Season 5B: E:9 Tom Willmot

On today’s episode, Sam and Corey hit the halfway mark of Season 5B by interviewing Tom Willmot, the CEO of Human Made. Tom talks about the agency along with the Happytables SaaS Product which has been the niche product when Noel Tock joined Human Made as a partner in 2013.

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Prior to founding Human Made with Joe in 2010, Tom cut his professional teeth with lead technical roles on some of the earliest examples of large-scale sites built with WordPress, including the ground-up rebuilds of both and Digital Trends. In addition, Tom sits on the board at Happytables and has had advisory roles with Rufflr, Market Realist, United Influencers, and Clickbank. He’s a regular public speaker, both offline and online.

As CEO Tom splits his focus between the big-picture vision of where Human Made is going and how they will get there along with the day-to-day support of their amazing humans and clients.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • Happy Tables is a website builder platform for the restaurant niche.  (4:33)
  • More recently there is a pivot to SaaS with the Restaurant Command station. (5:26)
  • There are many restaurants running the WordPress version. New signups for the “older” WordPress version no longer exist. (5:58)
  • It is difficult using WordPress for your SaaS without it dominating your UI. The most valuable part of the web builder platform is the dashboard with usable, presentable data.

Supporting a SaaS (Software as a Service for WordPress):

  • The pivot to the SaaS was inspired out of necessity. (6:34)
  • Some needs of a restaurant are generic and they can get websites for minimal cost.
  • The UI of Happytables was before Human Made moved to the restaurant niche. Human Made partnered with Noel Tock in 2013. The customized SaaS product became a website builder now into several versions. (8:02)
  • The most valuable tool with the restaurant dashboard is the analytics and the restaurant data. Restaurant owners want that data.
  • Happytables v2 is still built on WordPress in addition to other technologies. The dashboard uses custom Javascript and a different database using APIs back to WordPress. (11:28)
  • Managing some things like users and website posts allows you to get to market quickly using WordPress as the application framework. (11:52)
  • The JSON API in WordPress core has just come out so there is not a lot of repeatable development and process in the open source yet. (12:46)
  • HappyTables v2 is multi-network which WordPress supports internally. (14:51)
  • To scale the SaaS you need to solve problems at the software engineering levels to address scaling and security. (29:35)

Why Stay With WordPress:

  • Happytables is already developed in WordPress.
  • It makes sense to use the technology that does the job best. (ex: user management, publishing, workflow, etc.)  (18:55)
  • The SaaS application can use what WordPress offers for free.

Decision Making for a Custom Admin:

  • The standard WordPress admin seemed complicated for new users. (18:56)
  • Noel designed a new admin that was much simpler based on the user’s needs. (19:18)
  • The product is not a large complex product. (21:00)
  • In some cases, you are pushing ahead of WordPress with best practices, which may not yet exist. (22:22)

Future of WordPress:

  • There is a need to document best practices in WordPress. (ex: If you are building in React and connecting to WordPress you need standard libraries and workflow. (24:32)
  • The current API does not have all the features to take advantage of the additional functionality. There is a lot that has not been exposed in the WordPress API.  (26:21)
  • The API infrastructure was addressed with WordPress core. Not everything is exposed yet in the API. (27:23)
  • The API needs software engineers to extend the functionality. (31:20)
  • Every project that HappyTables does is using the API in some way. (26:44)
  • WordPress will probably be developed to interact with other technologies rather than being everything to everybody. (37:11)

Nomad Base
Human Made
Noel Tock

Follow Tom:
Tom Willmot on Twitter
Human Made Blog

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