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Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.

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David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This the WordPress community podcasts on WMR. This is your host, David Vogelpohl, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you hear every week on press this as a reminder, you can find me on Twitter @wpdavidv, or you can subscribe to press this on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. In this episode, we’re gonna be talking about a very popular topic this these days and that is the rise of no code WordPress sites. And joining us for this conversation is someone who knows a little bit about that. Like to welcome Jessica Scanlon to Press This Jessica.

Jessica Scanlon: thank you for having me. This is so fun.

DV: Yeah, we’re so glad to have you here. How did I do in the last name pronunciation?

JS: Yeah, you did good. You did good. Yeah, tripped up. Yeah, it was not as bad as Vogelpohl.

DV: That’s right. For those listening, Jessica had to say my last name recently in front of a crowd at South by Southwest on appeal. You’re on together about how digital has changed since the pandemic and like how the digital world is changing. You didn’t you did well with my pronunciation Jessica, I’m proud of you.

JS: I have lots of practice.

DV: Okay. Good. Good. Yeah. It’s like two simple words. Thank you for practicing. For those listening though, I guess is going to be talking about Jessica is the founder of hot dog marketing, and she’s going to talk about their new program pz which is a no code platform, which helps SMB brands create an incredible digital experiences with just the right mix of agency lead design, to help their business stand out on why Jessica is gonna talk about their platform, but she’s also going to talk about the notion of no code sites and their role in thinking about how maybe even agencies serve clients, but also of course, how brands consider their web presence. It’s a really interesting topic and I’m looking forward to diving in. Alright, just so yeah, I’m gonna ask you the same question I asked every guest and press this briefly. Tell me your route press origin story. When was the first time you used WordPress?

JS: Oh, so I started working with small businesses. Before even we launched the agency and that would have been in 2010 is probably when we first started working with WordPress. So it’s been over 12 years. And that’s when I started getting into it myself and then also started working with developers that could really started to do some really cool things with WordPress. And then we watched the agency 10 years ago, and lean really heavily into WordPress is our preferred CMS for every project. And I mean, since then, we’ve built hundreds of websites using WordPress and it’s by far our favorite platform.

DV: Do you remember the reason why you started using it in 2010?

JS: No, I had a friend that was of everything of flash designer. I remember that. Yeah. She told me because I was thinking about, you know, I was trying to learn about website options. And she said, Well, you know, everybody’s kind of moving towards WordPress. And I said, Okay, well tell me more. And so we kind of dove into those early versions of WordPress and I also discovered Studiopress along the way, so a lot of our early websites lean pretty heavily to those themes and in Genesis, yeah.

DV: Oh yeah. connection with Genesis. That’s great. We had Gartner on the show a few times and and of course genesis for the WP Engine universe now. It’s been awesome. Yeah. Okay, so 2010 So that was a pretty eventful year in WordPress. And you probably didn’t even maybe realize it at the time. But of course, this was the introduction of custom post icing, and custom meta fields, which in a way really start to remind you re energize the revolution towards using WordPress in the no code way. And we’re gonna kind of bridge into that, but it’s kind of interesting that 2010 Was your origin year, especially with that kind of monumental moment and WordPress is history.

JS: I must have caught the wave as a non developer at that point, right. Yeah.

DV: It was the moment in my opinion, when it transformed WordPress into being a true CMS before it was more of a blogging platform with themes and plugins. And then all of a sudden, it’s like, you can really meaningfully edit your website, and it’d be a website and not just a blog.

JS: That’s awesome. Yeah.

DV: Okay, so you have hotdog marketing, of course, and we’re here to talk probably more about pz. Could you tell me more about pz and duck marketing and kind of what you do with both offerings?

JS: Yeah. PZ is a new program. That we’re launching this year. And the story behind that is, you know, when we started hot dog marketing, and I think this is a similar story for a lot of small agencies like us, you know, our clients when we started were kind of the smallest of businesses and you know, while we still work with kind of independently owned businesses, we’re usually working with more mature companies now. And as our agency has grown, and our capabilities with what we do with websites and digital experiences, have grown, our projects keep getting you know, more and more expensive and that’s also just kind of how things are going right. Developers are expensive, it’s expensive to design a custom website or develop a custom experience. And, you know, we were kind of losing the opportunity to continue to work with the smallest businesses, which we still have kind of a heart and soul for here, right? We want to make sure that we’re offering something for them to because we believe strongly that they’re an important part of the community. So we took kind of a hard look at our website, projects and thought, like, what can we do to innovate the way we build websites, so that we can offer something at a much much lower price with a lot of speed and velocity behind getting the project done, so that we can continue to serve these smaller businesses and the you know, we’re coming out of the pandemic at this point, too. So it’s kind of obvious just looking at the looking at the world that smaller businesses can use all the help they can get. So we partnered with Texas State University and they have they do capstone projects for their MBA students. And so we partnered with a group of MBA students and they helped us kind of study. What are the concerns or questions that these small business owners have about getting a website up and what do they understand and don’t understand and what’s the price point? They’re kind of expecting to pay an agency if we were going to say like, you know, I don’t want to do this myself. I want. I want some help with it. And it was really interesting, you know, they came back and said, sure they get it. They’re attracted to Squarespace and Wix is offerings, but they ended up spending 50 to 60 hours of their own time trying to build a website on their own, and they’re not designers. So at the end of the day, it just doesn’t look the way they want it to function the way they want it to. Doesn’t have a content on there that they want. You know, and so they said that they were really looking to pay less than $3,000 to somebody to help them with their website, and they need it done quickly. So we use that as kind of a catalyst for how we were going to design that the PC program and and try to fill in that gap somewhere between those DIY platforms and, you know, more custom built website offerings at agencies typically do.

DV: So the business owners and it’s smart of you to do this study when you’re like you’re not in the room asking the questions. Agency, but yeah, a little bit less than that. Hawthorne effect there, I guess from from your earliest kind of spoiling the interview. But it sounds like because I was going to ask you about Squarespace and Wix and other I mean, even people have made this comment about Gutenberg like oh, all the small businesses will just go do it on their own now and and your survey respondents are those a youth group interviewed? Yeah, he didn’t say like what? Yeah, I can but I’m not good at it. I kind of want to do it. Did you find that was like a majority of those that participated? Was it a was it a smaller talk?

JS: yeah, most of them were. Most of them had tried is basically the story. The majority of the small business owners either had a site that was built by their cousins, you know, neck what whoever cousin boyfriend and had major concerns about understanding how to use it because once it was given to them, they had no way of easily updating the content on it, because they didn’t understand how it was built or how the CMS worked. And then the ones that tried it on their own using, you know, either the Wix or Squarespace or even the GoDaddy offering that they try to sell you after you register your domain name, you know, just burned so much time and basically we’re spending the first couple of years in business unhappy with their website, but feeling like they weren’t at a point where they could afford somebody to do well on it.

DV: and create it on their own but not do a great job with design been able to update it or maybe have taken a path where updating it is difficult for whatever reason, and but the gist is they want to update that they don’t necessarily want to design later. The folks that you spoke to this is very interesting. I want to get into the whole notion around no code sites a little bit. Deeper, though. I’m gonna we’re gonna take our first break and we’ll be right back. Time to plug into a commercial break. Stay tuned for more pressing this in just a moment. Hello everyone and welcome back to press this WordPress community podcast on WMR. This is your host David Vogelpohl. I’m interviewing Jessica Scanlon while the rise of new code WordPress websites. Jessica right before the break, you were telling me a little bit about the desire of small business owners to be able to keep their website updated and fresh, but not necessarily to be the designer appearance. I thought that was incredibly intriguing. So it sounds like from this study, then you decided to basically build out pz as a path, a program or program path in order to achieve their website goal. So how do you do that with peasy?

JS: Yeah, that’s great. So we took our we took our website process, which is not dissimilar from any other agency’s website process and really looked at what could we do to create value but also kind of strip away the layers that cost money cost time? You know, how do we keep the developer time to it at kind of a minimum, to kind of save on cost and knowing that the content portion the design and functionality portion is really important to these customers? So keeping a designer involved but figuring out how do we do kind of all of it much more quickly. And so what we, what our developer did, our lead WordPress developer, said, why don’t we build kind of a template site right and take advantage of WP engines ability that kind of duplicate environments on the on our dedicated servers there to make the setting up the install of WordPress in the setup of WordPress, simple, and let’s customize our Peasy offering, you know, with a really easy to understand and custom Gutenberg site. really minimize how much CSS coding we have to do and just use some other ways to just customize the font and the color but keep it from having so much stuff in it but the average person can go in there and update their own WordPress site easily. And so that’s what we did. So a majority of the work that we do on a PC site is a designer using the template in prototyping software like Adobe XD. And once the client approves that, the developer has a very simple workflow to get a new WordPress environment setup and to customize just a couple lines of code for styling, and then goes in and moves in all the design assets to make it look and feel just like the prototype did. And that cut our development time from you know, 3060 days on a custom site bill to two days. So we can get a site up very, very quickly now, for very little development cost and it’s been really popular program.

DV: From your perspective, that means that you can service smaller clients and do a job you’re proud of from the clients perspective, it means they get a low cost good looking site. What is the advantage of going WordPress in this route for them? Like is it is it the flexibility for the future is it you know, the hiring and then there’s lots of people that can work in it? What did you why this versus doing this with Wix yourself or something like that?

JS: Yeah, for sure. So, um, you know, biggest advantages for us is kind of the key to the program is the way it works with our hosting it WP Engine. So knowing that we could leverage Gutenberg to create that very easy experience on the WordPress side of it when a client wants to log in and make their own updates that the other thing that the survey found was that there’s over 60% of business owners wish they have, you know, their website person easily accessible just in case something comes up and they need help with their site. And so we offer a maintenance program with easy that gives those business owners that person that they can work with and during the sales process, one of the things that comes up is well, you know, this seems like a very templated solution. What are my options for growing it and it’s really, really nice to say well with WordPress, endlessly scalable, you can add whatever you want. And for the for them to know that they own that site. And they can take it anywhere. They’re not necessarily tied to hot dog marketing or Peasy forever. They’re not necessarily tied to WP Engine forever, right? That’s their website that they could move just about anywhere and throw rock and find somebody that can work on that site for them if they needed it. So that’s, you know, typical advantages of WordPress. It’s easy to sell a small business owner on why you’d want to do it that way instead of being kind of tied down to a platform that you can’t get out of.

DV: Okay, so that’s really interesting. So the scale and customization is a draw like there are small businesses but I guess most small businesses would prefer to be bigger businesses. Yeah, if I’m if I’m kind of chained in flexibility, it prevents my growth perhaps in the future. Even if I don’t need that right now. And then it sounded like no, the platforms that we’re going to pick on one platform like the sassy platforms, I mean, they have support but it sounds like they needed you said a person did you? Implying like someone that like knows their history and like can make an informed decision about what to do next or recommendation? Is that what’s important or did that come through?

JS: Yeah, that’s exactly it. So you know, the small business owner wants to feel like they’ve got somebody they can reach out to that they’ve worked with before that they trust. To give them advice on the site. They don’t necessarily want to call a one 800 Number or going on chat with some random person and just have them be guided through a troubleshooting process. You know, they want to be able to say like, I want this done in the next few days. Can you just take care of it for me or this doesn’t seem to be working on the site and just have someone take care of it. You know, a small business owners got a million headaches, website should be kind of one of the last things that they have to worry about. And you were spot on with the growth part of it. Every small business owner, I think, dreams of growing the business, having multiple locations, having a larger team. And one of the topics that we talked about too, during our South by panel together was just the, you know, restaurants wanting to add these kind of third party systems to make online ordering and online experiences easier. So knowing that they can add ecommerce down the road or it works seamlessly with third party platforms. All of that are good selling points for WordPress and I think it makes them feel like they’re getting a professional product when you’re using a WordPress site.

DV: Yeah, and I would imagine, I know your your business name is high tech marketing. So I’m assuming you’re focusing on growing these businesses in more than just building sites for them. I guess I’d say building sites is a form of growth, of course, but like you’re trying to make them grow. And so my guess is as you’re servicing them, you’re thinking like what can we do? Next? And then you start to think about well, that means we need to change something on the website, and how are we going to do that and so guessing that, that that simplicity is great for their budget, but then the flexibility later for you to go and build on top of that without having to rebuild the whole site again, is an advantage for you to get their continued business. Is that fair to say?

JS: That is fair to say? And you know, one of the things that came out of that study beyond you know, wanting a better looking website with better content on it. Those small business owners that we interviewed as part of that study said that their number one other concern was Search Engine Optimization. As far as they’re concerned, that’s, you know, just a puzzle that they don’t have time to figure out. And so we do offer a pretty simple search engine optimization add on to our PC sites. And then of course, if they’re ever interested in growing their online presence hot that marketing is well positioned to do more for that client as they grow that it’s easy. It’s a nice, easy way to get them started in kind of a growth minded way of building your digital presence, if that makes sense. You know, rather than thinking of it as like an essential brochure thing that I’m just going to put online and think about it again. Now they have a real professional site with some functionality, some SEO maybe and they’re going to start seeing some advantages from that you hopefully want to grow in other areas.

DV: Yeah, I see what you mean there if I if I can go build it on my own this Saturday, you’re like, did I really get what I need for my business and it’s a point of pride pride brag to your family, definitely about your family. I have clients in my agency, they send it to their family and brag on it and put us on Facebook and you’d see their cousins and sisters and say it’s a personal reflection as well, especially for small businesses and local communities. You know, it has a very special meaning and means something instead of there’s care and quality behind its point of pride. Of course, it’s your job to try extra hard to make it a point of growth. Now, earlier you mentioned that kind of ownership part and that that’s such an interesting part of the WordPress kind of pitch to me. I want to kind of get your perspective on it. We’re going to take our last break. Right, time to plug into a commercial break. Stay tuned for more press this in just a moment. Everyone welcome back to press this WordPress community podcast on W EMR. We’re in the middle of talking about the rise of new code WordPress sites with Jessica Scanlon. Marketing. Jessica right before the break you were telling me a little bit about I kind of, I guess personified it through the lens of that sense of pride of having a quality site but I wanted to kind of talk about the ownership side because I feel like when you look at the open source community and developers, there’s a really like deep understanding of like this notion of like owning your software and your site versus quote, renting it from a platform. And it sounds like you’re using that in your pitch. And I just I’m wondering, I’m just imagining like this business owner that doesn’t know much about tech like grasping that concept, but like, does it resonate?

JS: You know, it does, and that’s only because I can share with them a million stories of other business owners that we’ve worked with that had a site that was built maybe in a proprietary CMS by a developer at some point, some you know, and they may have spent loads of money on that, but they have zero idea how to move it away from that company or do anything with it. And then you’ve got clients that have started or maybe built their own thing and Squarespace and don’t understand that they can’t just transfer it somewhere else.

DV: Yeah. That’s, like I tell people is like, yeah, you can do it. But like two years later, when you want to do X, Y and Z, you also have to pay to switch all that legacy stuff you built up on the other side, and it’s, you know, it’s a big cost. And it will delay that next move because you’ll be like, Oh, I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to do it now because I have all this other stuff. I have to do the same time. I wanted to add that, you know, eCommerce experience to my website or something I have to rebuild the whole other part of my website.

JS: Well, there’s a and I’m not going to pick on any particular company. But there are other marketing agencies that really hone in on these smaller businesses. And part of their offering maybe part of it like a suite of digital marketing services. Is that a website that they’ll build for you? And then the moment you become unhappy with those marketing services is kind of the moment you realize you can’t move your site away from this marketing company about having to build it all over again. And they usually put proprietary plugins and things like that to that or maybe running some essential functionality, even if it’s a WordPress site, and they’ll have things that Oh, sure, you can move it but we’re gonna have to strip it away from all strip all these plugins and themes off your site, which basically makes it useless when you move it somewhere else. And I think, as a small business owner who’s gone through all sorts of lessons myself, it’s incredibly unfair to be put in that position when you are trying to make strategic moves towards growth. And it just felt really unfair and that’s why we always have been getting at big advocates for WordPress period because we’ll say, Listen, for some reason you don’t want to work with us anymore. We don’t want to keep this amazing, important business asset away from you. You own it, or take it where you need it to get, you know,

DV: that’s awesome. Are you using custom plugins you make yourself are you using off the shelf to maximize totally off the shelf to maximize that portability?

JS: We use off the shelf

DV: can bounce out and there’s there’s no quote weird code, somebody else has to figure out some day. You’re you’re thinking about that portability in that very, very sense now, I mean, the good to move of the maybe less scrupulous developer with to take people down that route to create that tied to them. Why Why didn’t you do it that way? Like the client might never know that. I’ve been playing here and unscrupulous person, but I just mean like, why is that important to you to do? And then do you communicate that to these clients?

JS: Yeah, I think it doesn’t, it doesn’t really match with our values, right? One of our core values as a company is adaptability, quality, and we want to make sure that in positivity too, so we want to offer all those things to our clients. When they work with us. And so we don’t put anything on there that they can’t take with them. You know, we’re not going to put some sort of plugin that has a premium license that we pay for that’s going to make it really hard for them to move on. We’re going to try to find a solution that’s off the shelf or a free that they can keep on their site. And, you know, we minimize the use of plugins as much as we can. We’ll use them for things that we can’t, you know, might not already be created inside of the website template that we’re using over and over and over again. But, you know, it’s things like Yoast, right, like we will put Yoast on the site and Yoast will go with them wherever they need to go and it’ll be set up the right way. For them to get the most out of Yoast when they improve their site. But we also want the opportunity to prove to them our value is a good website and marketing partner. If they’re not happy with us, we don’t want to make them stay with us.

DV: My philosophy as well, I love it sounds like you’re using and I appreciate all the references the web interface so you can manage those things and sounds like you’re setting them up in a place where they can keep their PHP and WordPress up to date and other parts in good shape and the heart meeting in it. That way. Very clever. This was super interesting. Jessica, thank you so much for joining me today.

JS: I appreciate you thinking of us and you know, we really love the partnership with you guys. We love WordPress.

DV: thanks I appreciate you having me on the panel itself. I feel like this is not an even trade but I really glad that you came to my podcast it’s amazing. If you’d like to check out more about what Jessica is up to visit a hotdogmarketing.net. Thanks everyone for listening depress this the WordPress community podcast on WMR. This is your host David Vogelpohl. I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine and I love to bring the best of the community to you here every week Press This.