In this episode, Justin Busa Lead Developer at Fast Line Media (http://www.fastlinemedia.com/) the company that makes Beaver Builder, joined host Jonathan Denwood to discuss what’s in the works for Beaver Builder and Beaver Themer. Justin is co-founder of the company.

Along with discussing the future of the company’s products, the talked about the fact that Beaver Builder will be four years old in April. Sometimes it’s hard to realize it’s been around that long.

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Currently the Beaver Builder team is focused on the release of Beaver Builder 2.0 which should drop in the next one to two weeks.

Some of the highlights for version 2.0 include:

Improved user experience allowing the user to move between options like rows and content.

Speed improvements based on the fact that much of the User Interface is now Javascript. This allows it to render instantly on the page and not have to return to the server.

This version also adds more options for users to customize their dashboard experience allowing them to resize the settings boxes, pin them where desired, and save workspace settings to keep this experience each time they login.

After this launch, they will return to Beaver Themer, which hasn’t been updated much since its release in order to focus on making changes based on customer feedback.

They will also be taking time on the Beaver Builder Theme. This received quite a bit of work in the first several years of the project, and is now being revisited based on customer feedback.

Overall, the company listens to feedback and takes a customer-centric approach to solving problems and improving their software going forward.

Here’s a Full Transcription of Our Interview With Justin

Jonathan: Hi there folks. Welcome back to the WP-Tonic show, our Wednesday interview specials. This is show 240. I stumbled there folks a little bit. We’ve got a great guest back on the show. Great company. We’ve got Justin Busa back on the show. Would you like to do a quick introduction, Justin?

Justin: Yeah. Sure. Hi everybody. I’m Justin, one of the co-founders of Beaver Builder and the Lead Developer. And our parent company is Fast Line Media that makes Beaver Builder.

Jonathan: Oh, that’s great. Thanks so much for agreeing to come back on the show Justin. It’s much appreciated. Great company. I was giving them great praise before we came on the show folks. I actually meant it. So what is Beaver Builder up to at the present moment Justin? You’ve been unleashed to join the interview. You’ve been unleashed from the Coding Cave that you’ve been hiding. You can see daylight for once. But what have you been up to? What’s the plans at the present moment?

Justin: Yeah. Our big focus, seems like a lot of the year really which has been a shift from previous years has been, the first part of the year was Beaver Themer. And then transitioning into trying to wrap up 2.0 the second half of the year which is 2.0 encompasses a lot of feedback that we’ve gotten over the last couple of years. Beaver Builder in next, I think, April will actually be 4 years old which is crazy, right? Yeah. I keep having to double check that. I can’t believe we’ve actually been doing it this long. So 2.0 was really a lot of the stuff we’ve learned the previous 3 years and feedback we’ve gotten. When we were working on that is was, we probably, Brent and I and the team have been, because Brent, if you haven’t met Brent, he’s great. But we’ve been talking about that for a long time and working on it too. And originally we went out way out in left field and it didn’t even look like Beaver Builder. And then we came back and kind of met somewhere in the middle. So it still kind of got the classic Beaver Builder feel, but incorporates a lot of the feedback that we’ve gotten over the years just on, the user interface really, not like any kind of new whizbang features.

Although there are some cool things in there too. So, yeah. Right now that’s our focus. And that should start rolling out next week-ish. And then after that, kind of to your point to your question of what we’re up to because that has been our focus. It’s such a big focus. I think we’re going to start taking a look at our roadmap internally because we’ve been so focused on those two big projects that we haven’t been looking at some of the more specific feedback items. And so, having a great support team like we have or just a team in general really, but the support team specifically can really help us identify certain things that are coming through support like feature requests or pain points for users and things like that. And so we’ll be taking a look at that as a team. It’s not just going to me Justin saying, “I’m the Lead Developer. I think that these are the things we should do”. We’re really going to look at it from a customer centric approach and take in and see what kind of problems we can solve.

I don’t have any specific things necessarily right now. Like I said, we need to do our homework on that. We have been working on an internal roadmap. So any of our customers listening, we had a Trello board with a roadmap for a while. And then when we got busy with these other big projects, we stopped updating that because I didn’t want to make promises or put things on there that weren’t going to get done because we’re working on these other things. But we have been keeping an internal roadmap based on feature requests and customer feedback. We’ve been doing internal voting and internal tagging of how popular is this based on requests and feedback and all that. So we have all that data. We just needed to materialize what’s going to come to the top. There’s not enough people and not enough hours in the day to do everything, unfortunately.

So, yeah. We’re going to do that. In terms of the products too, I think our first focus will be Themer because we launched Themer and then we’ve done a couple minor updates. But I think we need to circle back to some of the bigger requests that come through with that, integrations and stuff like that. What I’m excited about for next year too is starting to look at the actual Beaver Builder theme again which I think some of our customers will happy to hear that. Because I hear some complaints that that’s taken a back seat which it has over the last year. But also, I think people forget that again, Beaver Builder’s going to be 4 years old and Beaver Builder theme was, for it’s 2, 3 years, was worked on quite a bit. It’s a pretty mature theme in terms of just stability and feature set. Yeah. I’d love to circle back around to that and then take a look at the feature requests and see what we can do. Going to be a lot of fun stuff coming up just between Themer, the theme, and the Builder itself. I’m excited to see what we can do.

Jonathan: Well, to take on two major projects in 1 year is pretty ambitious in its own right really, isn’t it?

Justin: Yeah.

Jonathan: Most software companies of your size would have just taken on one major project would be the norm, would it? But you’re quick movers at Beaver Builder. The other thing is it really must be quite, in some ways, hard to plan any of it out because this is a fast moving area, isn’t it?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah, it is. But I think that one thing that we found that works is just moving at our own pace and focusing on customer. You’re right. It’s a fast moving area, not just for builders, but just for themes in general and WordPress plugins. It could be easy to get caught up in the features arm race where you’re trying to do everything, do all the things. Instead, I think we just try and work on at our own pace to make sure that we’re pushing out quality updates and really focusing on the most important things that we can for our users.

Jonathan: Yeah. With update too, are there a couple things that you’re really very enthusiastic about and would like to point out?

Justin: Sure.

Jonathan: Are there a couple of things that you would like to point out?

Justin: Yeah. Definitely. I think overall the speed improvements are some of my favorite. We actually have some, what you would call, perceived speed, where we actually didn’t speed anything up, but the user experience is better. So it’s quicker to get to things. And then we actually have literal loading speed improvements. So for the perceived speed improvements, things are just organized better I think from a UX standpoint to actually navigating between rows and templates and all those kind of things. It’s really quick now to navigate between all that different kind of content that you want to work with. And then, the perceived speed and then the actual speed improvements in terms of the technical side.

We wrote a lot of the Builder UI in Javascript. So instead of having to go to the server to render stuff, it all just renders instantly on the page. And so, I think those improvements are some of my favorites just from a usability standpoint. And then we did some fun stuff at Settings panel too. Now you can resize them. You can pin them to whatever side you want. It’s like a user memory feature, I think is the term I’ve heard recently. Basically, if I log into my account on my computer and my Photoshop is set up in the workspace that I like it. But if someone else logged into that same computer onto their account, it would be set up in a workspace configuration that they like. It’s kind of exploring this area. Instead of Beaver Builder just being a fixed UI that you can actually customize the UI to how you like to work. So there’s some of that in there too. I think there’s probably more we could do too. I don’t have anything specific. Whatever application you’re using, people like to set them up in the way that they like to work. That’s one of the ones that I’m really excited about as well.

Jonathan: Oh, that’s great. With Themer, it’s almost like you threw a hand grenade into the world of WordPress really. What is a theme? What isn’t a theme? What’s the relationship between page builders and themes?

Justin: Right.

Jonathan: Were you expecting such a response to that product? And has it turned out the way that you and your team were hoping for?

Justin: I wasn’t sure about the response. And I mean, I even had my doubts halfway through it. One of the biggest doubts that I thought was, “Oh man. This is going to be too complicated. No one’s going to want to use it”. So the response has definitely been awesome. All of that is, Themer was years of customer feedback saying, “Can I do this with Beaver Builder?”. And we kind of realized that these are some bigger concepts that are just more than just a Page Builder. At that point, you’re talking more about on the theme level. And so we kind of identified that. But the response has been amazing.

Just from Developers that love what they can do it to, to people that don’t know code. One of our long-time customers who’s telling me he feels like he can do anything in WordPress because with a plugin like Advanced Custom Fields or Pods, they’re creating these more technical setups where you can enter data. And then they’re actually able to build layouts with that data using Themer without having to touch a line of code. So that’s awesome to see some of the cool solutions that people are building with those kind of setups.
Jonathan: Well, it’s also around rapid development, isn’t it? There was a necessity for the kind of the tools that you’re producing because the requirements clients were asking for and the rapid development times they were asking for, the traditional methodologies just weren’t coping, were they?

Justin: Yeah. I mean it really goes back to why we created Beaver Builder itself. We were using it as an Agency. I remember and I used to share an office back then. And when we were first 6 months or whatever, we’re using it, we’d always look over to each other and be like, “Man, this is so awesome how fast this is now”. And a lot of it comes down to two basic things. I’ve even seen other people say, “I just use it to layout my grids. And then I put custom HTML in the columns”. And I agree as the Developer, even just beyond the layout of grid structure rapidly rather than having to hand code that same stuff over and over and over again. It’s so much quicker. So, yeah. Definitely, Themer kind of builds on that rapid development, getting things done quick.

Jonathan: Sorry to interrupt.

Justin: Oh. No, no. Go for it.

Jonathan: Before we go for our break, you’re going to refocus on Themer. Can you give us some idea or some of the things you would like to improve on Themer? Have you got any major ideas when you refocus on that?

Justin: Sure. Sure. There’s a couple of things. One of the bigger ones I’ve seen that kind of hangs people up and hopefully I can explain this in a way that doesn’t sound confusing. But if you use Themer to build a layout for your posts for example. All you have to do is build that one layout in Themer and then it applies to all your posts. Same if you had built the file in your theme and that applies to all your posts. You only have to build the one. But what some people have been wanting to do and this has come up more often than I thought it would, is that they then want to be able to actually use the Page Builder on some of those posts. So it almost kind of sounds like inception because you have a Page Builder layout that Themer’s using to actually create the entire post. But then they want to go through and those specific posts customize them further with the Page Builder.

You can’t do that now. It’s a tricky technical problem we’re trying to solve that I’d like to look into that. Because I understand where people are coming from. When they want to build like one template or maybe just for their pages, they want to build one template for their pages or custom post type or whatever and then be able to go in there and actually edit the content, the area of the content with the builder. So that’s one. I’d like to do more work on the field connection and stuff where you’re actually hooking up data. We get a lot requests for, “Oh. Can I hook this up or can I hook that up?”. The post modified date for example. We didn’t have that so we added it. I’d like to see if there’s a way that we can make that easier. So instead of us having to continual surface these things, there’s a way for people just to surface stuff. Just in post meta tables and maybe an array or whatever. We do have some integrations that are in Alpha right now. Events Calendar and EDD.

Jonathan: Oh, that’s sweet. Sweet.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. It’s really cool what you can do, especially with Events Calendar because that plugin is so powerful, not that EDD isn’t. And I’d like to look into maybe, like with a membership plugin and maybe an LMS plugin. I’m not too sure how many different integrations we’ll go down. At some point, it gets really niched and specific. So I think I might actually do like a tutorial series on trading custom integrations for Themer. If you’re already building custom modules and templates and things like that, it’s not that difficult.

Jonathan: To finish off though before we go for our break is that Lee Jackson that also comes on our Round Table show on Friday’s and you’ve been on his Podcast I think, haven’t you? He’s a great lover of your product and modulizing it and building modules. That’s been one of its great strengths, isn’t it? Is that Developers can extend it and build modules, isn’t it?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. And it’s good for us in our support requests too because rather than having, maybe we get like feature requests and we’re not sure if that’s something we want to implement. But we can use our own APIs and things that we’ve built and just give people snippets and say, “Oh, well. We’re not sure if that’s a feature that should make it into the product. But if you just use this little snippet, you can make it work for you”. It works for us really well too.

Jonathan: Oh, that’s great. We’re going to go for our break. We’re going come back. We’re going to delve some more into Beaver Builder. Thanks Justin. Be back in a second.

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Jonathan: We’re coming back folks. We’ve had a great conversation. Well, I’ve enjoyed it. Hopefully, Justin has. I think you have, haven’t you? Let’s on to the kind of elephant in the room, but not quite. You’ve been pretty open. And I always pronounce it, I think it’s a mental thing actually Justin, Gutenberg, Gettysburg, Guddensburg. Were you surprised when it was announced, when Matt announced it? Or were you thinking this was going to happen? Or was it a bit of a surprise to you and your team?

Justin: Yeah. It was a surprise. If you had asked me before that State of the Word, that WordCamp US where he announced it, if this is something there were going to do, I would have said, “I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not”. So, yeah. Yeah. Definitely. Definitely didn’t have any foresight there. It was a little bit of a surprise.

Jonathan: On reflection, why do you think it was a surprise?

Justin: I guess I never thought WordPress Core would actually go down the Builder experience route. I thought that was maybe a little too much for WordPress Core because they like to keep things relatively simple typically. So that’s probably why I wouldn’t have guessed at the time.

Jonathan: My only comment about that is I wasn’t that surprised actually and I’ll tell you why. WordPress.com Automattic is a privately held company and it’s seeked out external investment partners which have heavily invested in Automattic. Obviously, it’s not public the different sources of income. But I would imagine that WordPress.com is of some significance to Automattic. And with Squarespace, with Wix, they just had much better online editing experiences than WordPress.com. So to keep competitive in that sector, the necessity to build an Editor, that is one of the main drivers I would imagine. Do you think I’m talking nonsense, Justin? Or do you think that probably was a leading reason?

Justin: Yeah. You hear that coming up in conversation all the time surrounding this stuff too that it’s more of a WordPress.com need than a WordPress.org need. I totally agree. A lot of the people that are doing the, I don’t know the numbers so I can’t say, “Oh, it’s everybody or a lot of the people”. Maybe it’s a small fraction of the people. But it seems like for the self-hosted WordPress space, you’ve got a lot of people that are building websites for other people. Whereas a WordPress.com is more, “I’m coming there to build my website”, like you would with a Wix or a Squarespace. At the same token too, I mean, making WordPress easier for everyone is better for everyone. More users on WordPress is better for all of us. So if they want to make all of WordPress better and easier to user, then I think that’s a good thing too if it trickles down from .com to .org.

Jonathan: Going by one our great Friday panelists Morton from Lynda.com or LinkedIn Learning I guess I should say.

Justin: Yeah.

Jonathan: He’s been very vocal about the project and also the end point of this. And I do agree with him. I think Matt’s overall plan is something even more revolutionary than an Editor. It’s fundamentally changing the construct of what pages, posts are into more of a thing about views. I was at the last San Franciso WordCamp before it was announced that they were going to move events around the country. And I remember that Matt did a very detailed presentation there, where on reflection, he gave strong clues about where he was taking it. And finally Morton and myself were both there. Do you think that’s probably right, that the overall plan is something even bigger than Page Layout Editor?

Justin: That’s what it sounds like from what they’ve been talking about. It sounds like we’re going to see that pretty soon once it gets into the customizer kind of stuff. Even sounds like it could be on a level of like what some of the stuff that Themer does. I’m not sure how it all ties in together. It should be interesting to see. I think if they really want to go into that direction, they are going to start having to think more about layout rather than just the current Gutenberg. They’ve said they’re not going to focus on layout right now and I understand that as a first version. But at some point, if they want to get beyond just posts and pages, they’re going to have to think more in terms of like grid structures and things like that, which they’ve been saying is going to be in the customizer focus and customizer focus is supposed to be next. That’s why I’m saying we’ll probably start to see what that might look like soon. Because right now, it’s just been a lot of talking. I haven’t even seen the whole, I’ve seen a little bit of mockups here and there. But nothing that I can actually visualize, “Oh, okay. This is the direction they’re trying to go in”. But I think it’ll probably be pretty soon because Gutenberg is moving really fast. I know people are afraid about it being ready too soon. I definitely don’t think they should rush it. But it’s definitely getting closer.

Jonathan: Well, it’s a very difficult situation because you don’t want to come across as being a negative person just for the sake of being negative, do you?

Justin: Right.

Jonathan: And obviously, things have got to change in the world of the Web. It changes almost every year. Every month something comes up, doesn’t it? It just goes with the territory. But on the other hand, you don’t want it to be rushed because it is a surprisingly large step, isn’t it?

Justin: Yeah. One of WordPress’ core pillars that has propped it up all these years is the backwards compatibility argument which I understand at some time. And I know that now there’s a grey area with backwards compatibility. At some point, if you’re going to move things forward, you can’t always be thinking about backwards compatibility. But at the same time too, you don’t want to break 25 percent of Web when you push out an update either. And you have different client expectations and custom solutions that were built for Enterprise. Yeah. It’s a tricky situation to have to juggle. I do have to say I applaud the Core team because they’re doing really great work and they’re staying motivated when there’s all this negativity. And like you’re saying, there’s a lot of people that are being native just to be negative it seems like, rather than maybe providing some constructive feedback. I know that I would find a hard time staying motivated in that climate where you’re like, “Guys, we’re doing this really awesome stuff”, but half the people are just saying you suck.

Jonathan: Obviously, Morton, I wouldn’t classify him as being negative just for being negative.

Justin: Oh no. Definitely not him. No.

Jonathan: I think there’s been some very, it’s a struggle to find the wording, isn’t it Justin? Not negative, but people saying, “You really should think about this bit. You should look at this bit. You should look at that”. And then you get people on the forums leaving very benign comments that any reasonable person just has to block out because it’s just not providing any kind of realistic reason for their view. So you can’t really listen to that because they’re not treating the thing as responsibly really, are they? A responsible person gives reasons why they feel this way. And they might be right and they might be wrong. But if they’re placing reasonable questions, you should look at them and then give them some answers, shouldn’t you, if you disagree, shouldn’t you? That was very English, wasn’t it Justin? Very reasonable, wasn’t it? We’re all very reasonable, aren’t we? So let’s get to the nitty-gritty. As a Page Builder, it’s a little bit of a problem, isn’t it? How do you see the future of Beaver Builder? Or are you planning your next world-beating solution already? No. I don’t think so. You seem very calm and very relaxed. Seriously, before we wrap up the Podcast part of the show, what do you see the future of Beaver Builder?

Justin: We’re going to move to Drupal. We’re done with WordPress. No. I’m just kidding. I think it’ll be fine. It’s still too early to tell really where this is going to go for themes, for Visual Builders, for a lot of different things. There’s time to figure these things out. I think that Beaver Builder and even other Page Builders, our competition, are really more like design applications than just a content builder. Divi, for example. They put a lot more into Divi than I’d want to put into my Builder. But Divi’s getting close to being like a rival to Photoshop in a way. It’s pretty crazy the amount of features they’re putting in those things. But you know, I mean, that’s what people, I shouldn’t say people as in all people. I should say that’s what people that are building websites for a living, you know, professionals, they’re wanting these design applications. I mean, that’s what I wanted. I used to build in Photoshop and then code with my mockups or someone else’s mockups or whatever. But even went from Photoshop or it went from a design application to the Web. And then once we started using a Page Builder, we started using Beaver Builder, I did the majority of my design work in the browser. And I think you’re seeing a lot of that where a lot of people are treating these as design applications. So on that level, Page Builders as they are today are like professional tools. And not to say that Gutenberg is not going to be good by saying it’s not going to be a pro tool.

Jonathan: It’s a very reasonable argument because obviously, the Editor needed updating.

Justin: Right.

Jonathan: Or when it came out, it was one of the best solutions around because most of them didn’t work at all. At least it did work most of the time. But it’s abilities are so limited for the really very basic requirements. Clients want more flexibility when it comes to images, grids, columns, really basic layouts.

Justin: Yeah.

Jonathan: It just couldn’t do it, could it?

Justin: No. Yeah. I mean the Editor definitely has tons of room to be improved. And I think that they’re going to improve on it and I think they’re going to build in more layout editing capabilities and it’s going to look a lot like a Page Builder. But how far that gets taken to where, like a lot of things in WordPress. You use what’s available to you in WordPress. And then when you need more, there are a lot of times you either build your own solution or go find a plugin or a theme or whatever. I think that’ll still be the case. Let’s say there’s a world where Gutenberg really does nail the Page Building thing and then all of a sudden that starts to be a little bit of a problem for Beaver Builder. Like I said, we’re building professional tools and we’ve been doing this for almost 4 years. So we could also take a look at what we’ve done in Beaver Builder and start to build solutions into the Gutenberg experience that are more on a pro level that don’t come with core. So I think there’s room to use our expertise in that world. I also think that the two could live side by side just as TinyMCE and Beaver Builder live now. I don’t think there’s a problem. I think that’ll probably be the case for some time to come.

Jonathan: All right then. Thanks Justin. We’re going to wrap it up folks for the Podcast part of the show. We’re going to continue the discussion for another 10, 15 minutes which you’ll be able to see on the WP-Tonic website with a full set of show notes and a full transcription of the interview. Thank you Justin for coming on the show so much. How can people get to know more about Beaver Builder and what you are up to specifically?

Justin: We’re on Twitter and Facebook. Pretty easy to search for. Our Facebook group’s amazing. And then our blog . .

Jonathan: It is.

Justin: And then, yeah, our blog. We usually try to do a monthly blog post just to say what we’ve been up to. And not just us, things that are going on around the community. So it’s a good one to keep an eye on.

Jonathan: Oh, that’s great Justin. And to get to me, it’s quite easy folks. You can email me at [email protected] with any suggestions or people you would like us to interview, topics you would like us to cover. Do remember our Friday shows, our Round Table shows. They’re always a blast. We’ve got one coming up this Friday. We’ve got a fantastic special guest. And we’ll be talking about Multisite, the beast which it is. That’s at 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. You can go to the WP-Tonic and join us and put live questions to us or you can watch it on the WP-Tonic Facebook page live as well. Just as the same as this discussion as well. Also if you feel generous, give a review on iTunes. It does really help the show. I’m still trying to work out the update of the Podcast app on my iPhone. They’ve absolutely changed everything. It’s most puzzling, even for me. So good luck to our listeners. But that’s the world of Web Development and App Development, isn’t it folks? We’ll be back next week with another interview with a WordPress Developer, business owner or just a WordPress junkie in general. See you next week folks. Bye.

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