After a short break in the series, I’m delighted to be back to share the latest in an occasional series of interviews with the finest folk in the Genesis community and today it’s the turn of Frank Schrijvers of WPStudio to take the mic.
If you don’t know Frank, you might well know his beautifully designed Genesis themes over at WP Studio (which are going from strength to strength) or his handy Genesis plugins or his useful tutorials.
Hailing from the Netherlands he was gracious enough to do the interview in his non-native language, but he comes across extremely well.
I love what he’s doing (and he tells me he’s got two more themes in the coming in the next weeks) so he’s definitely one to watch and follow (@wpstudiowp) if you don’t already.
I hope you enjoy (oh and look out for the giveaway at the end).
NICK: You’re probably most well known, at least in the Genesis community, for being the guy behind all those fantastic designs over at WPStudio (where you sell Genesis themes) but for those that maybe don’t know, tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live, what you do and what makes you tick?
Hi, I’m Frank. Just a regular guy from the Netherlands, land of the wooden shoes, tulips, windmills and of course – smile – top-notch web designers and coders.
My background is quite diverse: initially, I was trained as a social worker and have been working at a refugee center for many years. In the new millennium, I quit my job to do some serious travelling together with my girlfriend, a religious science student. We kept a blog on our experiences in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. This was my first encounter with WordPress, HMTL and CSS.
After a year of travelling, I was hired as supervisor in a Dutch hosting company. I spend my free time developing my web design and developing skills. My improved skills did not stay unnoticed and I was hired a web designer in the same company.
Around 4 years ago I realized that being your own boss is more challenging then being bossed around (smile). So I started my own company. Nowadays, I’m running a small company named WPX (www.wpx.nl), specialized in WordPress design, hosting and maintenance. But I’m even more passionate about WPStudio (www.wpstud.io), focused on developing premium Genesis themes.
How did you first get into Genesis website development and how long have you been working with it?
I’ve started building WordPress themes in 2008/2009. Back in those days, every website I built was based on the famous Kubrick theme. Moreover, I’ve also developed four themes for the WordPress repository. You should be able to find them if you search well, as they are still out there (wink).
Within WPX, my colleague and I specialized in WooCommerce Webshops and used our own framework bases on Google Bootstrap. In my experience, our framework wasn’t as flexible as we hoped it to be and it eventually cost too much time to set things up.
Luckily, I came across the Genesis Framework, bought it and never looked back. This was about two years ago.
What are the biggest reasons to work in Genesis for you?
I am totally hooked up by Genesis’ hooks, the clean code, the flexibility, and the functional as well as simple admin settings. Additionally, I find it important that a framework is here to stay, based on a large community and broad experiences. Indeed: you’ve got a Genesis fan over here!
Genesis 2.2 was released with a big focus on accessibility. What, if anything, would you like to see on the roadmap for future Genesis releases?
What a difficult question. For me, a good framework equals a solid fundament instead of focusing at special features. I think it has been said before: in the future the Genesis framework at least has to keep up with WordPress and web standards.
Any other hidden talents or passions you’d like to share?
Besides theme development, my biggest passion is my eight-year-old son Yuka. Since I have my office at home, he usually spends some hours sitting next to me, playing Minecraft on one of my computers. I’m really amazed by the objects he builds using these digital Lego blocks. When I have time to spare I like to build with him (smile). When the wind is up I enjoy going power kiting. I’m also interested in interior design, and I collect designer toys like Kidrobot.
For people that don’t know, what’s the backstory to WPStudio, what made you decide to launch it?
The main reason for starting WPStudio was to create a company that reflects who I am: the themes I develop at WPStudio embody my passion and creativity. Hopefully, the fun I have in creating Genesis themes will benefit their quality. To be honest, using my imagination to create another theme is more fun than for example spending my time setting up a hosting environment or cleaning up hacked websites.
Are you full time with WPStudio? (If not, what else do you do!). Do you also offer ‘regular’ WordPress / Genesis development work like custom themes and consulting?
I’m running WPStudio alongside my other company WPX. Usually, theme developing and blog writing for WPStudio takes up 30% of my time. In the other 70% at WPX I manage a broad spectrum of WordPress services, including hosting (based on Nginx), consultancy, maintenance and development.
Have you set particular goals for WPStudio (financial or otherwise)?
My main goal is to make WPStudio grow. For WPStudio, 2016 hopefully becomes a year with a twist: spending less time on WPX and use it to expand the Genesis theme building for WPStudio. It would even be more satisfactory if this twist pays out in my portfolio, website visitors, sales, blog articles and knowledge. In summary, my aim for 2016 is WPStudio to become part of the established order within the Genesis theme market.
One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you, in particular, is because I think the designs you put out are some of the strongest I’ve seen in the Genesis premium theme marketplace and I’d love to see more people discover your work. I know your background includes working at a web design agency, but can you tell me more about how you approach designing new themes and where you find inspiration?
I indeed have experience as a web designer at different companies. In the latest company, we designed and developed everything ourselves from scratch. None of it was WordPress based. I quickly discovered that a solid structure and layout form the basic for good theme design. In other words: limit the bells and whistles, keep it simple and clean. I find my inspiration for new themes in various places, on the digital highway but also in real life. For instance, the newest railway station of my hometown Arnhem, the Netherlands is magnificent – you should look it up on the Internet. Interior books and designer toy stores are inspirational as well. Of course, more standard resources such as awwwards.com, dribbble.com and themeforest.net also inspire me.
Who do you look up to in the design world, either inside or outside of WordPress?
I dig the work of the Focus Lab team. They do such an awesome job. I particularly like the diversity in their work. I’m also a big fan of the product designs from Dieter Rams.
In terms of marketing, have there been any particular techniques or tactics that have worked well for you with WPStudio? Do you have any new initiatives you are planning to try in future?
To be honest: I’m still looking for the best technique (smile). It is not natural for me to shout new themes from the rooftops. I don’t spam Twitter, Facebook or Slack to promote my newest theme. As it is my handicap as well, theme PR could be a nice goal for WPStudio for 2016 (wink). An affiliate program may be a good starter.
What do you think of the current state of the Genesis theme market and where do you see it headed?
It’s a small market, which I like. It’s such a shame though that there are so many unknown theme developers. An initiative like Calvin launched a few weeks ago – listing theme developers – may help to put more theme developers in the spotlight as well. Also, the Genesis theme market seems to mature, showing more variety in themes, techniques and designs. For both customers, developers and end-users this is a nice development.
Are there any other WordPress businesses you particularly look up to, either inside or outside of the Genesis community to
copy get inspiration from (and why)?
Not really. I prefer to draw up mu own path. Having said that, I do like the enthusiasm in the Genesis community like Brian, Calvin and – not to forget – you. As I said earlier, many things inspire me. When I discover something interesting created by someone else, this stimulates me to take another step myself as well.
I see you also created a few Genesis plugins (https://www.wpstud.io/plugins/) what’s the reaction to those been like?
I started developing plugins to get familiar with Genesis, including developing plugins. I’ve used the plugins in some of my own projects and figured they may come in handy for other users as well. Furthermore, plugin development is a nice way to come in contact with other users. The reactions I get are overall positive. Sometimes, the plugins don’t seem to perform within a specific theme. In that case, I prefer to get a note to be able to put the plugin to the next level.
Finally, I know you’ve just launched another theme, Forest. How’s everything going and what are your plans for yourself and WPStudio in 2016?
The Forest theme is alive and kicking! I’m curious what people think of it. My second goal for 2016 was to re-design the website for WPStudio. That job is done as well! Furthermore, I like to release at least 4 nice-looking themes and hopefully some clever plugins as well.
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?
I totally fail on this last question. I’ll put both series on my to do list for 2016 right away (wink). I’ve recently watched ‘The Leftovers’ and really liked it.
My thanks again to Frank for taking the time and also generously doing a giveaway (details below).
Win a copy of Forest!
For your chance of winning a copy of Forest – the latest and greatest Genesis theme from WPStudio – just enter your name and email address below.
(Competition closes 11:59pm PST, Sunday 7 February 2016)
This giveaway has now finished *sad face*, but look out for new chances to win cool stuff in future articles *happy clap*.