This is a interview by Amy Brown, conducted on our behalf.
It’s the little things that make the biggest of impacts” is motto Stuart lives by. As he sat down with Amy for a chat over coffee, Stuart was more than gracious in giving an insightful account of how WordPrax Ltd. has gone about its business, what are the challenges it has faced on its course to becoming one of the most sought-after WordPress web development companies globally and what have been its cornerstones of success.
As the delivery manager at WordPrax, Stuart has played a pivotal role in the breakthroughs company has made over the years and emerged as the leading WordPress CMS Development Company that’s trusted by all. In his conversation with Amy, he is candid while answering a slew of questions:
Question: During this entire run of your company, what were the hurdles you had to face initially?
Answer: (….ponders for a moment) It was never an easy decision to compile a team, let alone setting up the company. When we started out, we somehow started receiving queries about WordPress but, to be honest, those were of very small scale. At that time, no one was truly aware of CMS concepts and more often than not, they wanted to know how and what all CMS could be. Generally those queries were from some developers, not really the business oriented leads as we would have wanted.
It was not until 2008, when we actually got the chance to look in to a working model of a project and have internal discussions over it. That said, we did not want to lose our focus from our core technology, which at that time was asp and java. Eventually, we started receiving more and more inquiries about WordPress and other CMS platforms, and tis compelled us to think in that direction. (Pauses for a second) For starters, it was totally new concept, which we needed to ponder over and determine if it could be somehow transformed into a good business solution for long term. I personally went on a research and data gathering spree and gained knowledged pertaining to what CMS is, how we can operate it and what all can we achieve with this, besides using it to set up a blog site.
At that time, we did not have the luxury of advanced features like custom post types or hooks to change and edit things the way we want. The biggest hurdle was to step into the arena with untested waters. There was no one I could seek help of as other guys were busy with their project. As I became more and more familiar with this CMS, next step was to start the development and I started on it with my very next project. I convinced the client about using WordPress for the blog of his website. While convincing him wasn’t a major issue, the problems were enormous and numerous, especially when it came to following the standards and definitions. I did deliver the project, but to be honest, I was far from happy with the final quality and feature-set. I felt I needed an expert insight and that’s when I thought of hiring a WordPress developer, right away realizing that another challenge lay ahead – how would I judge his / her capability? All I knew that it’s a PHP based CMS and requires CSS skills for someone to can work with it. I took a lot of interviews, testing candidates one after the other for their expertise levels in PHP and CSS, but I could shortlist only two (one of them is still working with me). That sort of worked as a trigger for us and helped us steamroll our way ahead. Today, WordPress stands as one of our core strengths.
Question: How did you manage to build a full-fledged team around a single individual?
Answer: Sandy is the guy , I am talking about, and he has been extremely resourceful during the course of this process. Eventually, after investing a couple of years in WordPress, we figured out that there could be two types of project with the WordPress CMS – one, a simple theme development and the other being a more custom development. I was taking nascent steps and the first step was to hire developers, who could be good at both – customization as well as developing a basic theme. But, what really mattered was the execution cost vs project profits. We worked by this model for 6 months and realized soon enough that it won’t be good
idea to continue with in the long run. The reason being, money we were spending on developers, (again parachutes into a moment of thought…), the salary of course was on bit of a higher side, especially for developers who were well versed with custom development – (same is the scenario now). Now with the ruined ratio of salary vs profit, our plan started to crumble. It was a time when we started hitting the panic buttons and right then Sandy came up with a unique idea that we classify projects in two categories, 1- Custom development, 2- Theme development. We started with one of our CSS guys, started training him in WordPress and let him handle everything apart from the customization. Initially, it did seem like a toughest task ever undertaken (chuckles), but somehow our CSS expert started pushing the right buttons and was able to implement basic PHP changes in function.php or calling out the loops within template files. Gradually, he turned into the Theme Expert from a mere CSS expert. Next stop was to train more CSS resources and transform them to Theme Resources and in just 2 months time, and we were back on track (smiles gleefully), profitability and project execution started pouring in as per our expectations. This idea turned out to be so good that we are following the same structure till this date. We hire basic resources with experience in CSS and HTML, train them on WordPress and keep track of their progress.
Question: Does it not bother your client that a developer, who is actually an HTML / CSS expert, is developing core WordPress Themes?
Answer: I don’t see why it should bother them. Because any developer who is being trained at WordPrax, never works on client projects straightaway. Rather, they are given special exercises and resources to learn and they are not deployed on any live project until one of their own themes is published over at the WordPress Themes gallery. Now, every time we acquire a project, our senior most developer works closely with other developers and makes sure they do not lose focus of standards and code structure. Daily delivery comes in to the picture only after the code has been thoroughly reviewed. We continually work with an array of designing agencies across the globe and they keep coming back to us with different projects, owing to our unfailing on-time delivery and premium quality that never lets them down.
Question: How do you explore and exploit latest tools and technologies that enter the market?
Answer: Well, there is a method to how we go about learning and implementing the modern tools. Once we were done with the monitory procedures, the next step was to improve our skills in order to to capture a greater share in market. To keep ourselves updated and process-oriented, we set up a research wing. And this wing is headed by you (Amy). As you are already aware, every upcoming update is thoroughly analyzed by our team members in respect to what are the opportunities and challenges associated with it, how simplified can we make a particular operation so that users / client do not get caught up in the complexities of the admin panel. We keep a log of WordPress versions as well as of the most frequently used plugins, e.g. gravity forms. Keeping a track of what they have offered thus far and what’s at offer currently keeps us on our toes.
Question: We have talked about themes and how you cope with the latest offerings, but what about custom development or plugin development? What challenges did you face while working around the same?
Answer: For starters, we began with simple PHP code implementations and minor code tweaks, and it never occurred to us that we can segregate this as an altogether separate stream until one of the project needed not only theme implementation but some high end customization in back end itself. We came up with an idea of training some of our PHP developers with core WordPress structures, standards and hooks. We let them use their imagination based on different tasks those needs to be done and sideways we researched along the way how it should be done. I would not say that it was correct all the way but yes eventually in a month time, we were able to reach up to a point of optimization where requirement vs implementation was so easy. Gradually, after mastering the structure of customization, we moved in direction of plugins, specifically plugin customization at first and then to plugin development and letting WordPress to accept them for their directory. (waits for a second), I must say once we put our hands in theme development and studied a lot about WordPress , it became much easier this time when we tackled custom development.
Question: How do you ensure your clients get 100% satisfaction?
Answer: Well, it is very tough to please each and everyone, especially when there are clients from multiple backgrounds, in regards to their culture and language. Thus, at times, they have completely different expectations of project execution. Mostly those who are either aware of how development works, they are the clients we love to have, though others don’t leave us too worried. The key contributor to successful outsourcing is smooth communication and with our proven track record of spot on communication, we have managed to cool things down even when client wasn’t pleased with certain deliveries during the project. But, along with a good level of communication, you should be good enough with your work as well. Timely updates and project completion is what every client needs. If you, as a service provider communicating with your clients, delivering what they require and finally you are able to have repeat business from those clients. They are 100% satisfied, but I must also include that there are cases when the things went south and as a company policy we can not let our clients go unsatisfied, we tend to offer most suitable solution including 100% refunds.
Question: Finally, what contributed to Wordprax turning out to be such a huge success?
Answer: (thinks hard and long), We do not have any recipe as such, but what I think is: Providing a good level of training and exercise to developers, strictly adhering to coding standards, using different tools for code-practice and above all, building transparent and healthy relationships with clients and letting the world know that we are capable enough to serve you. I truly admire the passion of our staff and developers who live by the motto, “Give me the source code and I will change the World”.