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Warren’s Digital Odyssey: From Chef to WordPress Wizard

Warren Laine-Naida-Interview

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Embark on a journey through the digital evolution with Warren, a seasoned expert in transforming the online world. From his early days crafting websites for his catering business to becoming a WordPress guru, Warren’s story is a fascinating ride through the ever-changing digital landscape.

In our conversation, Warren shares how he stumbled into web design back in 1994, drawn by the exciting possibilities of the internet for self-promotion. Fast forward to 2012, Responsive Design revolutionized his approach, leading him to embrace WordPress wholeheartedly. Now, with a roster of exclusively WordPress clients, Warren remains passionate about the platform, even as he ventures back into Drupal with a new project.

Without further ado, let’s deep dive into it and learn from his amazing journey.

Areeba: Warren, I have come across your journey that you have been in the digital transformation industry for a very long time. Can you please enlighten our audience on how it all started? And, also share whatever best explains you! 😀 

Warren: Long story short: I was building an HTML website in 1994 for my catering work. I was a chef at the time. The web was at that time an exciting new place to market yourself. In 1999 I met Joerg Geissler at Springer & Jacoby’s startup “Graffiti” in Munich, Germany. He hired me as a web designer. We are still friends today, but Graffiti, like Springer & Jacoby, is sadly long gone.

Areeba: You’ve been a WordPress Project builder and trainer since 2012. What inspired you to get involved with WordPress, and what keeps you passionate about it?

Warren: I was making static websites for smaller clients, Joomla for mid sized ones, and Drupal for larger clients. When Responsive Design dropped in 2012, I started retooling all our websites. Only WordPress offered an out of the box responsive theme (2014). So, that’s where I went. Today I have 27 clients, and they are all in WordPress. BUT a new client has appeared, and they are in Drupal. I’m excited to try that CMS out again!

Areeba: As a prominent figure in the WordPress ecosystem, what do you see as the biggest challenges facing the platform/community today? 

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Warren: Thank you, but I see myself as very tiny in comparison to some of my mentors. :o) Bridget Willard in Texas, Anne Bovelett in Düsseldorf, and Hendrik Luehrsen in Munich to quickly name just 3 of so many. Honestly the challenge I see today is the overuse of AI tools in our business – for those of us in the business. Then, the challenge of first-timers, small businesses and nonprofits to find the right tools for the job. WordPress is great but the choice of plugins, page-builders, and themes can be overwhelming. We should find a simple starting point for people new to the business – and have everybody support that first step. Great marketing requires consistency. :o)

Areeba: How do you envision the future of WordPress evolving, especially in the context of emerging technologies like AI and blockchain?

Warren: Scary version? We won’t need WordPress. Think about how much time it takes to build a website, put together an online marketing campaign. AI can do this in minutes. And blockchain will supplement all sort of transaction, security, and content processes. Maybe it goes the way of other tech. We’ll always have websites, but I’m sure WordPress in five years will look much different. Time will tell. That said, I still build static websites – and there is ClasicPress – so WordPress in some form or another will always be with us.

Areeba: In your opinion, what are some underrated features or functionalities of WordPress that more people should be aware of? 

Warren: Blocks. Darn it but I’ve built over 350 websites and STILL don’t need Elementor, Divi, Bakery Builder etc etc. Blocks. Simple WordPress blocks with CSS. They work. So underrated.

Areeba: What advice would you give to someone just starting their journey with WordPress, whether as a user or developer? 

Warren: Start with the basics. Even as a user. Login. Understand the system you’re using. Don’t rely on someone to care for your system. Have skin in the game. Break things. Learn how to fix them. HTML and CSS are your friends. Build using only the blocks to start with. You can always add as you go. If you don’t know what a plugin is going to do – if it doesn’t bring you added value – don’t install it. Download and install WordPress with XAMPP to your desktop. Try things out! Use more short sentences ;o)

Areeba: How do you navigate the balance between maintaining WordPress’s core principles of openness and accessibility while also ensuring security and stability?

Warren: Openness and accessibility might seem counterintuitive to security and stability, but they play a crucial role in strengthening them. Just like having more eyes on a project helps catch mistakes, open systems allow you to spot and fix security weaknesses faster. Plus, when everyone understands basic security practices and knows where to report suspicious activity, it’s like having a whole team looking out for trouble. 

Areeba: What are some common misconceptions about WordPress that you often encounter, and how do you address them? 

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Warren: That WordPress is unsafe, and that it’s not for professional websites. Perhaps because it’s free – without a license. That may be a German view – where I’m currently living. I think WordPress is very safe – but like any system, the more doors, the more security you need. Any CMS can be hacked. You have to be smart. Two-Step login, database table prefix change, update plugins and themes, using as few as possible, even /wp-admin can be changed to /open-sesame or /entryway – etc. From the “free is bad” side, well, how many tools are free today? Do you use them? Then use WordPress.

Areeba: You’ve been involved in teaching various aspects of eCommerce, SEO, and WordPress. What do you find most rewarding about educating others in these domains? 

Warren: I want people to be able to help themselves. Especially clients. Also, students become workers and teachers themselves. A lot of my students help me in the end. That’s great! Probably the best part of teaching is that I can’t get lazy – it helps me understand my work if I teach it. I have to stay up to date, and the best way to learn anything you don’t understand is to force yourself to teach it.

Areeba: How can businesses and individuals improve their use of digital strategies to achieve their goals? Which areas of digital consulting need more innovation?

Warren: I find most businesses – from freelancers to big businesses – don’t think enough about the “why?”. If they do, they don’t see it as a moving target. That’s why MVPs are so important. What works today is no guarantee it will work tomorrow. I heard from a client that they were disappointed their website, once relaunched, needed to be managed on a regular basis.

Another client didn’t want to launch until their campaign was finished. Many people think marketing is “done” once it’s finished. Marketing never sleeps. A website is never finished. Your strategies will always be changing because everything else changes. Even ice cream flavours change! I don’t think we need more innovation – we have too much of that already – we need to get back to grassroots. Digital marketing is just traditional marketing online.

It’s faster, mostly free, and reaches more people, but marketing is the same. So first, if you want to improve on your digital strategies, go back to the drawing board and make sure you have all your ducks in a row first. Organic supports paid marketing. Social media supports SEO etc. etc. Second, get an MVP out now! You can’t test by having a team meeting.

Rapid Fire 

1What’s your favorite WordPress plugin or theme, and why?Theme: Neve! Plugin: RankMath SEO
2Do you like mountains or beaches?Yes! It depends on the weather. Mountains in the rain, beaches in the sun.
3Would you read a book or watch a movie in your free time? Hmmm hard! I do both at night. First movie, then book. 

Thank you Warren for your precious time and expert opinion!

Areeba Nauman

Areeba is a Content Writer with expertise in web content and social media, she can simplify complex concepts to engage diverse audiences. Fueled by creativity and driven by results, she brings a unique perspective and a keen attention to detail to every project she undertakes with her creativity and passion for delivering impactful content strategies for success.
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