wptavern:-#51-–-adam-lowe-on-building-websites-with-pinegrow’s-new-wordpress-plugin

Transcript

Jukebox is a podcast which is dedicated to all things WordPress. The people, the events, the plugins, the blocks, the themes, and in this case using the new plugin from Pinegrow to create complex WordPress websites.

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, you can do that by searching for WP Tavern in your podcast, player of choice. Or by going to WPTavern.com forward slash feed forward slash podcast. And you can copy that URL into most podcast players. If you have a topic that you’d like us to feature on the podcast, I’m keen to hear from you, and hopefully get you, or your idea, featured on the show.

Head over to WPTavern.com forward slash contact forward slash jutebox and use the contact form there.

So on the podcast today, we have Adam Lowe. Adam runs Peak Performance Digital, a small web consulting agency in Washington, DC, which specializes in providing website strategy along with custom WordPress solutions.

He’s on the podcast today to talk about a new plugin from Pinegrow. Adam does not represent the company, but as an avid user of their products and experienced in how they work. The Pinegrow web editor is a desktop tool that lets you build websites with a graphical user interface.

The closest comparison would be a page builder, but this is not entirely accurate. Unlike most page builders, which require very little technical expertise. Pinegrow does require an understanding of technology such as CSS, SASS Grid, Bootstrap, Tailwind CSS, to make use of the platform. The intention of the tool is to make it possible to create complex sites, but with a close eye on the HTML and CSS that is being output.

Given the popularity of WordPress, the Pinegrow developers have created a WordPress plugin, which is just about to be released. It’s in closed beta and Adam has been using it as his go-to solution for several months now.

We talk about what the platform can do and how it works. It’s not going to be a plugin for beginners, and there’s going to be a learning curve for those who do take the plunge. It’s intended as a bit of a bridge between novices and WordPress experts.

We also get into a discussion about the fact that Pinegrow is intended to be a no dependency solution. Once you finished creating your theme block or whatever else you might want to create, you can export that in a way that no longer needs Pinegrow at all. If you’re curious about new ways to create websites in WordPress, have a listen to the podcast and see if Pinegrow is a good fit.

If you’re interested in finding out more, you can find all of the links in the show notes by heading over to WPTavern.com forward slash podcast, where you’ll find all the other episodes as well.

And so without further delay, I bring you Adam Lowe.

I am joined on the podcast today by Adam Lowe. Hello, Adam.

[00:03:46] Adam Lowe: Hello.

[00:03:47] Nathan Wrigley: It is very nice to have you on the podcast today. We normally begin with a little bit of a brief introduction from our guests, just so that we can orientate ourselves around who you are, what your relationship is with WordPress. So if you wouldn’t mind, just for a few moments, just briefly describe your past in the WordPress space or with tech in a more general way.

[00:04:07] Adam Lowe: I had been in the website space for a long time. I started in the late nineties. I actually think that I built my first website and sold my first in website 1997. And I’ve been around WordPress since the very first version, I think that was called Miles Davis actually. Used it for quite a while. Took a little bit of time away while I worked in-house in corporate, using some enterprise products. And then I got back into it again, I guess six or seven years ago. So it’s been a really interesting journey and seeing how far it’s come in that time period has been incredible.

[00:04:36] Nathan Wrigley: You are on the podcast today to talk about a particular tool that you’ve been using. It’s a curious tool in that it is soon to be a WordPress plugin. So the features that the desktop version has had for a long time are being ported over into a WordPress plugin so that you can use it inside different installs of WordPress.

It’s called Pinegrow. If you’ve not come across Pinegrow before, maybe it’s a good idea to pause the podcast and go Google Pinegrow. I’m sure you’ll find it. You can see exactly what it does, but would you be able to, first of all, lay out what Pinegrow is, and also would you just make it clear what your relationship to the company is? Because I think that might be an important thing to clarify right at the start.

[00:05:19] Adam Lowe: It definitely is and I appreciate that. So Pinegrow, it looks like a page builder. It acts like a page builder. It smells like a page builder, but it’s not a page builder. Pinegrow is actually a theme builder and a block plugin builder, and what it does is it lets you visually create websites and visually create blocks and themes, and then it takes what you create in their builder and it spits out WordPress native code.

So it uses native WordPress functions and all of that to, spit out React blocks, and PHP themes that you can just move to your website and install like you would anything else that you had hand coded. So, whereas most page builders live inside of WordPress and require you to have it installed and running, Pinegrow doesn’t need that.

Pinegrow is just a builder that lets you, build things, basically code in a very visual manner. My relation to them is, I’m just a user. I pay for the product. I didn’t even think that it was going to be my main product a year and a half ago, but the more that I’ve used it, the more I’ve come to rely on it and I see the benefits of it.

So I have developed a very close relationship with the company. I’m not employed by them. They don’t pay me, nothing like that. I just feel very passionate about this as a product and it definitely suits my needs from a business standpoint.

[00:06:36] Nathan Wrigley: That’s good to clear up. Thank you for that. The intention of the product then, in the future will be that the desktop version that you’ve been using for years, is now going to be a WordPress plugin. In other words, you could install it on different sites, and you could modify all of the different pieces of your WordPress website.

But just to be clear, once you have finished that work and exported a theme or a plugin, block, whatever it may be, you’re making the point that it’s no longer required. There isn’t a dependency to have that plugin installed any longer. You could whip it out. Remove all trace of Pinegrow, and everything should still just work.

[00:07:17] Adam Lowe: That’s absolutely right. And when I talked to Matjaž a few, I guess several months ago, and he was telling me about this project, I had asked him, hey, is it possible to be able to do this sort of thing? And he came back and said, yes. And my mind was completely blown. I just didn’t think that anyone was going to be, maybe brave enough or, able to build something like that.

And when he came back and said that, yes, this is the way that it already works, I was like, I need to get in this beta. And maybe two months ago he invited me into the private beta, and I’ve been testing it ever since. And yeah, it’s incredible that that’s what it does. It is just a builder that, it creates a plugin that you activate like a normal plugin or creates a theme that you activate like a normal theme. And once you’ve got it in there, the need for the Pinegrow builder plugin is gone. The only reason why you would potentially need or even want it, is if you wanted to make a change to that theme or to that block plugin. So there is still a benefit of having it on there, but it’s definitely not a dependency or a requirement.

[00:08:12] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that’s really quite interesting. Obviously, if we’re using a typical page builder, if we remove the page builder, the page will look entirely different. But in this scenario, everything should still look the same because it’s not requiring Pinegrow from that moment on.

[00:08:26] Adam Lowe: Exactly.

[00:08:27] Nathan Wrigley: I’ve watched a few of your YouTube videos and I think we should probably figure out who the target audience for this is first, because the promise of page builders really is that more or less anybody can start building a website. And obviously, the advent of Gutenberg and full site editing and so on, that is hoped to be the promise. That anybody can log in and with a little bit of orientation and familiarization, they can start dropping things into the page and come up with something, perhaps use templates and modify those templates and so on.

I think it’s fair to say that Pinegrow is not really aimed at that target audience. It feels to me like the barrier to entry may be a little bit higher than that. Have you got anything to, to add to that?

[00:09:10] Adam Lowe: You’re right on the money. It is definitely not aimed at the new person. It’s not aimed at the Elementor crowd. It’s not aimed at even the DIY person. Originally Pinegrow was aimed at developers, and the desktop version, which is continuing to be supported and available. The desktop version continues to have more and different features than the website plugin. But that is really aimed towards people who want to get into the weeds.

For the WordPress plugin, they’ve definitely put some considerations in there for people who aren’t quite as comfortable in code. So we’ve got some quick start tutorials. We’ve got some more, a little bit more handholding, but not as much as you would get with an Elementor. The best audience for Pinegrow would be somebody who is comfortable with code but doesn’t want to use it.

Or maybe somebody who is trying to learn a little bit of code, or knows the concepts, but doesn’t want to get in there and write PHP, HTML, CSS all day long.

[00:10:06] Nathan Wrigley: Is the reason for that because you need to have some sort of understanding, familiarity with the way WordPress works internally. Because this is generating, essentially code? You need to really understand where that code needs to be deployed, which lines of the HTML for example, it is that you’re going to target with various things. You need to basically have some understanding, otherwise, is it just going to be a purely frustrating experience?

[00:10:32] Adam Lowe: That’s exactly what it is, and you need to have a conceptual understanding of how WordPress works and how code works. Not really a practical hands on understanding of it. So you don’t need to know what all the functions are and how to, how to write them from scratch. But you need to know when to use different things. You need to understand how the theme hierarchy works. You need to understand how WordPress calls different pieces. Again, what the names of some of those functions are so that you can apply them.

[00:11:00] Nathan Wrigley: So, from everything that you’ve said, it feels a little bit like a bridge between, let’s just use the word novice, a novice user, and somebody who essentially is a complete expert. They understand everything. They can just open up, sort of IDE, a text editor if you like, and happily type away and build up all of the bits and pieces that they need.

This is somewhere in between. You need to be, not an expert, but not a complete novice. There’s going to be some handholding and the UI will assist you along that path. But there’s definitely going to be some requirement to understand bits and pieces of how WordPress works conceptually.

[00:11:34] Adam Lowe: That’s exactly what it is. And if you look at some of the more advanced page builders on the market, I’d say about half that crowd, the more advanced half of that crowd, would be perfect for using Pinegrow. And the less advanced half might get confused by it. And then you have the developer side, the people that can code who just don’t want to, and don’t want to do all that repetitive stuff. And that is definitely a great market for Pinegrow.

[00:11:56] Nathan Wrigley: In terms of the level of understanding that would be a sensible default. Where are we pitching that really? Do you have to understand pretty much all of HTML and CSS? Do you have to have any understanding of JavaScript and React and so on? What are the core principles that you’d have to know off the bat, just so that you could begin using it?

Because, I get the impression, having looked at your YouTube videos, that if I put a complete inexperienced user in front of this, there would just be, well, 10 minutes of mayhem and then throwing the computer out the window because it would be a very frustrating experience, because you wouldn’t know what anything meant. Where would you pitch this in terms of your CSS knowledge, HTML knowledge, and so on?

[00:12:38] Adam Lowe: You definitely want to know HTML, and you want to understand, again, the concepts of CSS and maybe what the different things are called in there. Because Pinegrow has the visual controls for everything. You don’t need to remember what all the different classes are and what all the different properties are and everything like that.

You can come in and click and start creating your CSS rules visually. So that’s great. But you do need to understand how CSS works, again, at a conceptual level. And the same thing with HTML. You don’t need to know all the different bits and pieces. You don’t have to memorize 300 and some odd elements. You need to have an understanding of what to use and when.

[00:13:12] Nathan Wrigley: Does the plugin, because I think really that’s what we’re focusing on here. Does plugin bring along any guidance or tutorials to help you bridge that gap? So, explanations of how the UI works, but also more broadly, explanations of how WordPress works and explanations of things like CSS so that you can be swept along, just following Pinegrow’s documentation.

[00:13:38] Adam Lowe: First of all, Pinegrow’s got an incredible amount of documentation on their website and they’ve got tutorials for just about everything. So if you’re interested in it, I would start there. The plugin does have a new tutorial section built in and they have one tutorial built that takes you kind of start to finish on how to create a block. And it walks you through how to use the interface, how to create CSS rules, how to put elements on the page. Basically how to do everything you need to do.

So them, including that has been, a great way to get your feet wet and get a basic understanding. But then, you go to the website and they’ve got tutorials on how CSS works. They’ve got tutorials on how WordPress works. They’ve got tutorials on how to create a WooCommerce site from scratch. How to create themes from scratch, all of that stuff. And it’s really just a matter of going in, and the more you use it, and the more you do the tutorials yourself, the better you’re going to understand it.

[00:14:28] Nathan Wrigley: A typical page builder’s UI would contain a panel at some point on the page, which would have icons, and those icons would be indicative of what the thing that you are about to drop on the page, the element, the module, whatever it is. You’d drop that onto the page and then something would immediately appear and you would then go about tweaking. You’d maybe change some numbers if it was padding or margin or font size or what have you. You could type text and change different things like background layouts and all of that. Is that broadly what Pinegrow looks like? Could you just sort of give us some indication of what the UI looks like and what we can expect? I know that’s very difficult in audio, but it’s probably important to understand what you’re getting into.

[00:15:08] Adam Lowe: It really is, and you should see the hand gestures that I’m doing right now. They make absolutely no sense to anybody. So no, you’re definitely not dragging elements onto the page like you would with something like Elementor. You’re dragging raw HTML elements, which, if you don’t have any styling on them, they look like nothing, or they just look like plain text. It’s not until you start adding CSS to it that it does anything.

So no, you don’t have those icons on there. You don’t have that kind of friendly thing. Again, I would equate it more to what you see with the advanced page builders in the WordPress space where you’re adding a section, you’re adding a column, you know, you’re adding in a header, you’re adding a text element. You do not get those predefined components. So you’re not going to get a menu builder. You’re not going to get a carousel element that you can just drag on there. You’re not going to get an accordion element that you can just drag onto there.

Pinegrow does expect that you are able to either build that yourself or find libraries that are out there that you can just grab the code from and plop that into your page. They do include some starter libraries, and blocks, and components if you’re using something like Bootstrap or Tailwind. But if you’re just doing an HTML and CSS project, then no, you’re not going to get that.

[00:16:18] Nathan Wrigley: Does Pinegrow have a community of people that have been doing things for a while in the background there? So in other words, if I was to get into this, is there a forum of some kind where I could go and see other people’s work that’s already been created? Or am I very much looking at tutorials and then I’m on my own, I’ve gotta work it out for myself?

[00:16:37] Adam Lowe: So the Pinegrow website does have a very good forum. They’re not very active on Facebook. They’ve got their own reason, basically they don’t like Facebook and, and I’m okay with that. They’re not very active on Facebook, but if you go to pinegrow.com, they do have forums on there. It’s actually forum.pinegrow.com and that’s a great place to talk to other Pinegrow users, to get directly in touch with the company themselves. And they do have a section on there where people can showcase their work.

The other place you can go, they’ve got a product called Pinegrow Online, which probably isn’t going anywhere, but it’s actually a very, very early version of this WordPress plugin. And if you go to pinegrowonline.com, I believe it is, or if you just Google Pinegrow online, you’ll see this. And right there on the page they’ve got, I don’t know, maybe 20 projects that people had submitted that you can come in, you can look at, and you can even open up the builder right there from the website and see how they’re created.

[00:17:31] Nathan Wrigley: That’s really nice to know. Yeah, thank you for that. With a page builder, the intention is very much to build a website. You install it. You add pages. Possibly some templates for various different things, categories and so on and so forth. And at the end of it, the website is built that really is the point.

Now, it feels to me that whilst that is also the point of Pinegrow, the intention is very much to create other things. So for example, to create blocks which you may wish to export and use elsewhere. Themes, which you may wish to use and export elsewhere? Have I got that? Have I understood that right? Is this not just a tool for building websites? This is also a tool for building components, themes, blocks, and so on. Plugins for other websites, other projects. So you could use it as a, as an example, you could have a standalone Pinegrow website, where you do all the building and then you could simply export the bits and pieces that you’ve built to use on your other client projects. That might be a possible use of it?

[00:18:27] Adam Lowe: Probably not. You know, it sounds like what you’re describing might be getting again into page builder territory. So when you say building a website, there’s really two different ways that I see that. One is building a static HTML site, and that’s something where you would use a Pinegrow desktop app that just spits out generic HTML and CSS that you upload to any place.

And then the other would be, you know, to use something inside a WordPress, it needs to be in either a theme or a block. So that’s how you enter your content. That’s how you make your pages look like something and do certain things. So Pinegrow doesn’t let you design pages. It lets you design those themes and those blocks that you can then activate on your site and start putting content into. Does that make sense?

[00:19:09] Nathan Wrigley: Yes. I guess what I was trying to say was, if you created an array of blocks, which let’s say for example, you’re in the real estate niche or something like that, and you have a block that you’ve created in Pinegrow, that really satisfies almost everything that a real estate agent might wish to do. House pictures and pricing and so on and so forth. And it would spit out a nice display on the front end of the website. That was what I was imagining. You could then create that block, take it, export it, put it on all your other client websites and future client websites, and deploy it in that way.

[00:19:41] Adam Lowe: Yes, absolutely. And here’s where we start getting into the gray area of whether the WordPress plugin version or the desktop plugin version makes more sense. So you can do that, and you can create those block libraries and export your themes and your blocks to use anywhere you want. On the WordPress plugin version, you’re kind of limited to everything being contained on that one site to build it.

And, if you want to export the block and use it somewhere else, that’s great, you can do that. But then to modify that block, you’ve gotta go back to the original project that lives on your source website, let’s just call it that. So that gets a little bit cumbersome. And this is where the desktop version really comes into play because it lets you create reusable libraries.

So you can create those libraries of components, of code, of themes. You can create those master themes that you can drop into any project. So it really speeds up the workflow. So for example, I’ve got a component library that I’ve created over time for basically everything that I need. And when I fire up Pinegrow Desktop, I just come in and with a few clicks I can drop a carousel or I can drop a menu on to someplace.

I don’t have to recreate it from scratch. I don’t have to go back to an old project and copy paste code, like I would otherwise. That’s really the benefit there, and that’s part of the reason why you end up paying a little bit more for the desktop version than you will for the WordPress version.

[00:21:03] Nathan Wrigley: I understand. So the desktop version may be more suitable for building components which you use all over the place, because that’s the place where they’re originating from. And perhaps if you’re building client websites, the WordPress plugin, and we’ll find out about the pricing shortly, is going to be suitable to install on each individual website until it’s no longer needed. Right, got it.

[00:21:20] Adam Lowe: It is. And, while you can do what you were saying on the WordPress plugin, it’s just not going to be as efficient as you would be with the desktop.

[00:21:27] Nathan Wrigley: Right. Thank you. In terms of the way that the tool has been built, I don’t know if this question will be of great interest for everybody, but it may be to some. Presumably given what it’s trying to do and the way that it’s trying to do it, it had to work fairly tightly in the, I’m doing air quotes, in the WordPress way.

It had to stick fairly closely to the WordPress way of doing things. Is that the case? Has it been built with WordPress standards and typical ways that people would hopefully build themes and blocks, in order to achieve what it is hopefully outputting?

[00:22:03] Adam Lowe: It has been. And there are a few places where it, kind of strays from that. And, just to give you an example. WordPress says that you should not include functionality in a theme. That a theme should be your design only, that if you’re going to put something in the WordPress repository that you really need to split functionality from design.

However, in practice when somebody’s building a website for a client or for themselves, they’re going to combine the two because you cannot really separate the two practically. So, while you can use Pinegrow and you can create a plugin that has all your blocks in it, with all the smarts, and then a separate theme that has just your templates in there.

Practically speaking, that doesn’t make sense. And all the tutorials and all the guidance says, just put it into the theme, that’s going to be the easiest way to go. So, yes you can do it 100% the WordPress way. You can completely work it if you want, or you can use a hybrid approach.

[00:22:57] Nathan Wrigley: I have a, I have a curious question about this idea of the business going out of existence. And so, for any WordPress company, let’s say a page builder. If that company folded, then you are to some extent left in the lurch. You know, you’re hoping that somebody maintains that project and carries it on and what have you.

With this, it presents a slightly different problem in that everything will still continue to work, but the Pinegrow editor, you would no longer be able to use, well, I guess you could use it, if WordPress didn’t change in such a way that it made it impossible to use. But you could in theory carry on editing all of the bits and pieces that you’ve got with your IDE, in a text editor if you like. That would still be possible?

[00:23:39] Adam Lowe: It is, and this is actually one of the things that drove me to Pinegrow more than anything else. If you’ve been around WordPress for any period of time, you’ve seen the problem with abandoned plugins, You’ve seen the problem with things that just stop working. As a matter of fact, I’m working on a project right now where I have, out of 52 plugins, I think 10 of them are abandoned. Two of them have been removed from the repo, and more than half of them are older than three years old, and can’t be upgraded for one reason or another. So that’s the sort of thing that I fight against on a daily basis is, all these dependencies, all this crazy stuff that’s happening.

And then you’ve got your page builders where, okay, the page builder’s one dependency, but then on top of the page builder, you have all these other add-ons. You’ve got frameworks, you’ve got, extra components that are being put in there. And each of those things adds just one more dependency on top of it.

One more dependency. And if any one of those companies goes out of business, stop supporting it, has a security problem that they can’t fix or won’t fix, then you’re kind of left having to either refactor the whole website, or you’ve got a insecure website that you’re dealing with. So this is one of the big challenges that I’ve been facing over and over again.

And when I saw Pinegrow and saw what they were doing with WordPress, this was one of the things that really drove me to it, was that it is creating native themes and native blocks that you would create them the same way if you were doing it by hand, using VS code or any other IDE.

And if Pinegrow were to go out of business, that’s not a problem at all. You’ve still got those things that don’t rely on the builder at all to use or to modify. You can just go right in, change your PHP, change your blocks and, keep using it as if nothing ever happened.

[00:25:19] Nathan Wrigley: Can you think of any caveats where that’s not necessarily the case? You know, this promise has been offered several times before, and then as you’ve described, it doesn’t actually bear out when the company does go out of existence. To your knowledge, I’m guessing, because you could simply remove Pinegrow and the whole thing still just works. There are no caveats to that as far as you know, there’s no dependency of any kind whatsoever. It’s just the ability to use their UI to modify things that you would lose out on if they disappeared.

[00:25:51] Adam Lowe: I would say yes and no to that. So, yes, it really is just the dependency on their builder for making changes to it. However, there are things like Tailwind and Bootstrap and Green Sock that are extra libraries that could be dependencies if you chose to use them. So Pinegrow does let you use those frameworks, Bootstrap and Tailwind, in both the desktop version and the WordPress version.

So if something were to happen with either of those and they no longer were supported or maintained, then yes, you would have that dependency problem. Same thing for Green Sock. And Green Sock is an animation library. It’s really a JavaScript library that lets you do all sorts of things from creating menu animations to things flying all around your screen and all sorts of silliness. It’s a very powerful piece. But again, if something happened with any of those other component libraries that you chose to use in your project, then you would run into that problem.

[00:26:44] Nathan Wrigley: Just to be clear, that’s an option in Pinegrow or that’s a necessity. In other words, you don’t need to use Tailwind, you don’t need to use Bootstrap. And obviously if your site is animation free, you’re not going to be using any of that Green Sock either. All of that’s the case if you choose not to use those things, and just write native JavaScript, native CSS, we’re all good.

[00:27:03] Adam Lowe: Yep, 100% optional.

[00:27:05] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. That’s great. The way that blocks have been growing over time, it feels like in the last year in particular, the complexity, the number of companies getting into this space has changed quite a lot. WordPress itself offering us heaps more functionality in the things that we can do. So for example, we’ve now got, full site editing, which enables us to do things on the back end. The capabilities and the different options available to us inside of blocks, too numerous to count.

But each and every week it seems that there’s a new bit of news about something that’s going to be coming down in the next version of WordPress, which will alter the visual experience of how we interact with blocks. Have you noticed that Pinegrow, does it update basically? Does it watch the WordPress project closely to ensure that there’s compatibility, stability with the most recent versions of WordPress?

[00:27:57] Adam Lowe: It does, and you raised an interesting point there where you talked about sorry, the block themes. Because right now Pinegrow does not have anything built in that works directly with block themes or to directly create a block theme. It still does, what are called classic themes. They are working on, some things for the block themes, but like you mentioned right now, it’s moving so fast in the WordPress space and it’s changing so often, that even if you were to install a block theme, you’d see the word beta inside of WordPress.

So, really Pinegrow is waiting for WordPress to stabilize a little bit before they go in and really start supporting or letting you create a block theme, using some of their helpers. That’s not to say that you can’t create a block theme using Pinegrow, because I have, and I’ve got several sites that are running block themes that I created with Pinegrow. But there’s a few other manual steps that you need to take.

In terms of blocks themselves, I’ve got a love hate relationship with blocks. I think there are pain in the butt, I think is just the most clunky way to build a website. But frankly, it, again, it’s the WordPress way. So either get on the bus or get off. There’s so many other benefits to WordPress that I’m on that bus. So I deal with it, and the blocks are changing all the time and they’re adding new things.

So being able to do more with typography in there. Using fluid typography. And even now we have the ability to do a little bit of block locking and, content locking in there. Those are all really good things, and those were problems that I initially had turned to Pinegrow to solve. So it looks like WordPress is starting to do a little bit of that on their own. They’re still not quite there yet. So, there’s definitely room for both.

[00:29:30] Nathan Wrigley: Tell me a little bit more about that. I know that the block locking capabilities in WordPress have been improved. Well, in the last few weeks we’ve had the ability to, with a click of a button, you can lock all the, the children of a particular parent block and so on and so forth. But the, the permissions model around that is not particularly, effective. There’s a lot that needs to be engineered to make that block locking solution work effectively. Are you saying that with. Pinegrow, you’re able to lock much more down?

You can say, okay, you have a certain role or your username is this. You can only do this, this, this, but you’ve got a different role over there and you’ve got a different username, whatever it may be. You can do a whole bunch of other things. Does it have capabilities, permissions, which exceed what you can do with blocks at the moment, with blocks designed with Pinegrow?

[00:30:16] Adam Lowe: Yes and no. So to get that granular as to, you know, role-based permissions to, for example, change a picture or, you know, user specific permissions to edit a text field. That’s the sort of thing that you may need to come in and write a little bit of custom code to do. Or write some conditionals in there. I actually haven’t tried to do that at that level, so it might be a whole lot easier than what I’m thinking. And I’d love if the Pinegrow people could just jump in and tell me, rather than me having to research it myself. Because I think there is some benefit to that.

How I’ve used it is, just being able to define what fields are editable, and using standard role-based permissions for that sort of thing. So a lot of times, when I’m working with a client, they’ve got a marketing team that comes in and helps to find how things are going to look. But then the people that are actually editing the content, shouldn’t be able to remove a block, or they shouldn’t be able to do certain things.

They need to adhere to certain style standards. So that’s the sort of thing where, within Pinegrow, I can define here’s the fields that you’re able to modify. Here’s the properties you’re able to modify, on a field by field basis. Whereas with WordPress, it’s kind of all or nothing.

[00:31:22] Nathan Wrigley: That’s interesting. Thank you. In the preparation for this, I watched a few of the videos that you’ve made, more recently and, it’s certainly around Pinegrow but also around other different pieces. And one of the videos that I caught sight of was one where you were looking at the accessibility options in different page builders and, and how menus, for example, were accessible or were not accessible out of the gate.

Is there anything to be said about the way that Pinegrow handles accessibility? I’m guessing the answer is, because you can do anything, you can make it as accessible as you like or not. But does it handle that kind of thing natively or is it simply the fact that it opens up the options? You can manually insert them to make anything as accessible as possible.

[00:32:07] Adam Lowe: That’s exactly it. It opens up the options for you to make it as accessible as you want to or not. Again, it’s not going to make decisions for you. And, if you go to the forums, you’ll actually see a lot of conversations around people requesting that Pinegrow do certain things by default.

But then they come back and, Pinegrow comes back and says, Well, you know, what about this case? What about this case? What about this case? And, the decision with Pinegrow is to leave things as open as possible for you to make those decisions rather than them forcing certain things on you.

And it even comes down to silly stuff like, do you have a trailing backslash at the end of a URL? Do you put a no opener at the end of a link? That sort of thing. Where they really try to make it as open as possible. So, yes, for accessibility. Again, this comes back to one of the reasons that, I wouldn’t say in love with, but one of the reasons why I’ve standardized on Pinegrow is because I can build accessibility into my projects and, and accessibility’s become more of a focus of my agency over the last 18 months to two years.

So the fact that I can come in and make a completely accessible menu is amazing. That I can create all these components in very accessible ways. Whereas before, I might have to turn to three or four different block plugins because, maybe the carousel in plugin number one is accessible, but the rest of the things aren’t.

And the menu in another one is accessible, but the rest of the things aren’t. So, rather than cobble together all these bits and pieces that may or may not be the way that I want to accessibility wise, I just build. The templates are out there. The information’s out there. You just need to apply it.

[00:33:38] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, thank you. That’s really helpful. tool itself, I think we’ve established, it is for intermediate or above users I’m guessing might be a reasonable way of describing it. Now, by pure good coincidence, we’ve recorded this episode right before, like, literally right before the release from beta into a stable version of the product.

Can you give us some indication, we are recording this right at the beginning of November. If memory serves, you are going to be, well, I say you, Pinegrow are going to be actually launching the product on the 17th of November, and given the date that this podcast is going to go out, that’s probably a day or two around that date. Have I got that right? The stable version’s coming out on the 17th of November, 2022.

[00:34:25] Adam Lowe: Fingers crossed, that is going to be the date. So I don’t see any reason why they won’t hit that date. And that’s the date that Pinegrow has released me to talk about. So, uh, yes. November 17th is going to be the date that they launch it. They’re going to launch a free version as well as a paid version.

[00:34:40] Nathan Wrigley: I think it’s probably apropos to say at this point that this isn’t a product which coming out of beta, is new is it? The change log for the desktop version extends back, well, years and years and years. And like you said, most of the functionality for this is ported from the desktop version.

So, stepping in early, you are fairly confident that the product’s going to be, well, not just labeled stable, but will be stable. You’ve had a long, long play with the beta I guess?

[00:35:10] Adam Lowe: I’ve had a long play and I think we’ve had over 30 beta releases come out since I’ve been involved. You just said it right there, is that this is a product with a long history. It goes back to 2014. And the codebase is exactly the same across all of them. It’s built on node.js. So that core is the same on Mac, Windows, Linux, desktop and WordPress. There’s no difference at all in what the builder does, how it works, the code that it spits out. So everything that you’re doing, from a builder standpoint is tried and tested, and it’s been out there in the field for quite a long time.

The new pieces are really the ways that it interacts with WordPress from a front end standpoint. So, things like making sure that only people with the correct permissions can open a project. That two people can’t open the same project and step on each other, so that we’re not introducing security problems inside of WordPress by running the builder. That’s the kind of thing that is new. Not the builder itself, and the code that it spits out for your websites.

[00:36:10] Nathan Wrigley: I’m going to link in the show notes to the desktop version, which has been out for a long time, but I’ll also, assuming that the links are live, I will endeavor to put in the plugin version as well. Just before we round it off, I think people will want to know what the opportunities are to get in here.

My understanding is there’s going to be two pricing tiers for the paid version, but there’ll also be a free version. Now, just to be clear, the free version isn’t going to be available on the repo, but the free version, I’m guessing, will have a limited array of functionality. Maybe you could speak about that, but then could you also just highlight the pricing for the two models as you understand it?

[00:36:48] Adam Lowe: Sure, and I’m going to talk about the free version for a minute because I think Pinegrow’s absolutely insane for what they’re doing. When I asked what I could talk about for the free version and they came back and told me, I was blown away. So you can do pretty much everything with the free version, with just a few minor exceptions.

So, the big one is that you can’t export themes with the free version. You can only export blocks. So that’s going to be one of your biggest limitations. The other big limitation is that you cannot do what are called inner blocks. So, inside of WordPress you can create blocks within blocks within blocks, Yeah. Blockception even. You can’t do that with the free version of Pinegrow. You can create your one main block and that’s it. So you can create blocks with it, but you cannot do themes. You can’t do inner blocks. And the other part is that you cannot import and export projects, to and from the desktop.

So that’s your other big limitation. The only one other thing that I’m going to throw out there is that the Green Sock, what they call Pinegrow interactions, is not available in the free version because of licensing restriction with Green Sock themselves. So you do have to go to a paid version to be able to use that.

Otherwise, you can use the entire builder as much as you want. You really get a feel for how it works, how to do different things. And, quite frankly, you can build a whole website with this, with no problem. It’s pretty amazing what they’re giving away for free. And I’m happy to talk about pricing too, if you guys want to get into that.

[00:38:09] Nathan Wrigley: Two models. There’s a one site model and then there’s the unlimited sites, an interesting pricing structure. One site or unlimited. Tell us the pricing around those.

[00:38:18] Adam Lowe: Yeah. So it’s going to be $49 per year for a single site, or $199 a year for unlimited sites. And the reason why it’s so interesting to me is because once you build your site, there’s no dependency on Pinegrow anymore. So theoretically you could buy a single site license and export themes and blocks to use on as many sites as you want.

You’re just not going to want to do that because, going back and modifying and editing those things is going to become a real pain in the butt. $199 is a fantastic price point for what you’re getting here, especially for a developer who, presumably is working on client sites and getting their money back for this thing.

In addition, they’re also going to have Black Friday deal. So it’s going to be 35% off for Black Friday, and I think that sales going to start right around the same time that they launch this plugin. That’s a bonus. And then there’s also going to be a very steep discount for people who already have the Pinegrow desktop version.

So if you want to own both the desktop and the WordPress version, I believe you get 50% off of the Pinegrow WordPress plugin. There’s a lot of incentive here and Pinegrow’s put a lot of time and effort into the WordPress space. They definitely see this as a strategic move to get into WordPress, and they’re doing everything they can to make it easy to use Pinegrow in there.

[00:39:28] Nathan Wrigley: Just before we round off, it strikes me that we’ve missed a particular piece of the puzzle here, and it’s not something that should be ignored I think. Having watched your videos, I confess I haven’t actually opened up the tool myself, but I’ve watched quite a large amount of what you’ve done.

It really feels like this could be a good place to increase your knowledge of WordPress and how WordPress works. If you are prepared to go through the learning curve, you’re going to be seeing what WordPress is doing, or, or at least the way that it is intending to be doing things. The HTML that it requires to make things work, and the PHP, and the functions and so on.

So really there’s that, that we missed just the fact that it could be a good tool, should you wish to learn a bit more about WordPress. It may be that if you feel that you are a little bit below the level that is required to get up and running straight away, it might be a good way to bridge that gap as well.

[00:40:18] Adam Lowe: It really is, and I can tell you I’ve learned so much about WordPress and even CSS just from using this tool. Because it has, it’s given me that bridge to go from the page builder world to, oh my gosh, I’m sitting here in front of a blank text editor. So it gives me those tools to be able to learn it and, so then I don’t get stuck in the process.

As a matter of fact, it’s quite interesting, Pinegrow had a project that they used the early version of this WordPress plugin for, to teach kids how to do HTML. So that’s where a lot of this came into play. That’s actually part of the reason why they even built this WordPress plugin was for their, I forget what they call it, but it’s like, HTML academy for kids or something like that. So yeah, it is a great learning platform if you’re so inclined.

[00:41:00] Nathan Wrigley: Adam, just before we round off, if people are interested in this, they can obviously go to the Pinegrow website. You, as you said, are a very interested user. You’re not affiliated with Pinegrow but nevertheless people might wish to ask you some questions and, plunder your growing knowledge about how it works and whether or not it would be a good fit for position and what they’re trying to achieve with their clients or their own website. Where could we find you best?

[00:41:25] Adam Lowe: Two different places. My website is peakperformancedigital.com, and then I’ve been doing more and more on YouTube. So if you just search for Peak Performance Digital on YouTube, you’ll find my channel there. All the videos that I’ve created, and I try to be very responsive to anybody that leaves me a comment or sends me an email.

[00:41:40] Nathan Wrigley: Adam Lowe, I appreciate you joining us on the podcast today. Thanks very much indeed.

[00:41:45] Adam Lowe: Thank you, Nathan.

On the podcast today we have Adam Lowe.

Adam Lowe runs Peak Performance Digital, a small web consulting agency in Washington, DC, that specialises in providing website strategy along with custom WordPress solutions.

He’s on the podcast today to talk about a new plugin from Pinegrow. Adam does not represent the company, but is an avid user of their products, and experienced in how they work.

The ‘Pinegrow Web Editor’ is a desktop tool that lets you build websites with a GUI. The closest comparison would be a page builder, but this is not entirely accurate. Unlike most page builders, which require very little technical expertise, Pinegrow does require an understanding of technologies such as CSS, SASS, CSS Grid, Bootstrap and Tailwind CSS to make use of the platform. The intention of the tool is to make it possible to create complex sites, but with a close eye on the HTML and CSS that is being output.

Given the popularity of WordPress, the Pinegrow developers have created a WordPress plugin, which is just about to be released. It’s been in closed beta, and Adam has been using it as his go-to solution for several months now.

We talk about what the platform can do, and how it works. It’s not going to be a plugin for beginners, and there’s going to be a learning curve for those who do take the plunge. It’s intended as a bit of a bridge between novices and WordPress experts.

We also get into a discussion about the fact that Pinegrow is intended to be a ‘no dependency’ solution. Once you’ve finished creating your theme, block or whatever else you might want to create, you can export that in a way that no longer needs Pinegrow at all.

If you’re curious about new ways to create websites in WordPress, have a listen to the podcast and see if Pinegrow is a good fit.

Useful links.

Pinegow website

Pinegrow forum

Pinegrow Online

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