Q1: What is your background, & how did you first get involved with WordPress?
I have been fond of the web since I was 17. This was when 56K modems, Netscape and AltaVista were popular, long ago come to think of it. The ability to create something with code is just somehow fascinating. After graduating, getting married and becoming a dad I got a job for 2 months. That was all the time I needed to realize working for a company was not my thing. So I started to freelance and felt I wanted to specialize in something. When WordPress 2.7 was released, I was charmed by the way WordPress looked and how easy it was to manage a website with it. I decided that I would specialize in WordPress and WordPress only. Back then not such an obvious choice as it is now.
A friend of mine was looking for a way to work on his own terms. We decided to team up and we build one or two WordPress sites per week for the “enormous” amount of $400 per site. We specialized in coding and started to work with awesome designers and agencies who were in need of WordPress experts. At some point we wrote a solution to manage columns for one of our clients and we submitted that into the WordPress repository; just because you could and we hoped to help others. This was sometime in 2011 and somehow building the best WordPress plugin we could became our full-time job. Which is an awesome thing to do by the way.
Q2: What should readers know about Codepress, & Admin Columns?
At the moment our product “is” our company. It’s what we do most of the time. We made Admin Columns to give users a better admin experience. We are always improving the code, the interface and at the moment working on new features. We care about what people think of us and how they use our product. When someone makes a suggestion, we really try to listen and see if it fits. Recently we have done a survey and published the results online along with a plan when and how all this feedback will be integrated into Admin Columns. And we are from the Netherlands, which is cool too of course ;)
Q3: What challenges did you face in building your business?
Our biggest challenge was (still is a little) to take the the leap and start doing the thing you are most passionate about. We have been working for clients for quite a while. This brings in a steady stream of revenue and is fun to do. Our real dream was, however, to make something scalable which would not just help one client. It had to be beneficial for the entire WordPress community. It was hard to start saying “no” to appealing projects in order to apply focus. But eventually we got to it. We started saying “no,” accepted a lower income for a while and made Admin Columns into something really great.
Q4: Did anything surprise you during the process of growing it?
That there is always feature x or feature y or other improvements. When you work on a project for a client there usually is a natural ending. It’s done, project delivered. But when you have a plugin out there that is used by thousands of people, the stream of ideas and improvements literally never stops. A real pitfall too as you would love to build all these ideas into Admin Columns and make it even better.
Q5: What does the future look like you and your company?
I think next year will be mostly about Admin Columns. The product is very mature; but since it works so well with basically any plugin that adds custom data to your site, we will be writing integrations for these plugins. We have a few other ideas for plugins or services we would love to develop. So for the foreseeable future we are going to create very cool WordPress plugins that help you manage your content better.
Q6: What do you look for in a managed WordPress host?
I won’t discuss the obvious aspects like security, backups, speed and auto-updating WordPress. They should do that very well or don’t call yourself a managed WordPress host.
Speak the language of your client and cater for their needs. I like to be able to say to my client: pick that host, they will take care of everything. But as a developer, I might have different needs like external MySQL access or Git integration. A managed WordPress host should make those options almost invisible for those who don’t need it, but easy to use for those who do. That way agencies, developers and clients alike can all use the same host and appreciate it for very different reasons.
Something that I find very important is communication on “uptime”. Many hosts still use what I think is an outdated definition of uptime. They only care about the infrastructure their platform is built on. But from a client’s perspective, “uptime” is a lot broader. A homepage that shows an HTTP error like 500 or 404, a SSL certificate expiring, a log being filled with fatal errors; all things that a host might be able to write heuristics for to inform a user something odd might be happening with their site. In other words: deliver peace of mind.
And last but not least; try to see a client’s side of a story when there is a problem. Some clients just don’t belong with your company, but clients can expose gaps in your service. Be sure to keep an eye out for customers who take the time and trouble to report something.
Q7: What do you enjoy doing when you’re away from your computer?
I love running in the woods, swimming, traveling, reading a book and hanging out with my family or friends. In no particular order. Do I do that as much as I would like? Not nearly. I have three little kids that are growing up; so the next three years sleeping will most likely replace most of that list :)
Q8: Who should we interview next, and why?
Brad Touesnard or Iain Poulson from Delicious Brains. These guys have a lot of knowledge on WordPress coding, creating plugins and events. And the best thing is, they share it with everyone in detail. Really interesting stuff. They are best known for Migrate DB, a plugin that helps you to migrate content between WordPress installations painlessly.