Category Archives: Thoughts

Parting ways with ChurchThemes.net and looking ahead toward a brighter future

New ChurchThemes.net

Three years ago, in July 2011, I started a theme shop. It was an era where many people in smaller niches were yet to be discovered by developers as a force to be reckoned with. The “The Long Tail” principal hadn’t yet sunk in, at least not enough for churches to have viable WordPress theme options available to them.

Churches were being grossly under-served in every WordPress theme marketplace. The most common option for them was to customize their favorite “photography” or “design agency” theme, somehow seeing past page after page of irrelevant stock imagery and the thousands of “shortcodes” they wouldn’t be using. Sprinkle in a few plugins, and say a prayer – maybe, just maybe, this would work.

Thanks to the encouragement I received from friends and family (and a few discouragements too) I launched ChurchThemes.net in an effort to bring robust WordPress theme options to churches and fulfill my dream of seeing churches launch full-featured websites, that would typically cost thousands of dollars, for less than $100.

The past three years have been a massive learning experience for me. Dealing with issues like pricing, upgrades, support, competitors, backwards compatibility – the list goes on. I’ve enjoyed so many experiences, both failures and successes, because of starting this business.

But the entrepreneur in me just can’t be satisfied with one business. Late last year my friends at X-Team and I began prototyping the product now known as Stream. And it’s taking off like a rocket in the WordPress community.

So this year we decided to undertake even more ambitious plans to establish Stream as the de facto standard in WordPress activity tracking. And now we’re well on our way to achieving it. And I can’t even mention another secret personal project I’ve been working on! Needless to say, the time has come to part ways with ChurchThemes.net.

Today, I’m happy to say that Lift has acquired ChurchThemes.net and will be ushering in a new chapter for the business and its customers. I cannot say enough about the Lift co-founders Chris Wallace and Brad Miller. These guys not only have insane WordPress theme chops, they have a deep-rooted passion to see churches succeed.

Churches are no longer under-served in WordPress theme marketplaces, but there are plenty of innovative challenges just waiting for someone to spearhead and break open new possibilities, just as ChurchThemes.net did in the very beginning. I am confident that the guys at Lift are going to blow the roof off of the industry and define the future for churches using WordPress.

It’s a bittersweet moment for me as I officially part ways with ChurchThemes.net. But its future has never been brighter, and for that, I am very thankful.

Read the full press release

Frankie Jarrett - The Solution

I’ve been HEROized as The Solution!

Last night was a very memorable night for me as my friends at X-Team unveiled my inner superhero, dubbing me as The Solution!

The Solution

When Frankie Jarrett isn’t living his passion for working in WordPress or making music, he’s the problem solving hero known as, The Solution!

He was born with the amazing cerebral super power to solve any problem. Frankie can always figure out a way to communicate clearly with anyone. He is often there to listen and offer support to others, no matter how difficult their situation. Often Frankie only needs to say, “I’ll have to think about this problem a little”, and soon he has an exciting solution!

No situation is too big or too small and there is no danger too great for him to face. Whether you are having a tough time remembering trigonometry for your math test, or you are stranded on the roof of a burning building, The Solution can always figure out the best way to rescue someone.

Our hero also has the natural ability to inspire others, whether leading musical worship in his church or jamming with friends, Frankie uses his voice and musical talents to uplift and inspire those around him.

When not saving the innocent, Frankie spends his time watching the History channel with his wife, whom he absolutely adores.

Being HEROized is a true honor, and I am grateful to Dave and the rest of the team for recognizing me in this way.

Now to create more solutions! :)

Joining X-Team

Not long ago I was contacted by Dave Rosen, the CEO of X-Team, who had stumbled across my blog (this one). He was looking for a WordPress guru who could help wrangle up their many projects on the technical/development side of things.

After just three days of communicating back and forth (and one Skype call) he offered me a full-time position, and I wholeheartedly accepted! He flew me to Los Angeles a few days later to sync up with his top developers, Weston and Josh, who have been temporarily living here while working at FOX Broadcasting.

Needless to say, it’s been an outstanding experience working with these two. They’re not only top notch programmers but also great guys who are a blast to hang out with and have become good friends of mine. Since I’ve been here I’ve really enjoyed soaking up all the new information and techniques X-Team uses, specifically learning to incorporate version control with Git via command line into my workflow. I’m very happy to say I’m no longer Cowboy Coding! :)

My next big task (apart from client projects) is to bring a WordPress framework into fruition for X-Team that we’re calling: WPized. Weston Ruter has laid a ton of groundwork for the WPized framework already, so I’ll be taking a lot of what he’s started and simplifying it into a tool for creating themes rapidly. I’ll also be writing a lot of documentation for our other WP developers so they will know how to use the custom helper functions the framework will offer and all of this will hopefully make the process of theming much more unified within X-Team.

It’s an extreme privilege to be doing what I love for a company that boasts some very big clients, has a long history of doing extraordinary things and has a lot of fun doing it! I am very fortunate to not only be running my own theme shop but now also working with a superb international team on WordPress projects full-time…from home!

What’s the future of the WordPress iOS app?

I don’t launch the WordPress iOS application very often, and when I do it’s usually to do a quick typo fix on a post, page or comment. Sadly, there is no other reason to use it.

Once, I heard Matt Mullenweg mention in a podcast interview (can’t remember where, sorry) that he really wasn’t happy with the app and agreed there was still a lot to be done. I’m always glad to see Matt pushing for more and it makes me very optimistic about the app’s future.

I don’t intend for this post to be a rant, I just believe that in order for the app to have a successful future, it should be supporting what WordPress is already known for. Otherwise, Tumblr, Posterous and a slew of other platforms who are thinking more “mobile” could gain a significant portion of the WordPress market share.

It seems to me that there are five major components of WordPress that just aren’t supported by the app yet.

1. Custom Post Types
This is a big one. WordPress introduced them in June 2010 with version 3.0 and we still don’t have them supported in the iOS app. This is probably the biggest upset of the five since it has been around for over a year and involves the very core of WordPress: Writing posts.

2. Widgets
Seriously? Yes, seriously. Currently, there is no way to add, modify or remove widgets from your WordPress site using the iOS app. Some may disagree that this belongs on my list, but I think it’s deserving. Widgets were introduced in version 2.2 and are one of the core things that makes WordPress unique and attractive. The mobile app should reflect WordPress’s existing core strengths to differentiate itself from other mobile players.

3. Post Formats
Post formats were introduced in version 3.1 and I think it was an excellent addition. It took the Custom Post Types functionality from version 3.0 and expanded it even further. We even saw the birth of “Tumblogs”, or WordPress themes that function like Tumblr sites, all because of Post Formats. Hell, I can’t even use the default Twentyeleven theme effectively on iOS because support for Post Formats is still missing. This would be a huge improvement.

4. Custom Fields (Post Meta)
Some plugins and advanced themes take advantage of Custom Fields on WordPress posts and pages. Although not always crucial, this is another capability that already makes WordPress unique and is part of core functionality so I believe it should be a part of the mobile strategy.

5. Theme Options
Almost every theme these days has a variety of Theme Options. And I’m not just talking about the “Theme Options” item under the Appearance menu, but also Header, Background, Sidebars and any other options page available for a particular theme. Why is this last on my list? Because Theme Options aren’t exactly critical for delivering content, which is what mobile is really all about: creating and publishing content quickly while on-the-go.

Jump on over to the WordPress iOS App Forum to join the conversation or be part of the solution.