bit like a train wreck.


[00:21:49.460] – Jonathan Jernigan

Oh, it was a disaster. Yeah, it was terrible. They, the, you know, there was, there was a lot of things said that I suspect probably in hindsight weren’t the smartest things for, for the founder to have said on a live stream the day this random product made its release. So after that, you know, like I said, I had already been kind of quietly looking at generate blocks. I had two really good friends that still to this day, use it, and both of them had already been full time in generate blocks and both of them were previous oxygen users, too. So I had been watching them and one of them in particular was just like, dude, make the switch. Come on, let’s go. And then finally I decided to make the leap after that kind of breakdance oxygen sort of blow up, I just decided I’m not going to stick around for this. And then most.


[00:22:38.220] – Jonathan Denwood

Your customer care might have reduced a bit, aren’t you?


[00:22:42.480] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah. I mean, the, a lot of the people that, that decided to leave from oxygen as a result of that, like I did, the, the most logical step was to jump to bricks. That was the most kind of similar product, and they were close to feature parity at that time. Now they definitely are. And maybe, you know, you could argue one or the other is beyond, but for me, it was just like, if I’m going to reinvent my whole workflow, move to a new builder, learn a whole new ecosystem, I already was becoming slightly disenchanted with oxygen, like I said, from the complexity aspect, that it didn’t make sense for me to jump to bricks and just do the whole thing over again. So that was my point where it was like, all right, it’s full time generate now.


[00:23:27.640] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I think you’re making some great points because I think you’re confirming, which I love because of my ego. Jonathan, conversations I’ve had with Kurt, because I really think it depends on the kind of clientele that you’re dealing with about which, because I said to Kurt and hopefully would confirm this because we were kind of using animator, but I wanted to get into Gutenberg because it, you know, I do believe in it, but we’ve become a promoter of cadence and being, because of the type of customers, but we will use other tools as well. But for the type of clientele that we’re dealing with, with my particular business model, Cadence and what Ben and his team are doing, I explained to Kurt, in my opinion, that bricks was more kind of full custom design build out between, you know, depending on your price point, at least starting at five and probably starting at $10,000 to do a full custom build out. These are starting prices and generatepress, they seem to be like in the middle. But he’s introduced a class based system as well recently. Is that correct, Jonathan?


[00:24:57.740] – Jonathan Jernigan

Definitely. Generate blocks Pro 1.7 just came out I think in April and now it’s got almost, it’s very similar to bricks or oxygen in the sense that you can add classes directly to sections and elements. And the interface is very similar to what it was before. But their global style system in the past was very rudimentary. So it’s essentially just a global styles overhaul is what that is.


[00:25:24.530] – Jonathan Denwood

But obviously people that use in bricks saying that you can use add on products that will lock down the website and only allow certain sections to be available, is that how generate. Because I don’t know that much about generatepress to be truthful. Because when I was looking at alternative to animate and the kind of clientele that generally you are catering for, um, I didn’t really think because you got the main competitor to generate press in the Gutenberg is Spectra. Spectra, Spectra. Those two out there. And I just think cadence is a much more powerful. But you can look. So how does this generate? Can you lock down certain sections when you’re giving it over to clientele? Can you do that?


[00:26:22.330] – Jonathan Jernigan

There’s nothing specific to generate as far as I’m aware. It’s primarily, if you really wanted to lock it down, you would use the native WordPress core functions to prevent moving and editing of specific elements. But to me the idea that you have to add an additional product on top of a builder to put guardrails around for a specific client seems just absolutely ridiculous to me. Your product is so complicated that you have to add something else on top of it to then exclude all this stuff that you don’t want your client touching. You could certainly do that with WordPress core. There’s a lot of ways that you can restrict blocks. You can create custom blocks that only have very specific controls. But I tell my clients that this block interface is akin to a word document and some people are going to laugh at that and criticize it. But the reality is the fact that they can get in there and just simply click directly on the headline that they want to edit and just start typing, click the blue button and it’s done. It’s just so simple. It just to me there’s no, there’s no benefit to spending the time to try to lock it down because most of my clients are not, they have no desire to mess something up.


[00:27:47.630] – Jonathan Jernigan

In fact, they’re scared to typically. So they’re going to do the absolute bare minimum. Well, like Kurt said, most of the time they don’t even do it. They just still send me an email even though they have the ability to. So you know, really, I mean ultimately what it comes down to is what’s the best product for me? What can I build a proper website from really quickly? And that to me is generate, I’m.


[00:28:09.770] – Jonathan Denwood

Torn between both ideas. I haven’t really solidified where I stand on that, particularly because I can totally see where you’re coming from, Jonathan, but I can see the other solution. Like you’ve got something like bricks and you have ad on you and you close down. I think it’s also, there’s always been a problem with the user roles with WordPress because you, with a lot of functionality linked to a Pacific plugin. The difference between editor and admin, there’s just that one thing they want to do which they can’t do as editors. So then you have to give them admin. And because they got admin, they can get at it in a big way. And then to, and then to get around that, you use a third party editor role plugin and that’s had security consequences in the past, hasn’t it?


[00:29:09.080] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah, I mean that, that to me is yet another level of complexity. My, my whole like, philosophy and everything that I do is, is as simple as possible. We have, our motto for pie calendar is stripped down, done better. That is like everything that I want to touch needs to be that way. So the idea that I have to add an additional plugin to modify a user role is totally insane. I just set my clients to administrator because like I said, they’re not going to go poking around in the plugin section and deactivate stuff that’s just not going to happen. If something crazy happened to me, if I got hit by a bus. They need administrator access, they need, they need a way their website up. So, you know, I want to make sure that it’s so, it’s so frustrating when you get, when you take over a client site and you’re like, what’s the WordPress login? You get in and you realize, shit, they gave me an editor account. Yeah, now we got to go back and forth and you know, get them to upgrade us and clearly they don’t want you to be upgraded, they don’t want you to see under the hood.


[00:30:12.230] – Jonathan Jernigan

So yeah, that’s just user, user roles. I just, I just set my clients to administer.


[00:30:18.200] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I think we’re touching whole things that are not really discussed in the word because there’s a lot of people that don’t want it discussed. But this whole area is a bit murky and it’s not ideal. But a lot of that is down to, you know, the user role in, built into WordPress really, in my opinion, needs some love, let’s put it that way. Right. We’ve got some got question free, but we’re going to leave that and I’m going to leave Kirk to put that to you. But I think it’s a great time to go for our mid break. I think it’s been a, I think, Jonathan, you covered some great insights and I have to have to think about some of the things that you’ve laid out. We’re going to go for our mid break, folks. We will be back in a few moments, folks. Three, two, one. We’re coming back, folks. We’ve had a interesting discussion with another Jonathan, getting two Jonathan’s for one in this episode. What more could you ask for? And also I want to point out that at wptonic we do a fantastic newsletter. I write it myself. It has the latest WordPress stories and the latest tech stories of the week.


[00:31:40.620] – Jonathan Denwood

Plus I normally do a bit of a little write up on a particular WordPress or Internet marketing thing that’s come on my radar. To get this rag, all you have to do is go over to wph tonic.com newsletter, wp tonic.com newsletter and you’ll find it there. What more could you ask for? There we go. Words of wisdom from me. Lovely. I do get people signing up. It always amazes me, but there we go. I do put some effort into it every bloody week. Folks, over to you, Kurt.


[00:32:28.700] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, I think we should take the conversation to the other side of the, of the ponds, so to speak, on building stuff. We’ve mentioned Gutenberg in the talk, but where do you stand, Jonathan, on your use of Gutenberg, or even full site editing for that matter? And how do you feel about the general direction that we’re like, we interviewed the chief. He said we’re seven years into a ten year project. So what do you think about the direction of where it’s going? Trying to be a futurist and see what it’s going to look like in the coming season.


[00:33:03.640] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah, it’s a nuanced topic for sure, because each person that looks at this and discusses it has a different viewpoint and a different demand out of what this product should do. And that’s such a difficult thing to navigate because for someone like me, I’m primarily building websites, kind of a membership quasi type, things like that. Somebody else might be building for Joe the plumber, somebody else might be building a fully custom intranet with all kinds of dynamic data and forms all over the place. And the block editor is fantastic. So if we segment out block editor versus full site editing, I think it’s an important distinction to make. The block editor is a wonderful tool. It’s crazy how good it is because products like cadence and generate blocks and spectra, those wouldn’t exist if the block editor wasn’t as good as it is. And so I think that’s worth recognizing. And then the other things that exist on top of it, like Nick Diego’s plugin, block visibility, just unbelievably fantastic. And that, of course, is just an add on, on top of the block editor. So I think that where the block editor sits now as kind of a, I don’t know, maybe a tool that you can build on top of, create custom blocks, use products like generate blocks.


[00:34:29.800] – Jonathan Jernigan

I’m a huge fan. I love it. It’s such a pleasure to work with so fast and easy to use with more complicated sites. And in the oxygen days, you’d have a huge, maybe you have a dashboard page and it’s got tons of query loops and dynamic data and stuff. And in oxygen, it would just chug, it’d be so slow. Same kind of site, and the block editor is just like, boom. It refreshes so fast, you can hardly tell it even refreshed. So I think that as a product, as it sits right now, is really great. Full site editing, on the other hand, I have explored just individually on my own a number of times. And each time I get so frustrated that I just walk away. I see the potential of where it’s headed. Like block themes and what the idea is that you can do with them in the future is promising. But for me to put my clients especially, I could potentially put my own stuff on there and be fine with the trade offs that I might experience. But when it’s like, well, to unlock that specific feature, you got to go to theme JSON and add this and that.


[00:35:38.170] – Jonathan Jernigan

I’m like, no, I don’t want to do that. Just give me a. A settings Ui with a toggle. Turn that on and off. Like, want to add your colors? Go to theme JSON. What are you talking about? Why do I have to do that? That’s so crazy. So the promise of a block theme is really good, but if you have a block theme, you want to build a custom header, that’s going to be tough. If you want to. I just think that the full site editing experience for me is not there, and I’m really not willing to invest my time into it until it becomes viable enough that I could build, you know, 95% of my site without any trouble. But because I run into problems so quickly when I’ve started to use it, I just quite honestly have jumped ship, like, you know, within an hour or two of playing with it. So the.


[00:36:33.030] – Kurt von Ahnen

Yeah, it’s, um. It’s super interesting from an agency standpoint. I imagine you’re working with people in all forms of development over your decade of doing this, right? So you’ve got some people on, still on oxygen, some people still on maybe elementary. You’ve got a customer, then you’ve got the blocks, then you’ve got maybe a full site editing theme somewhere. And for me, and I’m just speaking from my standpoint, looking for feedback from you, sometimes I’ll jump into an old customer site, and it’s on Elementor, and it takes me 45 seconds or a minute and a half to get my head wrapped around, like, how did I build this again? But then once I’m in there, I’m like, ah, there it is. Click, click, snap, snap, bam, bam, boom. And whereas sometimes when I’m in the Gutenberg block editor, I’m still looking like, where’s that toggle? Where’s that setting? Where’s that? Where’s that?


[00:37:19.290] – Jonathan Denwood

I think you had concerns about me saying we’re going to go to cadence, but I think you’re starting to. You can see the logic of my decision, though, Kirk, can’t you?


[00:37:30.740] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, yeah. And, you know, we got corrected by one of our guests on the show recently, Jonathan, because I was like, thank goodness we got Cadence pro, because Gutenberg wouldn’t let you, XYZ. And he was like, you can now. You didn’t, you know, but that’s one of the issues I have with WordPress, is, like, for a year, for two years, you get used to saying, well, I have to add Cadence pro or I have to add Spectra to do this thing. And then WordPress releases it, you know, releases that, that thing with a release, but we don’t know that. And we’re still. We’re still adding layers on top of the core, and it’s there. So I’m interested to see where it goes in the years to follow. Just this week, the years to follow. I said that on purpose just this week in full site editing we had an example where a client’s half of their learning material was scorm and half of their learning material was based in the course builder in WordPress. And we wanted the course pages, the lesson pages to appear different. We wanted full pages for the scorm content and then columned pages for the WordPress stuff in blocks.


[00:38:40.710] – Kurt von Ahnen

That’s kind of a nightmare, right? Because you set a template for all lessons or all courses, but with full site editing, you’re able to almost instantly build an extra template and assign that template anywhere you want. So then I’m like, full site editing’s the bomb for this one, but that’s for this.


[00:38:57.850] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I think you, you’re touching some really interesting because I think there’s some real aspects of what is termin the term full site editing, what the team, which you’ve just touched upon, Kurt. But then you got the problem with the navigation and the things that Jonathan had touched upon that are there. So it’s a very frustrating situation in some ways. But then you’ve also got, trying to explain this to somebody that’s thinking of either coming back to WordPress because they’ve sampled some of the sass, propaganda as I call it, and comparing it to the reality and, but then you got to say, you know, oh, you got classic editor. And then, you know, people, what I turned classic editor was the classic editor. And then you got, and then you’re using classic editor for the pre full site editing. And then you’ve got what cadence is doing, which is still used in the classic interface. And then you got full site trying to explain this to a normal malt or is a nightmare, isn’t it, Jonathan?


[00:40:21.170] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah, I mean I, so if we look at, if we look at how you would build a site with generatepress and generate blocks, you’re going to build your templates in the theme generatepress for archive templates, blogs, you can build sidebar templates, things like that. And then your content is going to be built with generate blocks. It’s actually a really easy thing to differentiate for clients. In that case, it’s like, want to go edit your contact page, click the pages button, click the word contact, make your change. And then rarely ever would somebody go touch the template, but if they wanted to, they certainly could just click, you know, in generatepress it’s appearance and then click your elements button and it’s there. So that, you know, that’s part of the reason why I haven’t spent a whole lot of time digging into FSE, more than, you know, once every six months, once every year, just to kind of see where it. Where it stands. But, Kurt, like you said, I mean, that. That approach is. Is pretty cool. It’s definitely. It’s coming. It’s coming a long way, the ability to. To build that. But, yeah, I mean, they just didn’t.


[00:41:28.390] – Jonathan Denwood

Do, you know, being able to do a custom navig navigation and doing them. These aren’t minor things. They’re quite crucial if you’re going to go to full site editing, aren’t, or you’re going to recommend it. And not having that much earlier. It’s a slight problem, isn’t it?


[00:41:48.010] – Jonathan Jernigan

Seems to me that nav is a universal problem because nobody has solved it. Nobody has a good nav builder, in my opinion. Bricks has an attempt at it. Oxygen has made three different attempts at it. Generatepress doesn’t really have one at this time. And then there’s maybe cadence or somebody else has one that I’m not familiar with. But as far as I’m aware, if there is some sort of nav menu builder, they’re pretty rudimentary, or you run up against restrictions quickly. So there must be some, you know, there must be some UI UX to actual code implementation issue for these that just nobody can seem to get right.


[00:42:27.990] – Jonathan Denwood

All right, let’s go on. Because I’m sure I get all the haters sending me direct messaging or email. I get grief from Kevin’s crowds, and I get. I get grief from the, uh, the Gutenberg Marxists, as I call them. I get grief from them all, Jonathan.


[00:42:51.340] – Jonathan Jernigan

I get grief all the time for not moving to bricks from oxygen. Like, you’re an idiot. Why would you do that?


[00:42:57.060] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I think as long as I consistently get grief from both sides, I must be in the right position, actually. So, on to the next one. Um, so what’s, you know, what’s some of the key things? Because there is a bit of a jump from, you know, building websites, running an agency, and then deciding you’re going to do a plugin, which you’re going to sell, sell on the marketplace. So what are some of the key business things that you’ve learned around PI Canada that you wish you had known earlier?


[00:43:38.410] – Jonathan Jernigan

It’s a good question. I mean, we made an intentional decision to have a free version of pycalendar that exists in the WordPress plugin repository. And that was primarily an experimental decision. I had a goal in early 2023 when we first had a prototype of the plugin. I wanted to get a plugin in the repo. I wanted to. To see how does it work, what are the effects of it being in the repo. And then of course, we decided to sell a pro version as well. So there’s both free in the repo and paid on our website. So it was kind of an experiment there. And just to understand, what does the development cycle look like for a product that is both free and paid, and how do you market it for free and paid?


[00:44:22.670] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, you’re touching, because, I’m sorry to interrupt, but you’re touching something really interesting, because you’re getting the enormous benefits of having a free product. The directory, you know. But the problem is, it’s a two edged sword, because then you got to really work out what is going to be offered in the free product and what’s going to be really offered in the pro. And if you offer too much in the free, there’s no reason to pay for the pro version. But if you cripple it too much, there’s no point in, you just upset people. So that decision, it has some benefits, but it has some really clear drawbacks. Am I on the right track there, Jonathan?


[00:45:06.790] – Jonathan Jernigan

Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, Elijah and I made a decision early on that we weren’t going to artificially cripple the free version, but also things that required significant extra development effort, like recurring events, those are in the pro version. So then there are other quality of life features that we have, like a settings page for and pro, and then there’s a PHP function that we give you for the free version. So, you know, it’s finding those balances between the not artificially limiting it, but also ensuring that there’s still plenty of value for both a free customer and a pro customer. So you’re right, it is a very tricky balance, and one that I didn’t anticipate had I known.


[00:45:51.000] – Jonathan Denwood

All right, so it is one of the things you’ve learned because I interrupted you. I apologize. I just thought that was a key thing to point out to people.


[00:45:59.940] – Jonathan Jernigan

It’s a very tricky balancing act. It’s kind of like. It’s kind of like the equivalent of having a paid course and you want to publish a YouTube video. Well, does that go on YouTube or does that go in the course? You could argue it both ways. And then the other thing about the plugin repo is, especially in our case, going up an incumbent, like the events calendar with 800,000 active installs. It’s very unclear, and you have very little resources to understand, what am I doing to increase my search rankings? If somebody types in events calendar on the WP admin plugin search, or if they just go to the website directly, what contributes to the rankings and it’s other people, third parties that we’ve acquired some knowledge from the team from Freemius. He just published a fantastic blog article on what actually makes plugins rank, and it’s difficult to understand. It seems to me that reviews, active installs and the title are what rank you. Then it’s like, well, we’re up against a behemoth of a plugin with unlimited funds behind it. Will we ever eclipse them? I don’t know. Was it a mistake to have a free version that goes up against them?


[00:47:19.940] – Jonathan Jernigan

You could argue that. And that’s all things that I didn’t quite anticipate. But like I said, I wanted to run that experiment. I wanted to see what is it like to build a free plugin and try to run it in the repository.


[00:47:34.100] – Jonathan Denwood

Before we go on to the next question, is there something else that you didn’t anticipate that you like to share with the audience?


[00:47:42.680] – Jonathan Jernigan

I think just how, if I can pat myself on the back, how much of a master stroke it was to allow the plugin to turn any post into an event, rather than it being a. If you install most other events plugins, they create an additional custom post type for you called events. But originally our plugin was going to be called any post into event. We realize that’s a terrible name, but if you look at those words, any post into event, the acronym is pie, and that’s where pie calendar came from. So we have so many people that have a custom post type, like a news or a press release or whatever, and that’s what they want to turn into an event. And then also it integrates with ACF, so you can use your own date and time fields rather than pie calendars. So those two things were lessons learned because they were like fundamental ideas to the product. But I didn’t anticipate them being like the reason that people are so excited about it. So happy accidents, I might, I might say.


[00:48:48.610] – Jonathan Denwood

All right, back over to you, Kurt.


[00:48:51.170] – Kurt von Ahnen

Well, we’re talking about calendars. The next question is about the hey, calendar.


[00:48:54.690] – Jonathan Denwood



[00:48:55.110] – Kurt von Ahnen

So you’re doing some work with the hey calendar and its team, dude. Just let us know what this thing is. What’s it about?


[00:49:00.790] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, he actually is, and that’s down to me. You should have told me that. Should have come back to be Jonathan on there. But he does use it. So that’s a little bit down to me. But let’s talk about it, though, because I’m intrigued why Jonathan uses it.


[00:49:19.190] – Jonathan Jernigan

Well, this is funny to say. Now, this is abundantly obvious. I’m a huge calendar fan. I love calendars. It’s one of those boring things that I just, I love it. I use it personally. Everything in my life is on my calendar. If it’s not there, it got, it gets forgotten about. And I don’t, I don’t end up.


[00:49:35.380] – Jonathan Denwood

I’m totally the same, Judith. It’s not about Canada. I’ll just forget it. I forget my own birthday because I don’t want to remember it.


[00:49:44.350] – Jonathan Jernigan

I mean, it’s, it’s stuff like that, you know, it’s like my mother in law says, you know, family dinner next Thursday, I’m. Hold on. Let me check my calendar first. So, you know, I really rely on it heavily. And so I, of course, like many people, have used all of my business stuff through Gmail for many, many years. And I’m religious about unsubscribing, but I could just never get on top of my email inbox. I don’t have any social apps or email on my phone, very intentionally. So when I would log into Gmail and there’d just be this barrage of garbage, and occasionally there’d be a thing or two I cared about. It was frustrating. So when I started using the hey, email app, I really liked it. There’s a feature where you can click this button that says, never hear from them again. So if somebody emails you, you can basically ban them for life and you never get a notification. It goes into this separate area that you don’t ever have to check. So all the spammers that are like, hey, would you offer SEO service? Nope. You are going into the trash can, and it’s the, you know, the permanent black hole.


[00:50:50.240] – Jonathan Jernigan

Call it the screener. And so you get to screen people in or out of your inbox, and it’s great. So that I loved. But they didn’t have a calendar at the time. I was like, I can’t make the leap away from Gmail without a compelling calendar. And then at some point last year, they did release their calendar. Actually not a huge fan of it. It’s, they is by the same people as basecamp. And I’m a huge basecamp lover. I use basecamp religiously, and it’s a fantastic tool. I mean, kind of jives with my philosophy of just more simple and, and just does less intentionally.


[00:51:27.070] – Jonathan Denwood

It’s funny. I could never forget, we use, in our agency, we use something called freecamp. I’ve been using it for years and I really like it. Actually. I could never get my head round basecamp. It doesn’t mean it. It’s just certain interfaces appeal to certain people.


[00:51:43.350] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah, I think that’s exactly it. It’s intentionally abstract and so you can do with it what you please. And it took me a long time to really find a workflow with it. I’ve made some videos on how I use it for my web design clients on my YouTube channel, if anybody is interested. So the hey calendar is. It’s fine. I’m getting more comfortable with it. But they kind of took a basecamp slash hey philosophy to it where they, in my opinion, kind of change things for the sake of changing things. And one thing that frustrates me is there’s no way to just get like a monthly view. You have to like kind of slide through the months on your phone.


[00:52:23.370] – Jonathan Denwood

Oh, yeah, it’s painful, isn’t it?


[00:52:25.380] – Jonathan Jernigan

On the desktop version it’s a little bit better. But I can sometimes I can’t figure out which month am I actually looking at right now. So that’s that. Not a huge fan of it. And in fact, I haven’t canceled my, my Google business account simply because my calendar is just. Google calendar is just perfect. And I just, I’m excited.


[00:52:45.280] – Jonathan Denwood

The problem using Google stuff is that there’s. They’re reading everything, aren’t they? Now I was thinking of utilizing this, this swiss company that I’ve got a name but they provide a good email service. Yeah, Proton. I was thinking of going to Proton because. But then you got the calendar problem because of the fine evident that Google’s reading everything and they’re using AI to read everything and they say no, but I don’t trust anything those cockroaches say.


[00:53:25.420] – Jonathan Jernigan

I mean, I thought about going to back to just the regular old apple calendar built into my phone and my laptop because it’s just dead simple and it’s usable. But then I’m sitting here wondering, why don’t I just fire up a private WordPress install and use my calendar to manage my home calendar? I would be better off, quite honestly.


[00:53:45.100] – Jonathan Denwood

People will say I’ve been harsh about Google, but I don’t think I am. No, actually there I think people are realizing it took much too long for people to wake up what they’re dealing with with something like Google and Facebook.


[00:54:04.860] – Jonathan Jernigan

The biggest reason I ended up deciding to move to hey, email full time was when Google killed Google. Domains. I was like, all right, I’m done.


[00:54:13.460] – Jonathan Denwood

This is that. Yeah, they moved it to that below. They sold it to square space.


[00:54:20.840] – Jonathan Jernigan

I know. Such a, it’s just absolutely insane to me. It doesn’t make any sense.


[00:54:26.240] – Jonathan Denwood

I recommend, I understand why people use go daily, but I just tell people the only problem is the interface isn’t fantastic, it’s Cloudflare. Because you can buy your domains for Cloudflare and there might be $1 more, but you just don’t have to deal with all the nonsense and go, daddy, do you? So I just say that to people because I found Cloudflare to be pretty honest, reasonable people. There we go on to the next final question. I’ve really enjoyed interview. I think we covered some interesting stuff, Jonathan. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed it.


[00:55:07.240] – Jonathan Jernigan



[00:55:09.910] – Jonathan Denwood

So if you had a time machine or your Tardis from Doctor who and you could go back in time to those early days of your WordPress career, Jonathan, what kind of one or two insights would you like to be able. The opportunity, that little discussion that you like to be able to tell yourself that would have been helpful? Jonathan.


[00:55:34.600] – Jonathan Jernigan

It would have been. I mean, it would be both from a, just like a business kind of philosophy standpoint, but also like a more specific technical example. It’d be two things. One would be pick a niche early on and really hone in on that. If it’s, if you’re, you know, for me, it would have been an automotive. My passion outside of work is as vehicles and, you know, car repair and, you know, modifications and stuff like that. I would have found a way to.


[00:56:02.230] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, you know, Kirk, because he’s mister motorsport, isn’t he?


[00:56:05.460] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah. We’ll have to connect after then. I would love to chat about that. I mean, so I would have two.


[00:56:12.790] – Jonathan Denwood

Pigs in shit, right?


[00:56:14.740] – Jonathan Jernigan

Pretty much. I would have. I would have definitely gone for some kind of automotive repair niche. I think I would have tried to build, you know, kind of monthly subscription sites for automotive businesses or maybe gone after, you know, high-performance engine shops or something like that. Something that I cared about. That was one thing that I think I, you know, in like, kind of the 2019-2020 timeframe, started to get so burnt out on client work was like, I don’t care about this random business that called me. So this project. This, this project is such a slog. And then the other thing would be, I wish I would have gotten a handle on PHP earlier. I don’t. I’m still far from an expert. I can kind of read it and understand it, but what we can do in WordPress with just a little bit of PHP is just incredible. Like the, why haven’t you moved on?

[00:57:07.750] – Jonathan Denwood

To react then, Jonathan?

[00:57:09.580] – Jonathan Jernigan

I mean, I know literally zero JavaScript, so that’s where I fall apart. But you know, what you can do with PHP and a little bit of JavaScript is just incredible. So I think that would be a way even now to really jumpstart your career.

[00:57:26.020] – Jonathan Denwood

I’ve done that because my early career, um, I was a flash action script developer and then in, I was in the early days of JavaScript developer, um, and it was, they were crazy days, it burnt me out a little and I got into WordPress and other things, but I’ve done a dive back into it and you think, you think WordPress is the Wild west, it isn’t going to the JavaScript library world of oh my God, that crowd there they are truly bonker crowd, aren’t they?

[00:58:04.930] – Jonathan Jernigan

The best developer I’ve ever met is this guy named Zach. He is an unbelievable React developer. Anything you would want to build, he can build. And yet, the thing I find so fascinating is that he had never, prior to meeting me, once fired up WordPress. And I was like, it’s just incredible that there’s this whole world, this whole ecosystem.

[00:58:26.550] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, I’m looking for somebody good in react, so yeah, you might have to send him. What do you think of Lavelle? Because I was talking to somebody that I really respect, and he said oh, the Lavelle world is growing; they’re doing some fabulous stuff. Is that on your radar at all?

[00:58:44.800] – Jonathan Jernigan

No, in general, I try hard to keep my blinders on and not be a shiny red ball to the other things that pop up. I mean, really, I, as Kurt said, keep my stack so consistent that clients from five years ago still have a nearly identical stack to what the new ones have. So I don’t like to have a bunch of different people with a bunch of different ecosystems.

[00:59:07.050] – Jonathan Denwood

Oh, I just Lavelle, some people a few years ago saying it was all going to be JavaScript, but I think the value is similar to Ruby on Rails, which is from the base game, is it? David is one of the founders of the base camp, isn’t he? And people kind of said that was finished, but it isn’t, is it? It’s doing quite well, Ruby on Rails as its niche and I think Lavelle is similar, isn’t it?

[00:59:31.810] – Jonathan Jernigan

That’s what um, that’s what the hey calendar is built in is. Ruby.

[00:59:35.840] – Jonathan Denwood

Oh, that’s what’s interesting, isn’t it? It would be, wouldn’t it? Well, Kurt had to leave because he’s got another live event that he is the admin for, so he had to go off and we must have been. My clock is slightly wrong, but I think we’ve had a great chat. So, Jonathan, what’s the best way for people to find out more about you and what you’re up to?

[01:00:01.390] – Jonathan Jernigan

Yeah, my website is just my name, jonathanjernigan.com. and my YouTube channel is also my name. So if you just search for either of those two things, you’ll find me. I also have a newsletter you can subscribe to. Comes out every week. And then of course, the YouTube channel. I post semi-occasionally. I’m somewhat inconsistent there, but YouTube newsletter and the website.

[01:00:24.130] – Jonathan Denwood

And hopefully, you agree to come back on the show, maybe the roundtable show, if you can stomach it. That’s really outrageous, but I think you’d be up to it.

[01:00:33.010] – Jonathan Jernigan

Sounds great.

[01:00:33.730] – Jonathan Denwood

It’s been a fabulous discussion. I really enjoyed it. Please give us some feedback from folks about what other guests you would like us to invite to the show and what you think about this. Getting your feedback is great. The easiest way of doing that is to go to the wptonic YouTube channel and you can leave your comments on this show that will probably be up tomorrow. And we’ve got some fabulous guests coming up in June. You should really enjoy them. We’ll see you next week, folks. Bye.


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