Today we are really happy to have a chance to bring you an interview with our good friend Sami from Foxland. I’d take my freedom to describe him as a warm hearted guy from a cold Finland 🙂 . Beside being a nice guy he is a WordPress theme developer, active member of WordPress community, Math teacher and a huge music fan. I guess we all have something to learn from Sami so we put together a set of interesting questions for the interview that we hope you’ll enjoy as much as we did.
First of all thank you for taking your time for the interview Sami. Let’s start with basics. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how your life led you to WordPress?
Thanks for having me! I’m a math teacher from Finland. I’ve been living in Helsinki 16 years but my roots are in east part of Finland. Never forget your roots!
I started creating websites when studying math in university. You know, the good old table layout in the late 90s. It was just a small hobby for a long time.
So how did I ended up using WordPress? Well, I was in my ex-students course where we needed to create website for our short film. We only had couple of days and students gave me an hint about service called WordPress.com. I was sold instantly. Creating content was easy and it was free.
After that I joined Themehybrid.com community and started to learn more and more about self-hosted WordPress themes. First by building child themes and reading support forums questions. Here is more info why Themehybrid is great.
Little by little I got better. Fast forwarding today I could call myself a teacher, and a front-end developer. I do freelance WordPress projects and build public themes while still teaching in highschool. Yeah I know, I probably should concentrate my energy to one thing:) Let’s wait and see.
Please share with us how you started coding and designing. Do you have some formal education related to coding or design?
I have zero education related to coding or design. Heck, in school my visual art courses was my weakest subject. Nevertheless I strongly believe that education is really really important. If nothing else it’s one of the funniest period of your life. At least it was for me.
Like I said before my coding school was Themehybrid. There are no better teacher than Justin Tadlock. I was lucky that I joined there back in the day.
What kind of themes you build and where do you get your inspiration from?
I try to build accessible, simple, good looking, and easy to use themes. Sometimes theme is more better suited for blogging, sometimes more for business type of site. Everybody is saying that you should build themes on certain niche. I just build themes that I personally enjoy building and using.
Most of my inspiration for themes comes from stealing other peoples ideas and designs. On more serious level inspiration can come from everywhere. I recently listened David Lynch thoughts on Where Great Ideas Come From.
You are a big fan of music, do you also get some inspiration for your themes in it?
I could talk about music all day 🙂 . Music is everywhere in my life. It inspires me all the time. Couple of times CD covers have inspired me for color schemes.
I also wish I was Audiotheme.
— Sami Keijonen (@samikeijonen) October 5, 2016
If it’s not a secret please tell us a bit about your workflow when developing a new theme.
My workflow is pretty basic.
- There needs to be design idea, at least in my head. I have bought designs couple of times and in those cases I need Photoshop or Sketch files. I also design in the browser for testing ideas.
- I generate new Underscores theme and start working.
- I usually do layouts and bigger things first.
- Then work on details so long that I start hating the theme 🙂
- I also setup live demo site in early stages so that I can test the theme on different devices.
- In article do it yourself theme review I have more details how I test my code.
- Also all commercial themes are reviewed by themereview.co.
My other tools are also common ones.
- Git for version control.
- Gulp or Grunt for automated tasks.
- Notepad++ or Atom as my code editor.
We know accessibility is very important to you. Can you introduce the importance of accessibility to our readers and other theme developers? Why is it so important today?
It has always been important. Why would we build a site that only certain type of people can use and interact? It’s our job to build better and more accessible themes.
Note that accessible site is not the same as accessible theme but it’s a great start.
When using HTML and CSS in the right way we already have good basis of accessible theme. I have written some accessible related articles to get you started.
You are a Math teacher. How easy or how hard is for you to balance Foxland and teaching? Do you prefer one of these jobs?
Having two jobs is definitely keeping me busy. But I like both worlds.
Teaching keeps me connected in “real world” and socially active. And students are always fun.
While coding and freelancing gives me other kind of challenges. In that world I have so much to learn and that motivates me.
I still haven’t decided what I want to do when I grow up. I’m not even sure do I want to grow up.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a theme called Checathlon. I’m super proud of it! But I was disappointed that it was not approved to WordPress.com 🙁
It’s a business type of theme which supports Easy Digital Downloads Plugin. Here is demo site if you want to check it out.
For Checathlon I hired talented designer to bring my ideas to life. I really enjoyed working with him (we also worked on a client project together earlier) and hopefully we work together in the future.
You are an active member of WordPress community. How did you get involved with the WordPress community?
Themehybrid was the first WordPress related community. That’s where everything started for me. Then I released themes on WordPress.org and answered Finnish WP.org support forums questions. But that was only online participating. It’s more fun to meet people in person.
Our local WordPress meetup in Helsinki was founded Jul 27, 2015. In meetups I have met great people and also talked several times. Now we have meetups in several cities.
Then we started to organize our second WordCamp Finland which took place in spring 2016. It was a lot of work but we had amazing team. In next question I share more details.
There will be WordCamp in Finland at 2017 also, stay tuned 🙂
You are also organizer of a WordCamp Finland, can you tell us something about your experience with it?
It was great experience. We had amazing team which is crucial for organizing events like WordCamp. Organizing WordCamp was a lot of work but rewording in the same time. Here are couple of notes about organizing.
- Set up organizing team and their roles.
- We had weekly meeting in Slack and also live meetings.
- Picking the venue place can be hard. We looked different places with different price range.
- Balancing the budget can be hard.
- After party and contributors day are important.
- I have written longer article about organizing WordCamp in my blog.
Do you have some advices and tips for the people that are just starting with the WordPress theme business?
I’m not the right quy for giving business advices. I suck at business. But Matt and Mike knows. Here is great podcast how to start a WordPress theme business.
What are your plans for the future?
Growing up? I don’t know.
I don’t have five year plans like some people do. But I hope I’m healthy and my love ones are fulfilled with happiness.
I don’t mind if I have build couple of best selling themes in the next five years or so:)
Finally, here’s your chance to freestyle:). Write anything you think could be interesting or useful to our readers.
How about a little poem.
Sunbeam lights the dark floor
Another one knocks on the door
They play around without a sound
Black cloud and they’re gone
Now where is the fun
Here comes the December sun
Here comes the December sun