45 minutes | Feb 5, 2021

Managed WordPress Hosting Company WP Engine Meets Accelerating Need for Digital Education Experiences by Releasing LMS Site Templates in Partnership with LifterLMS

Learn about how managed WordPress hosting company WP Engine meets accelerating need for digital education experiences by releasing LMS Site Templates in partnership with LifterLMS in this episode of the LMScast podcast hosted by Chris Badgett from LifterLMS. David Vogelpohl works as the VP of Growth for WP Engine, and in this episode he and Chris talk about the new WP Engine website templates you can use to build a site in much less time than it used to take. If you’re building a site from scratch with the new WP Engine site templates, you can pick up hosting and have a fully built website in less than 30 minutes. And all you have to do from there is switch out the content with your own, point your domain to your new hosting, and you’re good to go. The WP Engine site template setup works by automatically installing a few themes and plugins that create the functionally you’ll need for your site, and they have a few sample sites you can choose from for LifterLMS specifically that will already have the styling you need built-in upon installation. And the page content is automatically populated to give you a boost in designing and coming up with ideas for what content should go where. A lot of developers are hesitant to work with templates, because they feel it takes away from the job they’re supposed to be doing. But if you build sites for clients, try showing them a few of the template sites available, and by starting with that jumping off point you’ll likely find that templates can empower your freelance or agency practice to work with more customers and nail the design from the start, removing a lot of friction in the process. One feature that really sets WP Engine above the rest in terms of hosting is their 24/7 chat support when you run into issues or need a hand finding the right resources for your needs. The chat is a super useful and often underemphasized feature when choosing a hosting provider. To learn more about David Vogelpohl and the cutting edge developments going on over at WP Engine, be sure to head to WPEngine.com/Site-Templates. They also have some neat tools, such as Genesis Pro for freelancers building websites with WP Engine to be able to design faster and control what their clients can edit on the site. You can also connect with David on Twitter at @WPDavidV. At LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us! EPISODE TRANSCRIPT Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re a course creator looking to build more impact, income, and freedom. LMScast is the number one podcast for course creators just like you. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of the most powerful tool for building, selling, and protecting engaging online courses called LifterLMS. Enjoy the show. Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. I’m joined by a special guest. His name is David Vogelpohl from WP Engine. Welcome back on the show, David. David Vogelpohl: Thanks, Chris. Glad to be back. Chris Badgett: I’m super excited to get into this conversation with you, because WP Engine has just released LifterLMS into their site templates as an option for people who are building courses or training based membership sites to not start from well, I guess zero you would say. It’s a really cool offering. Can you tell us more about WP Engine site templates and what that means to aspiring course creators, or coaches, or people building training based membership sites. David Vogelpohl: Sure, absolutely. So site templates is a feature we added to the WP Engine platform last year. And what it allows our customers to do is to spin up a new WordPress instance, which includes plugins and themes, which are automatically installed and activated. And the reason this is helpful for people is instead of creating a new site and having to go and download the plugin and install it, or go to wordpress.org and find it and install it as well as the themes that you might use. A lot of these assets essentially come pre-installed when you activate the WordPress sites, so that can shave off a lot of time when you’re getting that new site up and go. David Vogelpohl: We launched site templates on WP Engine as a way to help our customers move faster when creating any website and they tend to follow like types of websites. So in other words, with LifterLMS in particular, we saw value in that because of course a lot of our customers are creating course sites or learning management sites to educate their org or their customers. And so it was a natural fit for us to include that in the mix. But again, the short answer is that it helps people get up and going faster when creating a new website. Chris Badgett: That is awesome. So is it something that somebody is like … very beginning, they don’t have a web host yet. They’ve chosen WordPress as their platform of choice and they’re looking for hosting, they’re looking for an LMS solution to discover this. Is this something that people have to start with from scratch like sign up for WP Engine at the beginning? What if they’re already a WP Engine customer? David Vogelpohl: Yeah, so you can certainly sign up and leverage the Lifter site template. Existing customers have that in their customer portal today. So when they create a new site, they go into a section of our portal called sites, surprise. They click create new site and they can either choose to create a blank site or one from the template. And then in that flow, if you will, they would select the LifterLMS template. What happens after that is the WP Engine platform creates the WordPress instance on our servers. So again, if you’re new to WordPress or building sites in general, it’s just going to create that version of WordPress, it’s going to pre-install and activate Lifter, and it’s going to pre-install a bunch of other themes that work with Lifter. David Vogelpohl: These are actually what are called Genesis themes. They’re made by WP Engine. They’re fully supported through our normal chat or normal support chat. And they also include something called one-click theme setup, which will automatically load a bunch of demo content too. So I think the value in site templates as again kind of like, “I don’t have to go figure out what all the right things are, and install them, and get going.” A lot of that’s already done for you by the time you get going. But then when you couple in things like Lifter set up flow and then of course also the theme set up wizard, then a lot of the hard pieces are done for you and you can really just get started editing your content with Lifter case, of course, building out your modules and so on and so forth. But it really cuts out a lot of that work especially for new folks. David Vogelpohl: And of course developers like that too because everybody likes an easy button. But if you’re new to WordPress or new to editing and building sites, tools like this actually can make it a lot easier for you to deal with. It’s funny, there’s another company called Geek Pack that does some training for WordPress. They donated their services, they made a free course actually, for kids to learn WordPress during the COVID crisis when they are on lock down from school. They actually also use one of those themes to learn WordPress just to kind of show you how easy it makes it is even those very young just learning are still able to leverage it. So that’s some of the benefits I see for folks using it. But yes, existing customers can use it. And then of course when people sign up, they can also use it. Chris Badgett: That is awesome. And I just want to … parking lot for a second on what you talked about where even as a WordPress power user, you’re like, if you’re starting from scratch, “Yeah, there’s the default WordPress theme or whatever.” Once you get into a good host and you have some quality themes that are made well, designed well, well-supported, demo content and your LMS ready to rock, that whole process, if you’re new, might take a long time and you may choose a theme that may not be the best fit. Or if you don’t have demo content, you may choose a theme and not really know what you can do with it, which is awesome. Chris Badgett: And it’s not just theme. This is the cool thing about the site templates is design is subjective. I was looking through some of the themes you have in there and some of them are kind of focused on WooCommerce, which is awesome cause Lifter has an optional WooCommerce integration. It also has its own just native checkout. So there’s that. And then there’s the monochrome. I was really just nerding out on recently. And for me personally, I really like that style. It’s really good. But I know just because I’ve been around design for a long time that people have different flavors that they like and not just the overall styling. The cool thing that I’ve always admired about Genesis related themes and StudioPress is the focus on landing pages, pricing tables, and stuff like that you guys have. This is stuff that marketers like, but also course creators and people who are building coaching programs, memberships, they really care about that stuff. And the plugin like Lifter as an LMS does, it’s mostly functionality. So you really got a pair in design that really does the trick. But go ahead. Any comments on that? David Vogelpohl: Yeah, totally. Just for the sake of those listening though, LifterLMS site template, and I forget the exact number, I think it’s like six or seven different Genesis based themes are actually included with it. Every one of the themes includes the one-click theme setup. Chris, you talked about how you have a theme and you install it and it doesn’t really look like the demo car at all really. And you’re like, “What do I do?” This seems to have solved that problem. So you click on a little wizard and it loads in all the demo content. You can start editing right away. All of the themes included with the LifterLMS site template have been tested with LifterLMS. We have 37 total themes. We did not bundle all of them in. We only bumbled in the ones that worked best with Lifter out of the gate. David Vogelpohl: Now, for those unfamiliar Genesis is fundamentally a theme framework. It’s a way of building themes. And so the themes included with the Lifter site template, you’d leverage the Genesis framework. Now, you may or may not get too deep into using Genesis if you use one of the themes because the themes abstract all the tech stuff away, make it super easy. But the themes themselves in Genesis are optimized for growth. They’re optimized for SEO, they’re optimized for speed. And as you pointed out that demo content includes landing pages. This includes other sales materials because of course we realized that people use websites to make money. So when we provide that demo content, when we optimize those themes, when we optimize Genesis itself, it’s not just in the lens of like, “How do we make something that’s pretty and functional, but how do we make something that is going to help someone grow?” Which is why Genesis has been very early in just even WordPress history at leading in WordPress SEO. David Vogelpohl: It does work well with Yoast. So Genesis has SEO features and Yoast has too. We actually will quote yield to Yoast in those situations. But I think the high level of it is that absolutely we’d optimize those themes for sales. And I think when you partner it up with a plugin like LifterLMS, again, you have that really great starting point to start building out your vision. Just because you use a theme doesn’t mean that your site has to look like everybody else. You can change the color scheme, you can change the layout, you can use different content on your site of course. And even with the site templates, you can even use a different theme that we don’t include. It’s a normal version of WordPress. You can do all that, but just because you’re using something templated, doesn’t mean you can’t make it look unique. David Vogelpohl: One of my favorite stories of someone using our themes in that way is the US Women’s National Soccer Team. And Chris, do you remember them? Kind of slow going through this, but they were kind of “fight for equal pay.” The team built a bit of a protest site. They actually used one of our themes, Revolution pro. I know you’ve experienced and you like it. It’s kind of ironic they chose that one, but the site they go with that look, it looked like the demo content in a way that they had changed the font, they had changed the layout, they had changed the colors, and it was unique to them. So just because you leverage a tool that helps you get going faster doesn’t mean you’re going to be like everybody else. And that’s what those themes allow you to do. David Vogelpohl: The last thing I’ll mention here is they do include what we call block-based demo content. So if you’re familiar with the word Gutenberg and what the block editor is, these names come with blocks that are pre designed, pre optimized for speed, for conversion rates, so on and so forth. And you can edit that content yourself, meaning you can edit the design, you can edit the layout, where the blocks are at, which means that every time you want to change your website, you don’t have to mess with code or hire a developer. A lot of those tasks can actually be done by your content creators or if you’re a single site owner by yourself. Chris Badgett: That is awesome. I use WP Engine for my personal stuff. I’m so busy and focused on Lifter. I don’t spend a lot of time on chrisbadgett.com. But if you go to that website, I’ve been a happy WP Engine customer for a long time, I love your chat support. And whenever I hear people talk about WP Engine, they’re always like, “Yeah, the chat support.” Even my customers, they’re like, “When are you going to add chat support like WP Engine?” And one day maybe we’ll get there. But it’s awesome. And this kind of three-legged stool between themes, plugins, hosting, and now blocks. So I guess we have four legs on the … it’s not a stool anymore. It’s a chair, whatever. It’s essential. Chris Badgett: And then you throw in demo content and we often use the metaphor of like a starter home. I think that’s why we get along famously with you all at WP Engine because we’re kind of obsessed with this same problem of how do we get somebody in the door, move this starting line like further along because they don’t know what they don’t know or there’s nothing worse than just seeing somebody start getting frustrated with this really powerful, awesome tool called WordPress or just make mistakes because they had no blueprint, or model, or tools that they understood that they could start messing around with. And that’s what you guys do, which is awesome. And go ahead. David Vogelpohl: Yeah, yeah, thanks for that. Thanks for mentioning the chat support. I actually use it myself. And my friends, of course know I work at WP Engine and they’ll randomly message me on Facebook and ask me some questions about the platform I don’t happen to personally know the answer to. So I’ll often advise them to go to chat, but I’m not pawning it off. It’s actually where I go to get my answers. So I also will go in there 24/7, which is great. So if I’m working on my own site on the weekend, I’ll just pop into portal, open a chat and get an answer right away. So it’s actually really, really awesome. I think the point you made about moving the starting line is really key. David Vogelpohl: The value of WP Engine just in general, you would think of as often as what we call managed host. And what that means if you’re not familiar with how hosting works … because you can basically get a generic hosting account where they don’t do a lot for you, but they give you a home for your website and then a lot of the management is on you to make sure that site is up-to-date, and healthy, and secure, and stable. And then WP Engine provides essentially the next level, if you will, where we help our customers make sure their sites are up-to-date. Now of course, they can still keep the updates themselves and manage all that on their own. But we have offered things like upgrading WordPress for you if there’s a security vulnerability. So if you’re not paying attention to that and doing it on your own, we’ve got your back. We’ll come in and make sure you’re up-to-date. David Vogelpohl: The same is true with PHP. If you’re non technical, that’s the programming language that’s used in WordPress, that can also go out of date and cost security and performance issues. So we keep that up to the customers as well. And then we have a product called Smart Plugin Manager that will help keep your plugins up-to-date, make sure they’re working well and things like that. So this is kind of if you would say the core value of WP Engine’s managed hosting is that we’re taking care of a lot of those things you may not even realize you need to take care of. But of course we’re fast, and secure, and stable and things like that. The starting line is really interesting. When WP Engine acquired Genesis, the theme framework we’ve been talking about, that was back in 2018, one of the biggest complaints we heard from that ecosystem was my site doesn’t look like the demo content. David Vogelpohl: I looked at that demo site, it was beautiful, and I installed that theme, and it looked nothing like this. And this is very familiar. I’m sure even members of the audience had this experience. I call this the most disappointing experience on the internet. You see this beautiful demo site and you install it and you’re like, “What the heck just happened?” I don’t see any of those things here. And so we very quickly followed by adding the one-click theme set up features. Site templates takes that one step further by auto installing the plugins and themes directly when the WordPress site is created, and then the themes themselves then take that even further by loading in the demo content, so on and so forth. That starting line is just so important to be able to edit a site that is well designed, well optimized, to be able to do that bit in just a matter of minutes is huge. David Vogelpohl: I mean, you’re cutting giant chunks of time off, your setup time. And I remember just a real quick anecdote on this. Back in 2016, I built a website, live on stage at a conference. I practiced dozens of times, we had a script, every move of my mouse or the click of my button had been practiced over and over and over and over again. It was the most stressful presentation my entire life. And we got it. We got it done in 45 minutes. And when we released one-click theme set up, we had a team marketing meeting, which included a lot of our marketers who are not developers, content creators, designers, stuff like that. And we had them build their own custom site with the themes just for fun. And that exercise lasted 30 minutes. David Vogelpohl: And I remember thinking, “this will fail miserably. I practiced dozens of times and barely pulled it off. There’s no way these people that are not used to building WordPress sites are going to be able to do this.” And they did. And they did it easily, and they were creative, and they added videos, and they had little jokes in their copy and stuff like that. They not only had time to build it, they had time to be creative while doing it. And to me that’s what this is all about. I think Lifter does a really good job of that with sales onboarding wizard. So it’s really fun and I like your three-legged stool, four-legged chair analogy, but it’s really like, “How can the different parts of your WordPress site work together to provide you a better experience?” And that’s fundamentally the principle behind site templates. But I think even just outside of that as companies like ours work together and find ways to serve the people we serve together better. I think at the end of the day that just is ultimately better for WordPress. Chris Badgett: Well, you’re pulling on my heartstrings, David because I believe that the old way we operate is a technology company as we put our product at the center and then we do things to reinforce our product, but when we put the new way, which I say is we put our customer at the center, so what do they need? Well, that we need to remove friction. It may require collaborating with other companies. It may require investing in the community and making sure we understand people. It involves like, “Oh, there’s several different types of people that use our technology. What do they need? What are the use cases?” And I just love this conversation where we are right here because this is about the user. Chris Badgett: And my next question for you is, well, let me just say like there’s three primary groups of customers that use LifterLMS. The first is the do it yourself expert or DIYer, and they may be their first foray into WordPress, or they may be in the middle, or they’ve been in WordPress for a long time and they can crank out sites and they’re not worried at all. Then the second is the builder, I call them. These are the agencies and the freelancers who build LMS sites for clients. And then the third is more of a user that is switching off of hosted LMS course ware membership, more of a traditional SaaS. And they realize they want the ownership, the control, the brand flexibility, the customizability, the open options so they can bring in more unique branding design and even added functionality because it’s open source. So we’ve got what I call the starter, the builder, and the switcher. Chris Badgett: I want to focus the conversation right here on the builder. The WordPress freelancer, the agency, the marketing professional or whatever they’re calling themselves, they build LMS sites for clients. Talk about WP Engine site templates in the context of empowering the freelancer, the agency owner here. David Vogelpohl: Yeah, I think that’s a great call out. Often when we think of things like setup wizards, and easy buttons, and blocks and things like that, what this invokes in a lot of people’s minds is this is for the DIYer. The DIYer can use those blocks, they can use to set up stuff, and they can get up and going quickly. And that’s actually all true. And of course, as I referenced earlier, everyone loves the easy button. Developers of course, can leverage the same capabilities to get their projects done faster. Of course, depending on the developer and the agency or the freelancer or whatever, they probably may or may not want a heavily customized the design, heavily customize the functionality. Some people like 100% unique science. That’s all of course possible with Genesis itself. But tools like this ultimately help them get their job done faster. David Vogelpohl: Just like those marketers were able to spit up that site and the setup wizard for the themes takes about 30 seconds, they were able to get that demo content loaded in 30 seconds. They were able to start editing that site and be creative with it in that 30 minute project I was telling you about. Well, of course, developers can also benefit from that because they can get that next project up and going quicker. So with a side template, they can get the WordPress instance created, the plugins installed, and the themes installed and activated, and then using the one-click theme set up wizard, get all the demo content loaded. David Vogelpohl: So if you’re building sites for others, I think one of the key things is speed, right? I ran an agency for cross agency for five years. I never had one client answer the question, “When would you like this?” Like, “Six months from now.” Nobody ever said that. They always said tomorrow. So I think one, there’s this pressure on agencies to deliver quickly for clients. And then of course you have the tug and pull of scope creep and all of these other aspects to running your agency or freelance business that can start to erode your profit margins. So everywhere you can shave off time is something that will help you deliver faster to customers, but also help you improve your own profit margins per customer, per project. And so tools like this ultimately do help the advanced developer, advanced freelancer, that may be doing super custom stuff, but still like that easily. Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, while we’re here on the builder, I just wanted to bring another sub niche within that into the conversation, which is this whole emerging growing niche called the WES entrepreneur websites as a service, where they’re not necessarily building the site and then transferring it to their clients. WP Engine has this awesome transferable install thing. So if you’re an agency or a freelancer, it’s awesome. But some people, their clients, they don’t want to get that involved in the tech and the agency or the freelancer would hold the site on their WP Engine account, charge the client monthly fee, whatever they’re doing. Chris Badgett: If you go to lifterLMS.com and you click on the examples, you’ll see a case study we just did with a woman named Sally Crew who created a course as a natural healthcare practitioner. She had a great launch. I think she made like $15,000 on her launch, but then she kept showing other people how to do it, and then she just added this idea of like a business platform for a natural healthcare practitioner website too as a bonus. And then all of these people were like … it became the main thing. It became the main thing. So she became like what we would call a WES entrepreneur. This is a super niche like WordPress thing. Chris Badgett: If I was going to build a WES business, me personally, I would not use multisite. I would use WP Engine. I would get a multisite account level pricing plan with WP Engine. I would create this incredible template for a really specific use case like Sally Crew did, natural health care practitioners, health, wealth, relationships. Those are the big three niches. Now go down another layer like Sally did, she’s in health, natural health care practitioner. And then I would use this, what we’re talking about here, site templates as like my starting point and if I was successful with it, I would start maybe knocking out other use cases and build other WESes or whatever. I’m giving out some of the best ideas [crosstalk 00:24:11]- David Vogelpohl: Yeah, I got you. I got you. I got you. Chris Badgett: Yeah. If I have free time, I would be all over that and I would use this in my stack. What are your thoughts on that? David Vogelpohl: Yeah, WES is a fairly large [inaudible 00:24:21] and some of the scenarios you described we might think of as like an agency reselling hosting to their customers. I remember in my agency days, people would ask me all the time, they’d say, “Oh, I guess I’ll just host with you. Right?” That’s a little different, I suppose, than WES, by sake of example. Now, multisite is a great way to do WordPress as a service. You have basically little microsites underneath your overarching WordPress instance. But the way I think about WES typically is even just one WordPress since that’s not multisite. There was a gentleman named Charles the coder that made a site called Hospitality Nerds during the start of the COVID crisis. And it provides basically restaurant owners a platform for charging for food online and facilitating curbside pickup and delivery and so on and so forth. And so this was an example of a platform that was built with WordPress. David Vogelpohl: Now, site templates is a great way to get up and going building. I think one thing if I was building that though, anything in the WP Engine stack, is I would actually leverage Genesis. So that feature I talked about earlier, one click theme setup. That’s actually a feature of the theme framework, Genesis. It’s not just something you use when you’re using a theme. What I mean by this is that a developer can write their own one click theme setup and it will install plugins. It will install demo content. So the model you actually described, I would personally use one click theme set up to do that. Not only will it do all of the demo content, all of the plugins, but it includes something called starter packs. David Vogelpohl: So you were talking about the seven niches by sake of example. So you have a starter pack for, I don’t know, healthy eating, and another word for exercise. I’m not really into that niche, but basically I would leverage one click theme set up and then I would give the user the option to choose starter packs. By the way, the themes in the LifterLMS site template also includes starter packs. So if you are focusing on a particular niche for your LifterLMS site, you can actually choose from some of the starter packs that are there to get demo content that’s optimized for that type of website. Of course, you can change the content to be about anything you want, but the demo content of course will help you get there a little faster. Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, thank you for nerding out with me as a WordPress power user in more advanced use case thing. I want to go back to something that’s relevant to everybody, which is full site editing. I’ve learned just myself as more of a WordPress power user, not necessarily … I’m not a developer, that when I’m fuzzy on something, I know a lot of people are fuzzy on it, so I like to ask smart people like you to help bring me up to speed who’s on the front lines of the innovation and ear to the ground and all that. Tell us about full site editing and you recently wrote an article on Genesis pro and I know that kind of factors in, bring us up to speed. Tell us a little bit, give us a little glimpse into the future of what’s coming for WordPress and how we can leverage it. David Vogelpohl: Sure, sure. So we’re kind of nerdy here. We’re going to talk about the future. So earlier I referenced Gutenberg, which is the new “block editor” in WordPress. Now in today’s world, the block editor, Gutenberg, is only used for editing content in the body of your pages and your posts. So in other words, you can’t use the block editor to make a menu or navigation. You can’t use it to fill out your sidebar. You can’t use it to build your footer. When we say full site editing, what we mean is that that block editor will be available and used to control all of those experiences, the header, the navigation, the sidebar, and the footer. Now the benefits, of course, we all enjoy from the block editor going into those places will provide a lot more flexibility for content creators, designers, and DIY site owners to manage their own website. David Vogelpohl: If you’ve ever edited a menu in WordPress, you know that you have to go to the menu area and then you move the little tiles around and build it out. Sidebar’s kind of intuitive, but not overly intuitive and God help you if you’re going to try to edit the footer without being a developer. It’s going to be actually extremely challenging. And so full site editing will bring those capabilities to all of those places. Now often what we hear, especially from the hardcore developers is, “Wait a minute, that’s my domain. Don’t mess with that.” I don’t want to provide that level of control, but I think what you end up seeing by folks that have started to adopt the block editor is realizing like, “Oh wait, I can scale my innovation. I can build that content creator a block that does very special specific things for my brand and they don’t have to come to me every time they want to change the language in it. They can actually just go in and make that edit. They could even change the color if I let them.” David Vogelpohl: Because again, the developers also have control over what those content creators and DIYer, non developers can do. So you do have control on what they can edit, but you can also grant those content creators and marketers the ability to do that on their own, which means that as a developer you can focus on building more blocks, more components like that and then doing other interesting things for your site. In other words, as developers I know we love landing pages, Chris, but developers hate them. Chris Badgett: Why is that? David Vogelpohl: Because they want to do the cool stuff. [crosstalk 00:30:01] they want to go make some custom plugin or make some new aspect to your site. Chris Badgett: Not take things away and simplify, right? David Vogelpohl: Yeah, exactly. Earlier you talked about the switchers. Well, why do people switch from proprietary platforms to open platforms? In my experience, it’s because their ideas to be unique exceed the capabilities of a closed platform. Chris Badgett: That’s well said. David Vogelpohl: Yeah, exactly. I don’t want to be like everybody else. I want to be like me. I want to have the functionality that’s important to me in my business. I don’t want to have the same exact thing everybody else has. That’s what WordPress delivers. And I think as we think about the block editor and this notion of full site editing, it really starts to bring that to all of WordPress. So I see it both scaling the ability of the DIYer, and marketer, and content creator to do even more powerful and custom things. But I also see it as the way the development teams scale their innovation because not every new landing page is a soul crashing landing page ticket for that dev team. They want to be doing cool stuff. They don’t really want to be coding every … some people of course enjoy that, if someone’s listening like, “I love that.” But it is one way. David Vogelpohl: Now I think the other thing to think about here is that full site editing is not live yet. This will be likely released in WordPress in December, 2020. That could change of course, but that’s the current date that the team has slated. Now when it launches themes as you know them today, if you know them, will greatly change. And for the nerds listening, basically what this means is the theme template files that we all know and love basically will be going away and being replaced with something called block template files. I’m not going to get too much into the weeds and the tech stuff, but this is going to drastically change how themes are built. Chris Badgett: I have a question for you. David Vogelpohl: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Chris Badgett: I’m still trying to get clear on this stuff too. And I’m a WordPress power user. Are themes going to go away entirely? Or are they just going to become more minimal? Are we going from the stool to the chair or whatever? David Vogelpohl: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Chris Badgett: [crosstalk 00:32:12] get it. David Vogelpohl: Yeah. So there’s this notion that “themes will die”, and you’ve probably heard that before in full site editing. That’s actually not true. There will be themes in WordPress, but the files themselves that are used for the themes and the way sites are styled are changing. So they’re changing in a couple of key ways. One, there’s going to be something in WordPress called general styles, which are, as you can imagine, general styles for your site. Now themes today will actually play that role in a lot of WordPress websites. So that’s one thing that will be different from how it works today than how it will work in the future. David Vogelpohl: I think the key difference though is that a lot of the PHP functions that are used in template files today, nearly all of them are not available in the new model. So if you’re adding a lot of custom functionality into your themes today through PHP, that’s just not going to be available to you if you’re building a theme for full site editing. Now you could also think of themes in an abstract way, right? A theme to most people actually is a set of designs and it’s for many people also a set of demo content. Well even though themes will be simplified and how they work in the new paradigm, the demo content, how it’s structured, how it’s optimized, these can all be very, very specific to a theme even though the theme files themselves are different. And so I still expect that it will be many, many design variants. David Vogelpohl: I still expect that. I absolutely know that not everyone is a good designer because I’m not a good designer. I know others aren’t as well. And so this notion of there being themes in the future, yes, there will be, yes there will be a variety. But how the theme files, the template files work, that will change. Now for us at WP Engine we’ve talked about Genesis, we’ve talked about that actually quite a bit here and that is a way of building themes, non full site editing themes because of course that’s not in WordPress yet. So Genesis itself will evolve. We’ll have a new version when full site editing comes out that pulls a lot of that PHP stuff we’re doing in the parent theme, I know I’m getting kind of deep here, but we’ll pull that actually into a plugin. So this is an example of how a lot of the tools are used, particularly around theming, will evolve when full site editing comes to be. David Vogelpohl: Of course, WP Engine’s all over this. We’re monitoring what’s happening in core. We’re actually participating in contributing code back to help realize this vision in WordPress. And of course, we’re keeping our own products up-to-date as I talked about. I do want to mention one thing before you get into your next question because I know there was a lot of apprehension around Gutenberg before it was released and you might be thinking now, “Will my site work in December, if I don’t do this full site editing thing?” Yes, it will work. The WordPress core team, all product teams recognize you’re not going to adopt it on the first day. WordPress has an excellent, excellent history of supporting backwards compatibility. David Vogelpohl: So no, your site’s not going to break on December 31st. You’re going to have time to adopt the new way. And if you’re using technology providers like Lifter, or WP Engine, or Genesis and things like that, they’re keeping an eye on it and they’re going to make sure their products are ready. I don’t think in Lifter’s case, this actually matters hardly at all because obviously Lifter’s a plugin and not a theme. But my point is that people are paying attention to it. Just make sure you choose products that are well supported, have a company behind them that does a good job. And there’s a good chance it’ll be okay. But again, your site’s not going to break on December 31st. Chris Badgett: What you’re going to see is you’re going to see cool stuff coming from WP Engine or Genesis and you’re just more likely … nothing’s going to break. You’re just going to have like, “Oh, I want that thing.” David Vogelpohl: Yeah, it’s the new way. Chris Badgett: It’s a new model. David Vogelpohl: Yeah, exactly. To adopt the new way the tools you use will either need to evolve or you’ll need to choose new tools if they don’t evolve. Again, another great reason to choose plugins with strong companies behind them so they can keep up with that as WordPress of all. But yeah, it’ll be the new way. Your old ways stuff will still work. So again, the WordPress core team isn’t about to rip the rug out from under them. And this notion of iteration is also helpful to those developers because The One is your worst product you will ever release for that product. It’s the worst version of it that will ever exist. And so it’s helpful, but to just rip the bandaid off for everybody, closed platforms one easy example to give here that’s not really picking on anybody would be like Facebook. They don’t really think of Facebook as website building platform because it’s not, but it is a closed platform, meaning that you can’t really customize it. It’s just there. Chris Badgett: A lot of people use their Facebook pages for their business and that’s it, right? David Vogelpohl: Yeah, yeah. People are using it in that way. But I guess where I’m going with that is there’s not a lot of capabilities within Facebook itself to customize it. You can’t change the styles, you can’t change the layout, you can’t do any of that stuff. So in a closed platform you can actually rip the bandaid off and just change it in one day. They do beta. Facebook does beta of course. But you can just rip the bandaid off and don’t have to worry about themes. David Vogelpohl: Open platforms, you need to provide a path for people to adopt the new ways. And that’s exactly what WordPress core is doing and of course exactly what technology providers like WP [inaudible 00:37:46]. Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, tell us more about Genesis Pro and your recent article, what is that? David Vogelpohl: Yes. So trying to phrase this in a way that’s accessible to people that know about Genesis and those that don’t, so again, I talked earlier about how full site editing was going to change the way themes work. So the first thing that WP Engine did is this … it was developing in WordPress core. It was when we said, “Okay, well we’re going to switch our pair theme model today to a plugin model to make sure people building with Genesis can still build with Genesis when full site editing hits core.” Chris Badgett: So this means that the child theme thing is going away. There’s going to be a new way to do it besides child theming. David Vogelpohl: Yeah. So in the Genesis context, Genesis the parent theme, will turn into Genesis the plugin. I’m actually unsure offhand of how the parent child theme paradigm will work in full site editing. But we’ve actually chosen a lot of people will because of the lack of PHP functions and other reasons to follow the plugin model. So if you’re using Genesis today, Genesis the plugin will be available to you tomorrow when full site editing is released. If you have support for Genesis today through StudioPress, through WP Engine, or through Flywheel, you’ll get support for Genesis the plugin in the future. We will likely be releasing Genesis the plugin on wordpress.org so everyone can freely use it. Of course, if you want support, you have to buy it through this channels I talked about, but everyone will be able to use it for free. David Vogelpohl: So we’re in the middle of this great shift in technology and also great shift in how we offer our technology and the value that we deliver to people. As part of that, what we’ve released as a product called Genesis Pro, which is the blog post you were referencing. So in the future state, we’ll have Genesis just as a plugin and then Genesis pro, which will be the premium offering. What Genesis Pro includes today is a ton of pre design blocks, section layouts, and page layouts. Now that doesn’t sound too awesome, but let me explain what these things are. It’s basically a toolkit right at your fingertips for building custom sites, for building sites faster. So we talked about one click theme setup that loads a bunch of blocks, and a bunch of layouts, and pages and things like that all in one go. Genesis Pro basically does a similar thing, but it gives you all the bits and pieces of all that and basically gives you a library of things to be able to build a site faster. David Vogelpohl: So you might have a contact S block, you might have a portfolio, entire page section for many blocks. And all of these blocks, all of these sections, all of these pages of demo content are completely configurable without using code. You can still use code. If you’re a CSS nerd and you want to go do some stuff, no problem. You can do all that. Of course, you can still add your own custom content, custom plugins, things along those lines. But Genesis Pro provides all of the block library capabilities if you will right there at your fingertips. David Vogelpohl: The other feature it adds, which I love because people have to do this by hand today, is it adds the ability to control what those content creators are able to edit. You can choose any color you want as long as it’s these five colors, and that’s actually huge, huge, huge for agencies and freelancers that don’t want their clients ruining the site they built for them. And then certainly brands that have brand guidelines, you can’t. WP Engine site operates like this. I can edit web pages. I don’t personally manage the WP Engine website as you can imagine, but I do go in there of course to create content sometimes and I can choose any color I want as long as it’s those five colors. Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. That is super cool. Wow. Well if you’re listening to this in your earbuds as a podcast, do a Google search for LMScast. And we actually have a website where the podcast comes from and on there, there’ll be a link where you can click on and go find out more about WP Engine site templates. And if you’re watching this on YouTube, Facebook, wherever, there’s a link somewhere around or below this video. David, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you for putting your WP Engine trust in Lifter to collaborate on this. And really going back to our talking about putting the customer, which in this case is the course creator, the training based membership site creator, at the center and innovating together to move the starting line forward, I am so excited that this is happening. Chris Badgett: Because I feel like this is all like what we … what we do is we remove friction and I love seeing this as a giant step forward in that. So thank you to you and WP Engine for doing that. And thank you for taking us to school today. It was fun to nerd out for everybody out there, whether you are starting and just doing it on your own, you’re switching from a proprietary platform or you are a freelancer agency who builds sites for clients. This is a great innovation, a great step forward. Thank you for the conversation today. Any final words for the people and how else can people connect with you? David Vogelpohl: Yeah, absolutely. If you want to hit me up on Twitter, my Twitter handle is @WPDavidV and Chris, I just want to thank you for your partnership. I think for us to be able to have a partner we can rely on and trust to help our customers get their learning management sites online faster, that’s a great value to us and really, really appreciate your partnership here. Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, thank you David. And we will see around hopefully at a WordCamp soon. David Vogelpohl: Awesome. Thanks Chris. Chris Badgett: And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMScast. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I hope you enjoyed the show. This show was brought to you by LifterLMS, the number one tool for creating, selling, and protecting engaging online courses to help you get more revenue, freedom, and impact in your life. Head on over to LifterLMS.com and get the best gear for your course creator journey. Let’s build the most engaging, results getting courses on the internet. The post Managed WordPress Hosting Company WP Engine Meets Accelerating Need for Digital Education Experiences by Releasing LMS Site Templates in Partnership with LifterLMS appeared first on LMScast - LifterLMS Podcast.
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