WordCamp Chicago 2013 Speaker Interview: Chris Ford

Chris FordChris is the creative director of Creativity Included, a one-woman studio where she uses both sides of her brain to help clients develop design strategies and systems that provide measurable results. She believes that you should treat content as a user interface element, copywriting is as important as design, you should use agile design practices to spend more time designing and less time doing production work, and typography and white space are 90% of a successful design solution. The only thing she takes seriously is design.

She will be presenting a session titled “What’s So Great About Agile Design?” on Saturday, June 29.

Interview with Chris:

Why do you use WordPress?
I started using WordPress to save time on client projects and enable people to take control of updating their sites. I’ve been a web designer since 1996, building static websites and every time a client needed an update they called me. I didn’t want to spend my time updating sites, so I started looking into content managements. I took Expression Engine and Joomla for a test drive before I tried WordPress, and something just clicked. Haven’t used anything else since.

What do you like best about WordCamps?
I love being with my tribe. It’s awesome to hang out with a couple hundred nerds who love the same thing you do. I’ve also made tons of friends through WordCamps, and have been lucky enough to make connections that have turned into friendships that turn into brunches. Also, the After Parties. That’s where the best stuff happens.

What is your favorite tip or resource for a new WordPress user?
Just because WordPress makes it easy to update a website doesn’t mean it’s going to be just as easy to build a website. A theme isn’t an insta-site. If you want to change colors and functionality, you’re going to need to take the time to read some documentation, do some tutorials, and learn at least the basics of CSS, HTML and PHP.

What is a common problem you see in WordPress sites, and how would you avoid it?
Since a lot of WordPress sites are DIY, you tend to see more decoration than design. I think it’s mainly because DIYers skip over the planning part of the design process. They don’t think about information architecture, or how to prioritize their content. So many people say “Content is king”, but then spend 80 hours on the design, and an hour pasting in content with no formatting, no visual priority, no hierarchy and no real strategy for treating it as one of the most important user interface elements in the site. Spend time planning before you pick a theme, check out color palettes, troll Typekit for font combos or search for stock photos. It will show in your finished site.

How do you stay up to date with new information about WordPress?
Twitter, the WordPress Watercooler (www.wpwatercooler.com) and the Orange County WordPress Meetup group are my main sources of WordPress information. I follow a lot of people smarter than I am about certain aspects of WordPress: Bill Erickson (@billerickson) for code, Chris Lema (@chrislema) for business, and Megan Gray (@houseofgrays) and Mel Choyce (@melchoyce) for design/UI insights. That’s just a small sample–probably 90% of the people I follow are either WordPress or design-related.

Share an example of a really great (creative, cool, unusual) use of WordPress you’ve seen recently.

I am deeply in love with Flywheel hosting (http://getflywheel.com/ ) right now. They are making it so easy and seamless for designers who build sites with clients to rapidly develop and deploy a WordPress site *and* bill the client. They really understand their target market, from their super-beautiful site to their amazing user interface to the hand-stamped chipboard boxes filled with a t-shirt, Moleskine notebook and pins they sent out to early testers. The lorem ipsum on their site shows they have a sense of humor, too, which I love in a company!

Do you have any advice for a person who’s building a business around WordPress design/development?
Love what you do. For me, it’s really that simple. I’m pretty sure it’s the only way I’ve been able to do this for so many years without losing my mind 😀