Anybody who has worked with WordPress, from beginners to veterans, knows WPExplorer – the go-to resource for articles, themes, and now plugins.
Today we pick the brains of AJ and Kyla, the dynamic duo that keeps WPExplorer up and running as one of the most popular references for everything WordPress! From their first beginnings with the CMS platform to the challenges they have faced to some insightful advice, the two talk about their journey with WordPress.
P.S.: We talk about the AJ and Kyla of an alternate dimension as well!
#1 Tell us something about yourself and how you got started with WordPress.
AJ: I met Kyla freshman year of college, and found WordPress a year later while interning. I loved the platform so I taught myself to code and later started WPExplorer. Haven’t looked back since.
Kyla: I got started with WordPress a bit later. As WPExplorer grew, and AJ began selling premium themes on MojoThemes (then Themeforest) he needed some help. So I left my desk job to come work from home with him. Best decision of my life! Even though there is a lot of work, it’s great to be on the same schedule and to work together as life and business partners.
#2 WPExplorer is one of the most popular go-to resources today, for DIY WordPress users. What prompted you to create the platform?
AJ: I first started my own personal blog, where I shared tech tips, free WordPress themes and blogged about general web design topics. But as I got more into WordPress I decided it was time to create a dedicated website focused on all things WordPress. Blogs like WPCandy and WPRecipies helped me get started, so I wanted to create a website that could help others. So Kyla and I sat down and brainstormed some names, bought the domain and WPExplorer was born.
#3 What is your typical workday like?
Kyla: First coffee, then check social media, publish new content, check comments, refresh old content, emails, business tasks (financial/legal/etc), misc website tasks and check forums (like Reddit or Envato).
AJ: Theme support for Themeforest and Creative Market (via comments, Helpscout tickets, and email), theme updates, new development projects (we have a couple new projects underway), emails, and planning.
#4 What is your approach/thought process to writing a stellar blog?
Kyla: If you’re talking about the blog in general – I leave a lot up to our authors. I think we have an awesome team! As long as it’s WordPress related, our authors have a lot of freedom to write what they’re passionate about – and they are all amazing to work with. But if you’re asking how I specifically tackle an article I start with a topic. Usually, the best topics are based on what your audience is already sharing on social media, or what you are looking for yourself. From there I put together an outline, then add in major points and do a bit of research or my own testing (if it’s a review) to fill in the blanks. When I think I’m done I’ll usually sleep on it and look at the post again the next day with fresh eyes.
#5 Do you have any must-follow blogging practices?
AJ: Publish every day, and don’t copy other people’s articles.
Kyla: And use Yoast SEO – it really does make creating quality search engine-friendly content easier.
#6 What is your screening process like while testing a third-party theme/plugin to be hosted on WPExplorer? What are the must-haves and the deal-breakers?
Kyla: For WPExplorer.com we only use our own custom themes 🙂 but for any plugins we have installed, it’s on an as-needed basis. If there’s a specific feature we need and we think a certain plugin can add it better than we can (like Yoast SEO) then we install it. We only use plugins from developers we trust (Yoast, Pippin, RocketGenius, etc) and we use VaultPress for backups so we always feel comfortable updating plugins.
AJ: For plugins included with themes we look for quality, functionality, and extendability. Currently, we have themes that include the WPBakery Page Builder, Templatera (a WPBakery add-on), Slider Revolution, Layer Slider and Yellow Pencil. We test plugins locally, review the code and talk to the developers before deciding whether to include them in a theme. And much like our own website, it often comes down to what features the plugin will add to enhance our theme that we don’t think should be built-into the theme itself.
A good example is the Yellow Pencil Visual CSS Style Editor included in our New York Theme. It didn’t make sense to include hundreds of options in the Customizer or to add a page builder for this theme so we looked for a front-end CSS editing solution we could include. After testing a few options Yellow Pencil was the clear winner. It adds a lot of functionality to the theme for customers who do want to make a lot of style tweaks, but for those who want to use the theme as is they can simply not install/activate the plugin.
#7 If you weren’t into blogging and marketing, what career path would you have chosen?
AJ: If I didn’t get started with WordPress and creating themes I have no idea what I would have done but I would probably still be working for myself.
Kyla: AJ was meant for WordPress – I think he would have found it eventually or ended up in web development no matter what. But as for me – I was an accountant for a few years before working with AJ on WPExplorer, so I think I’d probably be doing that.
#8 What was the biggest challenge you faced professionally and how did you overcome it?
AJ: Breaking into the Themeforest market was tough at the time, and it’s only gotten tougher since then. I think my first theme was hard rejected four times, but after a lot of revisions it was eventually accepted and became a weekly top seller. Shortly after we were a featured author which gave us the motivation to continue selling through Envato instead of starting our own website.
#9 What do you do to unwind when you’re not knee deep in managing WPExplorer?
Kyla: We’re both gamer nerds. AJ plays Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Starcraft (clearly a Blizzard fan!). I’m loving Mario Odyssey and the new Zelda DLC pack. But we like to go outside too – biking, hiking, or taking our Wrangler out. We live in Vegas so there’s a ton of awesome trails nearby (Red Rock, Lake Mead, etc.).
#10 What pointers would you offer fledgling WordPress bloggers?
AJ: Focus on quality whether you’re a blogger or a developer. For bloggers don’t just write content for search engines – write content for people. And if you’re developing themes or plugins take the time to learn code first. Don’t just piece together bits of code from other products or tutorials online – it’s easier and better to support and update products you’ve created yourself, that you know inside and out. Lastly – give credit where credit is due. If you’re heavily inspired by someone else’s work, give them credit. In the long run, sticking to the highest coding standards and good ethics is better for business and your conscience.
Kyla: Persistence is important so don’t give up. You might not have any traffic at the beginning, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad blogger. Keep writing, learn about SEO and take time to network with others in your niche. And don’t be afraid to email more established blogs – many are happy to have guest bloggers which is a great way to attract new readers to your own website.
Thanks, AJ and Kyla for sharing your amazing insights into the nitty-gritty of WordPress. We really appreciate you taking out the time to answer our questions!
Check out WPExplorer for in-depth articles on everything WordPress, with a host of nifty themes and add-ons as well!