Francesca Marano, by Jonas Andrijauskas

Today we have a great interview with Francesca Marano, one active member of the Italian community nominated by Petya who described her as “a blogger, business owner, developer, WordPress contributor, a real community addict and an amazing woman.” She helps professionals and SME companies have online presence, runs some online courses, and contributes to WordPress! Do you want to know her better? Keep reading!

Thanks for the interview, Francesca. It’s a pleasure to have you here! For those who read us and don’t know you, please tell us something about you and your relationship with WordPress.

Hi! Thanks for having me! I am a WordPress professional from Italy–I build websites, mostly for freelancers and small businesses. I learned HTML and CSS more than 15 years ago, but never really used them: I worked as an executive assistant and a administrative manager for years, then in 2006 my son was born and I joined the ranks of mommy bloggers. Soon I found myself more interested in learning how WordPress worked, instead of posting about the latest on strollers ? Surprise! The web changed a lot in 15 years so I started taking online classes to brush up my skills and I started tweaking my own website. Surprise number 2! People started asking me to make websites for them and they even wanted to pay me ? I started building my business as a side project and today WordPress is the way I bring home the bacon. In 2015 I started contributing, when I finally realized that you don’t need to be a back-end developer to give back to the project.

WordPress is constantly changing and evolving. How do you stay up-to-date? Who do you follow?

Mainly blog, the Make blogs for Community and Core, Post Status. I used to follow a gazillion blogs about it, but truth is that for me those sources are enough. I follow a lot of Contributors on Twitter, from different countries around the world–that is a great way to stay up-to-date.

What’s the contribution or development you’re most proud of?

Definitely bringing back WordCamps to Italy with an amazing group of organizers in Torino, my home town. It was the first WordCamp after 3 years of silence: we didn’t know what we were doing, but we knew we wanted to make it happen and so we did.

We started a Meetup in June 2015 and the response was really positive: after a few months of regular events we felt we wanted to celebrate the local community in a bigger way and we also wanted to get in touch with the other communities that were starting out in Italy at the time: a WordCamp sounded like a great way to do this ?

On April 2016 we held the inaugural WordCamp Torino: Milano followed in October and for 2017 there are already 3 Camps in planning. The second WordCamp Torino will be next April; my focus this time is the Contributor Day, something I feel very passionate about.

Sometimes we make things look easy, when they aren’t… Why don’t you share an epic fail with us?

One time, few months after starting to tinker with my blog, I deleted the database. The name didn’t mean anything to me (generated by an automated installation) so I looked at it and dropped all tables without even thinking twice. Luckily I went to check the website a few minutes after that, realized something went really wrong and asked the customer support to restore everything. After that I didn’t venture into phpMyAdmin for years!

It was an important lesson though: that’s the moment when I started really getting into WordPress, to have a better understanding of how things worked. You’ve gotta know where to put your hands and where to look for answers, so when you’ll inevitably break things you’ll be able to fix them and learn from your mistakes.

WordPress is highly customizable, thanks to both plugins and themes. What plugins and themes do you recommend? Do you miss anything in WordPress?

I only use the Genesis Framework for my clients: it makes a lot of sense business-wise for the niche I work with. It eliminates the guesswork: all themes follow a consistent naming practice for php functions and html and css elements, so it’s quick to set things up. And if you decide to build your theme you will follow the same guidelines so even if you go back to it and you weren’t thorough with the documentation (cough, cough, I guess it happens to a lot of freelancers, doesn’t it?) you’ll know how to navigate your old code.

I tend to avoid using too many plugins, most of the time Jetpack is enough for my clients’ needs. I’ll install Yoast SEO if there is a SEO specialist working on the project.

WordPress is pretty sweet out of the box and as soon as you start to understand how hooks and functions work, you can customize it to your heart’s content: from a few lines of code to register a new custom post type or a widget area, to very complex functionality, you can really do it all.

There’s plenty of people working on WordPress (or considering to). Do you think it’s possible to make a living out of it? In your opinion, what business opportunities are there?

Absolutely yes! I have been making a living off WordPress for 6 years now. I think there is a lot of demand for different kinds of websites and the market is not saturated yet. Of course the big projects are the ones that get showcased when we are collectively selling WordPress (raise your hand if you told at least once “The New York Times is powered by WordPress” to any client, doesn’t matter the scope of the project), but there is a huge demand for small budgeted, simple, no-frills websites–they are a great way to start making a living out of WordPress and learn a ton on the way!

Where do you see WordPress in 2 to 3 years? How would you like it to evolve?

Oh this is a difficult question! On one hand I like how the enterprise world is embracing WordPress and how WordPress is embracing the enterprise. On the other one, the reason why I fell in love with it is because it’s a user centric software and it has the power to give voice to everyone. I don’t know if it is humanly and technically possible to follow along these two lines, but I would definitely hope we are trying.

Finally, who should we interview next? Tell us 3 WProfessionals you want to see here.

Luca Sartoni, growth engineer at Automattic: every time there is a crazy ambitious project he is always the one that tells me “Get on board, trust me!” and I do and so far it has been a crazy ride, but an amazing one nevertheless.

Jenny Beaumont, the local team lead for WordCamp Europe 2017. I am one of the organizers and I am blown away every time she posts an update from the local team: they are doing an incredible job, Paris is going to be encroyable.

Taco Verdonschot, community manager at Yoast and responsible for their translation project. He was the first person I met at the Community Summit in Philadelphia in December 2015: he welcomed me with a smile and a few words in Italian and I knew that everything was going to be all right.

Thanks again to Francesca for this wonderful interview and for nominating yet another three members of this huge community. I hope you enjoyed this interview and see you soon!

Featured image by Jonas Andrijauskas.

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