Ben Pines: WordPress Evangelist & Head of Content @ Elementor
Trusted by over 3 million customers, Elementor page builder allows you to create any website you can imagine, with zero coding knowledge. From landing pages, blogs and online shops to niche-specific online presentations, it supports any sort of website. Whether you want to create a blog post or to start a multi-vendor marketplace, this tool is for you. Apart from this, Elementor allows you to customize your header, footer, and other areas of your site. Along with the user-friendly features, it provides constant updates, over 80 design elements and full flexibility – it works with any theme or plugin out there. In this interview, Ben Pines, a head of content at Elementor, shares his thoughts on the latest WordPress advancements, discusses exciting, new widgets Elementor works on, talks about essential WordPress functionalities, and more.
What were your first steps in the WordPress community?
It’s hard to pinpoint one single point at which I crossed the line from outside to inside the community. I’ve been managing and building WordPress websites since 2007, but my enthusiasm really began when I started promoting Elementor in 2016.
Before joining Elementor, I created blogs on WordPress.com, and participated in forums.
After joining Elementor, my involvement in the WordPress community significantly increased. From communicating with other members of the community, answering forum questions, to attending WordCamps. I think no other professional community is as inviting and welcoming as the WordPress community. Everyone is open to help each other; this feeling is most notable while attending WordCamps which really channels the enthusiasm of the WordPress world.
Why is the new Table of Contents Widget from Elementor’s useful for users?
Content is the new currency for marketing. More specifically, longer content.
Orbit Media recently shared their annual contents survey:
While writers write longer content, we want to help them focus on the writing part, while still making their content as accessible and useful to readers. Moreover, the articles need to be accessible to search engines, in order to make sure they get listed and draw traffic.
The Table of Contents widget achieves both of these goals: helping users AND search engines scan your content and understand its structure.
The structure of Elementor’s table of contents is configurable and flexible, enabling users to decide which titles to include or exclude with ease. Elementor’s TOC also offers a lot more design customization options than other tools, allowing you to make the TOC design fit your site’s design language.
Can you tell us more about what new features are planned for release in the near future for Elementor?
I cannot share too much I’m afraid since we are keeping upcoming releases hush-hush. However, I can say that this year we are going to have several substantial changes that will deeply affect and improve the web creator’s workflow.
What differentiates Elementor from other page builders?
In one word: INNOVATION! When you have a mindset of uncompromising constant improvement, you are able to maintain an ever-growing level of innovation, year after year. This way, we continue to set new standards for our industry and build trust among our users.
Today, 3.5 years after Elementor first launched, we still see a long way ahead. Web creators still have daily challenges in our ever-changing industry, and we are helping to make it easier for them to build a successful business by reducing frictions.
In your opinion, what 5 things should every website owner consider when choosing a WordPress theme?
First and foremost, should the theme be a focus at all?
If you use Elementor Pro, with our Theme Builder, the role of the theme in maintaining the website design is substantially reduced, and this will be reduced a whole lot more this year (SPOILER ALERT!).
So, firstly carefully choose theme builder when deciding on your new WordPress theme.
- Speed and bloat
- Compatibility with vital plugins like Elementor and Yoast
- Level of support
- The reliability of the company
This last one is not only crucial when choosing a theme, but also when choosing plugins. I’ve seen plugins and themes being dumped by companies that closed down. If you have a business that relies on your website, this can be a real nuisance and can cause noticeable damage.
As a non-developer, how do you manage to keep up with the latest advancements in WordPress and simultaneously make sure all content is up to date?
This is a great question. I would go even further and phrase the question like so: ‘As someone in the web industry, how do you manage to keep up with changes in development, marketing, design, and business?’
All four of these topics are important and impossible to follow correctly without losing focus.
Staying up to date doesn’t mean reading everything. In fact, it means cleverly curating and filtering the content.
I work hard at trying to filter the noise, so I’m getting to the right information that will help me make informed decisions. To do that, there are several strategies I follow.
I follow people instead of trends. I find influencers I trust and follow them closely. I trust they will help me recognize the trends. In the past, I just followed trendy articles and got frequently confused. By following individual professionals, I trust, I become more engaged, understand the content better (since it is delivered by the same person).
I focus heavily on an idea I believe in. At any given time, there are hundreds of mini trends happening. Google AMP, new Facebook ad targeting, Tik Tok… Most of these mini trends don’t matter TO ME. I recognize a trend I actually care about and believe will make a difference.
For example, the importance of website strategy in the web design process. With the idea focused in my mind, I lean into the topic, follow people who talk about it, write a lecture of my own about it and so on. Having this agenda towards a subject matter substantiates your grasp over a certain topic and prevents you from becoming a jack of all trades that has no say over anything.
These are just two strategies I take, and there are others.
As we move further into the future, the rate of innovation keeps accelerating. Our job is to be better curators of content, so we can tangibly know what we are talking about.
What do you think are the most important functionalities of WordPress websites?
The most important function of any WordPress website is to deliver the value of businesses to their audience.
This is true for Nike’s site, and it’s true for a local plumber’s site as well.
It’s easy for us to forget about user value and focus on the various functionalities. Security, SEO, design. All these serve the purpose I listed above.
As web creators, our job is more than just assembling parts of the sites, collecting buttons, headings, and images and arranging them nicely to form a site.
Instead, we need to understand our client’s business, and properly translate it into an online website that delivers results.
How does your team manage the various needs of Elementor’s vast user base?
The basic values of listening and trying to help haven’t changed since we launched. However, we are diligent to be constantly improving our processes.
I’ve been with Elementor since the start when we were 5 people serving a couple of thousand users.
Now, we have passed 120 employees, and we are constantly improving how we manage the ever-broadening needs of our millions of users.
On a company level, this is done with surveys, onboarding, feedback analysis and other methodologies.
On a personal level, it’s all about having a curious mindset of exploration. I post questions to the community, talk to people at events, read comments on the blog and YouTube, discuss projects with different roles in Elementor, have 1 on 1 sessions with users. When you diversify the type of people you talk to, you are bound to have a clearer picture. It’s never about having one stream of data.
What does your usual working day look like?
I get to the office at 9:00. I manage the content department, which includes our blog editor, social media manager, and several writers.
I like to start the day with writing since I am a morning person and have the most energy earlier in the day.
I then get updated with the members of my team, try to help if something is stuck.
During the day I usually have a couple of meetings.
Some days include shooting videos.
The week is a bit more varied. Sunday is when I have one on one meetings with each member of my team. The session gives me the chance to delve deeper into their projects and see how I can help move our goals along.
What do you do for fun?
I read or rather listen to audiobooks. I also listen to a lot of podcasts, during my commute and in the gym. I love to watch films and TV shows.
I used to do improv, but I stopped that since I don’t have time. I guess making videos and giving talks is a sort of replacement. I love writing, and make sure I do that as much as possible, both on the job and outside of it.
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