Today, we have got the chance to interview Arindo Duque, the founder of NextPress and WP Ultimo. He has created these products to transform WordPress Multisite Networks that can serve as a Website as a Service (WaaS) and help users to create websites with different membership levels.
Arindo, it is a pleasure to have you with us today. We all know your WordPress connection. What else can you tell the readers about yourself?
Thanks for having me! Nice to be here. 😃
Well… I started to program at a pretty young age, and it was all because of anime!
Not a lot of people know this story, but when a friend of mine introduced me to Naruto, I was immediately hooked. As your average nerdy teenager, lover of all things RPG, I enjoyed playing RPG PbF (Play by Forum) at the time. For those not familiar with PbF, it’s basically a way to remotely play tabletop RPG using a forum: adventures take the form of forum threads and players would reply with their actions and such.
Then, I had the bright idea to combine Naruto and RPG PbF by creating an RPG based on the anime’s canon. In order to take my forum off the ground, I had to learn HTML and CSS to customize it, and since it ran on phpBB, I also ended up learning the basics of PHP. I was 14 at the time, and programming became my passion ever since. This was 10 years ago. 😃
When did you first discover WordPress and what were the reasons you decide to pursue WordPress development?
Soon after I learned PHP, I realized there was potential to generate some income from that. I was still a teenager, so it didn’t even need to be a lot of money, just enough to buy cool gear for my PC.
So I did what everyone else does and started to pitch my site-building capabilities to family friends and got some small gigs here and there, but always coding the entire thing, page by page, from scratch.
That’s when I stumbled upon WordPress. It made so much sense to me at the time. My clients would no longer need to call me to make adjustments on their sites, they would be able to do them themselves using the admin panel! Themes would allow me not to have to start from scratch every time a new project came in! Again, I was hooked immediately.
If WordPress wasn’t here, what CMS would you be developing for?
The only other CMS I have worked with was Joomla, and that was a long time ago. To be honest, I didn’t like it that much back then, but I’m sure lots have changed.
I’ve always been curious about Drupal but never got to test it. I would probably give it a go. Outside of the PHP realm, Ghost is something I would also like to take a look into.
Arindo, you are the founder of NextPress and WP Ultimo. What are these about, and how did you come with the idea?
WP Ultimo is our main product. It allows you to create different membership levels on a WordPress Multisite network, and sell those levels to your end clients, allowing them to create sites on that network. It transforms your site into a WaaS (Website as a Service) platform. Think WordPress.com or Wix.com, for example. WP Ultimo allows you to replicate that business model using nothing more than a WordPress Multisite install.
In 2014, I banded up with a good friend of mine (who was already building websites with me at the time) to create a portfolio platform for designers and freelancers in Brazil. We wanted the entire thing to be automated: clients would signup, choose a site model, and the system would create the site for the client.
Originally, we started to develop this platform in Node.js, but it soon became clear that WordPress would be a better choice given that features like user management and themes were already built for us. That’s when we discovered WordPress Multisite and the whole thing came together.
We searched around a while to see if any plugin did what we needed but only found half-solutions, so we decided to build the thing ourselves. My friend was responsible for the frontend and the portfolio functionality and I was responsible for developing the billing and provision system (actually creating the new sites on the network).
This project ultimately died as a lot of competitors started to pop-up that year. I kept the code I wrote for that and two years later, in 2016, that became the base of WP Ultimo.
NextPress is the umbrella company that owns all of those, including WP Ultimo. We’re a team of 4 at the moment, with another full-time dev joining in soon.
The WordPress repository contains thousands of plugins. Which are your favorite ones?
Query Monitor allows us to keep a tight grip on the number of database queries we’re making and help us evaluate the effectiveness of the caching strategies in bringing the number of active queries down. This is pretty important when developing a plugin with a large footprint like WP Ultimo.
User Switching is a neat little tool that allows you to see the admin panel and front-end as a particular user on your site would. This allows us to test if permissions are correctly set among others.
Can you describe your dev workflows and the tools you use during your work?
At NextPress, we all use Visual Studio Code with a couple of extensions installed. For the development environment, we use Docker, which allows us to spin up WordPress installs with different stacks in seconds. Versioning is done using Git and GitHub, and we keep track of things to do via Basecamp.
WordPress is not well known for speed. What are your suggestions for improving WordPress speed and security? If you get a chance to change one thing about WordPress, what could it be?
WordPress no longer deserves the bad rep it gets in terms of speed. That used to be the case when all WordPress sites were running out of pretty bad shared hosting environments, with no core update schedules and tons of bad plugins installed.
Now with super cheap VPS servers and awesome managed platforms built on top of them, most of the necessary processes you need to implement to get your site to load fast are done for you when you create a new site. This includes effective caching (not only of pages and posts but of database queries), a good CDN, etc.
WordPress is a super powerful tool, but as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibilities.
The fact that you have thousands of plugins available to install does not mean that you need to install a plugin for every simple feature you want to have on your site. The number and quality of the plugins you install directly correlate to the risk of a security breach and a slower site.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and every new plugin installed is a new link that could potentially wreck the entire chain.
You are an active member of the WordPress community. Do you think the community is still as great as it used to be?
To be completely honest, I only effectively joined the community a couple of years ago.
As I discussed with Micah Dailey on my PressPause interview, for me, the WordPress community was really intimidating. It took me going to my first WordCamp here in Brazil to realize that I was ABSOLUTELY wrong.
I can’t say anything about how the community used to organize itself in the past, but from my experience, it is a great and welcoming community.
You have organized and spoke in WordCamps. How do these meetups benefit the WordPressers out there?
I think WordCamps and meetups serve the great purpose of making people realize that WordPress is in its core made by people. I have no doubts that there are a lot of people working daily with WordPress that have the same idea I had years ago – that the WordPress community is intimidating and that “I somewhat do not belong there”, or “I’m not good enough to be part of it”. These events destroy those perceptions in the first 10-15 minutes of being there.
The more people we get to go to WordCamps and Meetups, the better.
Who do you consider your best buddies within the WordPress community? 🙂
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All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. You aren’t the dull type 😉 So what do you do during your free time?
I like to write/compose songs. 😃
Choosing WordPress hosting is an important decision. How would you compare traditional hosting with a highly optimized WordPress hosting like Cloudways that uses advanced caching technologies to boost performance?
If you are not a technical person, or just don’t want to have any headache setting up a fast and reliable site, managed is the way to go. As mentioned above, most of the heavy work is done for you automatically. Things that are must-have today are a single click away.
That’s one of the reasons why we moved all of our landing pages to Cloudways a few months ago. We have the know-how on how to set up a fast site with caching and auto-renewing SSL and whatnot, but why bother when that’s all taken care of for us at almost the same price (actually cheaper if you take into consideration the hours spent setting and maintaining the servers).
It frees us to work on things that really matter, like developing our products and caring for our customers.
Just for our readers, can you please send us an image of how your workspace looks like? 🙂
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Mustaasam is the WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed WordPress Hosting Platform, where he actively works and loves sharing his knowledge with the WordPress Community. When he is not working, you can find him playing squash with his friends, or defending in Football, and listening to music. You can email him at [email protected]