Angela Bowman: Hi. Welcome to Women in WP. Today’s episode is sponsored by Ninja Forms, a premium form builder for WordPress. Create contact forms, order forms, donation forms, any kind of form you need and more in literally minutes using prebuilt templates from Ninja Forms. I’m Angela Bowman.
Amy Mason: And I’m Amy Mason.
Tracy Apps: And I’m Tracy Apps.
Angela Bowman: Our guest today is Shaylee Hansen joining us from Salt Lake City, Utah. Shaylee is the content marketing specialist for our sponsor, Ninja Forms. Welcome, Shaylee.
Shaylee Hansen: Hi, how’s it going this morning?
Angela Bowman: Happy Friday.
Shaylee Hansen: Oh, yes.
Angela Bowman: Yes. We like to start off each episode asking our guests how they got into WordPress. How did you get started?
Shaylee Hansen: So my story like everyone’s is very unique, but I got started actually through attending a word… Not a WordCamp, but I got started through going to a coding bootcamp. And after attending the bootcamp, I had to decide where do I want to work? What do I want to code in? Because I had learned Jingo at this particular coding bootcamp Python. And in the market in Utah, there’s not really a need for entry level Jingo developers. So my first job ended up being at a marketing agency in Park City, where they had WordPress.
And that was my first exposure to WordPress. I knew what WordPress was, but I did not know anything else. So the whole idea of pages, post, and post types blew my mind like trying to create meta boxes and develop meta boxes was just… So I did that job for a while and then went on to do other things at different kind companies.
About a year later, I was at a standstill trying to figure out, do I even want to do coding? Do I want to keep pursuing this path? I went to a a WordPress meetup in about 2017 and there was this one talk, I can’t remember the lady’s name, but she, at the time created a niche for herself developing these websites for CrossFit gyms and her talk was on finding your niche. And really like, “How are you going to develop yourself and getting in that niche space?”
I was like, “That’s my thing. I need to stick with WordPress. I’ve had a lot of experiences doing support, doing development, doing different things in WordPress. I need to just stick with this WordPress route. That will be my niche for development.”
So with that, I’ve gone on to work at other marketing agencies, doing development work. I’ve worked for endurance doing support. And now I’m at Ninja Forms where I started out doing customer success work which is like our support. And now I’m in the content marketing role.
Tracy Apps: Wow. That’s a journey.
Shaylee Hansen: It is.
Tracy Apps: Yeah. But one thing, because like… It sounds like, “Oh, well you’ve done this, you’ve done that. You’ve done this.” I love stories like that because I can relate to that where I’ve done this, this role and then I’ve done this role. I’ve done the marketing. I’ve done development. I’ve done the design. I’ve done all these things. I think it just makes a much more holistic knowledge and skillset. So how has your past experiences across the board, even the Jingo development stuff. How have you been able to use that in your roles today?
Shaylee Hansen: So one way that those past roles have become really helpful is I have always been into writing ever since I was younger. And because I’ve spent so much time learning how to code and looking up brief sources, I feel like I’m very good at creating documentation for users. So that’s where I’m developing further into this niche skill is that documentation style writing.
Amy Mason: That’s so important.
Tracy Apps: That is so dated. Oh my goodness.
Amy Mason: I just don’t know how it occurs to you, “Oh, I’m really good at documentation.” That’s blowing my mind.
Shaylee Hansen: Well, let me tell you with all the poor experiences you have being somebody learning to code, I remember when I first started, I was like, “This is written poorly. Why didn’t they think to add where you find this or you find this particular thing that you need or what things are like?” I didn’t even know what a terminal was. So trying to learn what a terminal is, how do you type in commands, that’s in itself is this whole thing. And then you have… That will slow you down with coding and other types of things.
Tracy Apps: I found that same thing. I’m like, “Oh, great. I love it. This code snippet will do this thing or this command will do this thing. Now, where do I put it?”
Shaylee Hansen: Exactly. And then you even have like task runners like, “Oh my gosh, a few years ago with trying to figure out how to get set up in GitHub, get task runners like Gulp working. I think MTM. Oh my gosh.
Tracy Apps: If someone would’ve explained to me that, okay, you’re writing these commands to basically go on the internet and download this script or this program onto your development, like environment so that it can do the things. Just that would’ve helped me.
Shaylee Hansen: Yes.
Tracy Apps: I put it in. It was like install, putting this, dash, dash, save, dash dev. I’m like, I don’t know what this is doing. They’re just like, “Oh, just do these things.” And I’m like, “Okay, great.”
Angela Bowman: Yes. I just had to do that recently. [crosstalk]
Tracy Apps: And spinning around a circle seven times and then it’ll work.
Amy Mason: Well, back in my teaching days, one of the teachers did this unit where she would have all the kids write down instructions for how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And then she would read the instructions and follow them step by step in front of the class. It was such a good experiment to see… I mean, it was hilarious what she would end up with just by doing what their instruction said. She was a science teacher, so it was all about how important instructions and communication are in the scientific process.
Tracy Apps: Oh, I love that. I want to use that for… I’m going to figure out how to put that into a lesson somehow
Shaylee Hansen: There is a YouTube video, this guy who has two kids and is a developer. He made them do this and recorded what their responses were and how many tries they had to come up with before he would say, “Okay, this will work or this doesn’t work.” It’s pretty funny.
Angela Bowman: We have to find that and put that in the show notes.
Amy Mason: Yeah.
Tracy Apps: And how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Angela Bowman: Love it.
Amy Mason: I always heard about this because I was across the hall, but I never got to see it. But the kids would always come, just cracking up at put peanut butter on the bread. She would take a loaf of bread and set the peanut butter on top. And very literal under interpretation of the instructions.
Angela Bowman: Shaylee, so you work with Ninja Forms, and do you get to see any of your fellow ninjas?
Shaylee Hansen: So that’s a good question. In person, I haven’t seen anyone yet. We were… When I-
Angela Bowman: Are you serious? Since you started working there? No one?
Shaylee Hansen: When I first started, I started in March 2020, a week before the pandemic started. Everyone at Saturday Drive was like, “We have this retreat. We’re going to do this retreat. Ended up getting canceled clearly because of the pandemic. So I’ve just seen everyone through Zoom and that’s pretty much it. We are scheduled to have a retreat pending sometime in May. So we’ll see if that happens. But yeah, I’ve just been on my own working remotely for Ninja Forms for the last two years.
Amy Mason: Things are trending in the right direction, but I’ve had this rug pulled out from under me before. So fingers crossed that we continue this trend and where I’ve actually able to go… Did you see they have dates for WordCamp US?
Shaylee Hansen: Oh, yeah. That’s one of the ones I’m excited for. As soon as they announced that I’m like, “Yes, San Diego. I am going.”
Amy Mason: Well, somebody asked me if I was going and I’m like, “It is February. It is way too soon for me to even consider.” I’m planning things six weeks out at this point. Anything else, you plan something and then you have to cancel it because whatever new variant comes and ruins our lives again.
Shaylee Hansen: Exactly.
Angela Bowman: It’s all my fault because I keep buying concert tickets. As soon as I buy a concert ticket, a new variant comes out. So I’m not going to buy any concert tickets.
Tracy Apps: Yeah, please don’t.
Angela Bowman: Yeah.
Amy Mason: So ask me again in July or August and I will let you know whether I’m going to WordCamp US. I would like to. I would like to. I haven’t missed one yet. An in person one. I guess there was a virtual one. That I didn’t do.
Shaylee Hansen: Yeah. I’ve never been to WordCamp US yet. I’ve been to a few WordCamps in Salt Lake that they’ve had, and I went to one in Las Vegas.
Amy Mason: Ooh, I went to Las Vegas. When did you go?
Shaylee Hansen: Oh, I think it was probably… I would say it was like the fall of 2017. Well, maybe it was 2017, 2018. My sense of time is kind of off, but it was around then.
Amy Mason: Okay. Mine, I went 2013, 2014, I believe. So. In fact, I think I still even have my badge. I’m holding up my badge.
Tracy Apps: Oh my God.
Angela Bowman: For real.
Tracy Apps: Wow.
Amy Mason: And people can’t see this because we don’t do video anymore, but this is my 2013 attendee WordCamp Las Vegas badge, which was my very first.
Tracy Apps: The fact that you have it right next to is what’s the most funny.
Amy Mason: It’s on a bulletin board that’s next to my desk.
Tracy Apps: Got it.
Amy Mason: Yeah, that was my very first ever WordCamp.
Angela Bowman: Awesome.
Tracy Apps: I have all of my name tags saved. I want to make a display wall, but it’ll have to be a wall.
Angela Bowman: A wall. Wow.
Amy Mason: Yeah, I do too.
Angela Bowman: Yeah. I did speak at the Salt Lake City WordCamp in 2014 and Mike Hansen roped me into that. And that was awesome. It was a great time. I loved the people Salt Lake. One of the guys did for the speakers these little gifts that he handmade with colored salts. It was like he did this craft project. It was just like this is so sweet. So Salt Lake WordCamp sort of touched my heart for sure. And I can drive there to check. It’s not too far from Denver.
So Shaylee, you’re a documentation writer. You’re a content creator. This is a podcast for women. Some people listening to this podcast are just getting started or maybe they’ve been doing what they do for a while. What is your advice to them on how to either level up their skills or go deeper with all of this?
Shaylee Hansen: So I have a controversial view on development because I’ve tried it and I’ve been successful at sometimes and unsuccessful at other times. I will tell people this. Coding may not be for everyone, but WordPress is. So you can definitely… If you are technically oriented, I think getting into WordPress is awesome and excellent. And you should definitely see what strengths you have and really invest into WordPress.
But coding is very hard. And depending on what type of development you want to get into, it takes a lot.
Tracy Apps: And it’s not the same, because when I first started teaching myself to code, it was a completely different ballpark. We had to call the internet and there weren’t task runners, like all of those kinds of things. I didn’t have to open up terminal. I just opened up notepad and started typing in HTML code. That was a much easier barrier to entry because then I just had to figure out like, “Oh, do I put this in the file or does this go within brackets or whatever?”
Now it’s like, you need this thing and this thing, and this thing, and everything. So it’s much harder and it can be very intimidating to get started because all of these tools that we have that speed up development, it definitely slows down the onboarding process by a lot.
Shaylee Hansen: Of course.
Tracy Apps: Yeah. Same thing at design. Absolutely, I’m teaching design in these bootcamp settings, but I’m stressing. I’m like with things like design systems and even screenless designs, that pixel perfect like refining that to be just pixel perfect is less and less relevant because now it can be like, “Oh, you’re taking this from a design system,” and you’d be like [inaudible]. So you need to understand, you need to be able to solve the bigger problem.
So those are the skills to really worry about developing. And same thing like you say. WordPress has so many tools and so many things that are going for it and it is being developed at a very rapid rate by lots of people. But getting a part of using that as a tool to the means of that is really important. And I think you’re right. It’s a much easier entry level entry way into that world, for sure.
Shaylee Hansen: Definitely. The thing that I really like about WordPress is although I don’t consider myself to be a coder, I should saying, yes, I know how to code. I consider myself to be the WordPress super user. And I think we can all become the WordPress super user where we can get in there and have the confidence to mess with code. I mean, over my years of experience, if somebody was like, “I want this changed, I want this on my website,” I’m confident that I know how to do that or find the resources to do that.
Amy Mason: Absolutely. I feel like I’m also that .I feel like that’s my level, like I’m not going to create WordPress. I’m not going to create, write my own content management system. That seems like a lot, but I can figure out like almost anything I want to make happen. Sometimes I have to read more documentation than others. When you were go going to your WordCamps in salt lake, that was before you were in this role. So what was your motivation to go to WordCamp?
Shaylee Hansen: So my motivation was to find community and friends. I think like a lot of us, we tend to be more on the introverted spectrum. So I’m like, “Oh, I need to develop my network and find friends.” It wasn’t so much to learn, maybe be inspired with going and come up with ideas. At the time, I was going more regularly, I had the entrepreneurial mindsets. I’m like “I want to start my own business, have my own WordPress support business.”
So that’s why I wanted to develop that network. I think there are people within the Salt Lake community who are aware of who I am and know me and have worked with me. But I don’t have that course set of people like if I had a problem… I don’t have somebody specific that I could reach out to. So I don’t know. It’s probably I just did my social skills and being introverted. But I do show up to places. I do want to meet people, that type of thing.
Amy Mason: I think developing that network is so important and I’ll get people come to me, “I need X or I need Y, or I need Z.” And then I’ll say, “Well, those aren’t things I do. But I know this person does this and this person does this.” Not only for the referrals, but just say, “I need to know how to do this. Who can teach me? Who knows that is willing to work with me and educate me?” Being able to have that kind of network is I think one of the most important parts of being in this business.
Shaylee Hansen: Exactly. I have this theory. It’s based off of, I think they call it a trope or an archetype and it’s based off of the movie War Dogs. Everyone needs they’re Jonah Hill. They need that partner. And everyone is looking for that Jonah Hill or if they’re the straight man looking for their straight man in that partnership.
Amy Mason: I haven’t seen War Dogs, but now I may need to watch it.
Angela Bowman: We’re going to watch it. Then we’ll have a little Zoom and we’ll talk about what we learned from this.
Amy Mason: The women in WordCamp or… I can’t talk.WWomen in WP movie night. We will be watching War Dogs and then we’ll have a discussion.
Tracy Apps: Sounds good. We’ll totally do like a live event. That would be fun.
Angela Bowman: Yeah. That network is so important because that’s kind of… I had started in WordPress by myself in 2007. It was a very lonely time. It was so long ago. Not even people knew about WordPress really. I met some a woman at a women designer’s group. So it was a group for designers who were doing like in design and illustrator and graphic designers basically, and there was someone else doing WordPress.
Through that community, I met a bunch of designers who then needed someone to code the websites for them and I became that person. We partnered and we also learned from each other WordPress, kind of taught each other WordPress. If one of us learned something, we teach the other person. And that networking is unbelievably huge, but it can get so much bigger. I had an issue with a plugin that stopped working with 5.9.
I put out on Twitter, “Hey, can someone help me?” Because there’s all these developers who were working with react and working with Gutenberg and the block editor and all that. And they’re like, “Yeah, I’m up for the challenge. What’s going on?” And this lovely man who actually works for the NBA. He’s the senior WordPress developer for the NBA jumps in, spent several hours and fixes this damn plugin for me.
Shaylee Hansen: Oh my gosh.
Tracy Apps: Nice.
Angela Bowman: Yes. Posted on GitHub. He couldn’t really fork it properly because the original repo is like shutdown. And it was just like, “Wow, community.” Just come forward and do that. He has connections at 10up. So he is like, “Maybe I can get you some…” I don’t even know this person, so you can actually have a network of people you don’t even know, but they’re just there. It’s this massive, amazing group of people. I think our Women in WordPress podcast, we’ve created our own kind of smaller world with these women.
Now, I feel like, “Wow, I know women all over the world.” I have people I can have coffee with all over the world. And they’ll probably even let me sleep on their couch. It’s pretty special, I think. I think we’re definitely… No matter what you think about Gutenberg or the block editor, or what’s going on politically with WordPress, we’ve got each other. And I think that’s… I don’t know. It’s magic.
Shaylee Hansen: So before Gutenberg officially came out as they were announcing, “Hey, we’re going to implement this big change,” I was working for the last company before I moved over to Ninja Forms, and I told my lead developer, I was like, “Hey, did you know that this was happening?” And she was like, “What? What is this?” And she was just like, “This isn’t going to go anywhere. This isn’t going to be anything. I’ve been in WordPress for over 10 years. We’ll see what happens. But I don’t think this is like going to be a big deal.” But I alerted her to the big Gutenberg change.
Tracy Apps: So speaking of that community and that big change, I just recently got… I started working on… I updated. I was like, “All right. I’m not going to be the grumpy old developer and be like, ‘Oh, I’m not going to change. I’m going to try this.'” And I tried using it and then I became the even grumpier developer and I was like, “This is not good. Get off my lawn.” So I went on a Twitter rants.
But speaking of that community, and even people that we’ve had on the podcast have been good partners bringing back to that documentation. So I know my, my brain is wired where I think of all these things and I could just word vomit at you of all of these things, and I can sketch out all of this stuff and I can recognize these different pain points and different things that I want to… I think this really needs to change for these reasons.
And then I can even come up with ideas and even sketch out ideas of solutions for interface bugs or accessibility issues. But then trying to write it down into documentation. My brain goes, [inaudible] and it just shuts down. I could sit there and try to barrel through, but then it’s literally, it’s literally going to be four hours of me struggling through this even though everything else I came up with in 30 minutes.
Then I need to take a nap and then finish up to make sure that it makes sense to other people outside of my head. So those aren’t my skill sets. But partnering with someone that I can just go, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then they’re like, okay, do, do, do. That’s these action points. That’s this part right here. And I’m like, “That is a skill, that one is very, very undervalued. They deserve millions and millions of dollars because that is like a skillset that everyone relies on.”
If I am trying to make the documentation, if I’m trying to learn from the documentation, all of that is very important. So having those partners. So I’ve been able to do that with even some people and mostly all women in the community, which is amazing. And I’m like, “Okay, all these are like blah, blah, blah.” And they’re like, “Okay. Well, here are some things. We’re going to add these tickets.” And I’m like, “Oh.”
Shaylee Hansen: There you go.
Tracy Apps: Wow.
Angela Bowman: You just need a ghost writer.
Tracy Apps: I do. I need someone to function… Because my brain functions this way and then normal brains. So I just need like another half. With our powers combined…
Angela Bowman: Yep. You need your sidekick.
Tracy Apps: I do.
Shaylee Hansen: You need your Jonah Hill.
Angela Bowman: Your Jonah Hill.
Tracy Apps: There it is. Bringing it back. I love it.
Shaylee Hansen: Or you are the Jonah Hill and you need your straight A’s.
Tracy Apps: Oh, there it is. I don’t know that. I’m going to have to look it up too, because I’m like… Now, I’m going to see that everywhere. I’m sure. Because I agree. I think having that… And I think one of the things that I see a lot and we see this a lot on the guests here. People that are just brilliant and doing amazing things. But to like, “But I just do this,” and I’m like, “That’s an amazing thing.” But it’s one of those where people don’t recognize that as like that superpower. So documentation, customer service. Even just like, “Oh, I just saw a need here. So I just created this thing. Or I just organized this thing. I just do this, that.” I’m like, “It’s amazing.”
Shaylee Hansen: And I think being in the pandemic and being isolated from everyone, especially if you work remotely, that makes it even so much easier to say, “Yeah, I just do this because you’re not getting that team feedback on a regular basis.”
Amy Mason: I saw this tweet-
Tracy Apps: Just alone, we’re doing pieces of it and together we have an actual product to show for it. So that’s kind of hard to rely on. You’re like, “Oh, I made this thing.” I’m like, “No, I did this part of it, which is an important part.” But hard when you’re isolated, for sure.
Amy Mason: I saw this tweet once that was something along the lines of professional development course for women. Learning how to remove just from emails.
Tracy Apps: Yes. Yes.
Amy Mason: Because we do. Men don’t say, “Just like we do.”
Angela Bowman: Or I think.
Shaylee Hansen: They’re like, “I know how to do this and five other things.”
Tracy Apps: Yep.
Shaylee Hansen: They add on.
Tracy Apps: Yep. So true. So true.
Amy Mason: This is why we have this podcast, so we can talk about… We’re not bashing on the men. We’re just saying these are things that women do that we need to stop.
Shaylee Hansen: Yes.
Tracy Apps: I agree.
Amy Mason: Using the word just. And I noticed that when I was just a stay-at-home mom, that, that is a common phrase. “Oh, I don’t work. I just take care of humans so they don’t die.”
Tracy Apps: Yeah.
Amy Mason: 24 hours a day. I mean, it’s ridiculous.
Angela Bowman: So they don’t eat poison. They don’t electrocute themselves. They don’t fall down steep things. So much to keeping these. They’re determined to kill themselves too.
Amy Mason: I feel like if my husband got home at the end of the day and the children were alive, then I had won.
Tracy Apps: I mean, that’s-
Shaylee Hansen: Definitely a feat if both of you, your children and you are alive and smiling, then you have definitely won, I feel like for the day.
Amy Mason: Showering was never part of the equation. It never was.
Shaylee Hansen: No. Exactly, yeah. That doesn’t matter.
Angela Bowman: Well, you have a choice. You can either eat lunch or you can shower, but you don’t get to do both.
Tracy Apps: Yeah. Things that we’ve learned in the pandemic. Showering isn’t as important as we were in once’s thoughts.
Shaylee Hansen: Exactly.
Amy Mason: Oh my goodness.
Angela Bowman: Or haircuts or color.
Amy Mason: Yeah. The color is important, I think,
Tracy Apps: I need to cut my hair.
Shaylee Hansen: I can’t believe how many days I’ve gone with waking up, getting my daughter ready and then going to work. And then at the end of the day, and I’m like, “I have not changed my pajamas or my clothes since yesterday.”
Amy Mason: Or brush my teeth. That’s the one that gets me. I drink a lot of coffee, so I have my coffee before I brush my teeth and then I just keep working and I realize it’s 3:00 and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t brush my teeth today.” I’m sorry listeners. I am gross.
Angela Bowman: We’re all kind of gross right now. It’s just the truth.
Amy Mason: I’m working on. I’m trying to get better.
Shaylee Hansen: I’d say my favorite thing is trying to decide, “Oh, I want to get new outfits,” and realizing I don’t go anywhere. I wear the same thing multiple days in a row. I probably saved so much money on needing to buy clothes. Do we even need new clothes anymore?
Angela Bowman: Yeah. We just need a uniform. Just pick your uniform. What’s you and just have a couple so that you could put one in the laundry and then that’s it. I’m down with making your statement and then that’s your statement.
Amy Mason: Some days at 3:00 I run upstairs to get dressed and comb my hair so my kids don’t think that I have done nothing since they left the school. Yes. I’ve been professional all day at my desk.
Tracy Apps: Look at me professionally. My favorite is there’s a sound on TikTok to like how they know? How would they know? So I think that every time I have a Zoom meeting where I put on like a shirt and bow tie and I’m still wearing my pajama pants and I’m like, “How would they know? How would they know?”
Angela Bowman: Don’t stand up.
Amy Mason: I had a friend that used to have a lot of meetings, pre-pandemic. She worked remotely. And at the end of every meeting, they required everybody to stand up because they wanted to see what everybody was wearing on the bottom.
Shaylee Hansen: Oh my gosh. Really?
Amy Mason: Yeah. It was a good laugh. It wasn’t like they weren’t expecting people to be professional. It was just, “You look all professional. Okay. What do you got on the bottom?” And there was a lot of pajamas, my understanding.
Tracy Apps: That’s awesome. I would just buy some like fuzzy like Elmo pants just for that kind of thing.
Amy Mason: Elmo pants.
Angela Bowman: Do too.
Amy Mason: I want Elmo pants.
Angela Bowman: Do too. Well, we are going-
Tracy Apps: We’ve gone from like coding to technical documentation to Elmo pants. I mean really? You never know [crosstalk] what you’re going to get on this podcast.
Amy Mason: I think Angela had a serious question.
Angela Bowman: No, I didn’t really, but I could ask a serious question. So Shaylee-
Amy Mason: Get us back on track, Angela.
Angela Bowman: I’m trying. I’m working on it. I haven’t had enough caffeine today yet to make this happen. Okay. Shaylee, so content marketing, what is content marketing? Let’s just try to… We’ll wrap this up in a professional way, but if someone wants to… We get writers on this podcast. We hear that phrase content marketing out there, but what is it for Ninja Forms? What does it do for the plugin for you to be doing what you’re doing?
Shaylee Hansen: So what it means to be doing content marketing is expanding our reach to users. Right now, we want to open the doors and invite new people who are new to what WordPress is, who are new to even what form builders are and say, “Hey, here is this great tool. It’s easy to use. Try it out.” So basically with our content goal this year, it’s to increase that visibility and to help the new users find a really good solution, which Ninja Forms is a great solution for new users.
I’ve tried other were builders, Gravity Forms. When I use Gravity Forms, I felt it was difficult and not user friendly. So that’s why I like Ninja Forms.
Tracy Apps: [crosstalk] Sorry, there’s so many different forms [crosstalk].
Angela Bowman: Let’s all talk at once.
Tracy Apps: You’re right. There’s a market for everyone. There’s a market for… I think that that’s a really valid point of like, “Well, who is that market?” Sure, you want all of these fancy bells and whistles, then there’s space in the WordPress community for all of these to exist. So it’s not like a… And that’s one thing I see about the WordPress community. There’s a lot less of this like battle competition, more of a collaboration and know it together. We’re all creating this space that’s more accessible for everyone to be able to use WordPress. So varied.
Angela Bowman: And the Ninja Forms interface is very beautiful and it is very intuitive. I’d have to agree with that. There is this kind of ease about it.
Shaylee Hansen: Exactly. And that’s the goal is to translate that ease of use for our audience and because I’ve been one of those people who have been on the other side, we’re struggling to learn how to code, struggling to learn how to use tools. I know how to do that and I can translate that for you.
Amy Mason: This reminds me of-
Angela Bowman: Yeah. So breaking up barrier into entry.
Amy Mason: Doing this, I did an SEO webinar and I was trying to be neutral and not push any themes or plugins. I mean, obviously, I’m going to talk about WordPress and so I just used form builder several times. We get to the end and it’s Q&A time and somebody says, “What’s a form builder?” I thought I was being so generic and easy and I was not meeting somebody where they were. So a form builder for building forms.
Shaylee Hansen: Exactly. [crosstalk] building forms in HTML is horrendous.
Tracy Apps: Oh, it is terrible. It’s funny.
Angela Bowman: And a lot…
Tracy Apps: I tried to teach that and I was like, “Well, but we really shouldn’t need to worry about all this stuff because there’s all this other stuff. So let’s just use one of these builders because that solves the problem.”
Angela Bowman: Yeah. That’s because I’ve had people come to me. I think a lot of even developers who are new to WordPress really think that they have to have their manually created form and use PHP mail around the server for it. Their minds are blown when there’s like, “Oh, no. There’s a plugin that will let you build your contact forms or whatever forms you need.” I think with Ninja Forms, you also have a lot of templates. So if there’s a particular use case you have, and you’re seeing more plugins do this, but if there’s a particular use case, you can just install the template that matches more closely to what you need and then just modify it.
Shaylee Hansen: Exactly. One of one thing that’s really cool that our developers built for the templates a while ago that I was actually talking to my manager quite about was our MailChimp template. I don’t know if a lot of people know, but when you click into the template, it generates everything for you. So it applies the merge tag from your mailing list. You can create user selected lists where you’ve never been able to do that before, because you need IDs that you can only get through APIs. That’s all done with a click of the button.
Tracy Apps: Wow.
Shaylee Hansen: The only thing you have to do is go, “Oh, do I like the way that the form looks visually on my website?” Change that and you’re good in like five minutes.
Tracy Apps: I think one of the things, when you’re talking about like, well, what’s a form builder or what are forms? Because I think of this as even just like… For even new users that are like… I don’t even know what that… I think of a form as like, okay, so it’s a paper form, but is that a digital paper form? But by saying like, “Oh, do you need a way for people to send you an email or contact form?”
So having those templates is really helpful for reaching that language barrier because people might have a… Especially not in development have a different… Or in a different industry. It might have a different definition in their head for the word form.
Angela Bowman: Right.
Tracy Apps: So you’re like, “Oh, yeah. I need feedback.” “Okay, great. Then use this template.” And that really helps bridge that gap. It makes it more accessible as well.
Angela Bowman: Well, in what you mentioned, the paper form, I take so much for granted that you can build a form on a website and just assume everyone knows you can build a form on a website. I’ll see clients like uploading PDFs or Word docs for people to fill out. Print this and fill it out and I’m like…
Tracy Apps: And then mail it.
Angela Bowman: And then mail it. Or better yet, email it to us.
Tracy Apps: Or fax it, yes.
Angela Bowman: But they usually-
Amy Mason: The doctors’ offices do that a lot because of HIPAA.
Angela Bowman: Yeah. Fill out this form and email it to us. And then it’s just like, “Oh my gosh, I can just have this on the website.” And it’s just kind of this like Amy’s moment of like, “I really have failed in my job.”
Amy Mason: I wasn’t teaching them how to make a website. I just assumed that the point that they were at the SEO webinar that they knew like what a form was. But, yeah. Sorry, people. I messed up.
Angela Bowman: Well, forms can simplify your life. That’s for sure. For everything you need to collect data on from anyone, Ninja Forms. Oh, wow. I did a great thing.
Amy Mason: Let me ask you this question. For somebody new, that’s making their first form, and it could be with any form builder, but Ninja Forms is fine, what would be your top three things they need to know?
Shaylee Hansen: So they would definitely need to know that you got to have an email address on your form. You don’t need to have a first and last name filled, but having an email address and a submit button is fine for your form. The second thing that they need to know is you need a way to receive that confirmation or notification that a form has been filled out. So you’re going to need to know where to add that contact information, whether it is your own email address, where you want the form to go after it’s submitted, or sending a confirmation to your user, how to insert that into the form.
And then the third thing that I think everyone should know is never try and create a form with HTML. Do not waste your time. Just get a form builder, find a template. Even go on to Google and find a code snippet, go to, I think it’s HTML web school or W3C school even do that. Just please don’t spend the extra bandwidth to create your own form. There’s lots of tools that’ll do it for you.
Tracy Apps: I had to relook up the code to make a form manually because I haven’t done it in so long. Because you’re right there’s so many things. And even just sending a message securely, there’s all these other things. You’re right. It’s a way more complex thing than it is worth spending the time on because there is these great tools out there.
Angela Bowman: Okay.
Amy Mason: And your tip was so important. Sorry, Angela.
Angela Bowman: Go.
Amy Mason: Because I have people that will make forms. They’ll make the first form, but they never think about the notifications. Somebody had somebody that they had hired to come in and work on their website and they were making all these forms, didn’t change any of the notifications and they all came to me.
Tracy Apps: Oh, yeah. Because I was the admin on the website at the time.
Angela Bowman: By default it goes to the admin.
Amy Mason: By default it went to me and so I kept getting all these submissions and I’m like, “Hey, even notifications.”
Angela Bowman: And piggybacking on notifications, which I was going to say is that a big issue is that even if you have that all set up correctly, you don’t get them because they’re coming from the server. So they have a generic from… And it’s really from the server and a lot of incoming email boxes are going to think all these notification emails are spam. So Ninja Forms does have some help articles on using, yet, another plugin. Unfortunately, people you do mostly often, if you have any sort of notification emails on your website, you have to have some sort of email sending plugin installed. So it bypasses this generic server email function and sends it through a third-party service usually that will help it to be deliverable. So SendGrid, SendWP, WS, MTP.
Amy Mason: Mailgun.
Angela Bowman: And Mailgun. These are all plugins that you only need one of them, but it’s just kind of mandatory. It’s a two-step dance with this. You got your form plugin. You got your emails. It’s complicated. And it would be nice for new people to really, really break down why, what these server emails are and why they don’t work in a better way than I’m doing right now.
But just note, you need SendWP. We’ll put some links in the show notes to Ninja Forms’ articles on the email notification sending. But that is massive stumbling block. I’ve known people not to get their notifications for years. And they’re like, “Oh, I had all these.” It’s like, “Well, yeah.”
Shaylee Hansen: Well, and one way-
Tracy Apps: I mean, I’ve had… Yeah, go for it.
Shaylee Hansen: I was going to say, one way around that is one of the reasons why people encounter those issues is hosting. I know we can blame a lot of things on hosting but for this particular issue with email, hosting is the problem. So that’s why those other services are needed. You don’t necessarily need them. You can contact hosting, but it frees you up from having to contact your hosting company and talk to their customer support by using those external services.
Angela Bowman: Well, the thing is that the hosting can’t do anything about it. The only host that actually do something about it is like Getflywheel and some other managements, where they will run one of those services like SendGrid in the background. So they’re kind of taking ownership of, “Hey, we know these notification emails need to get through. We’ll just have a commercial license to SendGrid and we’ll send it through there.” But your typical cPanel shared web hosts are… Even if you contact the host, they can’t really help you. You might be able to do something with your DNS record or something. Something very much more complicated to help it to get through. But I would just say install SendWP or Mailgun.
Amy Mason: And also people check their stamp folder.
Tracy Apps: Yeah, exactly. That’s the thing like I’ve had-
Angela Bowman: Sometimes it never gets there.
Tracy Apps: I’ve been able to set up and use this like the default server mess into emails. But you’re right, I had to do filters and this, and I had to make sure to check this because sometimes it would go here, sometimes it wouldn’t send. It’s one of those steps that takes a lot of headache away because then it’s more reliable. And you’re right, it’s one of those things that we don’t have a lot of control over because it depends on your host. It depends on this. It depends on a lot of these technical setups and stuff like that. But, I mean, once you set it, you set it and forget it, which is nice.
Shaylee Hansen: Exactly.
Amy Mason: Well, [crosstalk] thank you so much Shaylee for being on the podcast today. Before we go, can you tell everybody where they can find you online?
Shaylee Hansen: So on Twitter, I am @HansenShaylee. And then I have my own website, which choose to go there at your own peril. It’s shayleehansen.com. And other than that, you can find me writing blog post for Ninja Forms.
Tracy Apps: Yay.
Amy Mason: Awesome.
Tracy Apps: Thank you.
Amy Mason: Thanks for being here.
Shaylee Hansen: Yeah, thank you.