In this episode of the WP Minute+, Matt Medeiros interviews Rafal Tomal, co-creator of the new Rockbase WordPress theme. Tomal, a renowned designer in the WordPress community, discusses his journey from working at Copyblogger and StudioPress to founding his own agency and eventually creating Rockbase with his partner, Chris Hufnagel.

Tomal shares his experiences working with clients, noting that the industry has evolved to better understand the distinctions between design and development. He highlights the importance of providing a complete service to clients, rather than just delivering a final product.

The conversation also touches on the rise of AI tools and their impact on the WordPress ecosystem. Tomal believes that while these tools are valuable for smaller websites and businesses just starting out, there will always be a need for custom design and development services as companies grow and require more advanced functionality.

Tomal explains the concept behind Rockbase’s “playbooks,” which are designed to provide users with a complete mini-website rather than just a child theme. He also shares his hopes for the future of the WordPress editor, emphasizing the importance of simplicity and user experience improvements without overloading the core with unnecessary features.

Key Takeaways:

  • The WordPress industry has matured, with clients better understanding the distinct roles of design and development.
  • Providing a complete service, including communication and guidance, is crucial for client satisfaction.
  • AI tools and advanced WordPress themes are valuable for small businesses, but custom design and development remain essential for growth.
  • Rockbase’s “playbooks” offer users a complete mini-website solution, going beyond simple child themes.
  • The WordPress editor should focus on simplicity and user experience improvements while avoiding feature bloat.

Important URLs Mentioned:

The WordPress Theme Market is Heating Up

[00:00:00] ​

[00:00:00] [00:01:00]

[00:01:21] Matt: Rafael Tamal, welcome to the WP Minute.

[00:01:25] Rafal: Hi Matt, thank you for having me.

[00:01:27] Matt: It has been, hold on, Rafael Tamal, Matt Report. This is how prepared I am as an interviewer. Matt Report on May 15th, 2013.

[00:01:41] Rafal: Yeah

[00:01:42] Matt: Almost 11 years ago, and my god, I’m looking at the YouTube channel, thumbnail. You look exactly the same. I look I

[00:01:51] Rafal: I had more I had more hair back then

[00:01:55] Matt: that’s probably because what?

[00:01:56] Matt: Because you became a father, right? Since that time?

[00:01:59] Rafal: [00:02:00] Yeah, that’s true, yeah, I have two kids now so and my son especially now he I always laugh that he took all my hair. He has had full of hair now and and I’m just it’s, yeah, kids can get all your hair away from you.

[00:02:16] Matt: The subline in our interview back then in 2013 was what it’s like designing WordPress themes at Copyblogger. Obviously some time ago, Copyblogger, StudioPress, you know, the acquisition WP Engine. After that you, I think chilled for a little while after that was done and then you started an agency. Is that what you’ve been up to?

[00:02:39] Matt: before we get into RockBase,

[00:02:42] Rafal: Yeah. So when I left, studio Press, I wanted to take a little step back. I was so close, you know, like to designing and developing websites for so long and I always, I was like a one man shop, always like I designed and developed this website at the same time as I [00:03:00] started my career as a developer.

[00:03:01] Rafal: Then I learned to design, but that was kind of a curse. I could do both. So everyone took advantage of that If I design something yeah, you can now develop it and I actually like the process because I have full control over the whole, process I could Develop it exactly as I want it, right? So that was great.

[00:03:20] Rafal: And, I wanted to take a step back. When I left StudioPress, I felt like I was a little overwhelmed with development, like, you know, there was so many new modern tools, modern ways to code, and it was just too much to learn. And I was more, I was always more Passionate with with design and I want to focus on your design and They were right rise of you know, all the new design tools like figma sketch I think when I left steel press I switched to sketch From Photoshop, which was a big step, and I noticed like, wow, Sketch now is, you know, so much better.

[00:03:55] Rafal: It works now more like code, because you can have, color styles, [00:04:00] text styles, connect, everything, right?and then I switched to Figma, and I noticed that I can design almost how I code. I can still create my designs here, and I don’t even have to code, like, if I need to code, I can, I can outsource that to someone else.

[00:04:16] Rafal: And I had so many clients asking me just for design. Not too many people require even, that I develop those websites. So, that was my, like, sweet spot. I would just focus on design, stay there, learn more about design. and see what clients I can work with. I loved working one on one with, with, with some big companies.

[00:04:36] Rafal: we designed great, great website. I had a chance to work with, people like James Clear, Pat Flynn, Lewis house and work with them and their teams, on their websites. So that was a great experience. yeah, and so that’s how this whole agency studio started.

[00:04:54] Matt: why do you think most of them were just looking for design? Is it because they were bigger brands, they had [00:05:00] developers in house, they were taking your designs and just giving them to someone else or they were doing it themselves? What was the inkling to have you just do design?

[00:05:07] Rafal: I think, I think the whole industry grew to theplace where they understood the process that there’s a design step and there’s a development step. It doesn’t have to be like one person doing it all or even one team or one company. So, they knew me, as a designer. And a lot of those companies, that’s true, they had, develop developers, on their teams.

[00:05:29] Rafal: So it was easier for them. To get design from someone right even from the outside the company and if they had developers on staff They could code this website and then maintain the website internally Without outsourcing that anymore and I think that’s that’s a good process like you don’t need a designer all the time if the website is designed well and correctly and it was developed correctly then you can get the design just the concept and [00:06:00] And then you can develop the rest of the website, using just developers and, like WordPress, for example, now with all the blocks, you have so much flexibility that we didn’t have back then.

[00:06:13] Rafal: so now you can code a website almost like its own design system and then use it going forward.

[00:06:19] Matt: Most folks might go from freelancing, which I think you did many, many years ago, and then go into product, stay in product, never go back to client services. I’m looking for two stories, both, you know, silver lining and stuff that was a little bit harder. What was it like going back into the consulting slash agency space?

[00:06:39] Matt: What was delightful for you and maybe what was, Oh my God, not this again for you when you got back into agency space?

[00:06:47] Rafal: Yeah, you know, I was never, I mean, there was, there was, you know, love hate relationship with clients, and I think especially in the beginning, this, this, when I started freelancing, I had some, some of those horror stories, [00:07:00] with clients, and I think it’s true for a lot of freelancers, designers, developers, when they start, they get a couple of those bad clients in the beginning.

[00:07:09] Rafal: They get discouraged, and they think that this is what it is like, you know, for the rest of my life, that we’re just having those bad clients, bad projects, and, you know, nothing works. But I think it’s only this beginning phase, you know, in the service, business. As you grow, and, you know, when I left StudioPress, I noticed that all the clients I had that were, you know, Amazing people, they valued my design, they valued my work.

[00:07:34] Rafal: It was nothing like, you know, like some of the projects I had before that time and it was just a pleasure working with them, with their team. didn’t have any problems and, you know, I love working on being creative. Like in product space, you create a product and you start, it’s slowly also start turning into, into a job.

[00:07:55] Rafal: You start maintaining this product.adding new versions, tweaking the [00:08:00] product, you know, customer support, all that stuff that you, you know, there’s a lot of, a lot of things in product space that you might want to hate, after some time doing this too, right? So it was great that I could just focus on my work, be creative, design what I wanted to design, pass it over to someone else and not to worry about this anymore.

[00:08:20] Rafal: Like I could now shift my, focus to something else. And I love being this, this creative phase of the projects, my favorite phase. So, whenever I could like, jump from one product to another, just do the creative phase, and I have, I can forget about this. That was like my, maybe I needed that at that time, like, that being more creative and just going with the flow and create as much as I could.

[00:08:43] Rafal: And, I still love doing this, like, Now with this in our studio We don’t need we don’t focus like on looking for clients that much and you can probably tell like we don’t advertise I don’t even update our portfolio that much we have so many new projects I could show in our [00:09:00] portfolio in the last we did in the last two three years, but I’m more Picky about the clients.

[00:09:05] Rafal: I want to work with it’s usually the clients that come to us from referral from someone else. They know me They know me we, we go, you know, we chat for a while. I want to also interview the clients, see if this, the client’s a good fit, to what we do and, you know, just pick the clients, pick the projects we like working with that match, what we do.

[00:09:25] Rafal: And yeah, that’s works very, very well, very well when you do services.

[00:09:29] Matt: You mentioned that, the industry might have leveled up a little bit now, right? Thank God years into this whole web design world customers, you know, hopefully the more,educated customers are going, okay, like I understand the process. It doesn’t happen instantly. There’s an investment here. there’s phases to this design development.

[00:09:50] Matt: Quality assurance, launching support, like there’s this whole wheel to this discovery, which is, it’s, it’s huge. one of the things that I think a lot of people are concerned with, especially when we [00:10:00] zoom out and look at the landscape of technology available, WordPress is getting better. Rock base is, is is attributing to that.

[00:10:08] Matt: I’m digging into web flow because I’m doing a, a web flow versus WordPress livestream with a wonderful chap from the UK later this week. You start looking at those tools. You start looking at all these other builder and no code tools and, and people might go say. My God is, there’s a client even need, so at AI, we haven’t even talked about that.

[00:10:27] Matt: Will a client need design services or development services when these tools are getting more powerful, more encompassing? Have you seen a shift in maybe price point, expectations when it comes to dealing with customers in the year, in the years you’ve been doing this now since leaving a coffee blogger?

[00:10:50] Rafal: yeah, I think it’s, it’s all changing for sure, as we have now more AI tools and, you know, tools like WordPress and Webflow that allow other people that are not [00:11:00] developers to create very advanced layouts and, and custom like,websites, right? Like something that was, wasn’t impossible, what was impossible, A couple of years ago.

[00:11:11] Rafal: now it’s all possible. You can just click and, and generate a fully working website that looks beautiful, looks custom, right? But I think the space, the industry is growing to, like the, the need is growing to, right, as, as you start having more and more, those tools that provide solutions to, for small websites, and the generated websites There’s also, on the other side of the spectrum, a need for more, you know, custom, websites that have, real people working on it.

[00:11:43] Rafal: Designers and developers. So that’s where we are, right? And I think maybe, we don’t see a big change in our case because we always work with, with companies and people who, who wanted to work with real people and have that fully custom service.[00:12:00] Versus, you know, small, maybe studios, agencies that worked with, you know, like created customized versions of WordPress themes or had like, you know, those small websites, maybe they could see, a different, but they, on the other hand, they can start using those tools as well, right?

[00:12:16] Rafal: So they can leverage, those tools probably better than what we can do, with them. Like I can’t generate a design with AI because, you know, that wouldn’t match, Requirements that my, my, my clients have for their projects, right? But if we had like on a rack based side, we’re planning to, to introduce some smaller services, like customizations of rack based.

[00:12:37] Rafal: So we install rack based and customize it for you. That’s probably a space where we can start using some AI and make it very cost effective for clients so they can still get, you know,nice looking website. and if they are at this beginning phase of their business, I don’t think they, you know, and I probably shouldn’t say that, but a lot of people don’t need a fully custom design, they need to hire us, [00:13:00] right?

[00:13:00] Rafal: If you are starting a podcast, you don’t have any, you know, income from it. You don’t, you don’t want to spend 20 grand on a new brand new custom design website, right? Because, you’re just starting the startup. So that’s where the WordPress, WordPress theme is great. That’s where you can generate, you know, some contents, create, generate some images, maybe even generate the whole podcast cover.

[00:13:20] Rafal: Once you Pass through certain level and like out, you outgrow, all of that. and you looking at something else and you know, what got you there? Won’t get, won’t get you there. So, so you need to grow a little bit bigger and then can hire custom, higher agency or studio like, like us and create like a fully custom experience and other stuff.

[00:13:44] Rafal: And, you know, one thing is to remember that when you hire, Studio or agency, not just hiring them for, for the end product, just to get this final design, but you hire for the whole service, right? And that’s something, I realized in my [00:14:00] work that most of people, they expect a great service, you know, customer service, not only the final product.

[00:14:06] Rafal: So it’s all about the communication, right? What we can do for the client from the first Contact when they reach out to us when we walk them through the whole process To the end of this project and that’s what they’re usually paying for. They’re paying for this whole service when we help them Navigate them through this through this process, right?

[00:14:29] Rafal: Yeah Yeah,

[00:14:31] Matt: I was just thinking that I was having flashbacks of running my agency, which is the time that you and I last recorded an interview. And I remember back then people would just come to you with, they would print out a screenshot of like a website and be like, Hey, this is what I want you to build.

[00:14:46] Matt: Maybe the more savvy ones would find a theme on theme forest, let’s say, and then show that and be like, Hey, this is really what I want. I can’t even imagine these days where a customer might come to you and say, With like an AI generated layout and be like, [00:15:00] Hey, I’ve already done it. Just take it and finish it off.

[00:15:02] Matt: And I’m like, wait, what are you talking about here? This is not how this, you know, this whole process works. so the education and the issues, what we struggled with in the past of like education and forming a customer of a complete end to end service when you’re hiring us, not just that final product is something that I think a lot of WordPress professionals.

[00:15:22] Matt: Who have only come into WordPress recently and by recently, I mean in the last, I don’t know, five ish years where all they might know is Gutenberg page builder, Elementor, Beaver Builder, and they might think that, oh, there’s no, there’s no value in understanding all of it because I got this tool, then they don’t even talk to their customer about it.

[00:15:43] Matt: And then there’s a disconnect of value and purpose and education. yeah. You know, no real question there. Just a bit of a like a statement of just analyzing like, yeah, things 10 years later are are the same with educating our customers. regardless if you’re starting with a theme or starting from [00:16:00] scratch somewhere in between, it’s still an issue, I think.

[00:16:04] Rafal: we have a lot of clients that come to us and I advise them to go ahead and use a theme or, you know, I don’t recommend using a builder page builders, but I often tell them like, you know, then you custom design, you know, theme, because I feel like you’re just one person, you know, enough about development and design.

[00:16:24] Rafal: Like you are kind of like, you know, website, this, builder, right. Yourself. So. You will figure this out, and you don’t have a huge body, so like, go ahead and use some of those themes, use some of those tools, and I even recommend, like, use this AI to generate an image for your website, and come back to us when you are ready to, like, fully custom service, right?

[00:16:45] Rafal: Or if you need our help. So, yeah, I think there’s a It’s all growing, it’s also about education too. I think a lot of people are still in this mindset that they need something [00:17:00] custom all the time, or they need help from someone, but now with all those tools, they can do so much by themselves.

[00:17:06] Matt: Yeah, when you were, well during in the studio, are you always designing for WordPress or do you have customers using other technologies like a Webflow or something else?

[00:17:17] Rafal: Yeah, we have a couple different ways. So ourselves, we always did WordPress and Webflow. I have a great Webflow developer, that works with, with our studio. And, we had a couple of projects that we did completely on Webflow, for example. And it was great, like, it was, comparing Webflow to WordPress, right?

[00:17:39] Rafal: I think developing in Webflow, very custom websites, very advanced, beautiful websites, is cheaper than developing in WordPress. So we could get a very great looking website very fast. The problem was, when we needed to customize it a bit more or add something later, [00:18:00] Or the client had, you know, suddenly had a podcast or a product and wanted to extend the functionality of the website.

[00:18:07] Rafal: So those Webflow websites look great in a very short time and, but as we wanted to extend or add something new, that’s where the problems usually were, right? and, and those Webflow websites also require a lot more, maintenance and help from the support and we actually expect it, like, you know, and how it’s advertised.

[00:18:29] Rafal: Like, of course, you don’t have to update plugins or update systems on Webflow, but it’s still, I think, very difficult to maintain for, average user. If you don’t know, if you’re not a trained Webflow designer developer, it’s very hard to do anything there. You can change the text and maybe replace the images, But there’s nothing like in WordPress where you can place a section, move it around in your page, right?

[00:18:55] Rafal: you need to know your way around Webflow UI to really do [00:19:00] this. And it looks more advanced and more complicated than even Figma. so I think that’s the problem there.

[00:19:06] Matt: Yeah, this is good ammunition for my, Webflow versus WordPress live stream, later today. And it is true. Like, you know, there’s a big debate. again, we’re. Sort of segwaying into our discussion around, you know, where WordPress is at, you know, where it’s come from where it’s at I mean my god, you know, you were around one of the First air quotes page builder tools.

[00:19:27] Matt: I mean it wasn’t drag and drop It was you know, short codes and function files and stuff like that. Of course ACF But, you know, one of the biggest debates right now that I see in is WordPress a great website builder is this whole debate with like bricks, plugin personally, have not used it other than just, you know, evaluating videos and stuff like that.

[00:19:50] Matt: Never put my hands on it. Don’t really have a purpose because I’m more of a power user, not a designer, not a developer. And to your point about just like looking at Webflow. [00:20:00] Versus bricks because I hear the bricks community say things like it’s the closest thing to webflow that we have for wordpress And then I think as a power user My god, do I want that?

[00:20:11] Matt: Like when I load up webflow You know, cause the debate is, well, WordPress core doesn’t have all of this CSS selectors and all the stuff we can do with CSS and transitions and all, but I don’t, I don’t need it, man. I need something like rock base that starts me out and then I can say, Oh, I just need to change the typography or I, okay, I’ll change, I’ll change the padding over here.

[00:20:36] Matt: A couple of pixels. I don’t need like this command center of CSS options. That just melts my brain when I look at it. I just want to move a little bit. That’s it. And then move on with my day and still consider myself a power user, you know, in that regard. So these technologies are great, but man, you still have to be educated on how coding and the web works.

[00:20:59] Matt: It doesn’t [00:21:00] magically make it. You know, better for you, at least in my opinion,

[00:21:03] Rafal: Yeah, I don’t have much experience working with all those page builders like Elementor, Bricks, Beaver Builder, right? My only experience with them is when the clients came to us and they had a whole website built with, for example, Elementor. And they’ve been building these for years. So all the posts, all the pages were, Stacked, you know, with, with Elementor blocks and they were built in that editor over the years.

[00:21:33] Rafal: And like I said, like you start, you might want to start, you know, in the beginning and that’s the right tool back then, because you don’t want to spend that much money on, on custom, development, custom development. but after some time you’re out, you’re going to outgrow this. And then the problem is when like from Elementor or others, when you wanted to switch back.

[00:21:55] Rafal: Or, we did a whole website and now we had clients that wanted to switch back to like [00:22:00] core WordPress. It was so, it was almost impossible to like switch back, right? Because when you turn off the Elementor, almost nothing was there or everything was using those shortcodes and it was a huge mess. so we had to like hire, some people that, Manually copy and pasted content, cleanup, formatted all that content back to, WordPress Gutenberg editor.

[00:22:26] Rafal: so, so that’s, you know, that’s the problem. Like, if you connect, content with design too much, I think that connection is very, then it will be very hard to like disconnect or change or, you know, maintain, maintain that in the longterm. And that’s where the WordPress core editor is great because you can, you still have control over the design.

[00:22:49] Rafal: You can still like add those blocks, right? Add, use the editor, still have some tools.but the content remains content. Like you can copy the whole section from one website, [00:23:00] block editor, paste to another WordPress website, and it will copy the entire content block by block. Okay. The whole markup you can copy from one site to another so it’s still like the content is almost independent from all those Design settings and tools and it’s just up to the theme how it’s displayeddifferently, right?

[00:23:20] Rafal: So what we’re trying to do in rock base is like Not to reinvent any functionality, anything that you wouldn’t be able to take with you to another theme when you migrate, or if you come from another theme to RockBase. So you can still copy all those patterns back to RockBase. And I think we’re trying to stick, like, to everything that is in WordPress, WordPress Core Editor and whatever they introduce, when it comes to design settings.

[00:23:49] Rafal: And I think everything else is, is up to plugins. If you want to have animations, install a plugin that, you know, helps with animations so you can animate those blocks. Now you can change the [00:24:00] theme. Those animations will remain because that’s from the plugin. If you want to have any custom blocks, any custom, any other custom features that also, they also should all come from the plugin because then you can change the theme to anything you want.

[00:24:13] Rafal: And all that functionality will remain from the plugins. All right. So I think that’s the right way going forward. And with. With the new editor, there’s another risk. We went that route with classic themes, when they started adding more custom functionality into the themes. And with the block editor, it’s so simple, so easy for us to like add something new and cool that will make our theme look, you know, unique and different.

[00:24:41] Rafal: But I think the problem will be if people want us to switch, change, and you know, anything that will happen in the future, it’s better to stay, you know, as close to the core and the standard WordPress way as possible.

[00:24:54] Matt: the website is rock base. co rock base. co you can buy a license for [00:25:00] one 29 a year for one website, 10 websites, two 99 a year, still fantastic value, especially those of you who are agency owners, freelancers, and you’re building this stuff out for, you know, your clients, some of you listening to this have no idea.

[00:25:15] Matt: the themes that Rafal is responsible for, in a lot of designs in the WordPress space, again, from a decade ago, fantastic design. Once again, you know, hitting a home run, you know, in my opinion on the clean, modern design that you’ve put together, I’m interested to learn why you called. Playbooks, playbooks, and not child themes, some kind of Apple esque type marketing here like the fastest phone on the planet, but why the playbooks name?

[00:25:46] Rafal: Yeah, so, so the playbooks, name came out because we don’t want them to be just, seen as, as child themes, you know, as a demo. it’s more like we’re trying to provide the whole solution. And we’re just, we’re just [00:26:00] starting here. Those, those three playbooks we have right now are more like, quick examples we, we put together.

[00:26:06] Rafal: But we have some bigger plans here. So, for example, if you are a podcaster, right, instead of, downloading a child theme and starting from scratch and trying to figure out, you know, the rest, just because you like the look, of it, but we wanted to provide something more. So you can get the playbook, it’s like the whole mini website, that you can get, install on a fresh WordPress, and you’re not starting from scratch anymore.

[00:26:30] Rafal: You have like the whole mini website already loaded for you, and with even some default copy or placeholder copy that you can use on the actual live website. you can maybe get some ideas for, for, you know, we’ve seen it many times when people Had a good design and they didn’t know what even to put in a headline for the call to action for a pod, for a podcast to subscribe.

[00:26:55] Rafal: Right. So there were like blockers like that, that people, you know, couldn’t figure out and [00:27:00] they stayed, in this, in this moment for, for months because they couldn’t unlock themselves and 5%. So we’re trying to help people with that as well. Like even create a. when you have a podcast and you need a cover image for your podcast.

[00:27:15] Rafal: so we provide that in the Figma file as well with some instructions. So you can get that podcast cover, change the, change the name, change the photo in the background and get a quick podcast cover for yourself without hiring a designer. So just, you know, getting you to the final, product, to the final launch of your, of your business idea or, you know, any idea you wanted to launch as fast as we, as we can.

[00:27:40] Rafal: so you can just launch it, you know, be happy with this, try this, and, and you can grow from there. I have moments that

[00:27:46] Matt: on the website we have calls, speaking of the 100, 100 plus handcrafted beautifully functional patterns. Ready for your creative touch call to action, social proof, pricing tables, content, heroes, header, footer features, posts. [00:28:00] I’ll tell you, man, those call to actions so important, like the call to action blocks and patterns that you’ve created.

[00:28:06] Matt: So important for just 90. 8 percent of the websites that go out there. There’s some call to action that, you know, people need to take and, your attention to detail. And those call to actions are so important because it’s overlooked. And you know, when anybody launches their website, a couple of months goes by and they’re just like, Oh man, this isn’t working for me.

[00:28:25] Matt: No matter what. their businesses, like the business might not be working for them and I’m not getting enough sales, not getting enough email signups. People don’t realize that they can donate over here. These are the things that these are the elements that you’ve created a variety for, allow people to mix and match.

[00:28:40] Matt: I’ve been building it out, on my podcast setup newsletter that I run, which is hosted on wordpress. com. I haven’t run into any issues running in the wordpress. com environment and, just a delightful experience, you know, building. With RockBase, would you zoom out and, and evaluate [00:29:00] where the site editor is at and where blocks and patterns are at in WordPress?

[00:29:05] Rafal: you

[00:29:05] Matt: What do you think is maybe the missing piece for you as the, as an experienced designer and now a product, new reentering product maker back into the WordPress space? What do you think’s missing and, and what are you hopeful for, to make the experience better? Thank you.

[00:29:23] Rafal: Yeah, so, I can tell you what I’m hopeful for. I’m hopeful, my hope is that Web, that WordPress Editor won’t become another Webflow. I hope they won’t go that that route, and I don’t think they will.and I would be very disappointed if they if they did.I want WordPress to stay When it comes to like design settings, I’m, I’m all I’m scared that people force kind of force this on WordPress developers to add more design settings, add all those, you know, little, you know, bars they can scroll and adjust the sizing and everything like you had in Elementor and other [00:30:00] page builders, and I don’t think we wanted that in a WordPress editor.

[00:30:03] Rafal: If there is a need for extended functionality like that, that could come from maybe from a plugin, but the core should remain as simple as possible. just, you know, enough so you can add those blocks, edit them, just from a, like a average user perspective, right?maybe if there is a, if there is a need for more advanced options in the editor, There should be another level of editor that we used to have, like a designer, for example, that would open up all those, options, and then you can switch back to editor when you see only enough of those settings.

[00:30:41] Rafal: So that’s my hope, WordPress will go with, and what I’m expecting is like, just better user experience, remove all the bugs, remove, you know, so it doesn’t crash, doesn’t, you know, So the interface is more intuitive. That kind of stuff is what I’m expecting. So it works faster, better. Just better [00:31:00] experience overall.

[00:31:00] Rafal: I don’t think we need more functionality. Like, too much functionality in the editor.

[00:31:05] Matt: Yeah. That stuff just gets in the way, you know, and there are times, you know, where I’m using, you know, another theme for a couple other projects that I’m on. It’s a, you know, what I’ll call like a feature theme. It’s got tons of stuff in a great, you know, no issues with the theme itself. but there’s a nonprofit site that I work on and I volunteer for, and I happen to use this theme there.

[00:31:27] Matt: And. I’m not in that site every single day, and then when I have to go and update something, it’s just about, oh yeah, where do I, I have to go find that again, where is that? And then it’s all this other stuff that’s presented to me, like other patterns, templates, blog, all this stuff. I’m just, I just got to get to that one thing that I know should be right there.

[00:31:46] Matt: And it’s just when you’re in the middle of life. All of those options can just get in the way from getting to the point, which is, I just need to make this one update, man. Why do I gotta wait for this stuff to load? Why do I gotta see all these buttons? You know, [00:32:00] just let me update this thing, save and go.

[00:32:02] Matt: But I also get the argument from a lot of people now who only know building WordPress in Elementor, Bricks, Divi, because that’s how they learned. Whereas I learned with your products years ago, CSS file functions, PHP file, and I, you know, make template files with PHP and I would hack these things together and then how I created a website.

[00:32:27] Matt: I need to change something that revolve designed. I go into style dot CSS. I changed this color line, and, and I’m off, right? And I’m on and hit deploy and I’m good. you know, and it’s a different mindset. These days, because these tools have improved to make the user experience better, but then also.

[00:32:46] Matt: The developers out there are like, Oh, add more stuff, which I can see both sides of the argument. Of course,

[00:32:52] Rafal: I think WordPress is doing a pretty good job right now with this because they keep adding some other features, some of those settings, but they are [00:33:00] hidden by default. Like you have to turn them on and go to this advanced mode or like, you know.turn on some of those, positioning or margins, paddings, like that they can be hidden by default.

[00:33:12] Rafal: And I, what we also did, when we develop a website for a client, we could hide some of those advanced features in a code, in a, you know, in a plugin, in a theme code. So the client wouldn’t see some of those. I wouldn’t mess with paddings and margins. Because we wanted to provide at the end of the day, like great experience for the, for our customers.

[00:33:32] Rafal: When we develop the website, you know, either on a theme or it’s like fully custom website, we give that website to someone else. To manage and to maintain. And those people are usually not developers or designers, not even very experienced, WordPress, users. And I want. Just to give them like one, two hours of training so they can build and design and edit those pages on that by themselves using our pre designed sections and [00:34:00] patterns and all that.

[00:34:01] Rafal: So I think that works great right now, and I hope it will stay this way.

[00:34:06] Matt: I’m not, obviously I’ve said this countless times and you know this, I’m not a developer, a friend of the show, Brian cords. I just saw him tweeting about this yesterday or the day before that whenever you’re developing a block or a pattern, I guess, and I’m curious to get your take on this, if you’ve experienced it, but he says that everything’s great with, you know, the HTML JavaScript side of it.

[00:34:25] Matt: Maybe the CSS side of it, but as soon as you need a block to do something, it’s back to PHP. And now that sort of just like breaks the whole workflow experience. What’s your take on developing blocks and patterns? Has that been a particular roadblock for you? No pun intended, but, How has that experience been like developing these features, which maybe would’ve lived in a plugin years ago, but are now just in blocks?

[00:34:50] Matt: Any take on that?

[00:34:52] Rafal: Yeah, so, you know, if you need very, very custom, very advanced features, of course, you need to code it, right? You need to go [00:35:00] back to those tools and, being able to code something with PHP and CSS and, you know, doing some more advanced stuff with the code. I think that’s, you know, gives you all the flexibility you need to create a custom, feature.

[00:35:15] Rafal: And I like the, I like that you can even get some plugins that come with, with new blocks, right? And you can use those blocks, you can put together some patterns and, and save those patterns. And then you can reuse them, you know, over and over again too. So it’s not like, for example, like in RockBase, there are no custom blocks at all.

[00:35:36] Rafal: Like everything we did in RockBase, all the sections are built with just the standard WordPress blocks and you can build a whole website, right? With

[00:35:45] Matt: Some people would say that’s impossible, Rafa, there’s no way you could do that.

[00:35:49] Rafal: Yeah, so the, so you can leverage, you know, just the standard WordPress blocks to the, to the point where you can build very advanced layouts, you know, all those display the content you [00:36:00] need. it’s just, the way how you put them together and, and, lay them out, right. And if you need like a. We have a contact page, right?

[00:36:09] Rafal: We can still, if you have a contact form, we, we leave a placeholder. That’s where you place a block with contact form, right? So you can still use any plugin, plugin you want for contact forms, or even on a contact form, maybe you want a button to, to click and call you or something, right? Or you use a savvy call, ambit form.

[00:36:28] Rafal: So you can use them, whatever you want right inside that. So it’s not like you need to have a whole section design and. With this particular contact form in place. So I think it’s still, just. Thinking about now WordPress themes more as systems and all those little elements that are like independent, small apps that are inside those sections.

[00:36:52] Rafal: Right? So the section is just a form and you can place there any, anything you want. If you need a custom feature, I think it’s great that you can [00:37:00] custom, create a custom blog with PHP and, and create it, whatever you want. Yeah,

[00:37:08] Matt: i I really in, I really am interested to see how you scale the backend. Of, supporting community, doing something I’ve never seen done in a WordPress product before, which is, I assume this is circle, right? That we’re using in the backend circle, more of a community membership platform, but you’re using it to deliver the support community and like the files and stuff.

[00:37:31] Matt: you can get the rock base theme, a figma design kit for you, design aficionados out there, a bunch of design assets, including graphic templates and a rock base icon pack. And then you had the different playbooks that folks can, can download. How’s that experience going so far using circle for all of this stuff?

[00:37:49] Rafal: it’s great. This was our idea from the beginning. We wanted to even create like a community for WordPress users before [00:38:00] Rugby’s idea came to us. Now I see the whole benefit of, because if, if we just had like a payment gateway where you can buy Rackbase, download this, and we had only support for them, we would miss so much from, so much feedback from our users, right?

[00:38:16] Rafal: Like you could probably see that in Circle when people introduce themselves, we give them a chance to introduce themselves, tell us about their problems, where they’re coming from, so we can hear what kind of experience they have. So we gather all that information and. In the Rackbase, in our chat channel, like, people can drop any ideas, any thoughts, any comments they have.

[00:38:39] Rafal: So we’re learning from our users this way a lot more, and especially that now it’s, like, still very early in a full site editor, world. So we want to learn from our users what they are, what they need, what they are expecting. We should create more patterns, we should create, more like a system, so people can use that as more like a wireframed [00:39:00] version.

[00:39:00] Rafal: Thanks of Rackbase that, you know, and that we have more developers that wanted to leverage Rackbase and build on top of that. So we’re trying to learn from users and see which way to go from here. And I can tell you that we have some plans now how we wanted to expand Rackbase from here because we don’t want to like overload the theme with all the patterns, all the sections too.

[00:39:27] Rafal: But we have some ideas that, maybe we provide more like extension packs, with patterns. For example, if you, have a podcast website, you could turn on podcast pattern patterns and all the patterns will show up in your editor that are related to podcast. so the hero sections just for the podcast, calls to action just for the podcast, sections to list your episodes, feature episodes.

[00:39:51] Rafal: All that stuff, right? So if you don’t need that, you can turn it off, just hide it from the editor. so that’s what we’re looking at now. Create those little [00:40:00] packs for different niches, different needs and, expand RockBase this way. Just focus on the patterns, focus on the design. That’s what a theme should be, right?

[00:40:10] Rafal: If we wanted to add any custom functionality, any, anything new, that would be more like a plugin than the theme. So that’s, that’s the plan for now.

[00:40:19] Matt: Yeah, I love it. Puts the community aspect first versus receipt. Like you just purchased it. Then the first thing you experience is like the receipt. now it’s the community first. So I love it. We’re fall to mall rock base dot CEO rock base. Dot co your partner’s name again one more time because I always forget to say his name every time I always talk about you

[00:40:44] Rafal: Yeah, Chris, Chris Hafnagel.

[00:40:47] Matt: Awesome, you and Chris doing some great work again folks Check it out If you if you’ve seen Rafal’s work before how haven’t you if you’ve been in the space for a few years like us Check it out at [00:41:00] Rafal.

[00:41:00] Matt: Thanks for hanging out today

[00:41:02] Matt: Thank you.


[00:41:02] ​ [00:42:00]

Join The Newsletter

Get your favorite 5 minutes of WordPress news for busy professionals every week — 100% Free! Join the WP Minute Newsletter below 👇


Similar Posts