Based in San Diego, Matt Cromwell is a professional web developer and Solutions Manager at FooPlugins.com. He has a vast experience of web development, especially in WordPress (WP). Matt is serving the WP community as one of the 22 admins of the biggest WordPress group on Facebook, Advanced WP.
Exactly two months from now, when I returned home from a camping trip, I received a message on my Facebook chat. It was from Matt Cromwell. In that message, he had appreciated the progress made by Cloudways in a short span of time. He also pointed out that integrating DigitalOcean with the platform made it a lot more affordable. Matt was happy to signup for a trial via the California-based datacenter with DigitalOcean.
I was able to win his trust, therefore I asked him for an interview and he readily obliged. Matt has been very helpful to us and we are grateful for that. (He will soon be featured on our Board of Contributors’ list.)
Cloudways: How many years have you been working with WordPress?
Matt Cromwell: I’ve been building sites for roughly 10 years. I started using WordPress in 2010, so I’m a 3.0 and above.
Cloudways: Tell us something about your earlier days with WordPress. How did it start?
Matt Cromwell: I was approached by McLane Creative/The Youth Cartel to build a site with WordPress for them.
They asked me: “Have you ever worked with WordPress before?”
When I said no, they said: “You’ll be fine, it’s easy.”
I didn’t believe them, but I went for it anyway. At first, it took me quite a while to figure out where everything was. But, I was really impressed with the learning curve. Even with WP 3.0 (Thelonious), if you knew HTML/CSS you could make some great things happen with a child theme.
Cloudways: You manage the Facebook group “Advanced WordPress (AWP)” with the most WP members. Have you made notable friends from within this group?
Matt Cromwell: We have 22 admins at AWP, and they are some really awesome people. Most of us are in San Diego, where I live, and I also get to chat with them at our San Diego AWP Meetup. I’m also the Solutions Manager for FooPlugins.com. I met Adam Warner (co-founder) through AWP. I’ve also established excellent working relationships with Chris Weigman (iThemes Security creator), Ben Fox and Andy McIlian (Sidekick and WPUniversity), Devin Walker (WPImpress.com), Chris Perryman (Revelation Design), and tons of other professional theme developers, plugin developers, graphic designers, and marketing strategists all through AWP. The best part is “meeting” them in the group and then actually “meeting” them at a WordCamp and sharing a lunch or after-party drink.
Cloudways: What features do you wish WordPress should include in its upcoming version?
Matt Cromwell: I really think the WP Core team has made big strides when it comes to media management, but it still needs a lot of love. Websites are media-hogs nowadays, so there really should be better organization, implementation, and optimization possibilities. The other need is in collaboration. The post revisions have also had some major love lately, but there’s no reason why WordPress shouldn’t have its own total versioning and collaboration built into it. Many devs are going to Git for that, and that makes sense, but it seems important enough and central enough that it should be in Core.
Cloudways: Obviously there are many WordPress themes, which one do you love the most?
Matt Cromwell: I don’t really love any particular theme. Every site is different and requires different attention and different features. That’s why I lean more on starter themes like Underscores or Roots. One I have been really impressed with lately though is WPExplorer’s “Total” theme. Yes, it tries to be everything to everyone and that can be an Achilles heal when it comes to themes. However, AJ Clarke is just a really careful and thoughtful coder, so he does it well.
Cloudways: Which are your 3 favorite plugins and why? Have you developed any?
Matt Cromwell: I’m a little impartial to FooBox. But there’s reasons too. It’s really robust, flexible, and developer-friendly, while still leaving the smallest impact on the front-end it possibly can. Brad Vincent is a coding beast. He really knows how to make stuff happen.
I also really love CSS & JS Toolbox by Damian Baker of WipeOut Media. It’s a developer’s dream when it comes to customizing your site easily and quickly with snippets and scripts.
I also just released my first official plugin on the WP Repository. It’s called FooThumbnails for Galleries. I call it the “easiest way to launch a gallery in FooBox from a thumbnail. Ever.” Seems like a mouthful, but the whole purpose behind it arose from client feedback to me and support tickets at FooPlugins. I made it as user-friendly as possible, and I’m pretty happy with the end result.
Cloudways: What do you think is the biggest challenge that WordPress community currently faces?
Matt Cromwell: I’d have to say getting more and higher quality contributors to Core and the Plugin and Theme reviewer teams. They still really need that, especially as Core is developing so quickly now. More eyes and more “skin in the game” would really help right now. A lot of developers tend to see WordPress simply as a platform to use to their own purposes, rather than as a community-driven open source project.
Cloudways: What measures would you take to secure a WordPress website?
Matt Cromwell: For every site I install, I do a mixture of hardening WP (per the Codex), using iThemes Security, using SEOegghead’s Firewall for WordPress, and using Cloudflare for domain-level security. But, as always, each site has its own challenges. Sometimes really customizing the registration and/or spam settings are really important as well. But typically, if I focus on those first items, the rest gets a lot easier.
Cloudways: What you have to share with WordPress fans?
Matt Cromwell: Well, definitely try out FooThumbnails for Galleries. I think you’ll love it. But if you’re interested in any plugins from FooPlugins, use the coupon code THXMATT! for 20% off all Foo-branded plugins (Brandbar, FooBox, FooBox Fotomoto Extension, FooBox Multisite Extension, Slidebars, and SocialWiggle).
Cloudways: Please share your views with our readers about Cloudways platform for WordPress.
Matt Cromwell: Cloudways has created a really streamlined one-click WordPress install system that is both intuitive, flexible, and powerful. I was really impressed that the WordPress install comes with W3TotalCache preinstalled and preconfigured to work really well with their environment. Further, having the option to have the site hosted with either DigitalOcean or Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a huge plus for serving a variety of websites with different budgets but who all want excellent speed and reliability.
I like what I see at Cloudways, and I believe they are worth watching to see how the platform develops further over the next year.
You can follow Matt Cromwell (@learnwithmattc) on Twitter.
Start Creating Web Apps on Managed Cloud Servers Now
Easy Web App Deployment for Agencies, Developers and E-Commerce Industry.