Today I’m delighted to share an interview that will probably be of particular interest to the developers amongst you.
A chat with Dave Dean (who many of you may know on Twitter as @wpmusketeer), a Genesis developer and consultant based out of Cornwall, UK.
And – while I’d be excited to chat with Dave any time – I particularly wanted to do an interview with him at the moment because he’s just released Musket, a ‘modern workflow development framework built on Genesis and WordPress’.
In the interview, Dave talks about:
- how he got into Genesis,
- why you might choose Musket over other development workflow choices out there,
- and his tips for getting into WordPress development if you’re just starting out.
If you’re a Genesis developer (or curious to take the leap yourself) I’m sure you’ll find it useful.
NICK: For those that don’t know, tell us a little bit about yourself, where do you live, what do you do and what makes you tick?
DAVE: I’m a web developer and online consultant to small businesses, helping them integrate their offline and online business processes and marketing so they can compete against the big boys!
I’m based in rural Cornwall in the UK and my partner is a full-time mum, so I’m pre-occupied with diversifying my income to help protect against the financial vagaries that are often associated with freelancing.
To that end I have engineered a mixture of income streams – I take some salary, some retained consultancy and some ad hoc freelance income. I have also started to develop a “personal brand” in WP Musketeer as a platform for selling products, the first of which is Musket…
How did you first get into Genesis website development and how long have you been working with it?
What are the biggest reasons to work in Genesis for you?
Aside from it being a solid SEO foundation, I like that it’s hook oriented. Being able to manipulate the framework this way promotes a better separation of concerns between stylistic (front-end) code and structural and business logic (back-end) code. It’s closer to a modern MVC framework than most WordPress frameworks, whilst still being “WordPressy”.
Genesis 2.2 came out with a big focus on accessibility. What, if anything, would you like to see on the roadmap for future Genesis releases?
WordPress (and thereby Genesis) are primarily suited for client services. By that I mean they are a great platform for freelancers and agencies who are building new sites on a regular basis with access to a massive ecosystem of turn-key addons (plugins).
The reason they are so well suited to client services? They are ardently backwards compatible and they don’t introduce revolutionary new features too often. This makes it safe and relatively easy for the freelancer or agency to maintain a large number of sites.
So I don’t feel the need for Genesis to introduce revolutionary features. It just needs to keep up with WordPress and the broad evolution of web standards, such as responsive design in the past and accessibility more recently.
Any other hidden talents or passions you’d like to share?
My big passion is the outdoors. But I don’t get to spend nearly enough time in it any more!
Firstly, massive congrats on the launch of Musket. What’s the reaction been like so far?
The reaction has been positive. Some people are enjoying it for reasons that I expected and some are enjoying it for reasons that I didn’t!
I expected people to dig how quickly you could get a site live, but I didn’t appreciate people would find it a useful tool for learning about the technologies it makes use of.
It seems that if you’re not already familiar with, say, Sass or Gulp, that seeing how they are used in Musket is a useful way to understand them.
For people that don’t know, what’s the backstory to Musket, what made you decide to do it and why now?
I was asked to talk about Bourbon and Neat at Genesis Camp earlier in the year, because I had incorporated it into a Genesis starter theme.
In the talk I explained Bourbon and Neat by demonstrating my starter theme, which I spun up with a DesktopServer Blueprint and proceeded to deploy to a live server via Git. People were far more interested in the workflow and how fast the site was spun up than they were Bourbon and Neat – and so the idea of Musket was born!
As someone who dabbles in web development myself, the choices out there for developers these days are mindblowing. Different frameworks, starter themes and other new tools. How do you see Musket fitting into a typical Genesis developer’s workflow and why should they use it over some of the options available to them?
If you’re a Genesis developer, then the fact that Musket is based on a Genesis child theme is an obvious benefit compared to those that aren’t. There are a couple of freely available Genesis starter themes that incorporate Bourbon and Neat but Musket is different in a number of ways.
Musket isn’t designed to fit into a workflow, so much as it is designed to be a workflow. So it’s particularly useful for designers / developers that either don’t have a consistent workflow or know they could be using better tools in their workflow and just haven’t had the time to research and learn about them.
On top of that, it is very much aimed at designers / developers working in client services (you know, that sweetspot I talked about earlier). It’s engineered for building sites quickly but whilst maintaining the higher-end features like internationalisation (i18n) and accessibility (a11y) that let you add value to your offering. Most of the time, i18n and a11y get ignored because they’re complicated and the client doesn’t have the budget. Musket makes them easy and lets you offer those features in-budget. Added value that helps you beat out your competitor…
Have you set goals for the project (financial or otherwise)?
There are two goals: To create an additional revenue stream of unspecified size and to learn what I can about selling digital products in the process!
I love the ‘Musket’ name, but apart from that have you given much thought about how you’ll distinguish what you’re doing from other Genesis / WordPress development frameworks? Any specific marketing ideas or plans you can share?
Hopefully the bevy of benefits mentioned above distinguish Musket from the alternatives out there.
It’s certainly different to the likes of Bedrock or WP Starter. Musket doesn’t try and hack WordPress into a sub-directory and make it a dependency of a wider app. That’s a nice idea if you work day-in, day-out on the same large-scale app with no input from lay end-users but to be honest, if you’re doing that, why the heck are you using WordPress? Use a dedicated web app framework like Rails or Meteor.
Musket is for freelancers or agencies working in client services. It’s great for freeing up their time which is better spent on adding value to their offering. The WP Musketeer site already helps those people via how-tos and tutorials so I’ll continue to get the word out that way. The rest of my marketing plan is in a folder marked “Top Secret”, so you’ll just have to watch this space…
When you came up with Musket, were there any other web development frameworks / starter themes etc, either inside or outside of the Genesis community you took inspiration from?
I came to WordPress from Rails. The idea of an “opinionated” framework and “convention over configuration” came from having worked in that arena. Whilst it’s not possible to completely mirror that style of development with WordPress it’s certainly where I drew most of my inspiration.
Away from Musket, do you have a typical type of client that you work with or specialise in any particular area of development / consulting?
I only work with a small number of clients, but offer them a wide range of services.
The main industries I work in are drinks manufacture, printing and assistive technology.
My development speciality would be custom print solutions (image editing API integration and WooCommerce solutions for bespoke products sold by area).
My consulting speciality would be integrating business back-office systems (order management / inventory control / accounts etc.) with WordPress and WooCommerce and general online and content marketing.
You obviously give a lot of thought to your workflow, hence Musket, but of course there’s always room for improvement. What’s the one thing you’d like to improve in your own web development workflow as of today?
I want a terminal command (probably `musket start project-name`) that splits up my terminal into multiple panes, each within a certain directory of the project with a relevant command running (eg. `gulp` and `git status`). I reckon I can do it with something like itermocil.
Aside from recommending they use Genesis and Musket(!), what advice would you give to people out there who are maybe just getting started with developing with WordPress?
Make sure you’re using it for the right reasons. If you’re looking to make a web “app”, then WordPress may not be for you… go take a look at Rails or Meteor.
If you want to make a one-off website to sell your own product or you want to freelance in client services then WordPress is perfect. However, there isn’t necessarily a “right” way to do things with WordPress, which can make it very hard to learn best practices when you’re starting out. Musket tries to address that to a certain extent and as I mentioned earlier, Genesis is a good framework for encouraging a separation of concerns.
Read other people’s code and refer back to the codex!
What’s next for Musket?
I’m looking at offering a version that works with vvv.
What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you if they want to learn more about what you do?
And finally the most important question of all, Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey?
With my facial hair? Game of Thrones. The real question is: books or TV series?
Thanks to Dave for taking the time and giving some great answers.
If you want to check out Musket for yourself be sure to head on over to musket-theme.com and don’t forget your chance to win a copy in Dave’s generous giveaway below!
And if you have any other questions for Dave, feel free to leave a comment below and I’m sure he’d be happy to swing by and answer them.
PS If you’d like to hear more from Dave, check out his recent chat on the UK Genesis podcast.
Win a copy of Musket!
For your chance of winning a copy of Musket – the new Genesis web development framework from Dave – just enter your name and email address below.
(Competition closes 11:59pm PST, Sunday 1 November 2015)
This giveaway has now finished *sad face*, but look out for new chances to win cool stuff in future articles *happy clap*.