In this episode of the WP Minute+ podcast, host Matt Medeiros sits down with Ben Ritner, the creator of the popular Kadence WordPress theme. Ben shares his journey from building websites for clients to creating the Virtue theme, which gained over 300,000 active installs at its peak. He discusses the evolution of the Kadence brand, which has been around for 10 years, and the launch of the Kadence theme four years ago as a Gutenberg-ready solution.

Ben and Matt delve into the challenges faced by theme developers when adhering to WordPress.org guidelines while trying to meet user demands. They explore the idea of allowing users to choose their site-building foundation, whether it be core WordPress or a third-party solution like Kadence or Elementor, to simplify the onboarding process and improve user experience.

The conversation also touches on the role of hosting companies in providing streamlined WordPress experiences and the difficulties in onboarding non-WordPress users. Ben shares his thoughts on the Kadence ecosystem, which includes a range of plugins focused on front-end performance, design, and marketing. He also discusses the integration of AI into Kadence products as an assistant to help users create content more efficiently.

Matt and Ben explore the topic of AI in the WordPress space, discussing the concept of AI credit fatigue and the importance of trust in centralized AI platforms. They also touch on the potential of open-source AI models and their integration into WordPress products.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The Kadence brand has evolved over the past decade, with the Kadence theme launched four years ago as a Gutenberg-ready solution.
  2. Theme developers face challenges in adhering to WordPress.org guidelines while meeting user demands for more control over their site-building experience.
  3. Hosting companies have attempted to provide streamlined WordPress experiences, but onboarding non-WordPress users remains a challenge.
  4. The Kadence ecosystem focuses on front-end performance, design, and marketing, with AI integration aimed at assisting users in creating content more efficiently.
  5. Trust in centralized AI platforms and the potential of open-source AI models are important considerations in the WordPress space.

Important Links:

WP_Ben_Ritner_Edit

Matt: [00:00:00] It’s the WP Minute Plus, your home for long form discussions with WordPress professionals and industry experts, covering our favorite topic, WordPress. Be sure to follow us. Search for WP Minute in your favorite podcast app. Follow this podcast and our five minute weekly edition. Or head to the WPMinute.

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Hey Ben, welcome 

Ben: 

Hey, thanks for having me. 

Matt: Uh, Cadence WP, it’s a product that I use. You’ve been running this theme for, uh, I’ll tell you what my gut feeling is you’ll give me the correct date, but it feels like about five, Cadence has been out there. It’s 

Ben: So [00:02:00] the, the theme is only, um, the cadence theme, which is like, kind of like our intro product is only been out for four years.

The cadence brand has actually been out for 10, um, started in 2013. The first products were actually virtue theme. Um, which is a completely different classic theme. And so, yeah, that, and that actually got pretty popular, which is kind of the whole, you know, story of how this started is I was building websites for people and built my own theme, decided to release it on dot org.

That got really top 10 list for, for several years. At one point it had 300, 000 active installs. And so it, I had a pro version. It became, you know, what I did over almost overnight from when it launched. And then they changed the way that, uh. Deem popularity is handled on wordpress. org, um, which took it from [00:03:00] a top five, top 10 to a top 50 theme because they started prioritizing newer themes over, which, um, long term was a great move.

You know, at the time it was painful, but yeah, it was the right move because the popular list was full of kind of themes that were never going to budge even as newer, better themes are coming out. So yeah, then I started exploring, uh, plugins created cadence blocks right at the beginning of Gutenberg and then the cadence theme kind of right after Gutenberg launched as like the first are like, are like Gutenberg ready theme.

And then to go along with Cadence Blocks. So that’s where more of like trying to simplify the branding. We had, you know, different products. Everything became like Cadence and it’s a Cadence theme. That’s the main thing we push. It’s Cadence Blocks. That’s the, that’s the block package, Cadence Shop Kit and conversions and all of that.

So [00:04:00] 

Matt: I remember back in the day when I was running my agency and I was getting into themes myself and sending themes to wordpress. org, submitting them. And it’s funny. It’s been. I don’t know. Uh, like you said, 10 years, maybe 12 years since, since I had done that. And it doesn’t matter. Like it feel like the rules of wordpress.

org themes and plugins. It’s still this ambiguous cloud. I mean, it’s getting a little bit clearer lately, especially with what we recently saw with like the Ollie theme. And maybe we’ll talk about that in a, in a few moments. But I remember submitting my theme back in the day and be like, Hey, I want to be found.

Like I want this theme to be found. Number one, it’s a great theme. You know, we designed it in our agency. We’re building this type of theme for our clients and we called it journal. And I remember submitting it and saying, here’s the name. It’s called journal and it was rejected because the name was, you know, it was just randomly rejected because, Oh, the name just, it’s too generic.

It’s it’s too like search focus. Well, people are making a journal with [00:05:00] WordPress, man, that’s, that’s why we call it this. And we, it’s, it actually kind of looks like if you are opening a physical journal. I mean, we’re talking design 12 years ago. So it kind of looks like that opening a journal and it was rejected because of the name.

But, and then you kind of like get all your evidence and you say, well, there’s a theme called paper, right? There’s a, a theme called paper and another theme called, I don’t know, block. And they’re in there. Like, why are you just kind of deal with this? Yeah. I don’t, you know, I see some of it getting clearer, uh, and I’m sure you kind of dealt with a lot of that stuff back in the day and the theme selector.

I remember I was sure you do as well. If you reviewed themes, the most themes you got to select which featured theme appeared on wordpress. org. Those were crazy days. I mean, I feel like we’re still not that far a decade later, but those were crazy days. Um, bit of a gold rush. The WordPress repo was back then.

Ben: Yeah, yeah, there was a definitely a huge rush around themes and you know 2010 that was [00:06:00] like I mean, everyone was making all of a sudden these brands are being formed of like, Oh, we can make good money building themes. A theme for us came into play, all of that. Um, yeah, it got wild. 

Matt: I’m curious, uh, curious on, on, on how you perceived, uh, the market.

If you can remember back then, I mean, obviously We know the outcome, uh, cadence or cadence, the brand and your business was, is successful, was successful. You came out of that for sure. But I remember being in the thick of things when, uh, the customizer was like the hot new thing. Oh God, we’ve got to go everything into the customizer, customizer, customizer, customizer.

And I like to attribute that as one of the downfalls to when I was building products because we were putting everything into the customizer. Cause we were kind of told like, stay true to WordPress, like core experience. And this customizer thing, it’s the future. And it wasn’t, uh, you know, I’m curious if you like, you remember back [00:07:00] then because you didn’t go like page building route.

Like you could have observed the market with the success of your themes and built an Elementor, built a Beaver Builder, built a Divi, but you didn’t. But you also were able to stay ahead of the curve and eventually invest into, into Gutenberg. Do you remember those like customizer days? Like, man, is this theme business thing going to work?

Yeah. 

Ben: I, yeah, I definitely had moments of questioning, what is the future of product development that’s going to make a company work? I think that’s a big reason why I was ready to jump into Gutenberg, you know, and the customizer was a whole thing of like, We were used to a theme options page that was frankly, um, a, a better experience for some things and not for others.

And then the push from. org to make every setting live and the customizer was actually a downgrade experience to users. And we ended up [00:08:00] supporting both. So like in our classic themes that were written at that time, you had both customizer settings and a theme options page, which we couldn’t enable the theme options page unless you had a plugin installed because the repo wouldn’t let you push a theme and all of that fun stuff.

But I, I’ve definitely tried to focus on, okay, what is core asking, but also what are my users asking? And I have often thought there was a very big disconnect from what the theme review team or the plugin review team is, mostly theme review team, is, is limiting and what users actually want. Um, which goes like, I can make an argument, I still can today, that I think we need to open up a whole new concept of, and it’s probably not themes, but some kind of, this is the, this is the foundation piece that I want to start with.

And [00:09:00] that can really have control over the WordPress experience. And I think that that would actually really benefit if we created, you know, a different concept around, and this goes to the Ollie conversation as well of like, what if what people actually want is they want to choose how they’re going to build with WordPress and they don’t want to have to choose a theme and then try to figure out whether or not they’re going to use a page builder and what plugins and all that stuff.

They just actually want to go to a brand, to a service and say, I’m going to choose your, your path because you’ve got it all worked out and I don’t have to deal with all of the confusion and you’re going to onboard me in a way that is. Really slick and gets me to success so much faster than the current system now, which is you go and find a theme, uh, and then you’re like, but this doesn’t look like that.

So you dance around that and maybe you do starter templates, which gives you a whole bunch of demo content that you don’t actually want because it doesn’t have the text and images that you want. And [00:10:00] they’ve got this website that you’re either going to have to like completely reset or mainly go into page by page and delete text, change text, change images, figure out all that stuff.

Huge headache to getting people launched. We’ve created that headache by saying themes can only do X. And that is where you have to start with WordPress is I have to choose a theme. Like you don’t start in a plugin area. You start with a theme. I really think we need to try to say, can we just get out of the theme and plug in and what belongs in a theme and the content lock conversation is gets out of control sometimes because regardless, you’re going to have content lock.

Let’s, let’s just allow people to say, I’m going to use this and if it’s not going to be called a theme, that’s fine, but I’m going to use cadence or I’m going to use brainstorm force and they’re going to control whatever they want to. And that one thing I have to install. And I’m not going to be locked into like an experience of like, [00:11:00] if you get this theme, then you have to go get this companion thing.

And then that companion thing needs these other companion things. I mean, right now with cadence, you know, we’re going to talk about AI. We released an AI product. The onboarding experience is less than ideal because you can install the cadence theme. Well, then we’re going to say, Hey, well, you need to go get starter templates, which is a separate plugin because we can’t put that as part of the theme.

And then you’re going to install starter templates and go through the wizard with AI, and then we’ll be like, Hey, but to actually make all this work, you’re going to need cadence blocks because that’s actually the block package that’s going to run on your page and be able to handle all of that. And that’s got to be a separate plugin.

And we, you know, like it’s not a great and easy story to tell. Whereas it would be awesome. If we just said. We’re going to create a new way of doing this where people can come in and say, this is the foundation piece you need. It’s got what you need and we’re going to be able to onboard you in and make you make your point of entry into WordPress and success just infinitely faster and [00:12:00] better.

And Ollie tried to solve that. And then it created a whole drama of this shouldn’t be long in a, in a theme. And it’s like, no, they’re just trying to onboard people and help that be successful quicker. 

Matt: Yeah. It was actually kind of shocking to me. Listen, I’ve had Mike, uh, McAllister on, on the mat report back in the day when I ran that podcast, you know, fantastic guy and, uh, you know, really appreciate his products.

I didn’t see this as, and maybe it’s because I just, uh, evaluate this stuff all the time. I didn’t see Oli as this ground, the onboarding experience as like this groundbreaking thing because Having used your product on WP Minute, having used literally every product ever for the last like 15 years, I was like, yeah, this, Hey, it’s great.

It’s cool. But I don’t, I didn’t see this as a groundbreaking product. It almost made me, and I kind of like sat with that for a little bit. Why did it take that moment to encourage the theme review team or the theme team, whatever it’s called now, to sort of start to write new guidelines and start to like really appreciate this [00:13:00] work?

Because if I were still, if I was still in the theme business. I would have been pushing what he was doing 10 years ago, right? Like as soon as I found like some ground footing and was successful with my themes, I would have been pushing for an onboarding expense. It just totally makes sense as a user, as a, as a business person.

And it was suddenly everyone woke up. I was like, Oh, this onboarding thing. Yeah, we should, we should do that. It’s like, well. Yeah. What have you all been doing this whole time? Did everyone in the theme, in the professional theme business give up pushing the boundaries of the theme review team? Perhaps because of how much struggle they’ve gone through before on both sides.

So it was just, it was just interesting to see how that. Simple, but efficient and effective onboarding experience really created a learning experience for everyone. 

Ben: I know I have completely just let go of trying to push the theme review team because it has just been [00:14:00] fine. You’re, this isn’t, I’m not going to fight this.

No one seems to agree here. So I’m just going to do the companion plugin thing. And that’s become so normal now, uh, that at least. It, it semi works. It’s just, it’s just silly that we’re like all agreeing that this user experience that isn’t great, but it’s going to be what everyone deals with because of a review team who isn’t thinking about the customer first.

They’re just thinking about guidelines that, uh, should be questioned. 

Matt: And this is something. That spans, uh, across many, uh, layers of the WordPress ecosystem. You’ve probably seen in the last couple of weeks, uh, a lot of fanfare for, uh, bricks, uh, builder. And, uh, I just had a live stream with Brian cords and.

Uh, Paul from WP Tuts to talk about sort of like both sides of the camp, you know, bricks users, and I don’t want to say versus, but bricks versus blocks and like when to use that, when not to [00:15:00] use that. But there’s an undercurrent of, you know, from the brick side of things where, ah, this WordPress thing is, isn’t right.

It is this Gutenberg thing is terrible. The experience is awful, but this is the foundation. That we’re all on. In my opinion, without WordPress and Gutenberg and all this other stuff, there is no bricks. There is no cadence, because WordPress is the ecosystem. It’s the foundation that we’re all built on.

And people get really, really energized about it, and I get it. But experiences can be different across products. And I think a lot of people forget that review team, 2024 theme, Gutenberg, the editor. This is made for millions and millions of people to touch. Millions. So yes, it has to be at some level. It doesn’t have AI.

It doesn’t have a comprehensive deep block building pattern library that it ships with like cadence does with a sync button that gets [00:16:00] almost all this other stuff. It doesn’t have all it doesn’t have conditional logic. It doesn’t have all this because Millions of people don’t need that. And if they did, it would be an even bonkers experience for them as they try to learn this.

Are you comfortable with, like, how do you approach globally, like, Cadence being for everyone? Air quotes. Do you have a target audience, like I would say Bricks, developers? Software developers, software people, Gutenberg, slightly educated end users to the internet. Like, do you have like this, this perfect customer profile that you see fit with Cadence?

Ben: Yeah, for sure. Like, I think we have a, we have some target personas in mind of like, who, who’s going to benefit the most from this and, and what are we building toward? I think that there is certainly customer bases that don’t need anything more than core [00:17:00] blocks. And then I think there is. a, a much bigger pool of people that are like, I actually want to have some mobile specific settings and I want to have some, some more control and I want to use this more of a design tool to help me build more interesting and engaging pages.

Um, so I, yeah, we definitely at Cadence get to be. Not everything to everyone, but just to get to be, we’re focused on this user group, whereas core doesn’t, they have to kind of be like the most vanilla. And I have no problem with that. I think that that’s a great stance to be in of like, we need to be the most vanilla.

Um, but I think that because cores. Mode of like, what goes in a theme because they have to be the most vanilla. It shouldn’t define the experience for everyone coming into WordPress. I think we should open that up to be like, let’s allow [00:18:00] people to really build on this thing and not make it an issue of whether or not you are pro core or not.

But like, no, you’re actually You’re making this, you’re niching this into a customer base who’s going to use it, and if nobody’s using it, then you, you got it wrong. 

Matt: So. Is that as, as an easy as an answer is to say like there’s an advanced mode to WordPress if there was such a thing? Like here’s like regular WordPress and then here’s advanced, check off advanced mode and now I can do other things?

Ben: Yeah, I mean, and I think like, if we, how I envision it is like, if we just take a step back from themes and just said like, there’s a, maybe a site settings thing of like, I’m using the core foundation, or maybe I’m going to use this foundation that another company built. And I think that could really expand the experience for a lot of people of like, Oh, I can change this.

On a fundamental level to be using [00:19:00] whatever cadence or brainstorm force or, you know, bricks or whatever. And that’s the mode I’m in. If we could open that up and allow people to see that as a potential as a way to use WordPress versus this. Backend way in which we do it which is go to the theme But then you need this plug in and then you put all these pieces back in and then it’s like yeah It’s running that way, but getting there wasn’t easy.

It wasn’t easy to find. It wasn’t intuitive. I 

Matt: Recently did a video Actually might have been oh, yeah a couple a month ago Maybe a couple months ago when 2024 was released and I did a whole series of you know 2024 theme videos on the YouTube channel And one of the things I did was, because, you know, inherently, like, I, the hardest part for me with, like, YouTube is keeping things short and not explaining the reasons why.

Like, why does this exist? What’s the right way to approach it? for [00:20:00] WordPress. And that’s like my biggest crux. I, I’m, I say that, but I’m kind of like over it because I’m like, screw it. That’s the way I’m going to teach people. This is why it’s done. Here’s what we have. And here’s how you should think about it to do it right.

Anyway, I did a video about, um, you know, things you should know about 2024 and I compared it to cadence so that you could realize That, here’s how WordPress does patterns, site editor templates, like, here’s how it is in like the free core version of WordPress. And then here’s Cadence. Much more features.

Conditional logic. The mobile experience. Uh, obviously the themes and patterns that it has and like the capabilities. A big step up. One, you gotta buy it. Not a lot of money, but you have to buy it. But two, a big step up in functionality. You can do a whole heck of a lot more with it. People lost their minds.

They were like, this is just an ad for Cadence. Like, why are you showing us? I’m trying to show you that the WordPress world is a [00:21:00] big space. You can start down here. And you can go way up here. And you just need a little education. You know, to, to make that leap. And there’s cadence, and then there’s all these other things you can jump off to.

Doesn’t always have to be this, but here’s how people, these are the flavors of the way that people do things. Hit you with a harder question, because I thought that this would have been something more relevant, prevalent, relevant these days, especially in 2024, that hosting companies would have solved this by now.

How does, if there is, is there a way where you look at the suite of Cadence products and you say, Hey, we’re, we’re backed by a hosting company. Click a button, just take this experience with you and just go host it. Do you see that coming? Are there certain hurdles in that experience that you see? 

Ben: I definitely see that as a potential.

We’ve, we’ve talked about it before. I know that, um, so Cadence just so everyone [00:22:00] knows is owned by Liquid Web and Nexus. And there’s been some attempts there. They You know, I, I actually wasn’t a part of, but like has been made to say, can we create a hosting experience that just gets them right into, for example, cadence starter templates.

So they’re just away and gone. Uh, I can tell you some of the challenges with that is, uh, when you, when you take someone in, who’s not aware of WordPress. And what, that they’re choosing WordPress. Cause like the idea with that is, I want to go after a target market. That’s not saying, yes, I want WordPress.

And yes, I want, um, to jump into a theme. Well, it’s, it’s very confusing to drop someone into WordPress without them knowing that they’re really thinking WordPress and then say, well, here’s your site now go edit it while they have no idea how to edit it. And so actually getting that customer to a point of success with WordPress is, is quite a bit harder, even though you made the onboarding [00:23:00] experience two steps, the actual, like getting your site from that onboarding experience to launch can actually be a huge hurdle because they didn’t get any of the training that you would normally get through the onboarding experiences that exist.

So they didn’t know. So anything, they don’t know that the theme exists, that plugins exist, like all of those, these words that we just think are normal cause we’re users. You bring in users and all of a sudden they don’t know any of that. They don’t know how to edit pages or where it is. And so if you’re going, if you know, hosts, and I know that GoDaddy has done some really cool onboarding stuff, it’s out there, but I think that there are a reason it’s, we’re not talking about as being competitors to Wix and Squarespace on that level for that target customer is because.

It’s still a WordPress experience that is just some, somewhat overwhelming [00:24:00] in terms of the options that are given to you because a plugins page exists. And then it’s like, well, I’m going to go down that rabbit hole. What does this mean? And the themes page exists. And what are their options? And if I change this, what happens?

And then, you know, all of that stuff. So I think hosts have tried to solve this, but there’s a lot of hurdles. And I know that even for us right now in Cadence, we’re talking about. Is there an opportunity here to, to attempt some kind of a hosted, you know, where you do an AI wizard onboarding that gets you to a site that is already hosted.

So you’ve kind of jumped some steps here and then backed by a ton of training that you’ve got to go back and say, well, yes, this is a WordPress website and it’s hosted on a hosting service. And, you know, you’ve got to go back and explain all those steps that you’ve jumped to that user base. We’re certainly like interested in exploring that but I don’t think it’s as much of a slam dunk because [00:25:00] when you it’s not a sass you have to explain then what is it and WordPress just inherently like as much as you want to make it a sass it’s not because it’s and that’s part of the power and that’s part of the reason why you would I would argue, Hey, you should use this because you can move if you need to move, you can control your pricing if you need to control your pricing.

Um, but in the end, because it’s not a SAS customers who were expecting a, an experience of like completely integrated, you land them into WordPress and they realize, Oh my gosh, like how do emails work? And all of these questions that come up, it’s just not that easy 

Matt: because it’s, and you think that the advantage.

an advantage, uh, uh, Squarespace and a Wix would have an inherent advantage. Simpler UI, maybe? Surely they have the same support questions like, I’m trying to build this website and move these things around and it’s not working. But that same customer can’t flop between, [00:26:00] okay, all of a sudden now I’m experiencing 2024 click of a button.

I can switch to cadence and now I can accidentally switch to some other theme in the repo and pull in this plugin. And now the whole place has gone into shambles. Can’t do that with a Wix I’m sure they have their challenges. Certainly it’s In that environment, it’s a little bit smoother to, uh, to, to support, I’d imagine.

Ben: Yeah. I mean, and they’re intentionally locking their customers out of a lot of things that WordPress is intentionally opening up. And so that’s, that creates a level of, you know, how do you, and, and again, that’s, that’s really going after a specific customer. I think we could, there’s lots of areas where you could say, I’m a, I want WordPress.

I know WordPress. I just want you to give me that onboarding wizard better. And I think that’s where you’ve got the GoDaddy and things like that, where that’s been successful. And if you know, you want to choose, I mean, you know, even with automatic doing WooExpress, like if you [00:27:00] know, you want that. We can improve that onboarding, but it’s when you just want a website, getting that customer who doesn’t know that it’s WordPress and why through an experience, it’s tricky with WordPress.

And I think that’s part of why it’s like not completely solved by hosting, because it’s like, do you want to change the WordPress backend and intentionally hide a bunch of stuff to make it easier and simpler? Or, and that’s a whole rabbit hole you can go down of like, whether or not that’s a smart move or not.

Matt: I’m at CadenceWP, where I promise we’re going to talk about the AI stuff, um, range of products. You said this at the beginning, Cadence is, uh, the, sort of the brand of, of all a bunch of products. I’m looking at, I don’t even know what license I have, to be honest with you. I have the theme, obviously, and I have.

Blocks, but I don’t think I have anything else, but you have the blocks pro add on the theme pro add on shop kit conversions [00:28:00] cloud Galleries didn’t even know that existed until I until I looked at it right now Capture simple share custom fonts WooCommerce email designer related content Reading time and then some classic plugins and themes below that.

How do you and now this AI stuff coming in? How do you? think of that completed ecosystem like What could be next for a product or or how do you get all of this stuff in front of your customers so that they can enable it all on the fly when maybe many of them are starting with just cadence free from wordpress.

org? 

Ben: Yeah, I think it is a challenge. Like we, we want to say that we’re There are a group of, of plugins with a theme that really focuses on the front end of your website and helping you be effective with, with the focus being front end. So performance of your website, the design of your [00:29:00] website and the marketing opportunities.

And that’s where you get conversions with pop ups and some analytics stuff. So, so that’s kind of the focus. There’s like animation stuff in there and all of that. And I think the, the experience for our users is less than ideal. Some of that has been because we’re, we’re, we’re moving when the process is moving, but we were on a really, uh, inadequate licensing system that just made it really hard to be like.

Like going forward, the idea is that you’ll be able to kind of see what you need, search by solution and click install when your license is already checked out. And then we’ll just pull that plug in and and and activate it. Um, there’s certainly reasons for having Um, You know, plugins separated. And so like there’s things like the reading time you just mentioned, which is a tiny, tiny little plugin that just adds reading time to the top of your posts that exists as a plugin because it can work with any [00:30:00] theme and any, you know, anybody set up.

And so there’s people that are using cadence. They’re not using the cadence theme because they chose to do whatever theme that they like more for whatever reason. But they wanted reading time. So that’s, there’s some reasons why we would like separate some stuff out. And at the same time, uh, we want to make the experience of like, if you are coming from the theme and you’re just like, I need reading time on my blog post, well, we can just enable that and pull that plugin in and activate it.

And so we’re, we’re working on some of the onboarding and some of the like marketing messaging around, like, how do we tell the story? Because the same thing with AI, that is not a new product. It is a, an enhancement on multiple products. So AI is built into cadence blocks and cadence blocks pro it’s also built into starter templates.

And so it’s enabling. More stuff and there’s a, a wizard that lives in multiple products. You fill it out once and then it generates content. And we use that [00:31:00] as you’re doing other things with AI. And that’s kind of like the idea is that AI would integrate into more and more products in the cadence suite that we would start thinking about what are ways that we can use AI with conversions and things like that.

So yeah, it’s, it can be a hard story to tell. And it can be a confusing thing, which goes back to like, we’ve have to improve where we can in terms of the onboarding and the, you know, the admin experience of our products. 

Matt: I’ll, I’ll frame this as, as sort of like unfiltered as, as, as possible. As I sit back and look at the AI world and I’ve had a whole range of different AI WordPress, AI, um, founders come on the show to talk about like their different products and stuff.

I guess I’m still on the skeptical side.

Primarily use Claude, I don’t use ChatGPT often, use Claude. ai, a lot for my writing, grammar, uh, ideas, [00:32:00] ideation, you know, summaries. Transcripts, stuff like that. To say, I mean, so it’s in my air quotes day to day, but it’s not helping me, as I’m not having it write an article for me. I wish I could be as crazy as all these other people like, I just put out a thousand articles on my blog post with, you know, AI.

I’m like, do you even care about, like, humanity? Um, so that’s not me. Uh, so it’s, it’s in my day to day, but it’s not like a part of the day to day to make me feel like I’ve accomplished something successful. And I’ll be honest, as I feel this, I feel that same way when AI is integrated into themes and plugins.

I want to be proven wrong. I hope you and your team are the ones that do it, but where, how should people think about this, about AI and cadence as an assistant, as a director, as a developer? Like, where’s it going to, you know, let’s say I wanted my reading time [00:33:00] on the top of my page, but I don’t want to go get a plugin.

Can I just have cadence AI, write that function PHP for me, slap it into the file. And then there it is. I’ve built functionality on top of cadence. Like, are we talking that deep or more of like an assistant? It can help you do certain things. It’s definitely 

Ben: not that deep. It’s more of an assistant and the idea even long term is to do it, to be a help.

So I think when we, when for cadence, what we’re thinking about with AI is you have a white page and you don’t know what to go, what to do next, or you have a blank website. And really what it comes down to is we want to make the experience of using starter content. Patterns, pages, or whole websites as being previously, if you had some of that placeholder text and images, maybe that got to [00:34:00] 40 percent of the way there.

Our thought is, can we get you 80%? Can we just make your ability to make websites infinitely faster by providing content that maybe isn’t right, but gives you an idea of what could be right. Because you’re like, okay, I need to call to action section when I’ve got these layouts that I can look at for call to action.

And I know of an example using my business of what that headline might be. And I might go, okay, that doesn’t quite resonate, but it gives me an idea of what would. And that’s where the AI can be really helpful is that we can generate content contextually and build out these example pages and example patterns that you can then say, okay, this is a great starting point and I don’t have to go through and change every little thing because it gave me the inspiration to get.

The [00:35:00] text that I needed and, and it put it in a layout that made sense along with, you know, being able to have images that, I mean, our tool allows you to use your own images or use images that we find using a, you know, search through pexels. So that’s kind of the idea and where we want to iterate on that is like the best experiences that I’ve had with AI is more iterative.

It is, Hey, can you do this? And it responds. And then I say, that’s not quite right. Can you change that and update this? And then that back and forth, it one, it allows me to see some examples and that actually helps me think, okay, that’s not what I was thinking, even though I didn’t know how to say it. And so now can we, can we create.

Create some of that inner iterative experience into WordPress, where you’re going to build a page and you say, okay, I want to build a page and I want it to be about this. We present you some layouts and some texts and you say, okay, probably this [00:36:00] layout is more along the lines of what I’m thinking, but I wanted a little bit different here and maybe the text a little bit different.

And then we kind of create that conversation, ideally not. Not text based conversation. We want it to be less focused on you having to prompt the AI and more about you just choosing and us giving you things of like, you know, good steps for what you might want to change. But that’s how I see it. Very much as a tool and very much still focused on you are creating content.

You’re just using an AI to help you do that. And not on the like, you’re going to post a thousand new blog posts on your website using cadence AI. We don’t have any intention of writing that kind of a tool. 

Matt: Keep you on the hot seat for a minute because I really love the cadence product that I really want to, you know, I really want to dig deep into why a lot of us are, are jumping onto AI.

So a perfect example, I have a chat GPT account, uh, as well, though I constantly question myself, do I need to keep this thing? Because I don’t, [00:37:00] I use Claude much more often. I use, uh, chat GPT for, uh, for the Dolly integration, right? For photos and stuff like that images. But I feel like we’re already.

Quickly, just amazingly fast have gone into AI sort of credit fatigue where someone might subscribe to chat GPT like I have 20 bucks a month or whatever the number is. And then I have all of these services who are bringing in AI into their product, but now I have to pay for credits there when if the underlining technology is say chat GPT.

What can I, could I just bring in my API key and then just use the credit systems through that, but still adopt the functionality, any plans on that? Or is it still going to be a credit based system? And I say that because as a consumer, I think, man, there’s, there’s that just that AI credit fatigue, right?

Where I’m going to be starting to get charged, where GPT when. I already have an account. [00:38:00] 

Ben: Yeah, that is something we’re talking about. I think we, we launched with, we’re giving free credits away and with a lot of credits for users accounts more than what we thought most users would use. So we launched very much thinking no one should have to buy more credits.

Like we just need to protect ourselves from someone abusing it. We didn’t change the prices and we don’t have intention of changing the prices for credits and we intend to sell credits cost. Meaning like we’re not trying to upcharge. We’re trying to get people to use this tool, but not make it. So you have to go create.

A, you know, open AI account and get an API key. So to that point, and because of that’s like the idea, this isn’t to sell, this is to make it really easy for you to just use it and try it and experience it. I don’t, there’s nothing in our like plan that says [00:39:00] we wouldn’t then just create a system for someone that, if you’re like, I just want to use my own key.

Okay. I think where that gets interesting too, is you can, you know, experiment with different models and open AI and things like that. So it’s definitely like being talked about and being like, how would we solve this? Um, what’s a good way to solve this? We’re certainly set up for it on the proxy side where we could, you know, essentially take someone’s key if it got sent with the request and then use that key instead of our own key.

We just, we haven’t built it yet. And part of that is because we’re trying to see how are people going to use this, how many credits to people actually going to use in this system and then developing more features for AI. We’re like I talked about, we’re, we’re really into what is a page wizard. Slash conversation iterative experience with AI look like and I totally get the like I don’t want to be charged for something else Yeah you know 

Matt: another another thing like as we talk about it and I and I think about more about it [00:40:00] is I don’t have any trust for An organization like open AI like I don’t trust them to be friendly with you Because we’ve seen this a zillion times over, right?

Facebook pages is like the shining example years and years ago. Everybody come like these pages, start paying, oh yeah, come on man, everybody come on in, you know? Yeah, get a thousand fans, you know, bring everybody in and then, you know, fast forward 15 years later and the way you reach your audience is to pay them for it.

And I don’t, you know, I don’t trust any of these platforms because they’re Billions and billions and billions of dollars, hundreds, trillions. I don’t even know. And they’re certainly not going to let everyone get away at the cheap. And the first thing they’re going to do is raise your price or throttle your data or give your data.

And then that affects, you know, your thousands of hundreds of thousands of users, whatever, whosoever is using it. And I just don’t trust that centralized part of the, of the data, which is why I gravitate towards WordPress. And, and that meth, that, [00:41:00] that, that structure, I just don’t trust unless there was a, AI model like WordPress, right?

And these are questions I have for Mullenweg as well. It’s like, cause I know he’s really pushing into, uh, into AI and he’s a super fan of chat GPT or so it seems on the outset. And I’m curious, like, if we’re going to go hard with chat GPT, like, where’s the open source part of this equation? Like where’s, where’s the open source?

WordPress, or excuse me, where’s the, uh, open source AI like WordPress that people could just run their own GPT in. Sure, it’s not going to be the fastest, most elaborate system, but it’s open and accessible, right? And those are the things I start to evaluate in this space. 

Ben: Yeah, the, the open, the current open source large language models are surprisingly good.

And to 

Matt: that point, like, we have But could you just run those? Like, could Just like I can take WordPress, bring it over to Liquid Web, bring it over to Bluehost, could I do that with an open source [00:42:00] LLM? Yeah. 

Ben: And, I mean, to that point, like, our proxy is set up to where we can, I mean, there’s nothing in it that says we have to use open AI.

Like, we can jump services. want to move to Google or whatever, if open AI changes their terms or changes, whatever. Or as they get better, these open source ones, we can do our own. I think the other piece is that we’re right now avoiding anything where an AI would be dependent to run your site. So this is all additive and it’s all Admin based, meaning I want to build a page where the AI can help.

If the AI is down, disconnected, whatever, it doesn’t prevent your site from working and it doesn’t prevent you from working. It’s just additive. And so I think that’s part of the focus for us right now. We’re not making any dependent things like AI being able to talk. That’s a different level of things.

And that’s where you get into like [00:43:00] front facing AI stuff. Which we’re not working toward right now. 

Matt: CadenceWP, CadenceWP. com. Check it out, Ben. Thanks for hanging out today. Uh, everything going well after this acquisition? Is this where you projected yourself to be when you first started finding success with the company?

Ben: It’s not where I projected myself to be, but I definitely. I’ve learned a ton being a part of stellar and being among the senior leadership team. So being able to be in conversations about multiple different brands and products and, and, um, it has been extremely fun to work with very smart people. Um, Cadence started as me and then it ended up being me and my sister for a number of years.

And so it was primarily me on development, getting to be able to pick other developers brains, being able to have resources to work on things like AI. Where it’s not just, you know, cadence roadmap didn’t end when we worked on AI, we were able to put a whole [00:44:00] team on cadence and a team on AI. And, and so for a lot of those things, it’s been like, man, this is, this is really fun to be a part of a company that is really trying to innovate and trying to put resources where new things are.

So yeah, it’s, it’s, I, I definitely expected to run a company myself. And then the whole acquisition option came up and had a, you know, a lot to do with who, who was there, who talked to me. I had some friends that were like, you should consider this. And I’m very happy right now. And I’m planning on staying.

Matt: Out in the great state of Montana, a lot of tech startups out there. Is there a surprise like tech scene? I 

Ben: mean, uh, not really. I mean. Bozeman and Missoula. I mean, Bozeman has a growing tech scene for sure. Missoula has like a very small but present, I mean, Onyx, which is one of the more popular apps for hunting and hiking and understanding boundary lines and everything else.

It’s, [00:45:00] it’s based in Missoula. Um, so there’s some, there’s some little stuff. Seems 

Matt: like a fitting state for that technology. It 

Ben: does seem like yes. You can see why they developed it here, but yeah, Bozeman, which is a three hour drive from here. They’re much bigger on the tech scene than, um, Missoula is. But yeah, I mean, in all it’s still Montana and it’s, I mean, I think Missoula is the.

Uh, second or third largest city and it’s 80, 000 people. So you know, very different than what you get in most of the country. 

Matt: Very cool. Very cool. I had a friend that moved out there, uh, after college. They loved it. They loved it. They’re back now. Uh, but they did like it. They had nothing but good things to say.

Ben, thanks for hanging out today. Everybody else. WP minute.com, WP Minute. No, it’s not wp minute.com. I don’t own that one. Someone else does. I’d love to find out who has it. It’s the wp minute.com. The wp minute.com/subscribe. Uh, you can become a member for [00:46:00] as little as five bucks or $79. Become an all access pass member.

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