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Miriam Schwab, Illuminea’s Friendly CEO Interview

Miriam Schwab (@miriamschwab) is Friendly CEO of web marketing and development studio Illuminea, the person behind WordPress tips blog WP Garage, three-time WordCamp Jerusalem organizer and a speaker at upcoming WordCamp Europe. With so many things on her plate all we can say is we’re honored to have her here, offering pearls of WordPress wisdom to ThematoSoup readers.

Could you explain our readers what the “Illuminea approach” looks like? A client comes to you, explains what she needs and…?

Our approach involves five stages: planning, design, development, QA, launch. The four last ones are pretty self-explanatory, so I want to elaborate on the first stage: planning.

The planning stage sets the foundation for the rest of the project. During this stage, we not only create a sitemap and wireframe for the site, but we also get to know the ins and outs of our client’s business and organization. We want to know exactly what they do, what they offer, who they offer it to, etc. By getting to know our clients’ businesses, we can make better decisions and offer useful advice throughout the website building process. Basically, our approach to web development is business-oriented – we become part of your business.

What’s your WordPress elevator pitch to potential clients who never heard of it?

“We selected WordPress as our platform of choice after conducting intensive research into the existing options for the following reasons:

  1. It’s Open Source – this means that you are not dependent on us forever. With proprietary systems, you can get “locked in” to the company that created your site…forever. This is problematic for the long terms, since they may be great now, but who knows what will be in a year or two. Open Source means that we are not the only who have access to your code, or know WordPress code. Also, Open Source means that the platform is constantly being updated and improved by hundreds of developers around the world – the developer base is broad, and your software is always up-to-date with the latest web technologies.
  2. It’s user-friendly – Our clients can totally manage their own sites, on their own. We make sure to develop the site’s admin area so it’s user-friendly, but WordPress out of the box is really easy to use. We have many clients who are not web savvy going full speed ahead with their sites.
  3. It integrates well with social media and search engine optimization – thanks to plugins like Yoast’s WordPress SEO, the plethora of RSS feeds that WordPress offers, and our optimized theme code, your site is online-marketing-ready.

Why is having an existing theme customized by a developer better than buying a theme with thousands of options and doing it yourself?

Because thousands of options in a theme means that the one thing that you really want and need to do will be impossible: not only for you, but for a developer too who will have to wade through tens of theme files and thousands of lines of code that were created to support the options, in order to find the one little thing you want to do. Many themes are also buggy, and you may want someone to fix that. And finally, because of our intensive planning stage, we can help you choose the template that works best for your needs.

Illuminea helps its clients select base theme for Pressed WordPress site, so they’re safe from theme lockdown, what advice would you give to people trying to select a theme for their WordPress website on their own? Anything they should look for in a theme, or avoid at all costs?

I just gave a talk about this to a startup hub in Tel Aviv. I mentioned a few things to look out for:

  1. Too many theme options – as I mentioned above, this doesn’t spell success, but impending doom.
  2. Built-in SEO features – many themes boast that they come with SEO features built in. Hurray! Not. These features are never as robust and updated as those that come with Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin. And if the theme has built-in SEO features, these could compete with Yoast’s plugin and prevent you from reaching online marketing awesomeness. So stay away from those types of themes.
  3. Support – support is almost equal in importance to the theme itself. You will inevitably need support from the theme creator, so before you buy, try to contact them with a question. See how long it takes them to respond, and if it’s within a reasonable time frame (48 hours), and their answer is useful, then this is a good sign

You organized WordCamp Jerusalem in 2010, 2011 and 2013 and will be speaking at upcoming WordCamp Europe. Are WordCamps something regular users can benefit from or are they strictly for WordPress developer and designers to talk about cool things they did?

When we organize WordCamp, we try to make sure that a lot of the talks are geared towards the end users – tips on how to make the most out of WordPress, how to manage your content, etc. I think WordCamps should be for all WordPress users, and those of us who are on the building side of WordPress should help the users with their sites as much as possible.

Miriam, huge thanks for this interview and see you at WordCamp Europe!

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Slobodan Manic
I love working with WordPress and doing it the right way. Themes and plugins I develop have a common #1 goal: Keeping it as simple as possible for users to publish their content.
Slobodan Manic


Web consultant with 10 years of experience in web development and web analytics.
Slobodan Manic
Slobodan Manic

Latest posts by Slobodan Manic (see all)

3 comments Miriam Schwab, Illuminea’s Friendly CEO Interview

  1. Although I applaud the philosophy behind Illuminea’s approach when it comes to choosing WordPress themes that are not bloated, it’s this sentence that would make me want to do business with Miriam –

    By getting to know our clients’ businesses, we can make better decisions and offer useful advice throughout the website building process.

    This approach is what I like about doing business with IT people and I believe that personal approach is what’s lacking in today’s custom theme development business.

    1. Thanks Dragan! So nice of you to say that. I really believe that building a website is partly about the technical side of things: HTML, CSS, PHP etc., but that strategy and identifying business goals are most important. What good is a website that doesn’t aim to achieve results, that doesn’t reflect the company or organization behind it? That’s why we spend a lot of time really getting to know our clients and their business.

      And thanks Slobodan for the interview!

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