Today we continue our series of interviews with WordPress experts by having a chat with Dre Armeda, CMO & Partner of the excellent WebDevStudios. If you’re looking for a “go-to” company to build your ideas in a big way, that’s one of the best WordPress agencies available, and you should definitely give it a try. Dre has a solid background on the implementation side of things, and it shows in his career. In addition to being an expert in WordPress, Dre has a unique knowledge that we felt would be perfect for this read. He is the co-founder and former CEO of Sucuri, a well-known website security company. He’s co-host of Dradcast, a weekly video podcast that primarily concentrates on all the latest news around WordPress. He’s a proud 12 year Navy veteran with experience in multiple technical disciplines.
This sounds a whole lot like someone you want to get to know, doesn’t it? That’s why we’re having Dre with us. Enjoy 😉
Thanks for joining us today, Dre. Please, tell us a bit more about your background, how long have you been working with WordPress and about your current ventures.
Thanks for having me! I have a background in design and security that started in the late 90’s. By the early 2000’s I was looking for a way to build a portfolio to showcase my designs and built a static HTML site. Over time it became a bit challenging to manage so I started looking for a CMS to manage my portfolio. I tried various CMS’s and in 2004 I settled with WordPress and built my first theme. It was terrible, but it got the job done and WordPress made it very easy to manage my portfolio. I never looked back; I fell in love with WP!
When was the first time that you really got excited about WordPress and at what point did you decide to make it your career?
In 2004 when I built that first theme to manage my own portfolio I was already building static websites for customers. I figured if I can build my site with WordPress and it made it easier for me to manage without really having to touch code, why don’t I do it for my clients. I built my first client WordPress website at the end of 2004. It was a whole new world of amazing things I could do for clients and I was hooked.
Where do you go first to get WP news, insights, and updates?
WP Tavern has always been a resource for me, but I also frequented Web Log Tools Collection and followed Alex King closely, he taught me a lot in the early days. I was also a regular in the WordPress IRC channel for years. I met a lot of my current WordPress friends and business associates there years ago. In fact, the first time I met Brad Williams online was in that IRC Channel. Later on, I started my own news blog named WPVibe with Jonathan Dingman whom I also met in the IRC channel. We ended up selling the site after a couple years.
What performance tips would you give to beginners (as related to speed, scalability, security, plugins, backup, etc.)?
WordPress is a fun and very powerful platform. You can create great things, make friends and even money. You can also run into issues if you don’t administer the site with a few principles in mind.
Keep your software updated. You create a higher risk floor by not keeping things up to date.
Always backup your data and custom files. It’s not a matter of if you’ll have a catastrophic failure at some point, it’s a matter of when. It happens. Computers are computers and sometimes they crash. Be prepared.
We all want all the bells and whistles. What I can say is that can come with a price. Be sure to RESEARCH before installing plugins or themes into your environment. Make sure that the software you’re planning on using adheres to WordPress best practices and coding standards. Otherwise, you increase the risk of security issues and problems when it’s time to update your site.
Confess to us your biggest moment of WP fail?
There is no failing in WordPress, only winning and learning 🙂
When I got out of the Navy where I worked IT and security, as well as where I started working on the web, I went to work for an information security company in Chicago named Applied Watch Technologies (AWT). On a project I worked on while at AWT I met Daniel Cid who had created OSSEC HIDS, an open source host intrusion detection system we were looking to integrate into the AWT product. Daniel and I hit it off and as I moved on to a new opportunity 2007 we stayed in contact. Daniel was thinking about a way to monitor websites and report when something malicious of sorts was happening on the site. I loved the concept and we spent many a night talking on Skype collaborating ideas and such. A beta was out in 2009 and people were actually using the service and loving it. At that point we realized it made sense to team up and push it to the next level. We officially created Sucuri LLC in the beginning of 2010 and off we went.
It is interesting that you’ve been the CEO and co-founder of Sucuri till 2014, and then you narrowed your focus to marketing. What was the decision influenced by? Why did you choose such a business direction?
A large part of what you do as a CEO is marketing. In fact, you’re always trying to gain audience, make them into customers, and increase profits. You’re driving vision internally and externally. I wouldn’t call my decision a stretch by any means. Sucuri had reached a great point and my brother-in-law Tony was running operations for quite some time. I like being involved in the stages I was involved with at Sucuri, it was the perfect time for the business and for me so the decision made sense.
So what does WebDevStudios do? What do you think helps your solution stand out from other web development studios in the field?
WebDevStudios is a full-scale WordPress agency. We service Enterprise and SMB clients with WordPress based solutions for web and mobile. Our services consist of project architecture and engineering, award-winning design (UX/UI/Brand), custom development, data services, as well as maintenance and sustainment. We work with WordPress, BuddyPress and mobile specifically. We set ourselves apart through the talent, experience and passion our team brings to the table. We have helped build and build with WordPress since the early days of the platform. We have even written several books about WordPress including WordPress for Dummies written by Lisa Sabin-Wilson, a partner and COO at WDS. We truly have the best team on the planet!
What’s the coolest project you’ve ever worked on with WebDevStudios?
There are too many to pick one specifically overall honestly. I will reference the recent work we did with Uber and helping them create a more interactive career hub. Another exciting project was helping design and develop the Discovery Corporate website all on WordPress.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for WP development agencies to face in 2016?
I think it continues to be the facade that WordPress is not ready for prime time in the enterprise. The likes of Gartner and other research/advisory firms do not group WordPress with less capable or even scalable proprietary systems in use today. We have quite a few case studies showing long term sustainability and scalability of WordPress in the enterprise. We hope that WordPress continues to grow market share within that audience.
If you could change one thing about WordPress today, what would it be?
Great things have been done to reduce risk and improve security in WordPress. The core team is second to none in terms of fixing vulnerabilities, better than most other projects or closed source solutions. I would still like to see more simple security tools baked into the admin.
What new features would you like to see in upcoming versions of WordPress?
I can’t wait for a day where WordPress really becomes like Linux kernel. You place it on your server, and then add packages and configurations to make your WordPress. Today the model is a bit different but I see a day where you walk through an installer wizard of sorts an out of the box you have a site configured for whatever you’re doing. Whether it’s mobile gaming, or legal services, out of the box it enables you to have a truly custom experience based on your needs. As Matt Mullenweg has called it, “The Web OS.”
If you were interviewing a WordPress developer for a job, what question would you ask first and why?
I have been known to ask some unexpected questions. I like to ask candidates this question:
“How would you prove that the Germans are the tallest people in the world”
It shows how they break down a complex question and build conclusions. It also displays some creativity in how they may build solutions. It’s not an easy question to answer.
Have you ever faced the problem of website migration? If so, how did you manage to resolve it: by converting your website data manually or via an automated tool?
We have worked With clients like Microsoft to migrate large data sets with millions of data points. I think we’d still be at it if we did so manually. 🙂
Tell us a bit about your working setup (hardware + software). Can you shoot us a picture of your desk?:)
I jump between my Macbook Pro and my Mac Pro depending on what I’m doing. I live in Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive and Chrome. Evernote and Wunderlist are my friends and I still get to create stuff on occasion using Photoshop (not often). I have open communication via Skype, HipChat, Hootsuite, Facebook and Zoom all day long to name a few. iTunes is running 24/7 🙂
Finally, have we missed anything? Here’s your chance to fill in the blanks and add something you want people to know about you!
I am a Jiu Jitsu practitioner and recommend it to everyone. I am a Carlson Gracie blue belt and compete a few times a year. If we end up at a conference together, let’s find some time to train.
Also, I am a Jeep fanatic. I have been building a 2014 Jeep Wrangler JKU the last couple years and love to go wheeling. If we ever have the chance, let’s get out on the trails.
Thanks, Dre and best luck with WebDevStudios! 🙂