Published on April 22nd, 2022 | by Andrew Bistak

WordPress … MYTH BUSTED! Ricky Blacker Interview, Senior Sales Engineer and WordPress Evangelist at WP Engine

We Catch-up with Ricky Blacker from WP Engine to talk all things WordPress and more!

Welcome to Impulse Gamer, how did you become involved in WordPress?

Believe it or not, I fell in love with WordPress while I was looking for the best CMS platforms for my clients. Before joining WP Engine, I was a self-taught web professional and running my own company, needing to keep up to date with the latest technologies in the industry – the evolving WordPress space being one of these. I loved the WordPress community instantly and immersed myself in it. I am now heavily involved with them through the Brisbane WordPress Meetup Group and WordCamps across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

The number of WordPress sites is astonishing! Why do you think this platform is so popular?

WordPress is now powering over 43% of the web with more than 82 million sites worldwide. The beauty of WordPress is its adaptability, customisability and its range – making it a great option for any site developer from bloggers all the way to enterprise. With TechCrunch, Beyoncé, MTV News and Walt Disney using WordPress as their platform of choice it is clear that the possibilities are varied and endless. The user is fully enabled and in control of how they use the platform and what they design, the only limit really is in their own creativity.

The support surrounding the platform is also something to note. There is a highly active community of developers, designers, content producers, marketers, support representatives and WP fans who are ready to offer advice. Most advice can be found easily online through community-based support forums and resources from user blogs through to dedicated content sites from companies associated with the WordPress platform.

What’s your top three favourite features of WordPress?

This is a hard one to answer when there is so much that this platform has to offer. Plug-ins would have to come out on top. With over 56,000 plug-ins available across WordPress there is a huge range to choose from allowing you to add functionality to your site without the need to code it from scratch.

Themes would be my second favourite as it provides the full look and feel of the site with ease. Both these features make WordPress incredibly accessible to people without a tech background to leverage.

My third favourite is Gutenberg Blocks which replicates the WordPress core to allow users to create more complex set ups. This can be achieved without using a lot of code, as it is a fully block-based editor where each piece of content is a draggable block. It’s really user-friendly and helps you see the bigger picture while you’re building the page.

Security for all websites plays an important part of not only keeping the website secure but also the safety of visitors. What are your tips for WordPress safety?

WordPress is continuing to update its security, bringing tougher security measures and features including more advanced security plug-ins to help reduce unblocked hacks. WordPress, like any other CMS site, can be vulnerable to attacks but there are steps you can take to minimise the risk.

Keeping your website secure also comes down to managing your website properly. Around 80 per cent of actual security threats are due to outdated software and/or password exploits, so it is essential that themes, plug-ins and add-ins are continually updated while maintaining backups and updating your passwords. This will not only protect your website, but it will also safeguard your visitors and their information.

Hosting solutions such as WP Engine can help individuals manage their websites to ensure strong security measures are taken without impacting performance.

How safe are plug-ins from new developers?

No plug-in is 100% safe, however, you can significantly reduce vulnerabilities by assessing and selecting quality plug-ins. While the most popular plug-ins can be identified by viewing the number of downloads, it can be harder to identify plug-ins from new developers. It is best to check that the plug-in has been recently updated and is supported by the developer. Always research any plug-in’s compatibility and it is critical to test before going live.

Tell us about some of the myths behind WordPress that have been BUSTED?

We have already tackled a few – WordPress being just for bloggers (the possibilities are endless), the security elements of the platform and the myth that there is no support for users.

One of the other top myths is that eCommerce options are limited. ECommerce is growing quickly and over the last couple of years, businesses have needed to pivot to keep up with the changing environment and increased demands from their customers. The most popular WordPress solution for retailers is WooCommerce, which powers 41 per cent of all eCommerce stores. With its user-friendly experience and easy to navigate platform, WooCommerce has been widely adopted and can be scaled to move with the business. While scaling a business’ website can be daunting, WP Engine has a tailored eCommerce plan dedicated for WooCommerce clients which addresses many issues that can come with this change.

What are your thoughts on Web 3.0 and how do you think WordPress will fit into this new ideology?

There are a lot of possibilities when it comes to Web 3.0. We will see it provide a new generation of technologies, strengthened by smarter websites, powerful mobile devices, and rapid internet speeds. This will give businesses the opportunity to integrate the virtual world with real-life, creating personalised experiences through providing human feedback and emotions to users.

Through Wed 3.0, one of the biggest advantages will be the way it consolidates data in a meaningful way by decentralising it. As WordPress is decentralised, it seamlessly becomes part of Web 3.0. This will allow you to understand the user’s consumption and buying behaviours and meet their needs in a timely fashion.

For those wanting to create a WordPress site, what advice would you give?

With WordPress, you have a lot of flexibility and can make the backend as complex or as simple as you would like. When doing it yourself, it is possible to create a WordPress site without extensive knowledge or financial investment. There is support all around for those starting out, from WordPress meet ups available in nearly every city, extensive online content and LinkedIn Learning courses ready to begin (which is where I started). For bigger business, doing it yourself is not the most cost-effective path. It is best to look for agencies or freelancers to build your website and then invest in a hosting solution to maintain and manage it from there.

With so many plug-ins and themes available, how do you futureproof your WordPress site from abandonedware?

This is all about managing your website properly. While you should choose a theme with maximum functionality and test all plug-ins and add-ons, websites need to be constantly monitored to ensure everything is secure and up to date. This can be organised from your backend and requires you to continually check in to ensure everything is running smoothly. To take the stress out of this, you can enlist a hosting partner to keep on top of the checks and to future-proof your website, through site staging, automation and frequent updates.

Lastly, what do you think will be the biggest feature of WordPress in 2022?

I think we are going to see full site editing grow more popular this year. With most themes, the header, footer and sidebar are all included as standard and content is added to the pre-developed design. With full site editing, users will lose a little of the theme but gain the ability to update these elements and make them unique to the website. You can also use block technology, which we discussed earlier, to personalise your website further.


About the Author

When he's not trying to save the world, Andrew enjoys travel (although loathes turbulence), going to the movies, reading and being a dad to his two dogs (and now twins) with his wife.

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