“By Jumping in and Doing It Yourself, You’ll Learn More About WordPress,” Jeff Starr Discusses WordPress Development

by Danish Ashrafi  July 30, 2016

Jeff Starr is a multi-talented individual who’s a very respected developer, designer, author, and publisher. Currently, he runs Monzilla Media, a web development company. He has published over 1,000 articles on web-development and WordPress-related topic and is the author of four WordPress related books.

In this interview, he talks about his journey into WordPress development, his writings and his ideas on developing technical skills.

Cloudways: Jeff Starr, it’s great to have you here with us today. Please tell our readers a bit about yourself? When did you start using WordPress and why did you choose WordPress out of all the CMS platforms available?

I’m a professional developer, designer, author, and publisher. I’ve been working online since 1999 and have published over 1,000 articles on web-development and WordPress-related topics. I’ve written and published four books, three of which are on WordPress, and I have also developed around 20 WordPress plugins, most of which are freely available in the WP Plugin Directory. Plus I run my own web development business, Monzilla Media.

I started with WordPress back in 2005 when it was still pretty new. There were only a handful of decent blogging software/CMS programs available back then, and WordPress was the simplest and most capable of them all. So I got into it and started customizing things and sharing my work at Perishable Press. From there, I got into theme and plugin development, and then things just sort of took off and I haven’t looked back.

Cloudways: I was going through your blogs and I was wondering if you write because it is one of your hobbies, or if it is a part of your job?

Writing code, books, and tutorials is what I do for a living, but I also write articles, poetry, and other tidbits in my free time. So yeah, probably would have to answer “both” for this one.

Cloudways: In the recent WordCamp held in Europe, Matt Mullenweg told WordPress users to learn JavaScript deeply. What is your opinion as a WordPress plugin and theme developer about this suggestion?

I would listen to Matt’s advice, which is the same thing that many other top developers are saying. It’s also apparent to anyone who is paying attention to how web development has been evolving over the past several years. Unfortunately, not every developer has the time to “learn JavaScript deeply”. Fortunately, there are plenty of things that JavaScript can’t do, so it’s not a “do or die” situation. Focus on what you do best. If there are time and desire leftover to further your JavaScript skills, then, by all means, you should. If not, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.

Cloudways: You have authored four books on WordPress, which are indeed awesome :). And I see that you are working on a tutorial about Developing Secure WordPress Site at Lynda.com now. What other topics are you planning to cover in the future?

I’ve written three books on WordPress and one on Apache/.htaccess, but the .htaccess book does cover a lot of WordPress material. For future projects, I am starting over and getting into some things that I haven’t yet had time to learn, like Nginx, cloud server technology, and of course more JavaScript stuff like React/Redux. I will be starting up some new sites that cover these topics (and more). It’s very exciting for me to break into some new territory.

Cloudways: Who do you consider your best buddies to hang out with in the WordPress Community?

I spend most of my WordPress time helping people, providing support, and socializing on various media. So gotta say my “best buddies” are the people that I interact with every day, working on various projects, etc.Far too many to name individually. These people mean everything to me, and I enjoy their company every day.

Cloudways: Can you recommend your favorite WordPress theme or plugins to our visitors?

I write all of my own WordPress themes, most of which begin with my shapeSpace starter theme. Then for plugins, I frequently use Broken Link Checker, Google XML Sitemaps, and UpdraftPlus – all great and super useful for just about any site. For my own plugins, my favorites are Dashboard Widgets Suite, Blackhole for Bad Bots, and BBQ Pro – all tightly integrated with WordPress and focused on performance and security.

Cloudways: Who do you think WordPress beginners should follow and learn from?

Follow your own path, and let your own curiosity guide your efforts. Learn by doing, and take advantage of the vast amount of knowledge available online to supplement your efforts. That’s my approach, basically a DIY mentality. By jumping in and doing it yourself, you’ll learn more about WordPress, and learn it more deeply than by simply following the herd. In other words, work hard and do your own thinking. If you get stuck, do a quick search and then dive back in.

Cloudways: Everybody needs to have some time off from work to relax. What do you do in your free time to unwind yourself? Are you fond of traveling? Which is your favorite place to travel to in the world?

I like Southern California — the weather, beaches, and scenery are pretty inspiring (the traffic not so much).Then for hobbies, I find running to be very therapeutic. I also like to unwind by watching movies and listening to music. My favorite hobbies are drawing, taking photos, and flying quadcopters. And of course, spending time with my awesome wife and two kids makes everything worthwhile.

Cloudways: WordPress is being used on bigger projects and handles a lot of requests and visitors. Would it be better to refer platforms that specialize in providing WordPress hosting such as Cloudways? Have you tried Cloudways’ hosting offer yourself?

It’s interesting that you mention this, as I just completed my 38-video course at Lynda.com on developing secure WordPress sites. In the course, I share a list of my recommended hosts for WordPress, and Cloudways is right up there near the top of the list. You guys provide some fantastic hosting and support that I recommend for anyone who is serious about succeeding with WordPress.

Cloudways: Finally, just for our readers, can you please send us an image of what your desk or workspace look like! 🙂

Jeff Starr Workspace

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About Danish Ashrafi

Danish was a WordPress Community Expert at Cloudways - A Managed WordPress Hosting Platform. He loves helping out WordPress beginners and solving their problems. His passions takes up his free time as well and he spends time designing, developing and learning new stuff. You can email him at danish.ashrafi@cloudways.com

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