Speaker 1: Welcome to Women in WP, a bimonthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop, and more in the WordPress community.
Angela: Hi, welcome to Women in WP. Today’s episode is sponsored by Ninja Forms, a professional form building plugin for WordPress. I’m Angela Bowman.
Tracy: And I’m Tracy Apps.
Angela: Our guest today is Alexandra Spalato joining us from Ioca, Spain. She builds sites and apps for clients, mostly in the Headless way using WPGraphQL and Gatsby JS. She just launched the first premium Gatsby WordPress theme at gatsbywpthemes.com. Welcome Alexandra.
Alexandra: Hello. I’m very happy to be here.
Angela: We’d like to start off each episode asking our guests how they got into WordPress. How did you get started?
Alexandra: Okay. So it happened totally by chance. I had no idea about the web, about programming. I studied totally different things. I studied pharmacy and business school, left everything to be an actress. So I had a bit of crazy life. And one day it was in 2002, I had a roommate and he was doing websites. It was not WordPress, he was a photographer, but he was doing website. He was earning his life with that. So I asked him, “Oh, are you learning by yourself? You work by yourself? You make money? Oh, I’m interested.” Because at this time, the only thing I knew is I don’t want to have a boss. I want to be a freelancer, and I love learning. So I begin to play with that, but not programming, just taking Gmail templates and dream weather.
So I was playing with dream weather, and I let this sleep sometime. I wanted to be actress at this time. So [inaudible] life in Paris, et cetera. And one day in 2011, I was employ as assistant, as peer because I want to the actress. I did many jobs. So in 2011, and I was already 42 years old. So I’m not so young. And well, yes, I’m very young at heart. And I propose I did my first website with Wix at this time. And then I discover, well, I love doing that because it’s so creative and I love doing websites. And then I discover WordPress. Wow, I can play with all these themes, and I have an eye for design, so I can build things. And I wanted badly to do that. So as soon as I have a little free time, I was taking a theme and building things, et cetera. And quickly, I think three months after I began selling to some actors or singers some small websites and having fun doing it.
Tracy: I love that. So I mean, what a testimony, anyone can do this, and at any age. People think, oh, there’s all this stress on before 40 or whatever. Something like these 40 entrepreneurs that made it big before their 40s. But there’s something to say about all of us that, no, you know what? I’m in my 40s. And you know what? I’m going to start to learn how to code.
Tracy: That’s impressive. And I love that you went from that, that you found that hook in there because I think I got hooked in by code in the same way of that being able to create things because I’m a creative. And so people think code is very analytical and all this stuff.
Tracy: But it’s creative. And that you found that, and that’s what hooked you, I love that. It’s so impressive. How has that shift been? Other than now just being your own boss and with your life, how you feel like your creativity is being able to be used in this way?
Alexandra: Absolutely. It has literally changed my life. I am realizing my dreams, I live here in Ioca, but I have lived in many places. I choose the place that I love because I’m with my computer. I’m totally free. My clients are all around the world and I don’t depend on anything. So I’m a freelancer and entrepreneur at heart. I’ve never been able to be employed. That’s something very profound in me. I love learning, and I love creating. And effectively, as you say, many people think that calling it only analytic, and many developers are left brain, more introvert. I’m extrovert, I’m right brain, I don’t like puzzles. So I’m totally different of the image of the developer. And I didn’t know. I really didn’t know that I would go into code. So that hooked me because I wanted to do things, I wanted to create things, and I needed to code to do it.
So it’s not the usual way. And I were begin, I have no background in code, in tech. I had my first computer, I was 30 years old. So really, and nobody around me was into that. So it was just something that happened in my life, and that was waiting for me I think, because everything has open and has flow for me, which was not the case before. And thanks to WordPress, I’ve been able to begin small with no code and perhaps other people can enter in WordPress and their way will not be code. It was mine, I didn’t know it. But perhaps other people will discover that they are writers or marketers. There is many, many things that you can do for website. For me, it’s not content, it’s really code and creating things.
But this universe has many different doors, and WordPress is very good entry, especially for freelancer because you can begin like that, and grow and make your business and follow the path that is the best for you. And yes, I always wanted since the beginning to create something, create a product. So that’s where I am now. But roughly 10 years ago when I began, I never imagined that I would be making talks, creating a product. No, I didn’t imagine all that frankly. It’s true.
Tracy: I love that.
Angela: That’s so wonderful. Yeah. And you’ve met Zac Gordon. I’ve been teaching designers and marketers and other people who want to get started to building WordPress sites how to customize themes. And so I’ve had this six week course where I take people kind of A to Z through how to just customize a theme from having a staging environment, to CSS, to how to write PHP functions. The whole nine yards, how to launch, how to troubleshoot. But part of my teaching over the years was helping get people skilled up with CSS and just basic stuff. And so I would always turn people over to Zac Gordon’s videos on Team Treehouse. And then when I finally met Zac in person, I think it was in WordCamp US in Philadelphia at the contributor day. And Zac was kind of going through a transition leaving Team Treehouse. That was a hard one, but he is so amazing. And that you found Zac, what a very special a person, and opportunity for you to-
From there, they call me to make my talk in London for Gatsby. And yes. And Zac propose me to make the first Gatsby WordPress theme for free. So I work on the Turbo theme and brought it to Gatsby. And then yes. With Zac, we became very close and he come to visit me. I was in Brussel at this time, and we had really great time. And it’s a wonderful person really. And he send me so much light. Yes. He send me light and push me and helped me a lot. And yes, I have workload, but people like that are the people, okay. That really count and change the path in a way. Yes.
Alexandra: I did a bootcamp by the way.
Tracy: Yeah. I know. I think I need to do a bootcamp-
Alexandra: It’s really good.
Tracy: … but I’m so scared.
Tracy: Yeah. And that’s the thing. Because I’m self-taught with everything and I’m the same. I learned CSS from a video back when linda.com was linda.com, before it was LinkedIn Learning.
Alexandra: Oh yeah. I learned… Yes, too.
Tracy: And with molly.com.
Tracy: And I totally fangirled over her because then I met her in person. And then I was like, “I totally learned CSS from you forever ago.” And we became good friends. But that was really helpful for me, but it also was like, I had the structure too, and that regularity kind of thing. And it’s hard to do that when you’re doing freelance or you try trying to juggle all these other things. So I think that that bootcamp idea and focusing on it, I think that might be really kind of one of the big keys here because it does take kind of all of your efforts. So that, I know at some point I’m going to need to do this because actually, I love… I do.
Tracy: And it’s funny. Okay. So I haven’t worked with React yet, but it scares me I think. I think that’s what it is. I think I’m afraid
Alexandra: You don’t have to.
Alexandra: There is many courses, and then just take Gatsby or take my themes and you can play. So you have to build things and you can go with components.
Tracy: I’m definitely going to try that because I learn a lot. That’s how I first started to teach myself web design, is I looked at other people’s websites, and I was like, “Oh, okay. What does this happen?” And I just made another website. And then I just experiment with that code and see what does this do? So I work really well if I see some good code in front of me. So I actually am going to check out those theme and experiment and see if I can teach myself, or at least get myself a little bit further. And then if I need to take a bootcamp, I’ll be a little bit ahead.
Alexandra: Yes. The best is building things. And I’ve been lucky because all my career, I always had work and clients and things to apply what I’m learning. And that’s great because if you don’t apply what you’re learning, you forget very quickly. So I learned backend, but I don’t do backend. I only do React and front-end and Gatsby. But yes, it’s important to practice with a real project. So that-
Tracy: It’s with any foreign language.
Alexandra: Yes. Of course.
Tracy: This is why I learned French and I don’t remember any of it. I learned some Spanish, I don’t remember any of that. I learned some Danish, I still am like… Yeah. But I know HTML, CSS, and some PHP.
Angela: [foreign language].
Alexandra: [foreign language]
Tracy: All I remember is I remember this song, I think it’s about plucking a chicken. [foreign language].
Alexandra: [foreign language].
Tracy: Yeah. I remember this. And I don’t remember what I ate yesterday, but I remember that from 25 years ago.
Alexandra: You’re going to laugh on how I learn English because I have lived in Andalusia about 15 years ago, and in the south of Spain. And at this time I had basic English because in France, we are not very good in English. French, Italian, Spanish. It’s just that English we learn it too late I think. So I had a scholar English, and in this place it was full of English people because it was by the coast. And I lived three years there. And I arrived with my scholar English, and I went back with fluent English and never take courses at school. And thanks to that development because all the good courses are in English, code is English, and my clients are in the UK and the US. But I learned it in Andalusia.
Tracy: Okay. I love this.
Angela: It’s like bootcamp.
Tracy: We always joke about on this podcast. We’ve like, oh, I just did this or I just did that. You just taught yourself all of these things and this is amazing. I am so impressed with all of that you have done and taught yourself and learned and achieved. It’s so impressive.
Alexandra: I think life bring you opportunities and doors, you just have to follow them without fear, not saying, “Oh, but I’m too old or I’m a woman or I have my career here or that’s not secure.” No, if life present you these doors, that’s the opportunity. And yes. You don’t have to be afraid to follow your instinct because it’s your way. And that you have to take some risk to be happy and to do things. And everything is possible in this case. I think fear is the worst thing. The worst obstacle is fear, the real obstacle is inside yourself. So if you have no fear, you can do anything.
Tracy: That is such a great yes.
Angela: I’m making all these notes because I’m trying to do more to quote our episodes when we tweet.
Tracy: Yeah. That’s good.
Angela: And you are just one full… We’ll just quote every single thing you say and inspire the world. We need t-shirts with all your quotes.
Tracy: It’s a whole series.
Alexandra: One time, I don’t know. It was in a chat, I said something about age a long time. I have to rethink it. Yes. Age don’t get you if you don’t believe it or something like that.
Tracy: I love it.
Alexandra: You’ll have to believe it, and then you don’t coach because at the end, it’s something built by society. So the important is how you feel, it’s not how you supposed to be at what age and what you’re supposed to do with…
Tracy: Hey, Women in WP listeners. This is Tracy with a quick message from our sponsor, Ninja Forms. Wish you could build forms for WordPress without spending forever or recruiting help? You can. Ninja Forms is the WordPress form plugin that is both extremely flexible and easy to use. Create contact forms, order forms, donation forms, and more in literally minutes using prebuilt templates easily customized with form logic, upload fields, multi-step pages and more. Just drag and drop what you need, where you need it. Integrate with hundreds of services like Mailchimp, Google Sheets, HubSpot, and more without needing to write a line of code. Get Ninja Forms now at ninjaforms.com. And now, back to our show.
Angela: Well, I am going to take us back a little bit because we do have people listening to the podcast, and partly myself included, to understand what is Headless WordPress? What is Gatsby? We had Miriam Schwab from Strattic, web posting company that does Headless hosting,.and we learned a lot from her. But that was wow, a couple years ago Tracy, right? She was one of our first guests.
Tracy: Oh my goodness. Yeah. That’s right.
Angela: And so we need a refresher, and to help other women who are curious about all of this. What is it? Teach us.
It’s bit more technical to enter into that. And another great advantage, it’s security because your database is not exposed. So it’s separate. That is Headless. Okay. We have the database, we have the front built in React, but they are not joined. And for example, if your website is hard, the only thing it can do is make a defect and you send it back and it’s okay. Or if your WordPress server it’s down, your website is up. So that’s really great. And another great thing is also yes, because of speed. SEO is really great. Especially now with the new Google thing with the core vitals. There was a quote from a guy from Gatsby that said, “Speed is the new responsive.” You remember when in 2012, when now Google put you down if your website is responsive. So now this is happening now with performance and speed.
Angela: And lastly, you can have, for example, your content and your blog in WordPress because WordPress is fantastic, is the best editor. But you can have a shop in Shopify and BigCommerce or in another place, you can have data in a Google sheet, and you can take all this data and video website altogether. So that’s great. Or as the opposite, you can have WordPress backend and sending data to different websites. It’s very flexible. You can build really different experience thanks to that. And WordPress become a database simply with a great editor.
Tracy: I love that. I had a potential client that was like, they were asking me questions. So it was just more of a consulting. And they were like, yeah. So WordPress has been around a while. And so is it on its way out? And I was like, I don’t know. Not at all, because I see this as using as a platform. So now that like you said, I can have a WordPress site, and then that can power my database over here in this program. And it can, I don’t know, update the mobile app or it could hack whatever. Put information on a digital billboard, whatever. I can do all of those things because it’s just data and it’s just being passed everywhere. So I was like, “There’s actually more and more possibilities. So I don’t see WordPress itself going anywhere. It’s just changing and becoming more of this universal platform like you’re saying, it’s the future.
Alexandra: Exactly. Especially with WPGraphQL and people are building plugins on top of it, and it’s evolving. It’s constantly evolving. Now the theme of WPNG and WPNG is pushing a lot as the Headless way. Just more work there now. And they have launched the Atlas Modeler. So it’s a theme like custom fields, but more adapt for Headless. You can make your custom post height with taxonomies and custom field there. Yes. So it’s constantly evolving. And yes, I think it’s the future. And now we have built these first premium themes, but more people will follow, more solution will come. And at the time, it will be available for everyone for the moment. I think our product is more for professionals. You don’t have to code, but you need to install many things on your computer, open to console and things like that. And copy and paste following the documentation, anybody can do it. But it’s not for everyone, but it’ll come a moment where it will become the solution also for everyone I think.
Tracy: Yeah. Well, just like look at like WordPress. It used to be, you had to have an FTP client and you had to know code and you had to do this stuff. And then WordPress was built as an interface for people that didn’t have all of that knowledge. And so I can just see this evolving into now there being a graphical interface. That’s kind of how we’ve always been. It’s always been, all right, command line, and you know what you’re doing. And then all of a sudden, an interface is built on top of that. And yeah. That’s kind of amazing.
And I think things are getting streamlined. And usually honestly, because I’ll install a lot of local environments and do all those sort stuff. And every time I have a developer say, “Oh, it’s really easy. You just do this thing.” Somehow I break it. I don’t know how. I break it somehow. But it’s gotten easier in the years because now I’m like, “Okay, well, yeah. Okay. It’s just a couple processes and these things happen automatically. Okay. I can handle that. Not, here’s a 13 page instructions on all of the things that you need to do. And I’m like, “Yeah. Okay.”
Angela: Knock it out. Well, so the Gatsby theme that you’ve created is more for professionals. So it would be someone who has some savvy around the required files and stuff on their systems to be able to customize it you think?
Angela: So then let’s see. Let me figure out how to phrase this. So with the Gatsby themes, it is for professionals at this point. In terms of the types of sites. So let’s talk about the potential clients, what types of websites lent themselves well to a Headless development? Because when we talked to Miriam, we said we have some challenges when we’re dealing with eCommerce and dynamic websites that really do require an interaction with the database. So what kind of websites have you been building for clients that are Headless? And where do you find maybe you recommend we really can’t do Headless in this situation? Does that come up?
Alexandra: I have built blogs. I have built brochure website, but now I’m I have built a reading dynamic one, I’m finishing it a big one. A travel website with a big search things that we work with Algolia this one has been quite complicated with a login, a logout. Yes. A membership. Not a paid membership, but you can create a bucket list on it. So you can do anything. And now Gatsby is going to have server side rendering too. So it’s not a problem anyway to have eCommerce. It’s not because it’s static, that it’s not dynamic. That’s the thing. I think there’s a limitation. It’s more, okay. I have WordPress and I want to use this plugin, and I want to do it myself, and it’s not available. And Gatsby, we have to review some things so it will cost the development. So I think that’s more limitation or perhaps some website don’t really need it, but I think you can do almost anything. And we are going to build the eCommerce themes, that’s our next step. Build the themes, WooCommerce, and Shopify.
Angela: Yeah. Because I see now on the Gatsby documentation, there is a sourcing from WooCommerce. And so maybe Gatsby, it sounds like is the framework that has kind of been a game changer in this whole Headless arena. Would you say that’s true.
Alexandra: Yes. But there is WPGraphQL WooCommerce.
Alexandra: So you can source that, and you can do it with NeXT. So I choose Gatsby because there is plugin, there is this API for themes, but NeXT is also a great framework. It was more service rendering, now Gatsby are service rendering. They are following each other. So yes. The people have built this plug in on top of WPGraphQL. So since there is a check in checkout, I have to see how to do it. But we are going to do it. And this-
Alexandra: Yes. Of course.
Angela: I love it.
Alexandra: Of course.
Tracy: So speaking of that, tell us about your company and the products. I want to hear more about this.
Alexandra: What do you mean?
Tracy: Your Gatsby, the first premium Gatsby WordPress themes and stuff.
Alexandra: Okay. Yes.
Alexandra: So the idea as begin with Gordon three years ago, we begin by importing the free themes from WordPress 2019, I think as a Turbo theme to Gatsby. That was the first step. Then I think, okay. We have to do premium theme because there is none, and that would be very useful. And then I found a super collaborator named Paulina Hetman. She had already built themes on ThemeForest and I’ve been very lucky because finding a partner where everything flows, et cetera, it’s great. And very rare, I think. So we begin together three years building that. So basically now, we have the first ones which are blogs. So we have a Buzz theme and another one named Ginger. So the Buzz for me, it’s making something nice but simple. The Ginger one is more advanced. We have several different schemes on the same themes.
Themes in Gatsby is different than WordPress. That’s very important because a theme can be there, for example, only to build a functionality or to group other plugins. So we have data themes that is only responsible for getting the data from WordPress. And if you install only the theme, you will see only data. You will see this on top of this one. So it’s like the brain. It’s like a skeleton. On top of this one, we build starters that has all the skin and components that are styled. But this data theme, is the head of all the other ones. And we have made a plugin for contact for sever and over for SEOs, there is WPPraphQL plugins that takes the data from the host. And we have built the Gatsby plugin that build the SEO component with all this data. So installing all your SEO that is there and you can add new elements.
We have comments, we have search, we have light box Gutenberg. We will not have that all Gutenberg because there is so many different things that we have just the core Gutenberg has to work with Gatsby. And we will build, of course, more themes for every area, portfolio, agency, magazine. Everything is to do, there is nothing. So we have everything to do. We just have to pay to advance in time and do all that.
We are selling two packages, one with only the base theme that is good also for developers because you’re going to modify everything. And the pro pack that where all the themes that we are building in the year will be in this pack. And also subscription. And very soon, we are going to release a free theme. So it’ll be simpler, there will not be comment, search or fancy things like that, but it will allow people to build things and play with it and see how it works. So now we are working on that, and it will be released very, very soon. And yes. We have really good documentation that is accessible for everyone and the support website. And soon we will do webinars and many things
Angela: Love it. That is so amazing. It has been just so great talking to you today and our time is coming to an end.
Angela: But yeah. We want to keep the conversation going. What is the best way people can find out more about you and stay in contact and just find you online.
Alexandra: Okay. Online. They can find me at Twitter @alexadark. And of course, the website gatsbywpthemes. They can subscribe so they will be informed, and the free theme will be also for the subscribers. And from there, they can also subscribe to the support community platforms that we have. Yes. That’s two places. I think Twitter about me. I have a personal website, alexandraspalato.com that I will rebuild soon, I think. And soon, I’m also launching my remote agency about Headless WordPress and JAMstack in general. So I just have to find the time to use the website. And the name will be [webstantly.com]. So the web instantly.
Tracy: Love it.
Angela: And you’ve spoken at different conferences, so I imagine you’re probably on WordPress TV. I’m just checking. Oh, maybe not.
Tracy: No, I have not speak at-
Angela: No, you’ve never.
Alexandra: No, because I never speak at WordCamps. I was planned at WordCamp Europe in Porto. We planned to make a three hours bootcamp with Zac and Paulina about the themes, and it has been canceled the day of my birthday.
Angela: So next year? Next year maybe.
Angela: Oh good. Okay. So we will make sure we put in the show notes links to all of these things because I think of any other ambitious people listening to this podcast would like to change their whole career and their life.
Alexandra: Yes. It’s possible.
Angela: Here’s the opportunity. Well, thank you so much.
Alexandra: Thanks to you. It was a pleasure.
Angela: And I do have to thank our sponsors again, Ninja Forms for building such a powerful forms plugin and supporting our show.
Speaker 1: 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 at womeninwp.com. Until next time.