Pablo López – WProfessional of the Month

Published in Community.

We’re now entering the final stretch of the year and, just as we did last year, we’re doing it with another great interview on our blog. This time, the “fool” we’ve been able to trick into coming here has been Pablo López, a web developer with many years of experience behind him and a great lover of the community. You may know him from his blog, desarrollowp, where he shares tips, tutorials, guides, snippets, and so on. Since Pablo has decided to share a super exhaustive interview, I’m not going to entertain you anymore. Enjoy this interview!

Thanks for the interview, Pablo. It’s a pleasure to have you here, especially after I’ve had the opportunity to be the one to stop by your blog. For those who don’t know you, tell us a little bit about yourself and your relationship with WordPress.

Thanks to you, David. It was a pleasure to be able to interview you and now it’s an honor to participate in this interview. And thank you Carlos Bravo for the nomination!

My name’s Pablo López. I was born and live in Madrid, and I’m happily married, with two children. I’ve been in the development world since 2000 (Visual Basic, C++…), and I started with web development about 2006. Until 2011 I was working in an agency where all the developments were ad-hoc, in ASP or PHP, without frameworks or anything like that.

In 2011 I became a freelancer and had my first contact with WordPress. A great friend and great professional (Javier Bartolomé) showed me WordPress one morning in a coffee shop and all the potential that was before me blew my mind 😳 A lot of the things I had been developing over and over again were there by default! 😄 I quickly went to read the Codex and some guides on reference blogs such as ayudawp, wptavern, wpbeginner, etc… and started using it for my projects.

In the early years almost everything I did was small custom developments with WordPress, and in 2014 I had the opportunity to get a job at VASS digital and work with large accounts: insurers, city councils, banks… they were starting to use or migrating many portals to free software (WordPress, ZF2, Drupal…), and I learned a lot on those projects.

Practically since I started in 2011 until today almost all the projects/developments I have done have been with WordPress.

One of the things I like most about these interviews is that we have the opportunity to talk to people like you, who are very involved with the community. I think that first-hand experience like yours might motivate others into getting involved. Now, how do you combine the fatherhood of two creatures with all the work involved in being a speaker, a developer, an organizer of WordCamp Madrid and its Meetup…?

Well… organization! Sure, I work a lot of hours and I have many responsibilities, but in the end, you just need to find some free time… and also have a wonderful woman who supports you very much and a lot of colleagues 😜

My first contact with the community surprised me pleasantly. When I started with WordPress I had a lot of doubts about how to do certain things. I remember I looked for help in the support forums and the communities in social media, and people were actually there to help me! Thanks to authentic aces like Manuel Canga, Samuel Aguilera, Juan Padial… who selflessly solved my questions, I learned a lot about WordPress‘ behavior. Later I found out that there were several events around me, like WordPress Madrid Meetups or WordPress Days, and attended them to continue learning.

Around 2014, I felt confident and eager enough to give back to the community part of what I had received so far, and I began to answer some questions in the official support forums, participate in meetups… I was trying to help newcomers just like others had helped me before.

The WordPress community has given me (and continues to give me) personal and professional growth. It’s helped me to enrich my knowledge, to know other ways of doing things, to broaden my vision, to open my mind, to exchange opinions… In addition, I’ve had the good fortune and privilege of knowing and learning a great deal from professionals who are incredible in their fields, and whom I now consider my friends.

The peak of my relationship with WordPress arrived when I co-organized WordCamp Madrid. Everyone was giving their best! There was so much respect, so many useful ideas, so much transparency… and everything was coming from volunteers! An unforgettable experience, really.

In summary, I just want to encourage everyone who has a personal blog or works with WordPress to get involved and participate in the Community. We’re all part of it and we all have something to contribute. It’s really worth the effort!

In the presentation you gave at the WordCamp Madrid, you talked about the optimization of WordPress installations (WPO). Nowadays there are several specialized hosting providers in WordPress that make all the hard work for you, and so it seems that it’s no longer “that important” that users know about WPO (others are already in charge, right?) What do you think? What are the things that every user should know about this topic?

Yes, it’s true that right WPO is trendy today—more and more plugins and solutions are aimed at making websites faster. So, in the end of the day, just by installing 4 plugins and hiring a decent hosting you can get tremendous results… but this is only a first step!

Even if “others are in charge” of the basics, you should still ask yourself: What else can I do to improve my web? How far can I go? To paraphrase a friend: reducing the loading time of a website from 5 to 1 second is easy. The hard part is getting down from 1 to 0.9. That’s where nobody else but you can make the real difference.

The user who will visit your website is impatient—he wants to see the content and he wants it now. WPO is becoming more and more like Formula 1—you have to see where you can scratch 1 thousandth of a second from here, reduce 1KB from there… getting the pole position is tough!

You’re currently working at the International University of la Rioja (UNIR). I’ve always thought that free software projects like WordPress should have a special place in universities, as both are based on the idea of “sharing knowledge”. Tell us a little bit about how WordPress is used in the university environment. What problems do you solve? Who and what are you using it for?

I have only been working in UNIR’s web development and innovation department for a few months. For an online university, internet presence and web tools are very important. We have dozens of corporate portals, informative, landings, etc… and they all use different technologies. However, WordPress has recently gained some importance in the university and it looks like it’s going to be the basis of a lot of future developments.

For me, WordPress is much more than a blogging platform or a CMS—it’s a development suite, a solid foundation that includes user management, content management, a multitude of APIs (HTTP, REST, Rewrite, Settings…), a flexible data model, and a core that can be extended and molded to our needs. It doesn’t really matter the team you’re working in—SEO, advertising, product managers, marketing… WordPress gives you the necessary flexibility so that each profile can access your areas of work independently and meet your needs.

In your blog you share your knowledge about WordPress and current affairs: news, tutorials, tips… I understand that, like us, the blog is a way to publicize your personal brand and promote yourself. If I’m honest with you, I’m curious to know how effective it is at that. Many times it’s not easy to see the return of blogs like ours, in which we are not promoting our products or services continuously… How do you see it? Is there one approach that works better than another for good results?

I don’t know if I’m the right person to ask, because I honestly didn’t apply any particular approach. But I can share my experience, if that helps.

In 2015 I had a conversation with a cousin of mine about blogging and building a personal brand, and it got me thinking about having my own blog. A few months later, in August, I decided it was time to actually do it—I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t have a clear goal, I didn’t have clear expectations, I didn’t know what to expect… Gosh, I didn’t even have a clear name for and I just took one that was free: desarrollowp (wp development) I just knew I wanted to do something that, at the very least, would help me organize my snippets and ideas.

One day, during vacation, I woke up early (as always) and started to work on my blog. I created a first basic theme, wrote 4 or 5 posts, bought a domain and a hosting and… that’s it! 18 days later, Fernando Tellado mentioned my blog in a post of his! That’s was mind blowing—Fernando was one of the most important people in WordPress Spain I could think of, and he mentioned my blog! It was a strange feeling between stupor, emotion, joy, fear, anxiety, shame… the blog wasn’t completed yet—some things didn’t work at all, I didn’t have any traffic, and yet Fernando found me!

Anyway, shortly afterwards, thanks to my blog, I was invited to a technical breakfast at SiteGround and I attended my first WordCamp in Santander. In this sense, I think the blog helped me to meet more people and open new doors. I still don’t know what I’ll do with it in the future—will I keep posting weekly? Will I get tired of it? Will it become something bigger?). I honestly don’t know, but let’s take it easy and see how it evolves.

So, my blog doesn’t get me much money—I added some advertising, but it’s not very helpful. But there’s a lot of things I get out from it! For example, I’ve always been shy and private—the blog helped me to meet new people and make new friends.

We always try to put our interviewees on the ropes, forcing them to share some epic fails from the past and… well, you’re not running away from this question! Tell us about some experience of the past where you screwed up.

Sure! You learn from mistakes and you should not be ashamed of them. In fact, I think they make us better professionals.

Beyond some catastrophic deployment on a Friday at 14:59 or putting into production my development environment, I’d say the biggest mistake I made was during my first WordPress development. I didn’t really know how to do things the WordPress way, and so there was a lot of ad-hoc solutions—I basically bloated the functions.php file with functions for sending emails, accessing the database, and so on; I added all the scripts and CSS files in the header.php; I hardcoded all icons and images in the theme… A complete disaster! But it worked, didn’t it? Months later, after I had learned something else, I had to refactor the website completely without reusing any code at all!

A few months ago all the hype was in the REST API. Now everybody’s talking about Gutenberg. Many changes in relatively little time! Where do you see WordPress in 2 or 3 years? How would you like it to evolve? What are we doing right and what are we doing wrong?

Every year or two a new trend appears—it always seems that if you’re not there, the world’s going to end. New technologies usually mean new work coming in, but it also implies constant work to keep up-to-date.

It seems that Gutenberg will mark the future from 2018 onwards in this world. I’ve only just tried the beta version that is available in the repository, and it looks pretty good. Finally, a standard for using blocks in WordPress—no more shortcodes or custom page builders. Widgets and sidebars will disappear, and the new blocks API will take the throne. It’s said that CPTs or the REST API changed WordPress completely. I think Gutenberg will too.

As per the future? As I said before, to me WordPress is a development suite and, as such, a very good basis for any web project. But it lacks a few things that other PHP frameworks have:

  • wp-config.php files for different development environments
  • Configuration files to activate/deactivate modules (in the end we always end up adding or removing something from functions.php)
  • New functionalities in core such as:
    • A native multi-language system
    • SEO: meta tags, sitemaps generation, etc….
    • WPO: cache activation, minification, HTML ironing, etc….
    • Security: limit of login attempts, change the URL of access to wp-admin, etc…

I know all of this can be achieved via plugins, but I’d like it to be in Core.

And finally, I’d also ask for a complete refactor of WordPress Core. I know there’s some work in this direction, but I think they’re too focused on backwards compatibility (which is normal, of course). I’d like to have a look to the future and, if at some point is necessary to break compatibility with previous versions, so be it. Or, well, there’s no need to break it completely—just add a setting like define(' WP_BACKWARD_COMPATIBILITY', true ); 😁

And finally, who else should we interview? Tell us which 3 WProfessionals you would like to see in the next interviews and why.

I can think of dozens of names! As difficult a choice as it is, there you have my three nominees:

Fernando Puente, a walking technological encyclopedia. I love to listen to him when he talks about managing large projects, cache, performance, scalability…

Pablo Poveda, a real ace, lover of good practices and clean code, with his eye in the future.

David Navia, with whom I had the opportunity to work for a year—he taught me a lot. A true specialist in WordPress!

Thank you so much for your time, Pablo. Without a doubt, your interview has been one of the most complete, which I am sure our readers will appreciate. Enjoy the holidays and be prepared for the interview that we’ve prepared for next January 2018!

Featured Image by Eric Zeidan.

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