Robby McCullough is a California native and a co-founder of Beaver Builder, a drag-and-drop website builder for WordPress. Robby enjoys fishing, hiking, and a good cup of coffee. You can find him in person on the mountain bike trails or virtually on Twitter.
We spoke with Robby about page builders, their benefits, how photographers can use them and so much more!
WordPress/Photography Related News:
- WordPress 4.5.3 Maintenance and Security Release addresses some image file naming security issues.
- NextGEN Gallery 2.1.44 is released with Yoast SEO integration for images included in sitemaps.
- Google will now let you know if your site has been hacked.
- Dambuster for Genesis
- Is WordPress a Good Squarespace Alternative?
- Offline compression for your photos
Where to find Robby:
Scott: Welcome to episode 18. My name is Scott Wyden Kivowitz and I'm joined by my co-host Rachel from FotoSkribe. Hey Rachel.
Rachel: Hey Scott. How are you?
Scott: I'm doing well. I'm really excited about today's topic. Or, today's guest in general because the company that he works for, the products that he makes are something that we are hearing more and more about in the photography industry. It's actually solving an issue that a lot of photographers have and why they're going to, or why they've been using services like Squarespace. They're making it easy for photographers who are used to Squarespace to switch to WordPress and have something that they're used to, have something familiar. I'm really excited. Today, we're actually talking to Robby McCullough from Beaver Builder. Robby is a California native and co-founder of Beaver Builder, which is a drag and drop website builder for WordPress. Robby enjoys fishing, hiking and a good cup of coffee. You can find him in person on the mountain bike trails, or, virtually, on Twitter. Welcome Robby. We're really excited to have you here.
Rachel: Yes. Welcome. I'm really excited too because I think this is going to be a discussion where we talk about Squarespace a lot, we talk about drag and drop builders a lot. These are sort of the culminations, culumate ... whatever, for all of those topics that always seemed to get mentioned and we're always like, "Well, we don't really have a great solution." I think you guys do have a really great solution.
Robby: Thanks, guys. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here too. I know what, I feel like Beaver Builder kind of bridges a gap between those two different fields of the Squarespaces and the hosted builders and the WordPresses.
Scott: Before we get into what's going on with you and Beaver Builder, let's did into the WordPress photography-related news. We've got three items today. First one being, WordPress 4.5.3 was released since our last episode. That is a maintenance and security release that actually has, in addition to security, there's actually image file naming issues related to security that have been patched. It's a minor release, but it's an important one. Please run your backups and then run your updates, just to protect yourself.
Rachel: What did it patch in terms of ...
Scott: I think there was 12 or so different fixes in it. Specifically, it was the security issue with the file naming is that you could put in some sort of hack attempt in the file name. If exploited, if found and exploited, it could potentially ruin your site.
Scott: I don't know the details on it, per se. All I know is ...
Robby: As WordPress core gets more and more secure and better, it seems like the vulnerabilities that come out just get more and more obscure.
Rachel: Yes. I was just thinking that too.
Robby: We all know our, what is it, XSS and remote file inclusions and those kind of really nasty bugs that you hear about. When you read the WordPress patch notes, it's all these really, really deep and technical one-off kind of scenarios. More power to them for finding all those and getting them fixed.
Scott: A lot of them that come out too, are ones where, not only are they super rare, but, a lot of them you need admin credentials even to exploit it. Yes, it's good that they're patching things. A lot of the security issues that come out really you don't have to worry about it unless you've got a super weak password.
Rachel: This is what I was thinking too. What we tell photographers is to rename your images so that they show up in the Google image search and you get the keyword juice. To hear like, an image name security vulnerability that's just so obscure, like you were saying. I guess it's another reiteration for photographers that before you upload them into WordPress, make sure that you are renaming them so that you get the keyword juice and you would avoid situations like this where there are potential security things. Rename your images and upload the latest WordPress.
Scott: The next thing, it's a little bit on the imaging side, but it's actually huge for the WordPress community in general. Being that NextGen Gallery has so many users, well over a million users, this news is huge for the WordPress community. Basically, we decided to, as sort of a last minute, due to the nature of something else we had to do with integration with the [inaudible 00:05:15] we wound up doing full integration with the [inaudible 00:05:18] for images used in NextGen galleries for the site map. If you used NextGen Gallery and you're using [inaudible 00:05:28], your images on post and pages will automatically be included in the site map, which is really good for SEO. That's a huge one. Shockingly, it took our developer like five minutes to integrate it. I was so happy when he said he was done.
Robby: Those are always great features. The ones that you're not quite sure you're getting yourself into, then you jump into the code and have one of those aha moments. It's like, "I can do this like that."
Rachel: And huge for photographers because those images are what you're selling. Making sure that they're being seen for SEO and being seen by Google Image Searches are huge. That's awesome.
Robby: The last bit is not WordPress specific, but website specific. Basically, Google will now let you know when you're website, if you're website and when your website has been hacked. If your website happens to be hacked and you are already connected with Google Search Console, I don't recall from the article, I'll have to go back. Basically, and we'll link to this in the show notes. Basically, if you're connected, your site's connected to Search Console, you will be alerted via email if your website is hacked, which means you can then go in and figure out how to get rid of the hack or hire a company like Security, to solve the hack for you.
Rachel: I think a lot of people that I talk to that are smaller photographers are saying, "Well, why would my page get hacked? Who am I?" The fact that you're on WordPress or on even other platforms, you're a target because you're out on the web. Making sure that you have a backup, making sure that you have good passwords. Then, knowing this is great because I've had a lot of clients come to me and be like, "I think I'm hacked because things are acting weird but I don't know." It's like, "No. You definitely are for sure." This will tell you so then you can go and be proactive. I think it's great.
Robby: It definitely is. Here's a good case on this. An Imagely ambassador, I won't say who, we migrated their site, or multiple sites over to our hosting. While doing the migration, we noticed that every site on their shared host, which they were moving from, was hacked. They did not know it was hacked, but it was. That meant that every site of theirs that we are moving over to the Imagely hosting platform had to be cleaned of the hack. Without an alert, they had no idea. There are plugins that do this as well, for example, Word Fence will email you if there's a vulnerable file on your server that they didn't use at the time. Now they do. They didn't at the time and they had no idea.
Rachel: Even Word Fence, if you install it after the hack has been done ...
Robby: You can scan. It will scan.
Rachel: I know, but, we talked about this, there're vulnerabilities that can be missed. Obviously, we're talking like worse case scenario. Just to know. Just know Google, with all their power is behind you, I think it's good.
Robby: So nice that they're sending the communication to you, the web master, now. Before I'm sure, it was always a nightmare. You'd see like one of those red screens. You access the sites through Google, and they'd send you to that like horrible, frightening warning page. Instead of telling you, the person who could fix it, they just kind of scared all of your potential customers, visitors, users away.
Rachel: I wonder too, especially with the shared hosting, does Google alert the host too? This is just another reason for the managed hosting too. You need to be able to trust where your servers are living and who's maintaining them. As photographers and small business owners, that's not your main point of business, to support these servers. Your paying for someone to support them. You get what you pay for in some of these cases.
Scott: Yes. That's for sure. Robby, what's going on in your world? What's going on with Beaver Builder? Tell us what's new.
Robby: I just got back from, let's see, I left on, it's Tuesday today. I left on Wednesday last week to a music festival, kind of camping trip up in the mountains. I'm just kind of getting back into the grind of regular life today. This trip, I do it every year. It's kind of my annual disconnect. I turn off my phone and leave it in my tent and try to go a few days without checking in with emails and Facebook, fantasy baseball and all that stuff. That was really nice. It's a little bit of like, I'm kind of decompressing and getting back into the groove, which is a bit of an adjustment today. I'm glad we did the WordPress news first because I needed to be caught up. I have catching up to do on my Twitter and my RSS Feed and all that.
Scott: What was the concert and which was your favorite band that played?
Robby: The festival's called High Sierra. It's the High Sierra Music Festival. My favorite band is going to be a really, really tough one. There's music all day for four days, starting from 11:00 in the afternoon and it goes all the way until like, gosh, sometimes 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. Probably over 50, maybe even close to 100 bands. There was one band and I believe they were called, their name was Rite, R-I-T-E. They were really young. It made me realize how old I was getting seeing them up there. They just looked like a bunch of fresh-faced kids. They had a really cool style. They were a really tight band. Really good music. Their lead singer, he was just such a baby-faced young kid. He was just owning the crowd and working it so well. It looked like he'd been doing it for 40 years. That one was really cool. I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of them as they progress and come along.
Scott: I always hear there is such a big correlation between music and coding. Do you think that that's true?
Robby: Yes. Helen [inaudible 00:11:51], I believe that's how you say it. I'm not really sure how to pronounce her last name. It's one of the one's I see written all of the time. She had a really great talk about her experience with, being as a musician and studying music and practicing music and how that kind of set the foundation for her when she moved into coding. She went over a lot of like her, the similarities that she experienced.
I've been playing guitar since I've been a kid, never in a band. It was always a kind of a hobby. There are definitely some similarities I think in how you approach getting better. Learning an instrument forces you to realize that you can't just sit down and spend six hours. It's a long play. You can never write a novel in a day. I was always really impatient when I was young. I wanted things when I wanted them. If I wanted to be able to do something, I just wanted to be able to do it. Things like writing code, or just learning a big system like WordPress or a new programming language. Music is a language. As much as you want to be able to do it in a snap of a finger, you kind of have to pace yourself.
Rachel: It's interesting because there's not a lot of photographers who do coding and I think, but there's a lot of musicians who do coding. I think that thinking of the visual versus auditory versus organizational, there's definitely correlations there. Going back to what is Beaver Builder? To a photographer listening, who are you? What does the company do? What services would a photographer want from what you guys do?
Robby: Beaver Builder is a page builder for WordPress, or, you could call it a website builder. It's a tool that lets you design a web page visually by dragging and dropping elements around on a page. We mentioned Squarespace earlier. It's similar. Squarespace also has a visual, or what you see is what you get, editor. Then, there have been of course, like, Dreamweaver and FrontPage and some software suites in the past and present that do that as well.
Rachel: All really technical, though. I mean, minus Squarespace, but like the Dreamweaver stuff.
Robby: Yes. Varying degree ... It's funny because we experience, there's a lot of people in the WordPress community and even just outside in general that have this real kind of stigma and distaste for page builders, like it's cheating or they'll kind of be like, people have a really, a strong dislike for them. It's not just like, "Oh, yeah. It's not something I care for or I prefer. I hate this whole idea and everything about it." I think a lot of that bad stigma comes back to some of those Dreamweavers and the FrontPages which were extremely technical, extremely hard to use.
Scott: I think that opinion is also more on the side of the developers. We see that all the time when people in the WordPress community talk about NextGen Gallery compared to some other gallery plugins. Most of the bad public feedback we get is from developers, not from the actual users.
Robby: There's this huge chasm between a developer and a user. Especially a visual user like a photographer. All the photographers that I talk to are like, "I wish WordPress had more of these drag and drop options." They even say, "WordPress doesn't do what I want it to do," because they don't even know about the drag and drop options. I think as the technology gets better and more companies like you come out, that's where the photographers want to go. Then, I pose that question to the developers and that's where I hear that sentiment. Like, "Oh, I hate it. I hate it." Me, as not a coder, I'm like, "Dude, I love it."
Scott: I think it's important for us to really break down, as simple as possible, what a page builder is. I think, to me, the way to explain it is, you've got this, imagine this empty canvas of content area. You've got this white screen that you could add whatever you want to it. It's a blank canvas. Literally, you have a brush and a blank canvas. You can take these little element, or, what are they called in Beaver Builder?
Robby: We call them modules.
Scott: You can take a module of a video. A module that plays a video and you can drag it, really, wherever you want, to a degree, wherever you want in that blank canvas. You can set up how many columns. You can set up how wide things are. You can basically design the page however you want without knowing a lick of code, just by dragging and dropping different modules.
Rachel: I think that that's the key too, for, again, going back to the visual artists like photographers, columns are really hard to code. You can drag a video in and it will be left aligned and it won't have any styling unless you add the styling in CSS or HTML, if you know that stuff. Themes have some capabilities, but if there's not that visual drag and drop, testing it and going back and forth, that in and of itself is a full time job. Who's got time for that when you're running a business?
Scott: We know that so many photographers are moving from Squarespace to WordPress. We see it all the time. In fact, we've talked about, with Anna Solon, we've talked about me doing her migration and how cumbersome it is to move from Squarespace to WordPress, but why it's so valuable. Robby, what are the advantages of using Beaver Builder when somebody moves? What's the advantage of using for Squarespace people moving over to WordPress? What is so important for them? What is the best reason for them to go with Beaver Builder?
Robby: It's a good question. Particularly, if you've decided that you wanted to move to WordPress. If you're on the Squarespace, or something similar and you've decided that you wanted to move over to WordPress, not counting the factors that go into that decision. There's a lot of tools out there. Similar tools for WordPress or even off the WordPress. Visual builders, ways to build a website. Specific to Beaver Builder, when we started our goal or mission or philosophy was to build a user interface that was simple and that was easy to jump in and get in and start using. As we've progressed and grown, that's been one of our core, mission doesn't feel like the right word. One of the kind of core like philosophies that we use when we're guiding the direction that we want Beaver Builder to take. We've also gotten this feedback from our community that we're successfully to a degree doing that. As far as which tool on WordPress do you want to use, we like to think that we're one of the simpler ones and we're one of the easier options to jump in. The learning curve is much, much smaller.
There's also the question of moving from Squarespace to WordPress, too. There're all those decisions of what benefits do you gain. I think, obviously, the combo of Beaver Builder and WordPress provides a ton of value and potential scalability that you just don't get with Squarespace or other hosted builders.
Scott: Yes. That's what I was going to go with. More on the general WordPress side. There's so many benefits. We've talked about this in previous episodes. I do think that for photographers that are in process of moving to Squarespace or have already moved, from Squarespace to WordPress, I mean, if you like the builder, the drag and drop system that Squarespace offers, there are tons of page builders out there now. There's many, many advantages of Beaver Builder. For example, Beaver Builder comes as a theme and a plugin. The Beaver Builder plugin is not actually built into the theme. Beaver Builder actually has their own theme that works well with their plugin. The Beaver Builder plugin itself can be used on pretty much every theme.
Rachel: That was going to be my next question too. Is it theme specific so you can install this like a framework and then choose a different theme if you want?
Robby: Correct. Yes. A lot of people that have had experience with page builders in WordPress were coming from, like maybe they bought a theme from Theme Forest that included a page builder bundled in. You see that all the time. We took a different approach, where we started with the page, the theme, I don't want to say as an afterthought, but we started building the page builder plugin. That was our initial project that turned into Beaver Builder. Then, once we had that, we realized that we also wanted to have a theme. The goal for us, we built Beaver Builder when we were doing client services. We're a web design agency. We were doing a lot of work for photographers, actually.
What we'd often do is send potential clients to a site like Theme Forest and say, "Hey. Pick out a design that you like, and we'll implement that." The problem we were having is everyone would choose the theme that they liked from the aesthetic standpoint, but then we jumped into the code and actually tried to work with it, some of them were just nightmares. Some of them were easier to work with. Each time it was like a learning curve. We wanted to have a consistent code base and then a consistent way to put content together on a page that we could reuse.
Scott: Speaking of reusing content, here's a cool think about Beaver Builder that I think photographers need to know that this exists. One of the nice things that you guys did was you built in templates so that I can go ahead, I can create a new page and say, "I want this page to look like this type of thing. A sales page that has a pricing grid that I can put my pricing options for different packages." Literally, with two clicks, three clicks, use template, pick the template and then use template again. That confirms that you're using the template. I now have, within three clicks, a page design using the page builder I didn't have to do any dragging and dropping for this design, using a template that you guys built, that you designed. That's a beautiful option that I think photographers need to know exists and how easy it is to use.
When you talk about picking a theme versus picking, finding something that just has the designs that you need for different things, yes a theme can handle overall, a theme could probably handle 70% of what you're trying to do, as far as the look of your site goes. There are certain plugins that you might need to handle the rest. Like, creating a landing page for a specific service or product you're trying to sell. That's where Beaver Builder could really come in handy, in addition to just everyday content. Anything you want to add about templates? I think it's a really neat topic.
Robby: Yes. It's an interesting dynamic to wrap your head around. I think, especially if you're not familiar with that WordPress theme, the breakdown of your theme, your content and how those two play with each other. In a really super simplistic way to look at it is like your theme is your visual, fonts and colors are the two kind of big things I think I would associate with a theme. The colors and the layout and the font that your website has come from your theme. You content is more or less everything else. The text on the page. The buttons. The videos. The galleries. Everything of that nature. We have content templates in that sense. If you know that you want to create a landing page for a small business or a portfolio page to show off your photography or whatever you decide the content of the page should be, we have the pre-made templates made that you can select and use as like a starting place. The easy example if you're doing a photography portfolio, you load up our template and then swap out our stock placeholder images with your own.
Rachel: Which is always, I mean, again, faced with, you're a new photographer, you have these beautiful images. How do you translate into something that can be a revenue stream? Your website is your storefront. This just gives you some of those, I mean a template, that's what they are and a starting place to start from and put your own image, your own spin on it. Now, so you had sort of mentioned that you worked with photographers before, or you did when you guys were a media agency. Can you talk a little bit more about that relationship and how that helped you to grow into what you are now?
Scott: Absolutely. Let's see. I started working at Fastline. I met my two partners now, Justin and Billy through a Craigslist ad. We have kind of like a fun story. I decided one day I needed to get a real job. I was working at a YMCA doing membership sales and stuff. I was trolling Craigslist. I put a [inaudible 00:26:06] together. Long story short, met Justin and Billy. They were doing Fastline Media, which is the design agency. One of our, at the time, were were one of SmugMug's recommended customizers. If you're not familiar, SmugMug is a hosted platform for photographers. Kind of similar to Squarespace, but it specifically caters to professional photographers. One of the things that, we were kind of at the top of the list. If you wanted someone to build your SmugMug site, they would refer you to us.
What we were doing a lot of was integrating SmugMug sites with WordPress blogs. For a long time, you can do this now, but for a long time you couldn't have a blog on the SmugMug site. We would build out the photography portion of your website on SmugMug and then we would build a WordPress site. We would match the styles so they looked and felt like they were part of the same system. That was really where, at least for me personally, I'd been familiar with WordPress, but that was where I really kind of cut my teeth and started working with WordPress a lot, was in that context of building blogs that interfaced with SmugMug websites.
Rachel: I need to interrupt you for a second because I think there's a lot of photographers that still do that, that have a separate website and a separate WordPress blog. I'm sure where your stories going, but the technology now is that WordPress, as a content management system can have it all and you don't necessarily need to have both. Although, having SmugMug, again, as a beginnings place and then moving to WordPress 100% is a good way to do it as you grow. I just wanted to make that point. Continue.
Scott: No. That's absolutely correct. That's probably one of the reasons we're not really doing that work really. That work started going, started phasing out. We started just doing more and more generic WordPress websites. Even just in the last, like, maybe three or four years, what's become available on the WordPress platform in terms of eCommerce and being able to sell, in this case your photography, just eCommerce in general and then the quality of plugins like NextGen gallery and some of the things that are specific to photographers, is just phenomenal how much it's progressed since we were doing that.
Scott: Are you guys, first of all, you probably don't remember and actually I was talking to Rachel about this earlier, you probably don't remember, but I was a customer. When I was on SmugMug, you guys actually matched my SmugMug to my WordPress site.
Robby: I personally don't think I worked on that one. I knew there was some third degree of separation thing going on amongst us. Yes. That's really cool. How did that workout? We'll talk about that off air. I hope that worked out well for you. I hope that was a good experience.
Scott: That's what got me, that's what got Fastline Media on the map in my radar years ago. I just kept you guys on my radar for a while, watching what you guys were doing and then, bam, Beaver Builder came out. I'm curious, are you guys working on any tool for photographers to easily migrate from SmugMug to WordPress? We know that Beaver Builder can handle the layout that photographers might already have on the SmugMug site, or Squarespace site, but are you working on any tools to do any automated migrations from their platform to your platform and your page builder?
Robby: Yes. I wish I had a better answer. It's on our wishlist. I think we were talking about this too, Scott. The other idea, there's other hosted builders out there too. Similar, kind of how WordPress has that import tool where you can import your blog from Tumblr or, what was it, Blogger, or whatever, any of the other competing platforms. We would love to have something like that with Beaver Builder. That would be amazing if you could just, with a couple of clicks, import over your SmugMug site, your Squarespace site. Just have it ready to go. Unfortunately, we're not, it's just an idea at this point. It's nothing that we're committed to working on.
Scott: It's a pretty big project if you guys [inaudible 00:30:37].
Rachel: Is Squarespace, and maybe this question is for Scott, we've examined the Squarespace and WordPress conversion pretty much in depth and we talked about it on our episode with Anna. Is a SmugMug to a 100% WordPress conversion labor intensive like the Squarespace, or is it an easier migration just in general?
Scott: I think a SmugMug to WordPress would be more different because there're no export files. There's no starting point. You'd have to do an actual site scrape, most likely, which is a time consuming [inaudible 00:31:12].
Robby: Out of curiosity, and you might not know the answer because I haven't done this. I wish I were more familiar with this. If you're exporting off of Squarespace, how do they handle images specifically because I know you can get [crosstalk 00:31:23] Okay.
Scott: That's the big issue. The images.
Robby: SmugMug would let you take a dump of all of your photos and just pack it into a zip file and send it out for you. Although, I guess, not being a photographer, I imagine you guys all have your backups, and you have all those photos somewhere else other than SmugMug, right?
Rachel: You know, I hear that a lot, "Oh, you have a backup of your site," or "You have a backup of the gallery images." When you start out as a photographer, you upload a set. Then, as you grow as a photographer and you get client work, your style changes rather rapidly I think, in those first two or three years. Again, this is a generic statement. This is not for, it's a blanket statement. Not for everybody, per se. The images that you have in that initial gallery versus when you're ready to move on to a different set, may be different images anyway. Going back and finding those initial images, I know I've handled client migrations where they're like, "That was three years ago. I don't have those." They weren't necessarily client files, they were more of like style live shoots and just images for the website.
They may want to capture one or two of those. Going back and finding them is always difficult if you can't just pull from one website to the next. That's the argument for WordPress in general, right? Content Management System means all of your content is there and you can put new plugins. You can put new themes. You can change the style of it and not have to worry about losing a specific image file like you would if you're transitioning from SmugMug to WordPress or Squarespace to WordPress.
Scott: I can tell you that a lot of photographers that moved from, that I've seen firsthand, that moved from SmugMug to WordPress, fully, to handle their images, most photographers, I would say 95% of the ones that I've seen are using the SmugMug Lightroom plugin. That means they have the collections in collection sets already in Lightroom. They can literally take the NextGen Gallery plugin from Lightroom and do the same thing and just copy, move their collection from one publishing service to the other and hit publish and then, now the galleries are still on their own website instead of SmugMug.
Rachel: That's great.
Scott: SmugMug, if you use the Lightroom plugin, it's real easy to move those. If you're not using the Lightroom plugin, you'd have to do what Robby was saying, do the dump of the zip of all your images. SmugMug takes raw files. Your talking that's a pretty big zip, depending on how many images. There's no content export, so you'd have to do that manually, or hire somebody to do a scrape. A scrape meaning basically an automated [inaudible 00:34:17]. Navigate to the site fully and copies all the text and outputs to an HTML file. On Squarespace, you can do an export of the text content. This is not including any eCommerce that you do on Squarespace. The images are still culled from Squarespace.
There are a bunch of import from external images plugins that are supposed to take it from Squarespace import it to WordPress site. None of them work. I have two that, one that Flow Themes made that they sent over to me after we had them on a call, or on the podcast. I haven't had a chance to test that, because I haven't had a migration to do. Then, I have another one that somebody else sent me that, I would try both. If one of them worked, great. Then it's a lot easier to migrate from Squarespace. Without that ...
Rachel: I guess, in all of this discussion, I interrupted you, but you were telling us how you met with your co-founders. You were sort of an agency working SmugMug with photographers. Tell us how you got from that journey, which a lot of photographers kind of went through with you when they started on SmugMug and then now they're going to WordPress 100%. How did you move from that kind of company to what you are today?
Robby: Okay yes.
Robby: No. No. No. I'm trying to gather my thoughts here. No, I didn't feel interrupted at all, either. Not a problem. One just last point, it was on the tip of my tongue. As far as the migration thing goes, if you're just moving what you have from one place to another it's going to be a lot easier than if you want to use that as an opportunity to restructure and reorganize things, which I think a lot of people do. You mentioned in the first year or two you're kind of developing your style or even just the way your organize your work and the way you present it to people. These things change as you progress. Then, I think when a lot of pe redesign their site it's not just because they want to get onto WordPress, it's because they have some other underlying issue or problem that they're trying to solve. It's really kind of like a personalized thing. It's hard to say.
Anyways, going back. We're doing client services. Beaver Builder, both the page builder and the theme, the whole thing started as a side project. Like I mentioned, we were working with a client that wanted us to use a page builder to build their website. They had a theme that they liked that included a builder. Instead of coding it out by hand, they specifically asked us to use the builder to make the site so that they could then go in after we were done and take control of it. Make their own changes, update their photos, update their headings. We did that. We delivered the site. It was just like this really nice process. We were able to build the site a lot faster than we originally thought we could, using the page builder tool. We had that developer stigma where we assumed that doing it by hand was the only way and that anything else was going to get in the way of our process. We had a little kind of like an aha moment where like, "Hey, maybe this is like a good ..." That was the one part.
The second part was the client was thrilled with the site. They kept writing us emails. Instead of being like, "Hey. You guys. Can you change this picture for me. I updated my headshot. The date in my copyright needs to be updated, it's 2015 now." He sent us an email being like, "Hey, look. Check out what this change I made on my website. This is working really well. I didn't have to bug you. Look, I changed my photo. I changed my heading." Our client was happy. We were happy. The only issue we had was that we hated the page builder that we had to use. It was not on the front end. Even though we were surprised that we were able to build a site with it, it was still really clunky. Not a nice experience.
We decided we wanted to start using page builders in our work. We did an exhaustive search of everything out there and just didn't find what we were looking for. We kind of started building our own.
Rachel: That's awesome.
Scott: Scratching your client's itches.
Rachel: Yes. I think that's the journey. Like you said, where photographers are on where they start at one place. They move over to WordPress. They have a relationship with somebody, a theme developer, somebody. Then they have to maintain it too. How do you maintain it? Again, just changing the copyright issue every year. How do you do that? I think that's why we're definitely advocates of page builders. If it's built correctly.
Scott: Speaking of that. I have two questions that I know the answer to. These are two questions that so many photographers bring up every time I'm discussing page builders with them. Question number one, what happens if I change themes? I'm currently using, I buy the Beaver Builder package that comes with a theme and plugin. I'm using the Beaver Builder theme and then, two years later, I'm like, "You know, I want a different design for the layout and the font and the colors and what not. What you talked about earlier. I want to change. I want to go to an Imagely theme, which is based on Genesis." Now, a very different framework. What happens to the page builder content when I change themes?
Robby: All right. I appreciate the slow pitch right over the plate. [crosstalk 00:39:43] You can do that with Beaver Builder. This is almost like, not a happy accident, but this was something that as we were building Beaver Builder, we realized that there was a lot more to this particular piece than we'd originally thought. Separating out the theme from the page builder allows you to separate your content from the style. You can build out your content. Let's just use a portfolio of images, again, as an example. You have a grid of images. Maybe you have an introduction text at the top. Maybe you have a call to action at the bottom. Something of that sort. You can build all that in Beaver Builder. Then, your theme will control the style of that page. The color of the heading and the font that's used and the font size and all that. Then, if you change themes, if you built that page with Beaver Builder, all of the images and the headings, all that stays the same. It's just the style gets picked up from the new theme.
Rachel: That's huge. If you build it in the theme and a page builder built into a theme, which I have done, moving it over is not only putting a new theme on but then, rebuilding that content, copying and pasting it out. You lose the content management part of WordPress. It's there somewhere. Again, and it's a growing process. As WordPress grows and as the themes grow and as plugins grow and they all sort of grow together, but not together, this is where you can get lost a little bit, not knowing that background stuff.
Scott: One thing notable is, if you're going to a Genesis theme, there's a plugin that should really be installed called Genesis Dambuster. Yes, Beaver Builder, Dambuster. That just goes to show you the WordPress community has a good sense of humor when they're developing extensions for other things. Dambuster basically, Genesis themes typically have a specified content area. Let's say it's specified to 900 pixels wide, or it's a percentage of your screen width. What Dambuster does is it gives you the option to remove that and make it full width. Which, in some cases, depending on the design you are going for with the page builder, you can utilize the full width by just turning on the Dambuster for that page. In Imagely themes we actually have a full width page template, so you don't need it. In some Genesis page themes you actually do need to use the Dambuster plugin. That's completely free in the WordPress directory.
Rachel: Actually that's medium tech, geek talk. A beginner listening to this or someone who really is code phobic would say, "What?" Then, someone who is very, very developer would obviously have a different way to do that too. That's like medium level. Nothing else works. You're not hiring someone. There are those solutions out there too.
Scott: The second question I have that I already know the answer to is, what happens if I disable Beaver Builder, for whatever reason? What happens if I disable the plugin? What happens to all that content that I created in the page builder?
Robby: Historically, it would be good to mention that with a lot of the other page builder solutions out there, what will happen if you disable them is most of them use some form of short code or proprietary short code to format their content. You build out the page and then, if you disable the page builder, you end up with just a bunch of short codes that aren't being rendered anymore. All of your, it basically, in short, it makes your content unreadable and unusable. What we do with Beaver Builder is we port all of your text and your images back into the WordPress editor. You'll lose the columns.
We have a few specific modules, like a slideshow module, we can't port a slideshow back into WordPress without having some kind of other plugin. Anything we can port back to WordPress, we port it back in there. The content, it's very easy to access it again, copy, paste it. You don't have to strip out all those short codes. Worse case too, if you're nephew gets in there and disables the page builder when you're on vacation, your Google SEO ranking and content isn't going to be affected. It's still going to be rendered on the page. It's just not going to look quite as nice. It doesn't get all jarbled up.
Rachel: Does that happen automatically? You disable the plugins in plugins area, and it just happens as part of the disable process? That's awesome.
Robby: Yes. Behind the scenes it's kind of a cool, it was too bad my partner Justin, he's our lead developer. He would have liked to be on here. He can get really into it.
Rachel: Technical, right?
Rachel: We have both that audience.
Robby: It all happens behind the scenes anyway. All that content is there. I think it stores post-meta. It's all just kind of sitting there waiting, just in case. You disable the builder that's just kind of like ...
Rachel: That's huge. A lot of page builders ... You could say, "Oh, this episode is a big giant advertisement." Beaver Builder has a connection to the photography community. We actually, Scott and I both enjoyed the article that was Squarespace versus WordPress. It has a lot of good points. I think that will be in our show notes. There are other plugins. There are other themes. Beaver Builder has kind of thought through some of these things. For our audience, which is photographers who don't necessarily have high developer level of code, you've sort of thought through the options to help build a site without worrying about those teeny details that short codes make it easier, but they could make a huge difference later on, three years down the line, when you're changing your website for another reason. Then you're dead in the water in a lot of ways.
Scott: Short codes are good for certain things. For certain plugins to use. It's not good when the majority of your content is built on short codes. This sort of leads into one last question I have before I move into recommended plugins or themes. Do you have in the works, or do you have a tool right now, for anybody that's using a page builder that uses short codes that is not built to the best that it can be, that wants to move to Beaver Builder. Do you have something available to just do a quick conversion for people?
Robby: Yes. It's the same, unfortunately it's the same answer to the last migration question. It's something in the works. Real quick step back too, before I forget. Thank you guys too for the kind words. I really appreciate that. I don't want this to come off like an advertisement either. We built this tool. It's been a really awesome experience for us, seeing people using it and hearing the testimonials from people that are saying, "This really helped my business. It helped me earn more or do what I want to do. This is been something that's helped me. Thank you." That's like, we're here to make a living and do all that stuff too. At the end of the day, that's the part that really gets us up in the morning, is building something that's helping make, whatever your business is online, make it easier. Then, yes. Unfortunately, no migration tool yet. Especially after this conversation, definitely get to the drawing board and do some sketching or whatever. Whatever that process looks like.
Rachel: Awesome. I think we're ready to move. We always ask guests recommended WordPress plugin or theme, not your own and not Yoast SEO. We talked about that 800,000 times.
Robby: Yes. I was trying to come up with something really, really good and related to photography and I just totally drew a blank. I came up with two. One is, it's not a WordPress specific, but it's ImageOptim. It's image compression software. I think it's only OS; there's got to be a port for Windows at this point.
Scott: Yes. There's a server side one too. They've got all of that.
Robby: Yes. Exactly. It's a loss-less compression engine. Then, as a photographer, when I'm building a website as a web designer, I don't care about any of the meta data, images. I don't care about any of that stuff that's going on behind the scenes. I just want the image to show up on the page. If you're uploading your photos, this might not be the best tool. What this software does is it lets you strip out all of that extra data, and it compresses the file. In some cases, it compresses it a lot, like 25%-30% I've seen at times. It's completely loss-less. You don't lose any of your quality.
Scott: In fact, last week, I think on Thursday, I just reported an article on the Imagely blog about image option and jpeg meaning and how you should use, for photographers, at least, you should do off light compression and not use a plugin to compress your images.
Rachel: My follow-up question was going to be, is there levels, because we do want some meta data to come through. Google does allow, they say they do, they haven't really released what meta data they pull from.
Scott: ImageOptim allows you to uncheck the option to strip the meta data. You can leave it all in there.
Robby: That's cool. That's good to know. I actually didn't know that. I imagine, from the perspective of a photographer, there's a lot more involved in that decision.
Rachel: It's hard because photographers don't know it either. You have a web designer who, how do you have that conversation with ... Squarespace is where we actually discovered it. Squarespace, by default, turns off the import meta data option. Not only do they strip the file name, when you upload it. When you upload Boston Wedding Photographer, dash, you rename your images for SEO, those things automatically go in the alt tags. You can change the alt tags, but you don't have to. Squarespace, when you rename it, before you upload it, they strip it totally and turn it into a Squarespace image. Which, again, you can go in and change manually, but WordPress takes that step out so you don't have to. Then, Squarespace has a default setting in the advanced. I actually wrote a blog on PhotoScribe and Scott wrote a blog for Imagely, both about the subject. When you take out that meta data and you're not telling photographers that you do, you're allowing them for, you're not allowing them to have whatever meta data they choose to keep in through light room and such, to be found.
Scott: Like a copyright.
Rachel: Right. Which is big.
Robby: Just that little, you know.
Scott: Nothing important. Nothing important.
Robby: I know we're running out of time. Can I tell a really quick story?
Scott: Yes. Please go ahead.
Robby: I swear this is gong to be super fast. I mentioned at the beginning of the show that I'm a pretty avid fisherman. I used to visit this fishing forum, where everyone would take pictures of their fish. They would blur out the background so that other people wouldn't know their secret spot. I realized you could pull the picture off. Most of them were done with an Android or an Iphone, and pop up the meta data and find the gps coordinates. It used to be one of my favorite ways to find secret fishing spots. Data is important is the moral of the story. I can understand it.
Scott: That's so funny. I think it was my friend, Brian Matiash, a couple of years ago, did a post on Facebook or something about how he was looking, he wanted to photograph this one spot somewhere he was about to travel to. A photographer that took a photo from that spot wouldn't give him the info. That photographer didn't realize that he geo-tagged it.
Rachel: He found it. Yes. These cameras have all these settings. The opposite, in today's Pinterest world. Say, a wedding image goes totally viral and gets re-tweeted a million times. This meta data can get stripped. Unless you have like a little teeny watermark or some kind of meta data saving function on, say Squarespace strips it, they won't be able to come back and find you as the photographer. It can work in both cases. They can find you, and they can not find you from it. It's really important as part of displaying your images and how you display them on the web.
Rachel: That's a geek interlude.
Robby: I think I saw that too, but I don't remember the other one. Let's just leave it at ImageOptim.
Scott: I'll make sure I link to, I'm going to make a note to myself to link to the offline compression article. That goes well with it. It's a really good one.
Robby: I'll have to check that out.
Scott: Okay. This is a great conversation. Again, a lot of this did most likely, to some people come off as an advertisement. I want to make it known that we want Robby on here because we know that photographers want a page builder. They want a page builder that's built well. There are so many that are not. Trust me, I've tried them all. Even this morning, I tried two that just had popped up in the WordPress repo that, I'm curious. There's so many out there, but they're not all built well. Not all of them have an understanding of photography, what photographers need. Again, the roots of Beaver Builder came from Fastline Media. They worked closely with SmugMug's customers and SmugMug, back when, years ago, when I had a SmugMug site next to my WordPress site, I contacted SmugMug and said, "Hey, I want to make sure this matches. Who do you recommend?" Not only did SmugMug recommend Fastline first, but SmugMug actually paid for it. I didn't pay for it, SmugMug did.
Rachel: That's interesting.
Robby: Special treatment. They might not do that for you. [crosstalk 00:54:48]
Rachel: I think SmugMug itself is changing too. I think the WordPress versus website, there's a lot of things changing too, which is why you guys, your company has changed it's focus too. We're trying to help photographers who ask us, all the time, "I can't handle WordPress." The answer shouldn't be then, don't use word press, because you can handle WordPress. Just that you have to find the right tools to help.
Scott: You need to find the right tools to make sure you're not vulnerable. Make sure you're up to date. Make sure you're on good hosting. Make sure you use the plugins and themes that really are in your favor. Try to use tools from companies who understand your needs. I hope that everybody's listening to this, or watching the video really walks away learning more about page builders and how Beaver Builder can actually help your photography website. With that, thank you Robby, for joining us today. Great to have you.
Robby: My pleasure entirely. Thank you so much for having me.
Scott: Thank you, Rachel, for being an awesome co-host.
Rachel: Thank you, Scott. We should do a little plug in episode 20, in two episodes is another Q, A, where just Scott and I go over questions like this. If you do have questions about page builders or anything we've talked about, or Squarespace, please ask us and then we'll address it and chat amongst ourselves.
Scott: Yes. You can find the show notes from today's episodes at Imagely.com/podcast/18. If you want to ask a question for the Q,A episode, that's Imagely.com/podcast/q.
Rachel: Yes. Thank you, guys.
Scott: See you next time.
— Imagely (@imagely) July 7, 2016