013: The Power of Why with Michelle Schulp

In episode 13 of Women in WP, we talk to Michelle Schulp who tells us about the power of why, the definition of design, and her passion that design isn’t just about beauty, but about defining problems and finding solutions.

About Michelle Schulp:

Michelle is an independent graphic designer and frontend developer in Minneapolis. Prior to beginning her career, she studied Visual Communications, with minors in Psychology and Sociology. As her work progressed, she also branched into front-end development and user experience design to round our her skillset. This combination of disciplines led her to adopt a strategy-based approach to design, focused on solving tangible problems and achieving real goals based on how people think.

She loves the open source community, and when she is not working on projects she speaks/volunteers/organizes at events and workshops around the country. Her passions are communication and empowerment, and she believes in the power of “Why?”

Find Michelle Schulp: Marktime Media | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Michelle Schulp
Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
013: The Power of Why with Michelle Schulp

Show Notes

People, places, and things mentioned in this episode:

  • WordCamp Chicago
  • WordCamp Chicago Meetup – How Michelle got connected to community and involved with speaking
  • AIGA Minnesota – Michelle is Director of Technology
  • SASS – Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets
  • WordPress.tv – Michelle has presented many times at WordCamps, and you can watch them all on WordPress.tv.
  • Web Design Bootcamp with iThemes – Watch it here!  Michelle teaches basic design skills during her webinar, such as pick one heading font and one body font, either in the same family or vastly different families. Webinar includes sheet for you to fill out.
  • About design: always ask why about everything. Why do we have this thing? Also use verbs for conversions. No one cares about your beautiful hero image. People don’t want a drill. They want a hole in the wall.
  • What is your primary verb for the page? Pages should be optimized to do one thing and do whatever the conversion is from any page they are in, e.g. BUY!
  • People want to feel empowered to do what they want to do. No one wants to feel stupid. Lot of the tech industry is condescending toward non-tech people. But these people know a lot about their business or industry.
  • WordPress User Roles – Create custom user roles via User Role Editor.
  • Fitness and Freelance – Michelle’s health and fitness website for freelancers.


Angela (00:01):

Welcome to Women in WP, a bimonthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop, and more in the WordPress community. Welcome to episode 13.

Angela (00:14):

Welcome to episode 13 of women in WP. I’m Angela Bowman.

Angela (00:17):

I’m Tracy Apps.

Angela (00:19):

And I’m Amy Masson.

Angela (00:21):

Our guest today is the ubiquitous Michele Schulp, who we have all met at various word camps and conferences. She loves the open source community. She’s a speaker, volunteer organizer of many events and workshops around the country. She’s also an independent graphic designer, front end developer in Minneapolis. Your passions are communications and empowerment, and she believes in the power of why. Welcome to the show, Michelle.

Michelle (00:47):

Happy to be here.

Angela (00:49):

So we start out each episode by asking our guests to tell us a bit about their journey into WordPress. How did you get started?

Michelle (00:58):

Sure. So, um, like pretty much everyone else, you know, I didn’t plan on being where I am today. Uh, although that includes physically as well as technologically because I’m originally from the Chicago area. Uh, so, uh, WordPress actually led me to Minneapolis too. So it, it’s kind of done all things. But, uh, I got started with wordpress, uh, because, uh, I went to school for design. So that’s a little weird because I actually do kind of have an education in what I do for a living. That’s rare. Uh, but I, um, I’d heard of wordpress, you know, I’d heard that it was maybe a content platform that designers could learn how to use that. It wasn’t too, too hard. Uh, the agency I worked at at the time was a Joomla shop, which I have a lot of opinions about the user experience of Joomla. And very few of them are good. Uh, so I knew I wanted to get away from Joomla. I didn’t want to do that. Uh, when I went out on my own, I actually attended the CMS expo in Chicago. Uh, I wanna say this was in like 2010. Um, and I sat in a bunch of the Drupal sessions, cause I’m like, I hear Drupal’s pretty like real. I should learn that. And they were kinda, they were good. They were kind of hard. And then at the end of the day, uh, there was a wordpress session and outside the word dress room was all the little like multicolor rainbow pins. And I was like, this is amazing. Look at all these pins. I, I needed to go to this session. And I went into it and I was like, I should have been in here all day. This is so much better. Uh, but that didn’t really start my wordpress journey. That just made me aware that it was a thing. Uh, I did a bunch of hacky stuff that I had no right to be doing for some clients, but really what started it was Googling a design conference Chicago and Finding WordCamp Chicago 2011. And I’m like, wow, this looks affordable and neat. I should attend this thing. And so I did. I sat in the back, uh, with my dad, uh, and talked to no one. And I engaged with no one. I went to zero social events and I was amazed at all the stuff that I heard on the stage. I was like, oh my gosh. Like this is incredible. These people are so smart and this is so cool. Um, so after that I was kind of at a point where I was trying to take some more risks and get more engaged and I’m like, I, they said something about needing help next year, so I’m going to like be on that, I’m going to do that, I’m going to be on that thing. Right. And, um, so eventually when, when when Heather put the call out for help for the following year, I replied and they for some reason said yes and let me show up. So, uh, I show up as like this. I’m like, hi everyone. I don’t know a wordpress things, but you are cool. Um, yeah, so I kind of got started through the community side and uh, actually one of the other foundational things in my wordpress career was attending word Camp Milwaukee, uh, that like, I think it was that same, I don’t know if it was 2011, it was somewhere in the 2011, 2012 ish time back when it was at bucket works and

Angela (04:10):

uh, Bucketworks. Yeah, I know. And Casey was one of the people I saw speak, and I was like, oh my God, she’s such a good designer. And she’s so smart, like, right. We all agree.

Michelle (04:21):

Yeah. I, I still think so. Right. So it’s true. Confirmed. But, uh, that was amazing. And that was actually also where I met another woman in wordpress, Becky, who told me that Chicago had a bunch of meetups and I was like, what? There’s like meetups. And so I started going to those. And so actually it was like a whole bunch of like really cool women that like inspired me to get into wordpress and kind of took me under their wing. And obviously there was also like some awesome men, but it was like really interesting that the women were kind of the first ones to reach out. And, and so I got involved in the community in Chicago. Um, that’s how I started speaking. That’s how I started wanting to learn more and starting to do more. And finally, now I’m at this point where I’ve, uh, I’ve spoken at at least 30 or 40, I don’t know, a lot, a lot of, uh, wordpress and non wordpress events I’ve wrote, I’ve been on the organizing team, have a word camp every year since 2012.

Michelle (05:20):

Um, and I have been a lead organizer, uh, four of those years at two different cities. Um, and uh, I’ve, I’ve also gotten involved in like the AIG AA. I’m on the board of directors there, so like it’s, I dunno, it’s just like snowballed into this whole thing and it was all driven by community and that’s the part that keeps me coming back. And that’s the part that makes me want to hang out with people like y’all, uh, on a Friday night. So, I mean, it’s a party up in here now. You drank the Koolaid, you’re full, fully. Part of the cult of wordpress is all rainbow. I love. That’s, I love it was the Shiny Rainbow Buttons that got you there was, yeah, no, the swag, the swag worked.

Angela (06:05):

Oh. And I loved that it was so many women in the community that really made you feel welcome and brought you in. And it just, I think is a testament to the women of the community and how important we are to it.

Michelle (06:17):

Yeah, no, very, very, very much so. Um, I, I, there’s very few other communities where I can name like as many women that have had like a positive impact on my life. So

Angela (06:28):

it’s pretty awesome.

Michelle (06:29):

I remember when I met you at loop comp and I was so intimidated about being there and you and dad were so nice to me and you were so friendly and then you like told me all about SAS and you made me feel so cool, cool and good and like, wow. And then I finally learned that I just wanted to let you know this past year, isn’t it great? Finally did it. Your world dictated I cannot handle it, but I know I can’t go. Definitely had an impact on me and made me feel good. So I just want to let you know that I’m really glad that stuff like that is the reason that I keep doing it. Cause I mean speaking and traveling and teach, being and all that stuff like isn’t what I get paid for. Right? Like I get paid to do work. Um, and the other stuff is work that I don’t get paid for it. It’s kind of exhausting. But I love be, I dunno, I had so many people shape my life that I just wanna be able to pay it forward and be able to just like make people learn something or feel welcome or I dunno, like do to others what people did for me. So

Angela (07:36):

that’s awesome. Well, so we met it were Camp Chicago. And for those of you that aren’t watching the video, I’m using my word Camp Chicago beer glass that I got at that word camp that you organized. Um, and I also went to your talk that day. This was before we had actually met. And W I think, you know, a lot of it was on how do you work designers and developers work together that aren’t doing the same thing. And that was really important for me, um, because I worked with my sister and she does graphic design and I build the website. So it’s really important, um, for those two elements to be able to work together. And I found what you said very helpful and useful for, I think a lot of people that aren’t Unicorns are doing it all.

Michelle (08:17):

Sure. Well thanks. Uh, yeah, I, I kind of think of myself as a translator. I think of myself as a translator for my clients, uh, not only to be able to tell them about what I do and explain the web to them, but also be able to kind of take their ideas that they maybe don’t quite have and turn them into something real. Um, and so I wanted to be able to use that, uh, on the stage when it comes to bridging the gap between all the different disciplines that come together to use wordpress. So that’s Kinda been my passion project for most of the involvement that I’ve had, both in wordpress and in the AIG. A, uh, the reason I joined the, um, the Minnesota board of directors for the AIG a as the director of technology is to go the other way to be able to like bring technology into the world of design and like represent that. So, uh, I’m glad, I’m glad people notice that I do that. Um,

Angela (09:09):

I uh, I can relate in a lot of ways cause I also, I have the art degree is you know, doing the design such and like, um, you, you do like do a really good job of breaking down design so that like everyone can, not just developers but everyone, um, and being a designer and UX person that like all the, all the designer and UX people will be like, Oh yeah, obviously you start your project with y, you start with y always. But like for anyone who’s not familiar with that and that whole concept of approaching how to create something, why don’t you speak a little bit about that?

Michelle (09:51):

Oh, sure. Uh, this is actually something I’ve been, well I’ve, I’ve been talking about it the whole time, but uh, this past year I’ve actually been able to take that specific topic and also give it to a DIY audience. People that, um, either can’t afford to or trying to like do stuff on their own and I’m teaching people design thinking from that perspective and really what it is. Like I always like to make the joke and it doesn’t get old for me. Like I think I’m hilarious, but I always liked to make the joke that I’m about to just like give them $100,000 design education in five minutes. You know,

Angela (10:27):

I made that joke during speaking as well and it was like, you’re welcome. You don’t have to get an art degree now.

Michelle (10:32):

Yeah, yeah. But that pretty much, it’s like if you can answer like why you did something and you’ve dealt, you’ve like made a choice thoughtfully and then you’re designing, I mean, it may not be graphic design, it may not be visual design, but you are performing some kind of design, uh, life design or design of, I mean like that is what design is, is, is basically fundamentally curating like a thoughtful, purposeful solutions to something. Um, so I think more people would benefit from doing that. I, I submitted a talk to WordCamp us on a similar topic. Uh, so, so far my record is, oh, for all on getting accepted. So we’ll see how this year goes. It’s fine. Whatever. But, um, I, I want to be able to keep, keep spreading that message.

Angela (11:24):

Yes. I agree. Designers everywhere rejoice. Yeah. Like, because it is, it’s, you know, once you start thinking that way, it’s like you think of everything that way. And so when people just started saying like, oh, well we’re going to do this thing. Well, but why is that? Is that there’s, what’s the reason behind it? And people can’t answer that when they don’t start, you know, like thinking for just a few. And for me in their worldview around that.

Michelle (11:51):

Yeah, exactly. So important when you’re working,

Angela (11:54):

um, you know, with clients, with designers is that question of why? Because a lot of times it’ll be, well it’s what they asked for and that doesn’t answer the question of why. To me that answers the question of why you did it. It doesn’t ask the quiet. It doesn’t answer the question of why should we do it?

Michelle (12:09):

Yup. There’s actually a, so when you’re talking about the definition of design and um, people talk about design as problem solving and, and there’s a little bit of like argument about that cause they’re like, yeah, but like you can be a problem solver, but you also have to be able to properly define what the problem is. Right. That’s, that’s part of it. The problem is not necessarily what’s given to you in the brief. Um, the brief is something that was put together, you know, the, the, the proposal, whatever it is. It was something that was put together by people that maybe don’t have this background and it’s your job as a designer, not only to take what they say literally and provide a solution for that, but to look at this and be like, but why, why are you asking for this feature? Like, why are you asking for this particular set of services or this particular look and feel like, what about this appeals to you? What about this do you think will work? It’s your job to also question everything. Like ask why about the why. Like, you know, basically like a toddler. Yeah. I mean I always, I’m channeling like Animaniacs like why I love you. I love you, bye bye.

Michelle (13:14):

And then let it go up. Yeah.

Angela (13:18):

Yeah, that’s, I love that. Asking the why and I think that, you know, it’s very interesting you’re teaching this to non tech people. In what, um, like arena, are you working with the do it yourselfers

Michelle (13:33):

uh, well, uh, last month I gave a a Webinar, a series with themes actually. So it was like a two day Webinar that people could sign up for. And it was basically like a start to finish, um, design bootcamp. So it was partly a learning design theory. So basically this whole thing like how to think like a designer, how to think about why also, how to think about your audience, uh, understanding calls to action, understanding that kind of stuff. And then also on the flip side, some practical stuff that they could actually apply. Like if you don’t have, you know, like an aesthetic background, um, these are some rules that you can learn to follow and it will probably look good. Right? Um, it’s Kinda like the rules that we learn then we learned how to break them later in school. But like, these are those starter rules. Like this is the, this is how you should think about fonts. Society should think about colors as I, you should think about white space is fine. Edmore like, you know, um, but it was, it was really, really useful and really fun to be able to do that.

Angela (14:33):

And in terms of the DIY wires, um, you know, a lot of people move towards like the premade themes, the premium themes. Do you see any particular design, continual design mistakes out there in the kind of theme world that you would

Michelle (14:51):

change? Sure. Uh, so yes, but it’s not necessarily like a visual design mistake, like lots of things are very beautiful. Um, you know, and every aesthetic is what it is. Like aesthetic is pretty subjective. Um, but the, I think the mistake is actually in the a administrator user experience, um, that a lot of these, uh, builders or premium themes, there’s just like, it’s just an overwhelming user experience for somebody that’s non technical. Like the reason they’re trying to do it themselves is because they aren’t a developer, they aren’t a designer. But then we’re asking them to make granular decisions about padding and spacing and margins. And, and the only difference is instead of writing code, they have to fill in a billion little tiny boxes, right? And then there’s just like a billion settings and please pick all these font sizes and please pick all these colors.

Michelle (15:42):

And it’s, it’s very overwhelming. Uh, so I think that’s kind of the mistake that a lot of them are making is, is too much granularity. Like there, there is an audience for that. I’d say that you know that the implementer audience, the ones that have some knowledge of code but also kind of want to be able to do it a little bit faster, uh, maybe be able to produce some lower cost sites that are still somewhat custom. That’s great. They can use that. But the problem is that they’re marketing these as like DIY elements and actual DIY people are just like, wordpress is hard and it’s because that’s their experience of wordpress is all these 5 billion settings panels and none of them are the same as each other. None of them look like they slept their own look and feel on top of them. So it doesn’t even feel native.

Michelle (16:25):

There’s no like patterns. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, so that’s kind of why like love or hate it. What I like about Gutenberg is that it’s trying to standardize the user experience for what it is. So like this is how a a builder of a page should look and feel and work. Now, is it there yet? I don’t think it’s there yet, but I, that’s kind of a good goal for it to have. Like the customizer did the same thing with settings. Pages like let’s try to standardize how we interact with this stuff and put it all in one place. A Gutenberg’s trying to do the same thing. Uh, you know, it’s not perfect but it’s better than 5 million different settings, panels everywhere.

Angela (17:08):

And one of the things especially, um, have you been doing client work? You especially we think about like, well the user, the, you know, how is this affect the user? Well the backend is, especially when you’re doing client work, that’s another user you’ve completely ignored. If they can’t actually modify and manipulate and manage an administrator the page that they’re like up,

Michelle (17:31):

nope, that’s half your user right there. Yeah, exactly. Empowering the Admin user has been a really big part of all of the projects that I do. Um, I tell my clients I am not necessarily interested in the business of updating their site for them. Cause the entire point of having a content management system is so that you don’t need to be chained to me. Like I’m always here to answer questions. That’s totally fine. But you don’t, I don’t want you to have to come to me to add a post. Like I don’t want you to have to come to me to put a new page together. Like I want you to be able to do that. And I, I that’s what that’s like how this should work. Like yeah, I can build a new feature for you. I can design a new thing for you. I can help you if you need help. Maybe finding new graphics or building a custom infographic or something. Cool. But, um, I don’t want to build a page for you. I want to make it easy for you to build a page.

Angela (18:22):

So I know we’ve talked a little bit cause, uh, we’ve both kind of been like parallel, like we’ve been doing our own thing and you know, lately we’ve been doing, I’ve been doing more UX stuff on corporate, big, big scales stuff. Uh, as I hear you have. Um, and so one of the things is, especially when you’re working in corporate and there’s like seemingly an edge, like an endless budget so that they can do all the research, they can do all of that. They can do the whole process of the design thinking. But, uh, in the freelance world, that’s not, or you know, my small business, I don’t have the budget or time to do that. So what, from all of your corporate world, uh, in the UX of like research and all of that, uh, what, what are some ways that you can, that the common person or small business could take away and use?

Michelle (19:16):

Sure. So, uh, yeah, uh, that’s very, very true that there is like a mat. This, I mean, there’s an entire like, UX research field that’s even beyond the stuff that I know how to do. We have, there’s a whole other department within another, like the sociologists and all those people and statisticians, right? Like they’re, you know, they’re awesome and super smart. But, um, yeah, the average, the average small to midsize organization doesn’t really have access to those tools. Uh, so some things that I liked to do that kind of run in parallel, but smaller one, if they have an existing site already, like hopefully they’ve got some analytics, at the very least we can see how people are behaving. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we can draw conclusions from that because people could be, it could have a high bounce rate because the design is bad.

Michelle (20:03):

Or people could be showing up on a page that they didn’t actually want to show up on. So like we take it with a grain of salt where they found their stuff right away and left. That’s exactly right. Like my slides. Super efficient. Like you only need to visit one page. Um, yeah. But um, so that’s one thing is just hopefully with an existing site, having access to some analytics just to get a general idea of, I mean, what is the traffic coming to my site? And we were talking 10 people are talking a hundred people or we’re talking a thousand people. Like, I don’t know. That’s useful. Uh, the other thing though is I kind of go the questionnaire method. So this usually has to do with, uh, rebrands or like repositioning, re strategizing. But I, and this is actually one of the things I turned into a worksheet for the Webinar that I did, um, was this kind of deep dive into your, your site and your environment.

Michelle (20:58):

I have them go through a questionnaire that talks a little bit about the brand voice. Um, like how do they, like what is the way they want to be perceived? What, what would they describe as their personality, like on the continuum of several different factors. Um, what like what’s the takeaway that they want people to have. I also talk about, um, you know, what are other people in your space doing that you think is successful and what do you think is not successful? Like what, what do you see going on around you, like awareness of the marketplace. Um, what do you see other people doing that aren’t necessarily in your space, but you feel as solving a similar problem in some way? Like this is a really good ecommerce thing. Like they sell tee shirts and I sell dog food. But like this is a really intuitive thing.

Michelle (21:43):

Like let’s talk about that. Or this thing is making really good use of imagery even though it’s a totally different field than me. So like kind of again, awareness of what’s going on outside of your own site. Um, another thing that we talk a lot about is, um, call to action and type stuff. And the, the way that I talk about that with people, and I’ve done this in talks before, so there’s no secret sauce here at all. Um, but we talk about, um, verbs cause verbs are what people do. And every website has a verb reason, right? Like you websites exist for some kind of verb, the verb, um, that your user is going to do. So it might be, uh, by something. It might be a contact you, it might be go to your store, it might be call you, it might be, I mean, whatever the verb is, like the purpose of the site.

Michelle (22:32):

And some people are like, oh, but the purpose of my site is to educate. And like, no, like you want them to do something, like how are we educating them? Right? Like what’s the purpose? Are you educating them so that they see you as a thought leader and then they contact you to do work? Are you educating them because you want them to sign up for your like e-learning program? Like what is this? Right? So there’s, there’s like a conversion verb, right? Um, so we talk a lot about that and then how to, how to kind of engage people that way. Uh, but so it’s a little bit more, uh, anecdotal and hypothetical when you’re in kind of small business world. And then hopefully, uh, we can look at whatever the analytics are doing after we’ve done stuff and see if, you know, where we went. Make Sense. I just was in this, um, SEO conference last week and one of the presenters, a woman was talking about people’s home pages and the hero image and how you need to have something on it. And I loved her quote because she said, no one cares about your stock photo, like your beautiful stock photo. No one cares about that. That needs to serve a purpose. And I guess that gets back the why. Why

Angela (23:46):

is this thing here? Because it’s pretty, um, no, it’s, it uh, has to have more of a, a purpose. And so she said, if you’re going to have that, you need to have a call to action on it, a message, something that makes it have a reason to take up so much real life. And even just the like no one cares about your product or your, your business. They care about what your business or your product [inaudible]

Michelle (24:09):

can do for them. Yeah. Yeah. The uh, they don’t want to, they don’t want a drill. They want a hole in the wall. Yeah. That’s a bit like that. That’s like one of my favorite metaphors that I ever heard. It’s like, we like to sell drills. Like we talk about how great the drill is and how many speeds it has and whatever, and they’re like, yeah, but I just want a hole. Like drills make holes. So I guess I need a drill, but yeah.

Angela (24:33):

Yeah. I feel like I could talk about that hero image with a call to action every, I probably have that conversation once a week and then uh, you know, or the sliders, we need to have 20 images that, oh God, yeah, it seems like all the important, I tweeted about that this past week that I have clients who are like, we have to get this on the homepage because it’s so important. It’s this course that we’re offering and we don’t want people to miss it. And I’m like, but two, you realized like most of your traffic is not even hitting the homepage. Like we sh, you know, so, so that, that’s interesting. And if it’s really important than they wanted in that slider because they don’t know how to fit it onto the homepage if there’s not a slider. Yeah. And I find that I think a lot of people, they don’t know how to prioritize what’s important. And so they want to put it all. And the only way to get it all, just put it in a cider. And, you know, I just have to tell them, you’re gonna have to pick what’s really important. Then that’s what goes there. And you know, maybe you change it every week or every month or whatever, but you know, if you put it on slide three, nobody’s going to see it.

Michelle (25:36):

Exactly. And that’s why, um, we have the conversation about, uh, primary verb and secondary verbs. Um, in terms of call to action, like what is your ideal conversion? Like perfect user visit, what do they do right. Um, and then secondarily, okay, if they don’t do that, what are two or three other things they could do? So like for me, um, perfect user visit would be filling out my contact form. Like that’s how my website is set up for me. Um, but there’s other things they could do. So if they, if they didn’t do that, um, maybe a secondary thing that would be cool is like commenting in one of my blog posts or, you know, going to my social media account and following me. Like those are secondary. It’s still a conversion of some sort. It’s still engagement. Um, I don’t have like a newsletter or anything that could be something that they have.

Michelle (26:24):

Um, but the primary one is filling out my contact form. And so the point is from anywhere on my site, I have to make it really easy for them to do that thing. Uh, and so that’s why we had this conversation about the primary verb because it’s like, okay, so you have a lot of messaging and it’s okay to have secondary things. But like this can be on a page by page basis. So like landing pages are thing we can optimize a page for something different than the home page. Home pages are kind of this weird thing that are trying to do a lot. They’re kind of like a pretty portal. Um, but on any given interior page, like it needs to be optimized to do one thing. So we don’t want to get in the way of ourselves. Um, and we want to make it super easy for people to do whatever that conversion is from wherever they are in the process.

Michelle (27:09):

Uh, I really hate those sales pages that are super, super long and I’m already convinced like two paragraphs in. I’m like, cool, yes you are smart. Just tell me what it is, where the price is, where do I get it? Yeah. Like give me a buy button. I just had that the other day. I was like, okay, okay, keep going. I K I get it. I, I tell people actually it’s okay to build pages like that because um, you know, some people do need more convincing but like intersperse it with buy buttons like you ready to go? Hell yeah. Like, hey blah blah blah. Yeah, just puts, let the people that make decisions quickly make them quickly, don’t lose them. And then the people that make decisions slowly give them more content to like, it’s fine. So I have a question about, um, working with non designers and when you’re giving them advice, um, for people like the do it yourself or that wants to do some of their own design but they don’t have any of the design software that you know, professionals would use, what advice would you give them on how to get started?

Michelle (28:11):

Sure. Uh, so mostly for them, I tell them like, you’re, I mean, you’re not custom designing something to build from scratch. Like you’re probably going to use a, like wordpress specifically, you’re probably gonna use a preexisting theme or some kind of, hopefully not overly intrusive builder. Um, I set up my clients with, uh, uh, kind of custom builder thing that I’ve made out of advanced custom fields stuff. Um, but yeah, so you’re, you have to, if you’re doing it yourself, like you have to kind of get out of the notion that it’s going to be fully custom. I mean, that’s the trade off. Um, but what I do do is kind of empower them again with that set of rules. Like, if you are picking fonts, like don’t, don’t go below 16 pixels, that is your minimum, right? Um, pick one heading font and one body font and they should be either in the same family or in vastly different families.

Michelle (29:06):

Uh, your body font should have this line height, uh, and it should be readable at smaller sizes. You’re heading fonts probably somewhere between this and this line height depending on if you do it in caps or not. Um, like very concrete. Pick this number of colors, you know, run them through one of these tools to make sure that you can read them when you’re using them. If your colors are really light, don’t use them for text. Like there’s like rules you can follow to like do things that don’t suck. Um, are they going to win design awards? Probably not. But like that’s not the point. The point is to do your business. So have you considered putting that into like a pdf cheat sheet that you could hand out? I, I, I have in fact, and it is also one of the things that I gave away at the Webinar.

Michelle (29:54):

Um, it’s literally like this, this design checklist of rules and plus like a space that you could fill in, like which funds you picked in which sizes you picked. Because a lot of these, a lot of these builders you have to enter stuff in and a bunch of different places. And so it’s kind of like the equivalent of my variable file and my SAS thing. Right. It’s like here’s your, your written variable file. Now you have this too to do your page building. Uh, that’s actually really fun to put together just cause it’s not something that I necessarily use. A lot of. The other ones are things that I actually use, but that one was fun because I had to write explanations of what they all were and I dunno, it made sure that I was like being thorough on my end. Like oh yeah, like probably we need to define like a footer color as opposed to a regular font color. Cause usually the footer is totally different than the rest of the site. Yeah. Like yeah.

Angela (30:42):

Yeah. I mean, I’m right now, I’m trying to also, cause you think you can design systems, basically you think of like for this purpose, this is what this looks like, you know, so like it, you know, also helps with like the hierarchy of like, OK, all heading one is going to be this all heading to is this heading twos or for this, you know, like all the purpose of that. So, um, that like is one, I don’t know, do you do style guides? Do you give them like that kind of like a brand guideline as well or?

Michelle (31:15):

Uh, when I’m doing so when I’m doing custom design work, uh, because I, I don’t work, uh, on, on mockups the same way that, you know, I’m not building a bunch of page layouts. Um, so what I, what I did put together a is actually a kind of like a, yeah, like a kind of a long form, a brand guide that goes through, I’m spelling out the, the logo, the colors and how they’re used. And I also just started making notes on which colors should or should not be used to set different types of texts based on like accessibility standards. Like so that they have that as my friends. Like only use this for icons, don’t use it for text. Like it passes for icons but not text like, you know, um, and then, uh, all the different html elements. So block level elements h went through each six paragraph links, uh, forms and like just a visual representation of what these all look like.

Michelle (32:10):

Um, that I can like show it to them as like, here’s a thing. And then the other thing I do is since I build everything modularly, um, I do a mock up I guess of every single module like header and then all this stuff in between. And then Fotor so they can kind of see all the different visual elements for their site, but that they get, they get that as part of like a reference to, um, as well as like on the actual site. Like they get a private page that has all the modules enabled and like all this stuff. So can break it. Hopefully. Hopefully. We’re also usually get, hopefully we’re also using like managed wordpress hosting and we have like a staging site that they can go break too, so cause I to, I want to empower them to break stuff. Like that’s half the fun.

Michelle (32:52):

Like I mean that’s how I learned. Yeah. I made the most awful, awful things and broke so many things. That’s how I learned. Yeah, and it’s really fun. Like they’re a little scared to like want to do like they want, like a lot of my clients like I really want to like do this. I’m excited. I don’t want to break it. I’m like, okay, here’s this thing where if you break it, we just blow it up and start over. It’s totally fine. Has nothing to do with anything. Go be weird. It’s side like, oh be really weird. I had to do that with one client because we’d have the staging environment, but I had some developers working on a project on that and then like owner of the company, he wanted to be messing around with things on his own because he’s learning. I’m like, I’m going to make you your own special little sandbox here.

Michelle (33:34):

And it’s so adorable because he’s just go into town and he’s showing me stuff he’s doing. I’m like, that’s great. Now I know what you want to do, here’s how we’re going to do it. But you know, good for you for taking that, that lead. But he had to have his own sandbox and I’m like, you can do whatever you want in here. And, and it took them awhile to realize the reason why I had him do that. So he didn’t break his life site with the store on it and everything. And he had to learn a little bit the hard way on that. But once, once he got it, he’s kind of, he loves this little sandbox. It’s awesome. Yeah. I mean people like people just want to feel empowered to do what they want to do, right? Like nobody, nobody wants to feel stupid.

Michelle (34:15):

And, and that’s kind of a little bit of a downside in our industry. It’s not as bad in wordpress, but like in a lot of the tech industry, I mean we tend to be kind of condescending towards non tech people. Um, like, Oh God, clients. Like it’d be so great if it weren’t for them. Right. But we wouldn’t have jobs. Yeah. And also like they know so much about their business that we don’t know anything about. Like they do things. You don’t want me to build a house for you. Right. Like that’s why I really like partnering with people that are very passionate about whatever it is they’re doing because that’s going to get me excited about it. It doesn’t even matter if you manufacture toothpaste caps for a living. Like if you could have a three hour conversation about toothpaste caps and get super excited about it.

Michelle (34:58):

Like, I am stoked to build your website because like, we are going to solve all of the toothpaste cap problems. Like it’s going to be fun. Okay. So that, uh, kind of segue cause you want, you want to empower people, you don’t want to talk over them. You like, so what do you do? Cause I know, um, you and I are similar. We try to, we make our own like kind of here’s your customization like ACF. That’s how I’ve been doing it. And now I’ve been trying to translate it into Gutenberg blacks. So, um, which I think we should talk about the, the nerdy part of that later. But um, but what do, what do you do to that balance of I want to empower my customer, my client, but I don’t want to overwhelm them. So, and also I don’t want them to be able to use white text on a white background.

Michelle (35:50):

Sure. Um, I mean for one thing, I’m generally not letting my clients pick colors or fonts or anything like they, they’re, their job is to be able to build and arrange content types, um, and not to be making design decisions. So I will have already made the design decisions. We will come up with all the set of rules of if this is after this, it’ll do this and if this is after this, it’ll do this and it’ll be a thing. All they have to do is just take the Legos and like put them in places and put the words in them. And that’s really awesome because they can build whatever they want out of Legos, but I’m the one designing the injection mold to build the Legos for them to assemble. Um, so that’s Kinda how I separate it. And the, what I, what I tell my clients is like, I want to empower you to be like the best wordpress user, right?

Michelle (36:39):

Like you should know your way around the admin panel. You should be able to be like, Yep, that is under this and this is under this and if I want to do this is this, and the menus are here, like you should be like the best wordpress user. And that doesn’t mean that you have to understand what I do. It just means that you have to understand your admin area. It also sometimes means that you’re creating a custom user role type stuff to be able to limit access. So everyone of my clients always has an admin account that has the same level of access as me because it’s their website, not mine. Um, but a lot of times there’s multiple people that are going to be working on it and maybe they don’t want to be logged in as an administrator and like have to see all that stuff.

Michelle (37:20):

So many times I’ll create very specific custom user roles that only have access to certain things so they can just do the stuff that they need to do and not be distracted by all the other crap, basically. Like, I don’t need to see the appearance panel if I’m never going to use it. Like I’m not, you know. Um, so between those things, uh, it’s been pretty successful. Uh, we’re running out of time now, but if you would like to tell everybody where we can find you online before we go. Sure. So I am mark time media pretty much everywhere on the Internet. Um, I’m also like only one of two Michelle shops, like in the world. So it’s pretty easy to Google me and find me. I got great SEO. Right. Um, the one with the pink hair, right? The, yeah. Nothing you can tell with my wall behind me.

Michelle (38:07):

I’m just blending into, but, um, you can also, so you can find me@marktenmedia.com for my business, a Michelle shelf.pink or my name is michelle.com for my personal stuff. And I also, uh, recently within the last couple of months I started a blog called fitness and freelance, which talks about, um, basically mental and physical health, uh, as a independent creative question mark. And is that i-team swept in, are available? Um, uh, I believe it’s still avail. Yeah, I believe it’s still available for, it was called Web Design boot camp. Um, obviously I gave it live and so that part’s over, but I think you could, I think it’s evergreen. Okay. I’ll definitely put that in for anyone who’s listening. If you visit our website and look at the show highlights. Sure. I’ll have links to all the good stuff there. Yep. There were, there were a couple of free ones too that they put out. Um, so even if you don’t want to pay for it and you’re sick of watching my word press, TV stuff, you can, you can watch the three webinars. It’s a, it’s, it’s the whole Michele just channel basically. Yeah. We can’t get enough of you. Oh my goodness. Well, thanks for so much for being on today’s really interesting talking to you. Yeah. Thank you for having me. It was really fun.

Angela (39:24):

Thanks for listening. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter, or join our Facebook group. We would be honored if you subscribe to the show. You can find us on Spotify, stitcher, Google play, and iTunes. Finally, if you want to be on the show or know someone who would visit our website@womeninwp.com until next time,

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