Today we have with us Gilbert Pellegrom, who describes himself as a Web Developer, Software Engineer & Part-time Entrepreneur living in the North of Scotland. Perhaps you will quickly recognise him when we talk about Nivo Slider, the massively successful WordPress slider he built and continues to refine. I was very glad to have the opportunity to gain an insight into Gilbert’s work life, and I think you will find the interview very interesting….
Thanks for joining us today Gilbert, please tell us a bit more about your background, how long you’ve been working with WordPress and about your current ventures.
So about seven years ago when I first went to University to study Software Engineering I decided to teach myself “web” programming as a hobby. My course consisted of “programming” but most of it was based on Java and didn’t cover much web stuff. So I taught myself as I enjoyed the web side of things.
Fast forward to 2010 and I was approached by John O’Nolan to be the lead developer in a new premium WordPress theme shop called BioThemes. We worked on it for about 8 months and launched it near the end of 2010. By summer 2011 it became clear the neither me or John had enough time to continue to work on BioThemes. By this time I was concentrating my efforts on the Nivo Slider WordPress plugin and John was working on http://travelllll.com/. So it closed in September.
Around this time I was approached by Orman Clark to join his small team as a web developer. Orman is on the most successful theme authors on Themeforest.net and I jumped at the chance.
Your plugin Nivo Slider is probably the most popular slider plugin for WordPress, how did the idea for that plugin come about and what were the ingredients that helped make the plugin such a success?
So the free Nivo Slider jQuery plugin had been around for about a year and it’s popularity was continuing to grow. So one day I was sitting there thinking “there must be a way to monetize this”. Almost instantly I knew what the answer was: a WordPress plugin.
Given my experience with WordPress I quickly threw together a plugin (it took me about a week to get the initial plugin done) and launched it at $15/license. It was an instant success.
One of the things I’ve learned is that the WordPress market is huge, and there is plenty of money to be made in plugins, as well as themes. That combined with the fact that the Nivo Slider was already really popular and the site was getting about 1 million pageviews a month (at that point) meant that sales took off instantly. I earned almost $6000 in my first month.
Late last year you’ve quit your office job to join forces with Orman Clark (a leading author on Themeforest), tell us more about the experience of being able to work from home. How do you co-ordinate and communicate as a team, and do you have any plans to create any other products apart from themes.
Working from home is great, especially when you come from a job that meant having to commute for 3.5 hours a day. I love the flexibility and responsibility I have with my time now. One of the things which still surprises me is how easy it is to focus on doing work (and not get distracted). People always say to me “I could never work from home” but I find it quite easy. It helps that I am naturally a disciplined person and I have my own small “office” to separate my work and personal life.
Coordinating and communicating as a team is relatively easy given all the great apps you have available now. We used Kickoff for a while but in the end settled for Basecamp and Campfire for chat. Everyone is signed in to Campfire all day so we all chat quite often (and the banter is hilarious). If we need a private chat, or want to talk to someone, we just use Skype. It all works quite well.
We do have some awesome things coming up in the near future. I can’t say what they are at the moment but keep your eyes peeled.
I see that you are active on Dribbble and Forrst, apart from the standard Twitter. As a web developer, what are the online communities you like to hang out at and what value do each of them provide?
I love Forrst and Dribbble. Forrst is great for communicating with designers and developers alike and can be a great source of solid feedback. Kyle really has done a great job curating Forrst.
I’m not a designer so I only use Dribbble sparingly, mostly to leak sneak peaks at what I’m, working on. But it can also be a great source of design feedback. I’m more of a consumer on Dribbble than a contributor, and often find myself inspired by what others are working on.
You’ve recently released Showcase, a plugin which seems to be a game-changer when it comes to WordPress photo galleries. Tell us more about how the idea came about, and what your aims were when developing this plugin.
Showcase actually came about when Rick Nunn approached me asking me to make a decent gallery plugin for WordPress, as the current options were pretty naff. I had already considered making a gallery plugin for WordPress as the Nivo Slider plugin provided a good base to build from. So spotting the market, I went ahead and build it (again in about a week).
The aim of Showcase is simple, to allow WordPress users to create beautiful galleries as simply as possible. I’m a great believer in keeping things simple, so that was one of my main aims when creating Showcase.
Can you mention some other plugins that you find yourself relying on when developing new WordPress sites?
The following plugins I use in almost all of my WordPress sites:
- Clean Notifications
- Google Analytics for WordPress
- Subscribe to Comments Reloaded
- WordPress SEO
Tell us a bit about your development setup (hardware + software).
I used to be a hardcore Windows man. But just recently I seemed to have turned into an Apple fanboy. My main work machine is a 21.5” iMac and I have a Macbook Pro for when I’m on the road.
Software wise I use Coda, Transmit (I love Panic software), MAMP and Cornerstone for SVN. I use Sparrow for email and Photoshop CS5 for “designer” stuff. I also listen to music permanently while I’m working so use Spotify Premium to fulfill that requirement.
What new features would you like to see in upcoming versions of WordPress?
I would love to see WordPress embracing the “premium” plugins and themes markets more by making it easier to add one-click updating to plugins and themes. Other than that I don’t really have many specific requests, other than continuing to make WordPress better and faster.
Any other online tools or resources you use on a daily basis?
As well as Forrst and Dribbble, I use Google Analytics to tack all my sites and I have a selection of bookmarklets that come in handy (like CSS CacheBuster and WhatFont).
I’m also noting that you do have quite a few hobbies and interests. Too often we read about developers being all about coffee and code. What is your take on achieving a good work-life balance, and the importance of socialising and being active in a community?
First off I don’t drink coffee. Never felt like I’ve needed to. Secondly I think it’s very important to have an “offline” life, after all everything you do in life should ultimately be with and for other people. So go and communicate with them in real life. Enjoy love and hardships with the people around you. I think becoming disconnected from the “offline” world is a dangerous business.
I manage to keep a good work-life balance by working 9-5, then turning my computer off at the end of the day and going to spend time with my wife. Occasionally I work on side projects in evenings and weekends, but I try to keep a good balance as much as possible. Socializing at weekends helps balance out the week.
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