Photo of JuanKa Díaz, by Ramiro T. Argentona

I know it’s been a pretty hot summer, specially here in Barcelona, so I thought it’d be a good idea to bring back our fresh interviews section. Our interviewee today has a perspective slightly different from what we’re used to, for he comes from the Joomla! realm… ?? (I guess nobody’s perfect ?) He’s a great professional and a better person. Please welcome JuanKa Díaz!

Thanks for the interview, JuanKa. I’m very happy to have you here. For those readers who don’t know you, please introduce yourself and describe your relationship with WordPress.

It’s my pleasure. I love your blog and your interviews! ?

Basically, I’d define myself as a front-end programmer/developer specialized in both WordPress and Joomla!. My personal professional brand is jdevelopia. My passion for software development and computers started in 1987, when my father came home with a Commodore64. He thought he’d be using it for work, but he never really used it… but, oh boy, I sure did, and that’s when my obsession with this world began. But let’s not talk about ancient history… ?

I started with the development of HTML+CSS websites. In the beginning everything was handcrafted—there weren’t any CMS. Then I learned PHP and, even though I almost died with PHP-nuke, it was very helpful and taught us a lot. Soon I realized that you’ll go faster if you work alone, but you’ll go further if you have a team. And so I joined free software projects like Joomla! and WordPress, so that I could be part of their communities and have reliable web development frameworks.

In your web, you define yourself as a WordPress and Joomla! specialist. What do you think about these two platforms? Does Joomla! have something that WordPress is missing?

Exactly. I have to admit that I’ve been mainly focused in Joomla! development and, therefore, I’ve more experience in it. Two years ago I decided to expand my horizons and started to work with WordPress too. I already knew the platform, of course, but I had only used the earlier versions of the software with way less functionality. To be completely honest, my interest in WordPress started when it finally implemented custom post types natively–that was magical! ?.

Now, back to your question–nowadays Joomla! has 2 features that make it a great software. One is native multi-language support and the other is called “template overrides”. I know the former can’t be easily implemented in WordPress (at least, not without breaking backwards compatibility), so I’ll just focus in the second one–something it’s missing in WordPress that I’d like to have.

Template overrides are a mechanism for redefining the views of a module or extension. Joomla! follows an MVC architecture, which makes it super easy to tweak any third-party extension and make it look like however you want. In WordPress, this is something I’ve only seen and use in WooThemes’ extensions. When you’re used to the MVC paradigm, it’s difficult not to miss such a feature ?

Why switching to WordPress? Strategy? Business? A demand from your customers?

There’s no single reason, honestly. As I said before, I couldn’t use WordPress as a framework tool until it implemented custom post types. Once it did (and it did it properly), and taking into account its market share, it simply made sense to use it. On the other hand, Joomla! fell slightly behind their competitors in terms of features and, unfortunately, it lost market share (remember, though, that Joomla! is the only CMS that doesn’t have a company behind it—it’s 100% community driven). Customers know it and they ask for something else. Moreover, I’m a freelance and not only do I work with final clients, but also with several agencies—in the last two to three years, the number of WordPress requests I receive increased dramatically.

Nowadays, WordPress is the best open source CMS available (except for its lack of multi-language support). One of the things I like the most about it is the fact that plugin developers extend it following some standards, augmenting its core naturally.

The Open Source world is where it is today thanks to its community—people from all over the world contributing and helping each other. As a WordPress and Joomla! specialist, you can compare both communities in an informed way. So, tell me, what do you like about them? What’s missing?

I love these questions, because I’m really passionate about open source communities. I’d say I’m pretty active myself—I’m one of the managers of the Joomla! groups in Barcelona and the WordPress Meetup in Tarragona, I’ve been a speaker in both JoomlaDays and WordCamps, and I’m currently leading an association for organizing open source events. I think the community is a key piece in every single open source project, and it’s our duty to make it better and bigger.

Back to the point. One of the best things of each community and, at the same time, one of their worst things is the profile distribution we find there. That is, in Joomla!, for example, there’s plenty of programmers, but we lack more designers or SEO experts. In WordPress is the other way around: there’s plenty of heterogeneous profiles, which bring in interesting points of view and diversity, but I feel like technical aspects of the CMS are second-class citizens. Thus, for example, if you want to do anything in WordPress, most of the solutions you’ll find will be a plugin, even when it’d only take a couple of lines to achieve he same result… but, then again, you’d need to “know what you’re doing” to use such a solution.

On the other hand, if we focus on third-party developments, Joomla! and WordPress follow completely opposite paths. When someone creates a Joomla! component, they usually create a completely tailored solution, ignoring the project’s core. As a result, we’re completely free to create anything we want, but making extensions inter-operable with each other is complicated. WordPress, on the other hand, is extended more cleverly, and its easier for developers to rely on each other.

It’s said that you can learn from your mistakes… but I’d say it’s better if you learn from somebody else’s mistakes. So, why don’t you share some epic fails? Even if they were in Joomla!…

I agree! If you’ve never failed, you didn’t do it as well as you could ? I’m not going to share one but two mistakes! ?

The first one is quite common: poor scheduling. I recall one particular project that I assumed it’d take 6 months and, in the end, it took a year and half. A total disaster. There was a valuable lesson there—plan new projects based on your passed experience, when you know how easy or difficult something will be. And, anyway, make sure you invest as much time as required in getting the project requirements and defining its scope, so that the expectations and the final delivery match.

The other one is very common too. You rely on a third-party plugin, library or framework and, after a while, you realize it wasn’t the best choice—you didn’t need it, there were better alternatives, or you could have created it from scratch… but you chose poorly! In these cases, it’s important to explain to your customer what free software is and how the open source ecosystem works, so that they understand why you make certain decisions at some points.

There’s plenty of people working with WordPress or considering to. You switched from Joomla! to WordPress. What business opportunities are there?

There’s an endless list of business opportunities! Developer, coach, designer, SEO or WP specialist, consultant, copy-writer, implementer, technological partner… Not that long ago we were writing letters and today we have a super computer in our pockets. Technology is evolving fast!

Nowadays there’s a lot of sectors that must join the digital era, because not doing so is not an actual choice. WordPress is a great tool for implementing this transition, because it’s accessible, affordable, and a lot of professionals know it. There’s a huge market out there, so believe me when I tell you you’ll be able to find the right company, plugin, or developer for your projects.

In the last meetup here at Barcelona you talked about the relationship between customers and developers. What tips would you tell our audience to make sure their projects succeed? I don’t really care if they’re targeted at developers, customers, or both.

I don’t think I can give you any advise I already discussed in my talk, because I think we covered all the scenarios. But if I had to choose three tips only, I’d chose those that benefit both parties.

First, communication. The customer and the developer will be working side by side for a few months. Good communication is paramount if you want your project to succeed and to satisfy both parties.

Secondly, define the business model behind the project and think how it fits the web. This way, we’ll make sure the project won’t die right after it’s born, making the customer and the developer happy. Moreover, this will help you make the right calls, because any decisions you make will have that goal in mind.

Finally, if success was easy, we’d all be Scrooge McDuck. Success isn’t a recipe you can follow—you can simply tend to it by working hard, being passionate, and having the right attitude. It’s easy to think of the short term, but you should focus on the long run. Try to get better everyday—if you think you already are, you’ll fail.

Finally, who should we interview next? Tell us 3 WProfessionals you’d like us to interview and why.

It’s difficult to think of three people I admire that you haven’t already interviewed…

Francisco Aguilera. He’s a Chilean front-end programmer, franciscoamk. He has a YouTube channel where he shares tutorials about design, layout, and programming.

Elliot Condon, the main developer behind Advanced Custom Fields. I think it’s one of the best WordPress plugins available. It’s very well developed and documented. Besides, Elliot is super friendly!

Matías Ventura is the current leader behind Gutenberg, the new WordPress editor. I think Gutenberg will change how we understand web editors. Matías is a great professional, full of passion and vocation.

Thanks for your time, JuanKa! I knew your interview would be refreshing. And thank you, dear reader, for reading us and sharing our interviews! See you soon!

Featured Image by Ramiro T. Argentona.

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