#3: Web Design Process with Jason Schuller

We were fortunate enough to be joined by WordPress theme design master Jason Schuller in this week’s episode. Jason is the founder of Press75 and ThemeGarden, both popular sources of premium WordPress themes. We spent some time discussing our own processes of designing a website: everything from concept to initial sketches to the tools we use to design and code a site.

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This episode’s soundtrack:

Episode #3 features the fantastic collaboration between John Legend and the band The Roots with the album Wake Up!

Opening clip: “Hard Times”
Closing track: “Our Generation”


 

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DAVE YANKOWIAK: Hey everybody, welcome to FreelanceJam, we’re back for another week of discussion here and we appreciate you joining us and I’m joined today by Brian Casel. Brian, how are you doing?

BRIAN CASEL: Good, good, how’s it going, Dave?

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Pretty good. We’re back for our official 3rd episode here and tonight we’re going to talk to Jason SCHULLER: of Press 75 and Theme Garden and we’re going to, you know, we’re all WordPress guys, we’re going to talk a little design tonight, so I’m looking forward to that.

BRIAN CASEL: That’s right, sorry, I’m still kind of messing with my camera here. But yeah, we’ve got a good show for tonight, I guess the topic, the theme of tonight is going to be web design process, so everything from conception to sketching to designing, coding and pushing it out there. Whatever the project or product is, so that’s the theme for tonight.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, it should be fun. It’ll be interesting to hear ways that our design processes are similar and some of the variations in that, too. So it should be fun. Brian, why don’t we just start – I’ll talk a little bit about what’s been happening in the last few weeks, I know you’re doing a lot with ThemeJam, some of the support models for ThemeJam and WP Bids. Maybe you want to talk about that just a little bit?

BRIAN CASEL: Sure, yeah, I guess both my businesses, the client business CasJam and the themes business ThemeJam are both kind of at that point where they’re getting really busy, more kind of busy work on my end. So on the client side it’s just a lot of different projects going on and then on ThemeJam, the customer support forum, and I’m sure our guest, Jason, knows all about this, but the support is really kind of starting to pile up and I’m getting to that point where I’m thinking about maybe bringing on a support person for the first time. Kind of been interesting transition period which is kind of difficult, and exciting, and you know, kind of crazy all at the same time.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Growing pains a little bit, huh?

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah!

DAVE YANKOWIAK: So if anybody wants to apply for the support position just send their resumés to the show, huh?

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, I haven’t even officially done anything about it, but yeah, if anybody’s interested in that, sure, get in touch and let’s talk about it.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Or if you have suggestions or ideas of good ways to set that up, I guess.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah. So what’s been up on Lift Development?

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Oh, man! All sorts of stuff. This week I actually am hooking up one of Jason’s themes for a client, we were trying out the new P-Commerce theme from Press 75, and working with that a little bit. He’s got it set up so it’ll work with the Cart 66 plug-in on WordPress so I’ve been kind of learning that a little bit, and yeah, it’s nice to work with a theme that’s built specifically for that plug-in. So I’ve been having some fun with that among all sorts of other things.

BRIAN CASEL: We’ll have to have a whole show about e-commerce, but it’s interesting how WordPress has really come a long way in terms of using it as an e-commerce platform. You know, most people think of it as blogging or a CMS system, but I think e-commerce is really very possible on WordPress these days, so a lot of cool stuff happening in that little niche.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, definitely. I actually blogged about that this week on the Lift Development site just because I was kind of working with that e-commerce theme and then I go and do proposals on the WP Bids scene that you put out, and there’s so many different uses it’s really whatever you can think of, you know, real estate sites are perfect for WordPress just because of the custom-post types and everything you can do with the hierarchies and things like that. So it’s definitely flexible and its fun to see it evolve and just see people come up with new ways to use it.

BRIAN CASEL: Totally. And I just want to put out this one thing. I know we’re not really planning on doing recommendations like we did in the past, but one thing I came across earlier today which I thought was hilarious was HTML11.org. It’s pretty funny, it’s just – go check it out, it’s kind of really ahead of its time in terms of the HTML language, they’re coming out with all sorts of cool stuff. So it’s definitely worth checking out.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, I got a kick out of that, I’m actually reading the D O’Reilly HTML 5 book right now, learning some of the ideas for it, and I saw you (unclear 0:05:29.9) that link and got a kick out of that, so that was pretty good. Another recommendation too, before we get going here, one of my biggest struggles is as a freelancer a lot of my requests and a lot of my tasks come through my inbox, you know, whether it’s a client just saying I need this updated or this changed, or even just a prospect wanting some more information, and so my inbox just fills up really fast and Brian and I both use Gmail, or use that interface for our email, and a few weeks ago I hooked up this Chrome – it’s a Chrome and Firefox plug-in called Active Inbox, and I will put the link in the notes of the show, but definitely check it out. I’m at inbox zero with both my inboxes right now, just because it’s a way to label, you know, there’s labels built-in but it really allows you to put due dates with emails, set them as tasks, set them as actionables, attach them to projects. It really makes your inbox a good project management interface. So Active Inbox, definitely check that out.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool. Yeah, there’s a lot of cool things going on with Gmail these days, there’s that Sparrow app, actually Jason was the one who turned me onto that. So that one’s really cool. But people are actually creating these apps that plug into the Gmail interface, and I’m not even sure how that works exactly, but they’re able to add on these features within the interface on the web, you know, like Active Inbox and there’s one that I’ve been using called Boomerang which actually lets you send a message later, which I really like for clients. I don’t like to shoot off an email like a minute I receive it, you know, I’d rather just – if I want to get the email done I’ll write it and then I’ll set it to send in maybe an hour or maybe tomorrow. That way the client, you know, doesn’t get used to the fact that I’m going to respond every two minutes.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Right! That’s kind of sad but I totally relate to that, yeah. And it’s like, you want to have it done and out of the way but you don’t want to just have this, you know, instantaneous conversation all the time.

BRIAN CASEL: Exactly, exactly. So managing your timelines with Boomerang for Gmail.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Awesome. Well, why don’t we get to our guest here. We’ve got Jason Schuller, Press75.com, also Theme Garden, we’re going to bring him up.

BRIAN CASEL: Here he is, Jason Schuller. Welcome to FreelanceJam.

JASON SCHULLER: Thanks for having me.

BRIAN CASEL: Cool, so as Dave said, Jason is the founder of Press75.com and ThemeGarden.com and we’ve actually been using one of Jason’s WordPress themes for FreelanceJam.com which I think is the video – the (inaudible 0:08:33.0) theme, and that’s been working out great, we were able to do some customizations to it and get it up and running really quickly, so that’s pretty awesome.

JASON SCHULLER: Very cool here.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Now Jason, you’re out in Seattle, correct?

JASON SCHULLER: That’s right, on the west coast.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Okay. Well why don’t you just give us a little bit of background of where you’re working right now, how you kind of got started doing what you do. Maybe just a brief little bio of Jason Schuller.

JASON SCHULLER: Well, I used to work for a pretty big company out here in Seattle. They make airplanes! I’ll guess who that is, but I was a web guy, you know, if you want to put it that way and just kind of got caught in a daily routine of that full time gig and knew I wasn’t going anywhere, so I kind of stepped out and quit, and started doing just freelance work using WordPress as the platform and just got into theming as kind of a by-product of that, and just kind of swapped tables, started doing theming full-time, launched Press75 in June 2008 and just been doing that ever since.

BRIAN CASEL: Awesome.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Now, are you doing any client work too, or are you mainly just doing Press75 and all things related to that?

JASON SCHULLER: No, I phased out of client work in 2008 also, I think about October 2008 is when I completely kind of cut that off, kind of too much time going into client work and not enough time going into themes. So just kind of cut that out, so yeah.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool, yeah, that’s something that a lot of self-employed freelancers kind of aspire for, you know, phasing out the client work so that they can focus on stuff that they really enjoy, you know, like designing products and things. So you work for yourself obviously. How does your work week tend to shape up? Is it pretty typical, like you work Monday through Friday regular hours, or how does that work?

JASON SCHULLER: I try to make it a pretty regular job. Obviously you work for yourself, you can set your own hours, but I try to get my butt out of bed by 8 o’clock (inaudible 0:10:54.5) pretty late at the computer, and usually the first part of the day is just answering emails, dealing with customers, getting into the support forums, taking care of all that and then second part of the day is usually just development time, working on new themes and cleaning up old themes and that’s pretty much how the week goes.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Awesome. Why don’t we just – you know, we set this up so we’re going to kind of do a round table discussion a little bit of design process, you know, how do we take something from an idea to a live website. What’s that process look like and so this will be interesting just because we’re all WordPress guys, so maybe we’ll have a similar approach, maybe it’ll be different, but –

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, it’s also kind of interesting how we all use WordPress in pretty different ways I think, you know, Jason designing products, Dave and I both work mostly with clients and you know, custom WordPress has limitations, so...It’ll be interesting.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah. So Jason, maybe you want to start off with how do you come up with a concept for a new theme, for a new design, a new theme that you’re going to be launching?

JASON SCHULLER: Sure, I mean for the most part I’m just constantly browsing CSS galleries or I subscribe to them, so if something comes across my way that kind of just perks my interest, something that I like, I usually am really inspired by those CSS galleries, and what I’ll do is I’ll take – usually it’s just a layout that I have in mind, and kind of borrow from that, and change it up a little bit and go from there. So it starts out as being inspired by a website that I’ve seen and I just kind of start coding it. I don’t even create a concept design or anything like that, I don’t use Photoshop, I don’t even know how to use Photoshop to be honest. I do all my design work in Fireworx but even so I don’t even create concept designs. So I just start coding from the top down, you know, start with the header and work my way down to the next section and go from there. So it’s all kind of designed and put together as I code it, and put together as I code it.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Okay, that’s interesting. I mean I guess that kind of gets to that question of designing in the browser versus designing in Photoshop or Fireworx.

JASON SCHULLER: I think with – especially with CSS 3 and HTML 5 now, I mean, just getting into that stuff it makes it so much easier and so much more efficient to do it that way, you know, why create a concept design when you can just do it in the same amount of time while you’re coding? That’s kind of my take on it, anyway.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: And I feel like that’s something that’s really evolved the last few years. Just because now it’s like, well I know how I want to do that in CSS but if I laid it out in Photoshop or something that process of getting it from Photoshop into CSS, sometimes that’s more complicated than it even needs to be. So I relate to that in a way. Do you ever use like wireframes or anything like that at all?

JASON SCHULLER: Not really. I mean, pretty much I have – I don’t even want to call it a boilerplate, but I did use them, the HTML fireplate, just base, no style, no CSS, anything. And everything I do I kind of just start from scratch and I just – it kind of just evolves and I mean Granada changes from start to finish, I mean, a theme won’t even look even close to the way I started by the time I’m done with it. But I think that’s the same kind of concept process you would do in Photoshop, I mean, you start with a concept and you consistently tweak it. The difference is I’m just doing it in the code. You know, I love CSS, I mean, I can code CSS all day and I guess what I’m saying is that’s my Photoshop, so that’s kind of how I go.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool. You know, instead of just doing this kind of ongoing debate across the web like designing in a browser versus designing in Photoshop or even like sketching and doing Wireframes. I’m definitely – I guess it’s evolved a little bit, but I still kind of feel more comfortable designing in Photoshop first, or even starting with sketching first and then in Photoshop, getting a basic layout done, usually at least just for the home page. And then maybe an interior page template and in Photoshop, because I just find it easier to test out different ideas, different layout ideas, you know, how different things are going to – like how the header is interacting with the footer, and just kind of quickly shifting things around in Photoshop, and then getting into the browser. But then I’ll actually take it to a certain point, I will make it completely finished in Photoshop and then I really kind of nail down typography and buttons and you know, every single pixel in CSS. But Photoshop is still really – takes a big part of it I think.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: You know I still use Photoshop quite a bit, but you know the initial layouts I’m kind of more probably Jason’s approach. I think for me the two things I run into, you know I’ve been using Photoshop for nine years and I still suck at it! So that’s part of the problem. Photoshop is just so - there’s so many things in that ...

JASON SCHULLER: I mean it doesn’t even go for web design.

BRIAN CASEL: Right, that’s true. That’s true. And then it’s like the Photoshop versus Fireworx thing and you know Fireworx – it’s one of those things that I’ve actually tried to get into because I know that Fireworx is really built for web design, and Photoshop definitely has its flaws, I mean, the way it type renders in Photoshop versus the web, it’s just two completely different things I think. But you know l think like many web designers I’ve been using Photoshop for so many years that it’s so hard to transition into Fireworx. You know there’s...

JASON SCHULLER: It just became a standard I think in web design, and it’s kind of funny how it came to that point, I don’t get it personally, but obviously it’s a standard.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: You know I started in Fireworx and I learned Fireworx and I was able to do my layouts in it, but then everybody else was using Photoshop so I just was like – I guess that’s what I need to be using, so I shifted – and now I’ve forgotten how to use Fireworx. So it’s all messed up. Yeah, the other big thing is like we said, the typography thing. You lay stuff out in Photoshop but then when you get into the CSS it’s going to look a little bit different anyway, so to me it seems like you’re kind of doing double work there once in a while.

BRIAN CASEL: Right. Yeah, that’s usually the point where I kind of don’t care so much about Photoshop, just get right into the browser. But you know, Jason, kind of stepping back a little bit, how do you come up with a – like a concept for a theme? Like how do you decide to start on a portfolio theme or a video theme, or an e-commerce theme? Is that something that comes from your customers requesting it, or just you see kind of an opportunity in the theme market, or how does that work?

JASON SCHULLER: Yeah, I mean with video themes it was definitely something that I was missing at the time. Like in 2008 when I (unclear 0:18:46.6) my first video game there weren’t really too many solutions for WordPress at that time in regards to videos, so I kind of saw it as an opportunity. I really didn’t have any experience in video so I kind of (unclear 0:18:59.10) different sites and I think (unclear 0:19:00.90) had launched at the time pretty close to around that 2008 time period like Beta, and I saw that as an opportunity to say, hey, you know, there’s really not much being done in hula.com that you couldn’t do in WordPress. And so my on demand theme was highly inspired by hula.com. I basically took the functionality of (unclear 0:19:24.9) put it into WordPress and restyled it, you know, in my own kind of design way. And it was a success, so I mean for video games definitely it was just something that I saw was missing. Commerce themes I mean it was just something that my customers had been asking for for a long time and you know design wise, my wife, she browses (unclear 0:19:49.0) like every day, so I saw it as, again, an opportunity to say, hey, you know, this is a really popular website, something that can be done in WordPress, I’ll make my version of it. And so far it’s been doing great. So I kind of take inspiration from websites that are doing really well or have got a lot of press and see how I can put my spin on them and port them to WordPress.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool. You know, it’s interesting when you can kind of like choose the type of project that you want to work on, and that’s the beautiful thing about designing WordPress themes is there’s still that variety from month to month, but it’s still your own thing. And I was actually talking to somebody about client work and kind of choosing what kind of clients we’d like to work with as web designers, and how do you kind of choose who to go after as a client, and he was talking about how he has like a two-year-old kid and he watches a lot of Sesame Street, so he’d love to kind of sign Sesame Street as a client, you know, and like how cool would that be? And you just kind of go after the things that are happening in your life and keep things interesting.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Will too and that’s like what we said, the fact that we all use WordPress and some of the flexibility behind it. I mean, there are so many ways that it’s not even been used yet, and that’s kind of neat, the whole idea of going after like a video theme market, I mean that’s brilliant, that just makes sense.

BRIAN CASEL: You know, I’m watching the chat as we’re discussing here and people are talking about, you know, what do you mean ‘design in the browser’ and so there’s a few people explaining that, but one of the topics that’s coming up is Firebug. Now just a quick question, do both you guys use Firebug quite a bit? As religiously as I do?

JASON SCHULLER: I never use it!

BRIAN CASEL: Seriously?

JASON SCHULLER: Yeah. I used – I mean, I’m pretty much all Chrome at this point and I use just the Chrome Inspector, it’s awesome I find, I mean, so that’s pretty much what I use. And of course I do de-bugging and you know all the (inaudible 0:22:03) and de-bugging after, you know, along the way, but no, I don’t use firebug.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Okay, but same concept though, I mean, just that feature in Chrome to be able to go in and pick out which CSS is actually being applied and kind of drill down through the code, it’s …

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, totally. I’m totally reliant on Firebug and Firefox. I mean, I use it every single day and that’s the reason I’m hooked on Firefox, I can’t…I’ve actually tried Firebug in Chrome, I think they recently released it for Chrome.

JASON SCHULLER: It’s awful.

BRIAN CASEL: It is awful, and if it wasn’t for Firebug I would totally be using Chrome all the time.

JASON SCHULLER: Yeah, I (inaudible 0:22:46) with Firefox again, I mean, I’ve been Chrome for a while but, with that Firefox 4, I mean it just seems like its superfast again, they’ve kind of cleaned it up, made it, you know, just smooth and efficient again, so I might have to switch over for a week and see what it’s all about.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, I am pretty happy with Firefox 4. Some of the UI things are a little bit weird I think, but it’s clearly faster, so that’s been good.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, they needed a new UI!

JASON SCHULLER: They did!

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, I’m kind of both, I’m in Chrome and Firefox quite a bit, I’m not really, you know, Chrome is kind of my main browsing one and Firefox is kind of my main design/development/testing browser. So they’re both way better than IE, that’s all we need to care about.

JASON SCHULLER: Right.

BRIAN CASEL: So should we kind of progress in the web design process, getting into coding? I mean, I guess we’ve already talked a lot about that.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, I’d kind of like to know in what ways Jason is using Fireworx. Like at what point are you kind of bringing in Fireworx, or what pieces of your design are you doing in that?

JASON SCHULLER: I mean, basically again what I do is…you know, so I’ll start designing a theme, just coding it from scratch. I start with a really nice CSS (inaudible 0:24: 08), the HTML 5 boilerplate and then as I start designing in the browser, you know, obviously there comes a need for, you know, UI elements and certain UI elements you still can’t get in CSS3. So that’s when I pop over in Fireworx, and if there’s like a background I need to create or a button I need to create, you know, I’ll just play around in Fireworx until I get it to the way I want. So that’s where the, you know, graphic design utility comes into play, for me anyways. You know, where it’s…those elements that you can’t do with CSS, you know, put them in Fireworx, export them, code them up in the theme and see how they look. So that’s where it comes into play for me.

BRIAN CASEL: Cool.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: So nobody here uses Illustrator, huh?

JASON SCHULLER: I’m very anti Illustrator!

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Cricket…cricket…cricket yeah!!

BRIAN CASEL: If I’m working with a designer and I’m in charge of development and they hand me an Illustrator file, it’s like… “Oh oh, this could be problematic…”! I mean, I really don’t even know how to use Illustrator, so…

DAVE YANKOWIAK: I don’t really either. I’m actually working with an InDesign file right now that I got from a client. So that’s an adventure in itself!

BRIAN CASEL: How about coding apps, Jason, what do you use for coding?

JASON SCHULLER: You know, I started when I first switched to Mac in I think 2009 is when I switched over to a Mac. I started by using Coda but I find that I swopped over to Expresso and I just find that I’ve just been stuck with it ever since, it’s just so clean, you get rid of all the clutter, it’s just…it’s perfect for me anyways. I just like clean stuff, I don’t like to have a bunch of clutter, a bunch of mess, a bunch of functionality I don’t need, you know, and Expresso kind of suits my needs as far as that’s concerned.

BRIAN CASEL: Totally. Yeah, I’ve been hooked on Coda for a while. And I did actually try Expresso for maybe like a month or two and I really liked it. Expresso is really a great app, but the thing was I was just so hooked on my keyboard shortcuts in Coda that I had to kind of stick with that.

JASON SCHULLER: I’ve been using actually in conjunction with Coda, I mean, everybody out there who’s on a Mac, you’ve got to get the Alfret app, that thing is just insanely good. What I’ve been doing is I’ve been putting all my WordPress snippets, you know, my WordPress tags, (unclear 0:26:53.8) tags in Alfret and then you just create a little keyword shortcut for those. And that has like increased my development speed, you know, tenfold at least just by using those snippets in Alfret.

BRIAN CASEL: Oh, nice!

DAVE YANKOWIAK: So you really can start from scratch without starting from scratch, because you have those snippets available at all times?

JASON SCHULLER: Yeah, I’m not coding every single little character by hand, for sure.

BRIAN CASEL: And do you have kind of your own, like, starting framework, for lack of a better word, not like a WordPress framework but a base like WordPress theme that you start off to get it like all the elements in there?

JASON SCHULLER: I mean, for the most part I like to start from scratch because in new themes you don’t want it looking like an old theme, you know, and I’m really kind of anti-framework because I think framework themes tend to look a lot alike, even, you know, you swop out some design and some colors and stuff like that but layout wise they tend to look the same, and same goes for CSS frameworks. I don’t like CSS frameworks, I feel limited when using frameworks in general. So yeah, I mean, I like to start from scratch and have a clean slate with every theme.

BRIAN CASEL: Cool, that’s interesting. CSS frameworks I totally agree, I’ve never really been a fan of those, I really like just starting fresh on CSS and keeping things as clean and lightweight as possible. For themes, both for ThemeJam and for client sites I do have my own kind of base framework, but that doesn’t really include the markup, that kind of just includes the page templates that I need to include.

JASON SCHULLER: Sure.

BRIAN CASEL: And a couple of functions, PHP file and things like that. But yeah, and you know it’s interesting because every project that I’m working on, there’s a little thing in it where I’m like, you know what, I’ll probably want to use this again in the future, so I kind of add it to my – I’m constantly evolving that little starter framework, you know.

JASON SCHULLER: Yeah, I mean, I think I have something similar, I mean you have a set, you know, folder of files basically, a clean slate theme if you want to say it...

BRIAN CASEL: Right.

JASON SCHULLER: And that’s what it is for me too, it’s kind of like your page templates and all the theme files that you need to work on, you know, when building a theme, but definitely not any markup or anything like that, just like you said.

BRIAN CASEL: Cool.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: My approach is a little bit different, I mean I do some from scratch stuff as well but especially with regards to WordPress. Like I’ll start with – I use the Genesis theme framework quite a bit. As long as the site is not anything, you know, with a crazy layout or anything like that. But I find just for client work it really gets me – it’s like, obviously I’m going to have a header and a footer and main content area and things like that, so for me that’s worked really well just because it’s a – you can kind of plug in to what they’ve already got, you’re not having to do everything from scratch. But that’s more – that’s client work and now if I was developing a theme that I was going to resell and put in a theme directory I would definitely probably go from scratch or at least, you know, do something similar to what Jason does.

JASON SCHULLER: I think that’s a really good point that you just brought up in regards to frameworks. I don’t mean to bag on frameworks, I think theme frameworks and CSS frameworks they have a purpose and like you said, for client work obviously it’s helped your workflow quite a bit, you know. So I think they definitely do have their purpose.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, I agree. It’s interesting because I think frameworks really work well for web developers who are serving clients because web developers really understand the purpose of frameworks and how to best utilize them. But I do think there is a certain level – and I was thinking this one when frameworks really started to gain steam, maybe about a year or so ago, and WordPress. It does add a level of complication for the average user I think. The average do-it-yourself kind of person who just wants to have a low cost high quality quick website up using WordPress, grabbing a simple theme like, you know, from Press75 or ThemeForest or anywhere and just plugging it in and activating. That’s what they understand. I think once you get into frameworks it adds like another level which can even be tricky sometimes.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: You know, just to circle back, one of the viewers asked, this is Abnor in the chat, asked why so many techies use Macs. I’ve tried it but it’s never won me over, am I missing anything? So we’re all –

JASON SCHULLER: You’re missing everything!

BRIAN CASEL: Well that’s funny because I’ve always thought of Mac, you know, you go back eight years or whatever and it was like designers used Macs, it was a designer thing. And now it’s really – there’s a huge developer and programmer community that are used to Macs as well and I think that’s been a pretty big shift, but Jason maybe you can kind of go in – when you switched, if there ever was a switch, or what difference using Mac has made for you.

JASON SCHULLER: I mean, I fought it forever ‘cause I thought, you know, I thought Mac guys were just a bunch of – whatever you want to call them at the time, you know, fan boys or whatever. I thought, you know, Mac whatever, I don’t need a Mac but I think what it came down to was I was using Dreamlever at the time and again, it comes down to that clean, efficient workflow in an app, and you just don’t get that on Windows, you know, the same type of thing that you get on a Mac. And when I made that switch and started using Coda and Expresso and all the other amazing apps that you can’t get on Windows, I mean, I was sold within like two weeks. I mean, there was a two week learning curve obviously, but after I got over that hump it was just like, wow! I’ve been missing this for so long! It’s like – it’s the perfect fit.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, totally, I mean, I grew up using Windows machines, I’ve been using Macs for maybe three or four years. It’s just so much cleaner, so much more user friendly and just really more reliable for me. I mean, I also have a small Windows XP netbook that I bought about a year and a half ago. I mean literally within six months the thing was half as slow, it had like six different error messages whenever you boot up the machine, you know, you can’t run anything more than a browser and maybe an IM client before it completely crashes. I mean that’s the state of a Windows machine today. And you know then you’ve got to run all this anti virus software and things, I mean, I’ve never had to run any of that on a Mac. And I still have a powerbook that I bought about four or five years ago that it’s still totally functional. It’s not my every day machine but it still works, I can totally do a whole day of work on it.

JASON SCHULLER: I dread the day, man, that I have to do some IE testing ‘cause that’s the day that I’ve got to boot up my old Windows machine!

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah.

JASON SCHULLER: And it’s like, oh, come on... kill me now!!

BRIAN CASEL: Totally.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: I’ve even avoided that now, just ‘cause I have, you know, use VM or Fusion and I don’t actually have to go onto a Windows machine, I can just you know...

JASON SCHULLER: ... Vanware, it’s the way to go.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Okay, so Abnor’s in the chat, this is a Windows – Abnor’s a guy (unclear 0:35:16.4). Abnor’s a Windows user and the first point Brian was that you’re using a Netbook.

BRIAN CASEL: Why, he’s asking why I have a Netbook or something?

DAVE YANKOWIAK: No, he’s saying you’re judging your performance of your PC on a Netbook.

BRIAN CASEL: Okay, well, all I’m talking about is opening a browser, I’m not talking about doing anything – I don’t even attempt it to open, like, Word, or you know, forget about installing Photoshop on that thing, you know!

DAVE YANKOWIAK: You know, just to go back to the Mac thing. For me the big thing too is just some of the apps that are available for Mac are, you know, Apple aside, just some of the, like we said, Coda, Expresso, just some of the apps that you can really only get on a Mac to me are just that good. They’re so clean, they run so well, you know, stuff’s not bogging down like I – you know, when I was using Dreamlever on my PC two and a half years ago, it was just like, I mean, it was the slowest thing ever and it was painful. And so to me it was just – making that switch it was just, you know, a lot less painful I guess.

JASON SCHULLER: Yeah, totally.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: So when was the last time you guys fired up Dreamlever?

JASON SCHULLER: Jeez....it’s got to be 2009 for me, when I made the switch over. I think that’s when I cut it off pretty much.

BRIAN CASEL: You know, I think it was the last time I had to do an image map in HTML, you know, that’s what I used to always use it for. Now Dreamlever I always just kept it installed if I ever need to use it to do an image map, because I had that feature where you can kind of like draw the image map and of course now image maps are kind of a thing of the past, so I haven’t really touched that in a while.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: I mean, I still remember designing sites in Dreamlever. This is like probably nine years ago, where you could just drag the squares and the (unclear 0:37:18.4) designer and you could, you know, and it making – it was actually making tables, it wasn’t even making divs, it was all –

JASON SCHULLER: That code that it actually made – awful!

DAVE YANKOWIAK: So unique design just said Dreamlever – the best tool for creating image maps!

BRIAN CASEL: Absolutely!

JASON SCHULLER: (Unclear 0:37:41.5) to Adobe.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah. So I guess kind of wrapping up, and this kind of touches on a different topic, but Jason, so you’ve been working on Press75, ThemeGarden most recently. What’s coming up next for Jason SCHULLER: and everything coming up?

JASON SCHULLER: I mean, Press75 is obviously my full time gig, you know, I spend most of my time on that. I’ve hired a, like you were talking about getting a support guy, do it, it’s the best thing you’ll ever do! Get out of those forums, man, it’s good to stay in those forums a little bit but hire somebody to help you out man. That’s one of the best moves you’re ever going to make, and I recently hired another guy to help me with theme updates and that kind of thing so that I can concentrate on new themes and stuff like that. But one of the projects that I’m working on most this year is called Simple Theme, and working on that with the guys from Organicthemes.com. And that’s going to be more of a hosted surface other than a downloadable product and so, yeah, that’s kind of what I’m spending most of my time on right now.

BRIAN CASEL: Very cool, sounds interesting.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: I’ve got a question for Jason too. You know, where do you see your business going, or how do you see things changing? Like in ten years from now, where do you see what you’re doing? Is it Press75, is it, you know, this New or Never or what do you see?

JASON SCHULLER: I think, you know that’s a really hard question to answer ‘cause who knows where WordPress is going to be in ten years, who knows what the next big thing is or if WordPress will even be relevant. I just kind of, you know, when I quit my job it was due something that I enjoy doing and right now this is what I enjoy doing and if that turns into something else, whether it be website development of some kind or you know, like iPhone apps or something that interests me, who knows? I really don’t know, I’m just kinda going with the flow and just keep doing what I enjoy doing and that’s it.

BRIAN CASEL: Awesome.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: You know before we wrap, I’m going right through the chat here ‘cause we’re getting all sorts of good questions. And one question was: do we outsource at all? Do we outsource any of our design?

BRIAN CASEL: Man, we’ll have to spend a whole episode on that!

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Well I mean, you know, ‘cause I guess my background, I started out as a programmer not as a designer, so the design thing is something I’ve really had to force myself to learn a little bit. But, Jason, do you ever have a concept for a theme that’s maybe more complex than what you can actually create? Do you ever outsource that type of thing, that type of design?

JASON SCHULLER: I mean, not yet, it’s not something I’ve done as of yet, but I’m open to anything, you know, so if that ever does come across my plate where it’s like, hey, you know, I really don’t think I can design this, I have this concept in mind. I’d be ok to outsource the thing, I don’t kind of really have a problem with that. I still don’t consider myself a designer or a developer, so...! But, yeah, I mean, I’m pretty much open to anything.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: So what do you primarily consider yourself?

JASON SCHULLER: I don’t know! I’m still kind of – I pinch myself every day that I’ve made a business out of doing WordPress themes, so...

BRIAN CASEL: I mean, your design work on all your themes has been really, really great. I mean, exceptional. I would certainly consider you a designer, a very talented one.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, definitely, me too. You got some – and it’s cool, ‘cause it’s like you kind of get a feel for a theme designer’s style and you know all your themes are so different but yet you kind of – oh, this is a Press75 theme, it’s kind of a need to kind of establish your, I don’t know what you’d call it...

JASON SCHULLER: Your presence or whatever...

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah.

JASON SCHULLER: Yeah but to answer that question, you know, I do outsource quite a bit. Not everything, maybe 30 or 40% of the work that I take on, and most of that is client work that I – and when I say outsource it’s not really like here, you go do that. It’s more like I’ll bring in a partner or two partners on a project and it’s really kind of assembling a collaboration and really providing more value to the client. So that’s kind of how I view that, and again, we could spend a whole hour on that.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Oh yeah, I mean, yeah, that’s an episode right there. Virtual teams and outsourcing.

JASON SCHULLER: I’m learning slowly, I mean, ‘cause it’s hard when you’re, you know, a business owner, you know, and you run your own business. It’s hard to give up those little things, you want to maintain control of everything and you kind of get into this rut of having to do everything every single day that has to do with your business, and giving up those little pieces, you know, it’s a hard step to take but I think it’s a necessary step and it’s something I’ve been doing slowly and slowly realizing that outsourcing certain tasks and certain jobs, it’s necessary to maintain sanity! Otherwise you’re just going to drive yourself into the ground.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, you know, and I’m kind of at that same position now with ThemeJam. I mean, it’s still kind of ongoing with the client work as well and it’s kind of at that – I think the hardest moment is going from one person to two or three people, and then – at least what I see from other businesses. It gets a little bit easier to grow from three to five, five to seven, but it’s kind of like putting it from first gear into second gear, it’s kind of tough. But absolutely, I think it’s necessary to move forward.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Yeah, it’s like you want to grow, you don’t want to – I think in the past I’ve just said well, I just want my business to just be me and I just want to kind of stay this size and I think that’s wrong. You want to grow, you want your business to expand and if that means outsourcing or bringing on employees, I think that’s the right direction to go. I don’t know, that’s a big question for freelancers because it’s like, okay, you’re freelancing, isn’t the definition of that just you?

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, totally.

JASON SCHULLER: I think it depends on the business to and just you know what you want to do with your business. I don’t think it’s wrong to not want to grow either, I mean, if you’re comfortable doing what you’re doing and you’re happy doing what you’re doing and you can make a living doing it, then maybe growing isn’t the right thing for you or your business. I mean, so I think it kind of goes both ways. It depends on the person, depends on the business.

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, absolutely and you know, for freelancers, I mean I think the first level of growth is just increasing your own personal hourly rate or flat rates, whatever that is, and really kind of getting the most out of your own personal work to make it sustainable for what you want to do, to sustain your lifestyle. So yeah, it really does depend.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Well, shall we wrap it there, that’s pretty good, kind of covered a lot of bases there, but, you know, primarily talking about the design process and Jason, we appreciate you coming on the show and kind of sharing your approach and your experience with us.

JASON SCHULLER: Thank you, thanks for having me on, man.

BRIAN CASEL: No problem.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: And highlight your sites again. So it’s Press75.com is the main one, and then it’s themegarden.com right?

JASON SCHULLER: Yeah, and you know, Theme Garden it’s not like themes, it’s everybody else out there who wants to build WordPress themes and so on, that’s what Theme Garden is for.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: I’ve purchased themes from Theme Garden, so it’s – yeah, there’s a lot of good designers that are –

BRIAN CASEL: Yeah, Theme Garden is a very cool concept. I like how it’s a marketplace for other sellers and that they can keep 100% of the income, so that’s a pretty cool thing. So thanks a lot, Jason SCHULLER: ! And so the music for this episode, we’re going to be listening to some John Legend and The Roots, they kind of teamed up on an album maybe a year ago, maybe less. The album is called Wake Up, and the intro song that we’re queuing up is Hard Times, and then the full song here at the end is Our Generation. So definitely an album I’ve been (unclear 0:47:13.8) for a while now, kind of funky, a lot of melody and then you have the band of The Roots, you know, a lot of soul, it’s pretty cool.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: I’ll second that, good choice this week Brian! Brian and I alternate weeks and this week was his week to pick the album, and this is one I would have picked too!

BRIAN CASEL: Cool.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: So check it out.

BRIAN CASEL: Alright, so thank you guys for checking out the live show tonight here in the chatroom and this will be up on iTunes and on the website probably in the next day or two, and we will see you all in two weeks for another live episode of FreelanceJam.

DAVE YANKOWIAK: Thanks guys, thanks Jason.

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  1. Last night’s episode is up! Good chat with @jschuller and @daveyank http://t.co/u54WanX

  2. Really interesting interview guys, appreciate the discussion overall and it was a surprise to hear how Jason goes about designing/developing his sites.

    Regarding your Windows VS Mac discussion though I believe it important to point out that a with a Windows XP Netbook, the operating system is over 10 years old and netbooks are very cheap and generally only meant for base level usage. Meaning not much more than an IM client and a web browser simultaneously.

    Your statement “That’s the state of a windows machine today” is, in my opinion, completely unfair and unjustified, especially considering you were running old software on low end hardware. Also, I have not run a antivirus on a Windows box, except my work machine… just in case, for years now and have never had an issue.

    I love both PC and MAC and they both have clear benefits over one another and I don’t we should have to knock one down to praise the other.

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