Building a theme business using Gatsby w/ Alexandra Spalato

Now that the WordPress acquisition market has cooled a bit, it’s time to stoke the fire on all things Gatsby and JAMStack-y-ness….again.

Don’t let Full Site Editing steal all of the thunder, there’s still so much happening around headless WordPress and the ability to integrate 3rd party APIs to take the place of plugins. Look, I know it’s a polarizing thought process to some of us, but if we want WordPress to continue to grow — we need to give it some room for new use cases.

I’m joined by Alexandra Spolato to talk about her company GatsbyWPThemes and how this hotness comes with some red hot opportunity.

If you’re wondering how to make money in the WordPress theme space headed into 2022, look no further than this conversation.

Get schooled on the technology and learn how the heck she found her co-founder along with their recipe to success splitting the responsibilities.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Alexandra: JAMstack is really the new hotness. Now it brings speed, which is an essential law with ACO, with the new Google measures about about some core vetoes for us that now are really essential. So we’ve we’ve Gatsby and JAMstack. Really really super fast website.

[00:00:20] You check. Pages instant, it’s static. brings all sorts of security because your database is not exposed, but have more flexibility great developer experience because now most developer. Learning react, not PHP. So people want to learn. We react. So it brings a lot of advantages.

[00:00:42] Matt: This episode of the Matt report is brought to you by foo plug-ins or specifically foo plugins, foo gallery. You can find [email protected]. There’s a new pro commerce plan, and it gives you two way integration into WooCommerce. So if you want to sell photos, you can sell photos with and woo commerce.

[00:01:04] It makes your job. Super easy, especially if you’re a photographer. I just had family photos taken the other day and I looked at the big conglomerate website that my photographer sent me. He said, man, it would look so much better if you. Right through WooCommerce, especially if you use something like foo gallery, check out food, art gallery, and learn more about their pro commerce plan.

[00:01:26] Check out their WooCommerce integration. They have a great way to watermark and protect your photo galleries. Check them out and thank them for sponsoring the show. It’s food, art gallery go-to food art gallery today. Start selling images with foo gallery and.

[00:01:44] Now that the WordPress acquisition market has cooled off a bit. It’s time to stoke the fire on all things Gatsby in jams, tackiness. Again. Don’t let full site editing, steal all of the thunder. There’s still so much happening around headless WordPress and the ability to integrate third party API APIs to take the place of plugins and look. 

[00:02:02] I know it’s a polarizing thought process to some of us. But if we want WordPress to continue to grow, we need to give it some room for new use cases. 

[00:02:11] I’m joined by Alexandra Salado to talk about her company Gatsby WP themes over at Gaspe WP themes. Dot com and how this hotness comes with some red hot opportunity. If you’re wondering how to make money in WordPress theme space headed into 2022. Look, no further than this conversation. Get schooled on the technology and learn how the heck she found her co-founder along with the recipe to success, splitting the responsibilities. 

[00:02:36] This is the Matt report a podcast for the resilient and business builder i’ve launched something new you might have heard called the wp minute and you can join us as a member to get into our private discord server and take part in crafting the weekly wordpress news check out buy me a report join and thanks to food plugins fu gallery for sponsoring my work here on the mat report and the wp minute okay here’s [00:03:00] alexandra’s blotto on jamstack and Gasby wordpress themes

[00:03:04] Alexandra: JAMstack is really the new hotness. Now it brings speed, which is an essential law with ACO, with the new Google measures about about some core vetoes for us that now are really essential. So we’ve we’ve Gatsby and JAMstack. Really really super fast website.

[00:03:24] You check. Pages instant, it’s static. brings all sorts of security because your database is not exposed, but have more flexibility great developer experience because now most developer. Learning react, not PHP. So people want to learn. We react. So it brings a lot of advantages.

[00:03:46] . Then in my dream, Always been to, to make a product in some development, to be honest, I really wanted them to create the way I went into development because I’m a creative person. And when I was in what brands I wanted to do themes, but the market was crowded.

[00:04:01] And then I discover, I begin working with react NSC. It was, this is my bad, this is what I want to do.

[00:04:07] We need premium themes with nice designs with options. So people. Especially developers or agency can have some things. They can, they, they can reuse pre-made designs, but not only that, because myself, I use my own themes for projects to not reinvent the wheel. I have a developer team that I can modify everything, but it contains another themes that get all the data and all the options and And I work really faster with that.

[00:04:39] Matt: Here’s what I see. I’m not a developer and the WordPress world is still heavy on the, the development talk, right?

[00:04:47] The interest of WordPress is still largely for developers. First and foremost, and I see a lot of people. Hey, this whole like learn JavaScript, deeply thing. Gutenberg, Gatsby. I feel like some people there’s a camp of people who are like, oh, that’s that’s too technical. Like I can’t even enter in WordPress anymore.

[00:05:08] Because it’s no longer just modify some HTML and CSS and know a little bit of PHP lightly. Like that’s how I got into the WordPress world. So I could kind of relate with that, but I’m not a developer. So I haven’t been practicing this skill for like the last decade. What’s your thoughts on somebody from the outside, just getting into WordPress development?

[00:05:27] Is it that much of a challenge or if they’re starting fresh, you kind of just learn this language and your.

[00:05:33] Alexandra: So is that?

[00:05:33] different type of developers and What you want to do myself? I’m self-taught then I, when I begin with WordPress, I did have not shaman and CSS. I just began taking themes and playing with them. And. Yeah, the design sense. So deep things begin to work and I begin to learn as GMs, CSS, and begin to, to my themes and, and I love, and I discovered I’m a developer and I love that.[00:06:00] 

[00:06:00] So I wanted to go deeper and I wanted more. So I did a JavaScript bootcamp and I react and I, that was that’s me. Okay. Now there is a, of a type of developers and there is WordPress implementers. Doesn’t that blob, but they do great things to Wednesday address to work different type of clients. I think. So I think there is place and things for really different type of person.

[00:06:26] Like there is different type of developers we’re in front then backend there’s dev ops people

[00:06:32] and now we have this possibility of the wing doing jump stack. So no people is a great thing we’ve worked with. 

[00:06:39] It depends on who you are and why you want to go. For me, it has been an opening. Yeah. And now I’m very creating a product in reacting, never expected that 10 years ago. So

[00:06:49] Matt: What was the job? You mentioned you, you took a JavaScript course. What was that course for folks who might be interested in it?

[00:06:55] Alexandra: it was in Barcelona and it was in Spanish. So it was a bootcamp in russula the Skylab I’m, I’m a, I have to that language one, French one is Spanish. So I speak English as you see, but taking one in Spanish, it was a burden less for me, for my brain learning that, but it was a great one. It was freelance full time, full stack.

[00:07:16] So it was react. No, they, everything. And zip center. It was more to find a job. So all of them find a job at the end. So bootcamps are a really great, I think in my case, it was more to have to learn new things, to have more fun, developing and doing new things and flex to that. I’m there. So yeah, some bootcamps are nice.

[00:07:38] I think my opinion, it was in person. It was not online. 

[00:07:42] Matt: Sure when we had our pre-interview, we talked about this being your very first product, that’s not your first foray into a business because you’ve been running a business. But talk, talk to me about this whole first product thing, any fear around that, and how did you prepare yourself to launch your first.

[00:08:00] Alexandra: Oh not fear. No. And I just been. The path it’s interesting. It happened what happened, even if it doesn’t the work or whatever, I have learned so much at a great time, as I say them are creative. So creating a product is, is great. I am. I had a lot of fun enjoy doing it. I saw I’m very lucky because I didn’t want it to do it alone.

[00:08:26] When we begin with with Zach, but then I really needed a partner to develop with and I found he spent harm on Twitter. I knew where before from word gap in various she’s polished. And she lived in various I contacted her and she was immediately okay. She already had a thin business in forest, but she wanted to do new things.

[00:08:47] And especially in JavaScript, she was more with view and she, she learned react with me and she’s super talented in design and in coding, in everything. We met at Gatsby days in London when I was doing a talk [00:09:00] and we begin the next day immediately. And it was, yes, a lot of fun. Enjoy Zen. We are not marketers.

[00:09:09] So for the lounge to clot off more times than we thought, and when we decide, okay, we are going to launch, then you realize all the little things that you have not done in coding, in documentation, I was taking care of the commercial part, so, okay. For sales first.

[00:09:27] we choose a Stripe, but then, oh, okay.

[00:09:30] As a reason, all these data protection things and taxis and all, or no, I don’t want to deal with legal things. 

[00:09:37] So you have all these things to think. And, and before I think before you decide, okay, now we are going to launch you don’t think about them. And they said go, oh, there is that. That’s not the fun 

[00:09:54] Matt: Yeah. Yeah. Like, oh, worry about to sell this thing. And now we have to do support. I forgot about. 

[00:10:00] Alexandra: Yes. I also allowed the support, a website with bathroom circles that I think it’s also Ballina was responsible of the documentation. And she did an amazing work on that. It was really to document well things. And is there any, so they, we pushed the button, to, to, to, to say. Okay.

[00:10:21] Now it’s slides a burden.

[00:10:23] It was really, really something. And we had no idea our sales going to what was going to happen. But the first day I happened to have the five minutes. So it was really a nicer and I sign 

[00:10:36] Matt: talk to me about just picking these tools really quick. I know that I think a lot of WordPress people immediately go to , oh, I’m going to, I’m going to launch a theme or a plug-in business. I’m gonna. Well, what’s been in the news recently, easy digital downloads. Maybe they pick woo commerce, the deliver the product.

[00:10:53] And then some folks who are like, Hey, I’m going to do support. They might be picking, BB press or they might be doing slack or something like that. You chose two fairly different tools. I love circle. I think it’s a fantastic tool. I’ve never used your merchant before. Why not something that was attached directly to WordPress.

[00:11:11] Was there some overhead there that you were like, yeah, I don’t even want to deal with that side of it on.

[00:11:14] Alexandra: But first I wanted to, to do the sales website. We have the project, with gets you WordPress. So it’s not your WordPress where we don’t have each other downloads, et cetera. And all the thing that even, I don’t know if it’s digital downloads take care of the taxis and, and data protection. For me as you think as really a nightmare

[00:11:39] is there an about, about the support? I know a lot of people now are on discord or slack and. Slack is nice, but what do you want to make part? If people ask questions, then if you want to retrieve the message for other people, that will be, that can be useful unless the kids have been version.

[00:11:58] It doesn’t work for me. [00:12:00] Slack works better. For example, I am a team from my agency and then I ask the people on slack. That’s different. This is nice on so far for community. But not for support, and when you want to, to have something well done with people can reach into the message, et cetera.

[00:12:15] So I searched, there is discourse. That was great. And it’s very sort of use that. And I discovered circle because I am, I’m also at both the courses. I hate tomatoes and I love this this courses with Peter. And I think it’s really nice.

[00:12:32] So I just search for what they need, and so, 

[00:12:37] Matt: It’s nice to see people in the WordPress space. So I’ve been talking to a lot more, no code, low code people on this podcast and, circle. Third party merchants, web flow. Like this is what everyone else is using. It’s it’s only really in the WordPress world where you just find everyone saying, I will not use anything unless it’s GPL and I can find it from

[00:12:58] So it’s nice to see, tools working really well. And you voting with your dollars because it’s common sense. It doesn’t have to glue into word press. If it’s solving your need it’s, it’s good. And I just want to highlight that because I think it’s, it’s sort of understated with a lot of folks these days, or maybe even some folks in the WordPress world are afraid to admit it.

[00:13:18] I’m running a discord server for my membership at the WP minute and I’m just like, I love it. It’s fantastic. Of course, there’s the fear that they get bought up by Microsoft, but you know, I’ll deal with that when I get there. How has the marketing gone since it’s been, what roughly, well, how many months has it been?

[00:13:34] Like five, six 

[00:13:35] Alexandra: three months, three months.

[00:13:36] we launched every bottle that we launched on the 3rd of June at the beginning of the summer. So we didn’t choose this day. We were just ready then, but there’ll be less bucket is that’s not the best moment for lunch, but whatever. 

[00:13:54] Matt: And, and how, and what, what are your plans? Now you, so summertime is famously very low in sales. I mean, just speaking from experience, it’s very low in sales. Everyone’s out. COVID, I don’t know what’s happening in your part of the world in America. A lot of people went outside cause it was the summertime and they were ready to ready to go.

[00:14:12] And now I, already seeing, even podcast listens are starting to go back up because everyone’s like, Hey, summer’s done. We’re back to work, starting to become a fall, et cetera, et cetera. So anyway, getting to that famously a low season in the summertime. What’s your plans now going into sort of October and the holiday season.

[00:14:29] Alexandra: Okay though, for us, it was not only is a seminar, but what happens it’s and one thing, when you launch a product and you begin, of course, you don’t really make enough money to live only on that. So for me, this summer has been super active because I had tons of. Freelance work, and really, really there’s been some more heavy peer relationship.

[00:14:52] My carrier, it was terrible. So I didn’t take holidays or nothing, but we could not really work more on the things, but that’s good [00:15:00] because I realized that, okay, that’s really. I crave and want to work on, and realize that, okay, it’s, that’s my baby. I really want to work on that. So now I’m going to really put my, my, my, all my time on that and Paulina too.

[00:15:15] So we realized. 

[00:15:17] Matt: up the role? How do you split up the responsibilities before you continue? How do you split the responsibilities? Who does, what on the.

[00:15:22] Alexandra: Okay. We are both developers and designers . Paulina is is better than me at something sad, debugging and tracking documentation. She’s really great developer. And. 100% the proper, and she’s designed design to me, I’m a developer, but I also, as a business side I’m more extrovert ones that like yes, to talk to here in podcast she will do blog posts and they will do videos too, to show you the, but the great thing is we agree on most of the things and and we.

[00:15:54] It has been a flow since the.

[00:15:55] beginning. And I think that’s very rare and very precious to to have, so we didn’t think it, it just thing has been flowing between us. So now we talk, okay. I do that, that then Yeah. So marketing. Market neither her or neither me. So we have the Bridgette we are, which is, she is great.

[00:16:15] And we really love her feeders that somebody was part of the team. She’s taking care of Twitter. And I have my life partner, Darko is taking care now of SEO, of main marketing of all that. We are preparing that now, because we realize it’s not enough to have a good product. You have to promote, you have to market because.

[00:16:41] This is baby doesn’t work alone.

[00:16:43] Matt: Yeah.

[00:16:43] Alexandra: So we, we had a really lot of sales of first month Zan. Yes.

[00:16:47] July, August. And as you say, yes, summer is really calm, even in the tweaking, the matching subscription it began to get accepted. At first is really dead. So yes, we have already things to do, do a, we are planning to do also webinars making these team and make some tutorials to meet.

[00:17:08] Matt: W I think one of the hot trends now besides getting acquired from, from like hosting companies. Cause it seems like all these plugging companies here now are just getting acquired by bigger players is as knocking on the door of like, a hosting company maybe like a strata WP who focuses on like headless WordPress or static WordPress, stuff like that.

[00:17:31] What about that route? Have you been thinking about, maybe I can do. Even like this free theme as a framework. I know some people don’t like that word, but bring it in as a framework to a hosting company, be like, Hey, partner up with us, include this as part of your suite of services for your hosting company or for your hosting customers.

[00:17:50] And then, oh, by the way, just let them know that we have a pro version if they, if they want something else. Is that, is that something that is maybe too far off or like not on the radar yet? Or is that 

[00:17:59] Alexandra: [00:18:00] Oh,

[00:18:00] Matt: want to.

[00:18:02] Alexandra: I have not think about it, but it can be an idea. you you’ll give me ideas. I’m very close from WP and gene because of course , that was at Gatsby. Karen Mason I’m, I’m, I’m really close to them towards the folks that work there. I was thinking, I was thinking. I was very inspired by by Genesis and studio press, but the way of doing things.

[00:18:27] And I think the people that can use it, it’s, people’s that want quality. We want things that don’t do, it’s not a multi popper films. I can Tim forest, not as I do one things they do well. And we have themes for everything and also. This is the type of people that use it. They’re like even if they don’t 3d codes, they like to.

[00:18:52] enter in code and, and modify things themselves.

[00:18:56] So, for me, it’s a, it’s a great great model. And I was working with Genesis when I was in WordPress. I was I was a Genesis developer too. So, and so and WP engine as all noses to your breasts themes that Brian Gardner now is that WP engine two. So I don’t know if say I, if there is ideas that come, why not now we are beginning.

[00:19:18] So we will see. Yes, everything is open.

[00:19:22] Matt: So we’ve talked a lot about like how to develop these themes or like how you thought about the development of it and like Gatsby and JavaScript and all the stuff in the WordPress world when it comes to marketing, understanding who your customer is, is one of the most critical pieces. You’ve mentioned like Genesis and studio.

[00:19:41] That crowd of users, they were all fairly technical. Cause you’re doing like hooks and actions, filters, like all these things. And you’re always like modifying the functions, PHP file. They w you know, people who were born from those days and that. We’re not the people who like guts started using Elementor where all it was, was like a drag and drop interface.

[00:19:59] Have you started to really think critically about who your customer is? Is it more technical? Is it more of like an agency that would be purchasing your product and not, sort of somebody who wants to launch a pizza shop website and they’re just like, give me Gatsby. Like, they wouldn’t even know how to do this yet.

[00:20:17] Have you.

[00:20:17] Alexandra: Yes, yes, no, I really think it’s. More for professionals. I don’t say that the professional can advise you to know that they’ve of people that we wanted. We’d be more an agency, a developer that want to, to enjoys a mix of WordPress where we’ve we’ve to It’s not, yes. The person, I think who launches pizza, burbs even on know about Gatsby.

[00:20:45] So, so yes, and Zay they’ll have to be super technical because if you follow our recommendation, you don’t need to know coding, but you need to use a console. You need to install, know the [00:21:00] gaps between style, get two of your score to settle, get, and everything is explained.

[00:21:06] Every beat of things you Have Right into Consolo into editorial. You it’s to be based. So that’s why they think of what people of Genesis that and a about three Dar website with all these tutorial or you.

[00:21:20] notice recipes. I think this type of people will love to work this way. And it’s not code because you don’t need to call, but you need to do the things that can afraid some other type of things. 

[00:21:34] And then more technical people of course will do much more things than what they have no dice into support of the client. We have. There is people that are already technical and that technical questions at that come here. 

[00:21:50] Matt: One of the, I can’t remember because time is so elusive these days. I don’t know where times time span was, but famously I think like a year ago Matt Mullenweg. Sort of had like a little open dialogue with one of 

[00:22:07] Alexandra: bill, man, from from from Netlify. 

[00:22:10] Matt: right and about like this whole, like JAMstack versus WordPress, people like people still struggle to get the average person still struggles to get WordPress up and running. Even if they have like a one-click button in their hosting panel, they still are challenged with that. JAMstack is still going through.

[00:22:28] A hundred times more challenging. Like if you ask the normal person to do the console stuff and even maybe some power users, they might struggle with that. Do you see the JAMstack world getting a, getting easier from your point of view? Like, are they making it a little bit easier for folks or look, these are just the things we have to put up with to, to boot up against.

[00:22:50] Alexandra: I remember I was talking for people from the Gatsby team and they say, yeah, Is there is a lot of things, that are seemed out there. He seems very struggling, but they I’ve been observing WordPress.

[00:23:03] So it’s a good thing. So I think it will take time, but yes, I think it will become JAMstack it’s really takings a web, so it would become easier, but it’s into their proper things. So. And I think people like me, we develop the themes and that will grow and it will be other people’s that will develop morphemes and weave ideas to make it simpler.

[00:23:31] And Gatsby will also make things to integrate better with a CMS like WordPress. I think that will come. Yes, honestly, but. 

[00:23:41] Matt: When you say JAMstack is, is sort of, winning the web or taking over the web, is there a particular, is it because developers are liking that sort of approach better? Or is there something really powerful for the end user? That like the visitor of the website, the buyer of the product who is in an [00:24:00] e-commerce site or something like that.

[00:24:01] Is there something consumer facing that is a real advantage in that?

[00:24:07] Alexandra: Yes, it’s both. I think, yes. Developers love it, but user, just for example, now I have a. A client. Now we are building a huge website about traveling to know a sort of travel advisor. We are featuring five custom post type featuring that?

[00:24:21] People will make a search and they get fitter. We, for many, many criteria’s Yeah. For a lot of images. And he didn’t know about WordPress. He didn’t know about about JAMstack and. I explained him how it goes. He said, oh my God said, solve all my problems. Speed security. Although then, and even if somebody is not technical, show them a Gatsby, your next website and shows the speed and change page is just instantaneous.

[00:24:51] And then explain them. The security’s improved because we were static website, a hacker jet, and just the face, your website. He will not touch it at the base. And even if your WordPress is down, your city is up, you will not be down if it’s static. Then yes. And the speed for SEO. It’s crazy. that’s super important now and to flexibility.

[00:25:14] So you can you can have your content also marketing page, the blog from WordPress, but perhaps you prefer having a Shopify. Oh, big commerce. Even if we have a will covers, so you can have your shop on Shopify you can have some data in a, in a Google sheets and things that come from other API and all that in a consistent theme, in one website.

[00:25:43] Matt: Yeah. That’s, that’s the exciting part. That’s what like the whole, the whole like WordPress crashing, but my website still being up, like, that’s all you need to tell 

[00:25:52] Alexandra: Yes. Okay. 

[00:25:54] Matt: I like perfect. That’s exactly what a.

[00:25:57] Alexandra: Yes. You can crush a WordPress. You can destroy your WordPress and in your files, you’re sitting there. 

[00:26:04] Matt: All right. So for the listener today, if, if they want to get started with, with Gatsby or with your theme, it’s Gatsby, WP, Gatsby, WP, go and visit that site. Anything else they should prepare before they had purchased? Like what should they have? Should they have a special hosting account before?

[00:26:22] Alexandra: Yes, we have interns on the dock. There is a link, I think, I think, yes. What you should do prepare your computer because he has one of our fears, but it didn’t happen. It’s they need to

[00:26:40] they need to prepare their computer. And nobody has a problem with that and different on mark and on windows. Everything is under the Gatsby, the commendation. So we explain it on our documentation and we link it to get me. So is that. They can do that before buying, because somebody was [00:27:00] suddenly is going to have, oh, is that too complicated for me?

[00:27:02] It will not be good. So after that, yes, I can. And then just, they can read the documentation and we are going to Vince is three themes, so they can play with that. It will have nods options, nods comments not also fancy things, but it would be totally, totally usable where they want it to say. 

[00:27:28] Matt: Bye. Bye bye. Go buy the theme 

[00:27:30] Alexandra: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. 

[00:27:33] Matt: WP themes. Calm Alexandra, where else can folks say thanks on the web, 

[00:27:40] Alexandra: to say thanks? Oh my yes, we have a Twitter. It’s art. WP

[00:27:53] Matt: we will link it up in the show notes. We’ll have a link.

[00:27:58] Alexandra: that’s, that’s better ESN visits. We have the support website we’ve circle, which is nice as I can say, can subscribe that and subscribed as a website because this is where we are going to send a free team and also goodies, and also in our newsletter. Now we are going to begin also to inform people about things about JAMstack.

[00:28:21] For example, now we have the. Just get to be camp just happen and say announced gods before, which will have SSL, server-side rendering and many things. And of course, as soon as it’s stable, we will implement it in, in our themes.

[00:28:40] Matt: I love me some server side rendering. Tell ya. I don’t know what it does, but it sounds powerful and it sounds fast. And that’s what I like. Gatsby WP Alexandra. Thanks for doing the show today. Everyone else has Matt Join the mailing list. Don’t forget to support the show by heading on over to buy me a report.

[00:29:01] Buy me a report. That’s where you can get connected to our membership powered discord. I love it. You want to be part of the weekly news, check it out. Buy me report. All right, everybody. Thanks for listening. We’ll see. In the next episode.


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