An Interview With Jeff Starr


Today we have invited the most awesome Jeff Starr over to WPzine to answer a few questions, Jeff is co-author of Digging Into WordPress and runs Monzilla Media and is responsible for the fantastic resource that is PerishablePress.

Jeff is well respected in the web design field, not only for Digging Into WordPress but for the outstanding contributions he shares with the community and his readers, and of course the high quality in depth and diverse tutorials and guides available on Perishable Press.

Hi Jeff, so tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

Hi Paul, Thanks for the interview. I am a full-time web developer, graphic designer, and content producer. I maintain many sites on the Web, and enjoy working with some awesome clients from all around the world. I run my own web-design business, Monzilla Media, and write tutorials on web-dev and WordPress at my personal site, Perishable Press, and at Digging into WordPress, which is a book all about WordPress that I co-authored with Chris Coyier.


Digging Into WordPress has been a great success, what was it like working with Chris?

Working with Chris Coyier is awesome. He is one of those people who knows how to get things done. We decided to write a book just before Christmas of 2008, and a year later in 2009, the first edition of Digging into WordPress was released. During the writing process, we stayed synchronized using Google Docs, Dropbox, chat, and other communication methods. Chris is an excellent designer, and really did an excellent job designing the book and making it look awesome. Working with Chris is a great experience, and I look forward to collaborating on future projects.

Perishable Press is packed full of useful snippets and such, did you plan for it to be such a resource when you set out?

Nope, Perishable Press began as my way to learn about web design, WordPress, and everything else Web-related. I just dove in and started learning and blogging about whatever I was learning about, and several years later, the site has become quite a resource for web-development, blogging, and WordPress content. I only wish I had more time for the site; with all of my other projects, it is difficult to maintain the breakneck posting schedule that I once enjoyed. I do have some awesome plans for completely revamping Perishable Press with all sorts of new fun stuff, so keep an eye out for that in 2011.

Your a designer and developer, if you had to chose to be either a designer or a developer, which would you chose and why?

That is a really tough question because there are aspects of both designing and developing that I greatly enjoy. But if someone put a gun to my head, I would probably choose design, mostly because of the visual creativity involved in the process. It is amazing how much you can do with HTML and CSS — throw in Photoshop and Illustrator for graphics, and anything is possible, especially when you’re savvy with jQuery/JavaScript. Even just focusing on and specializing in one thing, like CSS, would be awesome. You could really go into depth and do some incredible stuff if just focused on a single area. It is difficult to get that level of experience when trying to do it all. So yeah, front-end design is definitely my first choice, but I wouldn’t want to stop developing either. I would probably just tell you to pull the trigger!

You keep busy with a number of projects, is this just to keep busy or an outlet to get all your ideas out there?

I try not to do anything “just to keep busy” but I can tell you that there is a TON of busy work involved with what I do. As I move forward, I plan on streamlining and consolidating my online projects and try to get more focused onto just a few things. I think that will trim much of the needless busy work, while enabling a deeper exploration of the material and ideas. One thing I have learned is that I never really like to go back and look at stuff I’ve done in the past. Sometimes it’s nice for whatever, but most of the action for me is doing NEW things, like write another book or develop a new website.

What go you interested in working in this field?

When I was a kid, I drew, painted, and did art all the time. I have always been highly creative, and growing up I did a lot of cool stuff like audio mixing, video editing, desktop publishing, and eventually graphic design and writing. I graduated from the University of Washington with a BS in Psychology and a second BS in Biochemistry, but after 5+ years in college, I needed to get back into creative stuff, and the Web was just beginning to really take off (back in 2000), so I jumped in head-first to web design and never looked back.

Any design/development books you would recommend for beginners as well as advanced?

Nothing specifically, but I would recommend reading as much as possible while getting started, and then keeping up with things as you go. That’s a lot harder than it sounds, but RSS makes it fairly easy to keep up with the latest and greatest developments in your field. The books I’ve actually purchased and read are fairly generic, covering the topics of PHP, jQuery, CSS, and so on. Of course, the book that catalyzed my understanding and passion for web design is Jeffrey Zeldman’s essential Designing with Web Standards. There are many excellent books out there, but for web designers, Zeldman’s book is a MUST.


Back to WordPress, in your mind is it missing anything in your opinion?

No, in fact I think it’s getting too big. Too many needless core features that should have been left as plugins. It’s great that you can do all sorts of cool stuff right out of the box, but most of the sites that I build require just the basics plus a few plugins. Often, I will either install a simpler CMS or even just build my own functionality as-needed. It would be great to have a “WordPress Lite” version available for projects that don’t need the whole kit n kaboodle. Even so, WordPress is still the best, and I depend on it to do what I do on the Web.

Whats the one code snippet you use daily in your projects?

I don’t know if it counts as an actual “code snippet”, but I tend to use jQuery a LOT in projects these days, so I am always adding the following line to my web pages:

<script src=""></script>

It is incredible that a single line of code could enable so much functionality. jQuery RULES.

Anything else you want to tell us about, something your working on etc..?

My latest project is CSSresetr, which is an online tool for testing and choosing the best CSS Reset for your project. In addition to that, I recently launched an Angry-Birds fan site that includes a Forum, Game Map, Blog, and tons more. In 2011, I’ll be doing a video screencast series at on Securing WordPress. I’m also working on another book on WordPress that should be out later next year. Keep an eye on and Perishable Press for all the latest news.

Thanks again for the interview, and Happy Holidays!

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