VIP News

Updates and features about our platform, services, and partners, as well as stories and events from across the enterprise WordPress community.

April VIP Roundup

When you scroll through the list of updates from April, the projects, tools, and releases just keep coming. To highlight […]

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Six Questions with XWP

This post series profiles each of our featured partner agencies. XWP has been a WordPress.com VIP Partner since 2013 and […]

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Free Gutenberg How-To Videos

In our last Gutenberg update, we shared our high level recommendations to help enterprise WordPress users fully embrace the block […]

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Welcome Yoast!

We’re excited to announce Yoast as a VIP technical partner! Over the last year we’ve been working with the Yoast […]

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March VIP Roundup

If you aren’t yet a part of the wave of activity around Gutenberg development, experimentation, and planning across the WordPress community, now is a great time to join in. We have a slew of March updates and tools to share on that front in this roundup, along with news from across the community, and a run-down of Spring and early Summer events including our own VIP Workshop!

Read on for all this, plus a spotlight on TechCrunch‘s redesign, rebuild, and relaunch on VIP.

From Enterprise Happiness Engineer Shannon Smith’s talk at the Montreal WordPress meetup

Gutenberg News and Notes
The latest tools, demos, and updates around the block-based editor coming to WordPress 5.0

  • Have teammates who haven’t yet played around with the Gutenberg editor? No problem! They can use our TestGutenberg.com site to try out the latest version on a standard WordPress site.
  • For VIP clients, we’ve partnered with well-known WordPress educators Zac Gordon and Joe Casabona to develop our own videos on the Gutenberg project. Get all the details on how to access these videos on the related Lobby post.
  • We are committed to helping all of our clients integrate the new editor into their workflow smoothly. We’re working on a tool that will help you incorporate Gutenberg in to your production environments by Page and Post. The Gutenberg Ramp plugin will allow you to make granular choices about where Gutenberg appears so that you can get teams working with it sooner on live sites, test all of your customizations, and get everything squared away ahead of WordPress 5.0 deployment. Once we have this tested and in place on our platform, we’ll release a public version as well that anyone can use. More on that soon!
  • Automattic Product Designer Mel Choyce presented at LoopConf on the future of Customization in the post-Gutenberg world. And Enterprise Happiness Engineer Shannon Smith gave a talk on Gutenberg and the future of WordPress, including a demo of our new TestGutenberg tool, for the Montreal WordPress community.
  • Jay Hoffman at Reaktiv posted a helpful step-by-step guide to getting started with Gutenberg block attributes.
  • In the month of April, rtCamp is offering complimentary 30 minute technical introductions to Gutenberg.
  • Keep up with everything having to do with Gutenberg at VIP and a list of helpful resources in this regularly updated doc.

News and Releases
Updates from around VIP, our clients, and our agency and technical partners.

  • Our new, streamlined Data Sync process for VIP Go allows you to easily and quickly replicate all of your production data to non-production environments. A self-service option is on the way soon!
  • We have an amazing group of speakers lined for VIP Workshop May 14-17th in Napa, California. Ticket sales end next Friday – more details below in Upcoming Events.
  • AMP version 0.6.2 rolled out across WordPress.com, including VIP sites hosted there (Lobby post).
  • Ads.txt manager, developed and maintained by featured partner 10up, is now available on VIP Go. This helpful tool allows you to manage and validate the contents of your ads.txt file through your admin interface (Lobby post).
  • Jetpack 5.9 General Maintenance rolled out this month (Lobby post, Announcement).
  • The PHP 7.2 upgrade has rolled out to all WordPress.com servers (Lobby post). It’s scheduled to deploy this week (#) on VIP Go.
  • Technical integration Ooyala version 3.0 is now available (Lobby post).
  • Trew Knowledge shared a look back at the work they did in collaboration with us at VIP in optimizing Olympic.ca and Olympique.ca for the heavy traffic expectations of the 2018 Games. The site’s visitors enjoyed gold medal performance throughout, despite it’s “exceeding projections by more than 200% and doubling what was generated in Rio 2016 with more than 17 million page views.”
  • Human Made released a trio of tools: React-wp-scripts for development tooling, Repress for smart Redux stores, and react-oembed-container to simplify oEmbed rendering. And Peter Wilson presented on a major media company replatforming at LoopConf.
  • 10up’s Helen Hou-Sandí was featured in NY Magazine’s “Ask A Tech Person” highlighting her favorite gadgets. And Adam Silverstein wrote up his experiences contributing MathML support to the AMP project. 10up has also made accessibility standard WCAG 2.0 Level A a baseline requirement for all projects, and updated their Engineering Best Practices to include specific standards.
  • Alley Interactive launched the 2018 State Science and Engineering Indicators data visualization project for the National Science Foundation.
  • rtCamp celebrated the company’s 9th anniversary at their annual team gathering in Goa.
  • Weston Ruter, CTO of XWP, and Alberto Medina, Developer Advocate with the Web Content Ecosystems team at Google, were featured in an episode of WPWeekly this month on the AMP Project.

Media and Marketing Notes
Research and perspectives on the business of media and the practice of marketing.

“One of the biggest challenges facing newsroom innovators is transferring one-off prototypes to product teams. This can be exacerbated when there are simply too many new experiments for any one team to take ownership of.”

-Allie Schultes, Social media and outreach producer at BBC Labs, in notes from the team’s first Media Innovation Unconference.

“We spent a lot of time literally watching them use it on their phone. When does their face light up because they love it, or their eyebrows scrunch up because they’re stuck?”

-Arizona Daily Star product manager Becky Pallack as quoted by Meg Heckman in the Columbia Journalism Review, on the research they did in developing and evolving chatbots.

Client Spotlight: TechCrunch


Big congratulations are in order for Nicole Wilke and the entire TechCrunch team, along with Human Made, for launching a brand new TechCrunch on VIP in March. It was a complete rebuild from the ground up, including design, user experience, and architecture. Nicole’s introductory post traces the project from first principles all the way through to launch, and explores the rationale behind the TechCrunch team’s choice of a decoupled setup.

Upcoming Events

Tickets sales for our favorite event of the year, VIP Workshop (May 14-17th in Napa California), will end April 13th. In addition to kickoff talks by Kinsey Wilson, Howard RheingoldMiguel Fonseca, and Tammie Lister, session leaders include VIP clients like TechCrunchNielsen, and FiveThirtyEight, agency partners DekodeAlley Interactive10uprtCamp, and XWP, and Automatticians Simon Wheatley and Matt Perry. We keep the event deliberately small to make sure there are lots of opportunities for chance conversations and informal breakout discussions. Book soon!

  • BigWP NYC is coming up on Wednesday, April 11th! If you’ll be in the area and want to attend, RSVP soon via the meetup group to hear talks by Paul Schreiber from FiveThirtyEight, Andrew Fleming from Dow Jones, Tom Harrigan from Alley Interactive, and Kevin Langley from Human Made. It will take place at USA Today’s new offices in Midtown. Doors will open at 6:30pm. Space is extremely limited.
  • SRCCON 2018 will be June 28-29 in Minneapolis and the call for participation of all kinds is open! It’s the fifth anniversary for the event that gathers over 300 journalism-technologists, newsroom leaders, and others working to change journalism for the better. VIP typically sends as many folks as we can to this event and it comes highly recommended.
  • VIP Happiness Engineer Shannon Smith will be giving a talk on code review April 11 at Web a Québec, the largest French-speaking digital event in North America.
  • rtCamp is sponsoring FOSSMeet at College of Engineering Pune (COEP), one of oldest and top engineering institutes in India, April 7-8. Rahul Bansal, rtCamp’s CEO, will be speaking there about the WordPress ecosystem.
  • We will be sponsoring ONA Insights: Revenue and Engagement in Toronto, May 11th at the Globe and Mail Headquarters.
  • The awesome WordCamp for Publishers returns August 8-10 in Chicago and ticket sales are now open. Follow the Twitter handle @WCPublishers for updates. Check out our post from last year’s inaugural event to get a sense of what to expect.

Getting Ready for Gutenberg

WordPress 5.0 will bring the biggest and most exciting change to the WordPress editor experience, ever, and we want you to be ready. Much of this post will be useful for anyone running enterprise WordPress applications, anywhere, but it also mentions some things we’re doing specifically on the VIP platform or for our customers. Wherever possible we’re taking the tools we’ve developed for our own systems, and making them available for the community to take advantage of as well.

  • Try out the Gutenberg editor as a front-end experience. At our TestGutenberg.com site, you can easily try out the latest version of the Gutenberg editor on a standard WordPress site to get a feel for what it’s like to compose and edit with blocks. If you don’t already have a test environment with Gutenberg set up, this is an easy way to introduce your whole team and everyone who touches the WordPress admin to the new interface. This site is free and available for anyone to use.
  • Prepare your teams.There are a wealth of learning materials across the community thanks to the work of countless creators, including both free resources and videos and courses offered for a fee. Our documentation page points to a number of community resources and write-ups, and Gutenberg.news tracks just about everything that comes out across the community.

    For VIP clients, we’ve partnered with well-known WordPress educators Zac Gordon and Joe Casabona to develop our own videos on the Gutenberg project. VIP clients can get all the details on how to access these videos on the related Lobby post.

  • Test your customizations. No matter where your projects are hosted, you’ll want to start testing and planning now. We recommend developers to set up a local testing environment in which you can test all customizations and integrations to see how they work with Gutenberg prior to exposing it to users. To assist with that effort, we are working on compiling Gutenberg readiness information from partners and will share it when available. There is also a recently released Gutenberg compatibility library that may be helpful: https://github.com/danielbachhuber/gutenberg-plugin-compatibility#gutenberg-plugin-compatibility
  • Plan for a smooth transition. Based on testing and conversations with your teams, determine how and when you want to implement the new interface in your workflows. As mentioned previously, installing the Classic Editor Plugin will allow you to maintain the legacy editing experience after you install WordPress 5.0.

    For VIP clients, we’re developing a tool that will give our clients fine control over how Gutenberg surfaces at the Post and Page type level, both before and after 5.0 is deployed. This will give teams the ability to test more granularly ahead of time and phase the new editor in as needed based on team needs. It will also allow them to easily set a state that will persist after 5.0 launches, and we will have it set it to keep the legacy editor on by default.

    We are working on a public version of this plugin as well and will aim to release it shortly after we have it squared away for use on our own systems. More on this soon!

We’ll keep this documentation page updated with all of the latest information about Gutenberg at VIP.

An Amazing Slate of VIP Workshop Speakers

With ticket sales ending on April 13th, you’ll want to register soon for VIP Workshop, our annual enterprise WordPress gathering taking place May 14-17th. This marks the seventh year for a very special event that gets the whole extended VIP family together, including clients, partners, and community.

The speaker lineup is nearly complete, and it is shaping up to be a phenomenal three days in Napa, California. Topics run the gamut from big picture thoughts on organizational change, fostering diversity, and the future of digital, to the latest advanced topics with the Gutenberg project, to retrospectives, case studies, and best practices.

Throughout the week we’ll hear from VIP clients like TechCrunch, Nielsen, and FiveThirtyEight, agency partners Dekode, Alley Interactive, 10up, rtCamp, and XWP, and Automatticians Simon Wheatley, Miguel Fonseca, Tammie Lister, and Matt Perry.

And kicking us off will be WordPress.com President and veteran of The New York Times and National Public Radio Kinsey Wilson, and celebrated technology author and lecturer Howard Rheingold.

The schedule is split in to business and developer tracks, and includes ample opportunities for informal networking and conversations among the whole group. Session formats include joint-track full conference discussions, individual track case studies and featured topics, and flash talks.  Get the full details on speakers, formats, and topics, and all of the logistics on the Workshop site.

We keep the attendance deliberately small to make sure there are lots of opportunities for chance conversations and informal breakout discussions. Get your tickets soon!

Data Sync on VIP Go

Anyone who runs an enterprise WordPress application knows there are significant challenges and considerations to copying production data. No matter that your production data runs to tens or hundreds of thousands of articles, contains sensitive “live” data, and is accompanied by tens of gigabytes of images, often you need a complete copy of that production data to test new functionality or to reproduce a persnickety bug.

Today we’re pleased to announce a speedy, streamlined, and structured Data Sync process for VIP clients. This is a step in our larger effort to make copying large amounts of production data entirely self-service, which we will also be rolling out soon. In the meantime, and even after self-service becomes available, we are happy to sync data on behalf of our clients.

Read on for details on how our new process works.

 

As light as a feather

Copying data must never affect the operation of the production site. It cannot place load on the database or impact performance in any way. To remove the impact on our production servers we hook into our backup mechanism, and use the hourly backup data we keep for all production sites.

Fast, complete, and working data

For the large datasets we expect from many of our clients, copying everything over can take a long time and the subsequent operations on the data can take even longer. Our Data Sync completely replicates their production data and we wanted the operation to be as fast as possible.

To sync the data we use the reliable and well tested functionality of our backup systems. Our backups are fast to restore, and have complete internal integrity, e.g. no partly completed data operations, making them ideal for this purpose.

As well as restoring the data, we need to replace any URLs using the production domain with URLs for the new non-production environment. Traditionally this is done using the WP-CLI tool, which provides a command line interface and tools for managing a WordPress install. While this works for the majority of WordPress sites out there, this method is simply too slow for the massive datasets typically used by a high scale WordPress.com VIP client. The slowdowns are caused by the interactions between PHP and the database layer – many hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of reads and writes will necessarily take some time!

To replace the URLs in the data at the speed VIP customers demand, our team wrote a Golang script, “go-search-replace“. In our tests, go-search-replace is at least forty times quicker than the equivalent search and replace using WP-CLI commands, reducing operations which took many hours to minutes at most. (We apologize if you were expecting to kick back with a long and refreshing beverage during the Data Sync.)

Massive media libraries

Of course the database is just one part of the story. Many WordPress sites we host include tens, even hundreds, of gigabytes of data and hundreds of thousands of files on our VIP Go Files Service. Copying such a significant amount of data would take many hours. Instead our cloud platform provides a service we call UnionFS.

UnionFS works by making the files for the production site available to all non-production sites in read-only mode. Files shared by UnionFS in this way are served from the same infrastructure and have the same caching rules applied.

Tailored to your WordPress application

Production data often includes connections to APIs and services that should not be active in non-production environments, such as API keys for live payment gateways and connections to mailing lists. To ensure you have confidence in the data, and to be sure you get the same results every time, we provide a WordPress action hook so your code can swap API keys, clear production orders, and any other custom operations that are specific to your WordPress application.

How do I try this?

As we finalize everything that will make this process fully self-service, we will continue to support VIP client Data Sync needs as they arise. If you want the data from your VIP Go WordPress site copied into a non-production environment, please contact our support team and we will be happy to help.

You can read more in our Data Sync documentation.

Six Questions with Human Made

This post series profiles each of our featured partner agencies.

Founded in 2010, Human Made has been a VIP Featured Partner since 2013. We asked Commercial Director, Ant Miller, and Communications Manager, Ana Silva, six questions to help you get to know who they are as an agency.

A shot taken by a WordCamp Brisbane attendee where Human Made provided Coffee Sponsorship (photo credit: Emma Howchin)

What’s your agency’s origin story?

Human Made was founded in 2010 by Tom Willmot and Joe Hoyle, who had previously worked as freelancer web developers building WordPress projects for small clients.

Eventually, Tom was hired by a large US based organization who had purchased a number of sites and wanted to build niche WordPress powered social networks. Joe soon joined him and here they gained experience working with clients and building sites that eventually grew in scale.

When they left the company with an impressive portfolio, they continued freelancing but with increasing workloads and more clients, they soon realized they could combine their skills and take on different aspects of the business. Tom took on the business operations as CEO, and Joe took over the engineering department as our CTO.

Our first few hires were local, and the opportunity to hire remotely arrived with Daniel Bachhuber and Paul de Wouters. Daniel had previous remote experience and bought many of these processes to the company, some of which are still being practiced today. Within a few months of the remote hires, the company pivoted to being entirely distributed. Although some people still did (and still do!) work in our first home, the Matlock office.  

Fast forward to 2014, and Noel Tock completed the trio as a partner and CPO with a new Product team, managing projects such as Happytables, Nomadbase and BackUpWordPress.

Today, we’re a team of 60+ people based in five continents working with clients across the globe, and one of the leading providers of large-scale enterprise publishing platforms.

Pick three words that describe your agency culture.

Sustainable, supportive, open.

Our culture is guided by our commitment to being open and inclusive, with each other, our clients, and the wider community. It’s also something we have to maintain remotely, and as we’ve grown, we’ve had to find new ways to adapt and ensure our culture survives and thrives. Keeping that growth sustainable, demonstrating support for each other, and adopting openness in our collaboration and communication, are fundamental to who we are.  

Human Made Product team in their weekly meeting

Tell us about a client project you are especially proud of.

We’re extremely lucky to have worked on some really exciting projects in the last seven years, and there’s certainly some we won’t ever forget. Back when we started, we built the digitaltrends.com website and in those days, it was one of the largest websites being built with WordPress. It was an exciting time for the community, and we’re delighted to see that even with astronomical growth, the website remains on WordPress.

In more recent times, we’ve had the privilege of working with big media publishers, such as Fairfax Media and Capgemini; the latter, a project we completed alongside WordPress.com VIP, and which involved a complex replatforming effort from Drupal to WordPress. It required a huge collaborative effort between several agencies, and ushered in a new and more effective culture of digital creation for the Marketing and Communications team at Capgemini.

What are you most excited about in the WordPress community right now?

The Enterprise Growth Council, and its focus on WordPress agencies working together in the commercial space to a common end goal, is a really exciting opportunity for all of us. We’re passionate about WordPress’ capacity and potential, and really want to get behind a bigger push to market and deliver WordPress as an enterprise-grade CMS. We feel this is something best accomplished as a wider community, and we’re eager to continue the conversation, and build momentum around the project.

Noel Tock speaking at WordCamp Stockholm, 2017

What’s your favorite conference or event of the year, and why?

WordCamp Europe used to be the event we focused our company retreat around; now that we’re 60+ people it’s no longer as convenient as it used to be, but it’s still a hugely important event to us, as is the equivalent WordCamp US. We usually have several people leading teams during Contributor Day, speaking, organising, and participating in events such as the Community Summit. As a remote company, it’s also a great opportunity to meet with your team and spend time socialising together.

(And the sixth: Ask yourself a question and answer it) What are your goals in 2018?

It’s important to us to maintain sustainable growth, and ensure we’re keeping our culture every step of the way. This new initiative saw us appoint Siobhan McKeown as People Director late last year, and we’re already implementing processes and standards that will help us stay true to who we are even as we continue to expand.

As previously mentioned, we’re eager to explore the opportunities in repositioning WordPress as an enterprise-grade CMS, and one that can help solve common issues for large enterprise publishers. It’s important for us to challenge some of the misconceptions and concerns around WordPress in enterprise, and to communicate the change and success we’ve witnessed in enterprises adopting WordPressnot only for our clientsbut for a large number of high-profile brands.

Thank you, Ant and Ana!

More on Human Made:

Agency focus and specialties

  • Custom APIs
  • Bespoke WordPress development
  • Strategy and Consultancy
  • Code Review
  • Content Migration
  • Accessibility Review

Currently working with: Airbnb, USA Today, News UK, Skype, Newton, Capgemini, Thunder Head, Unison, TK Maxx

Agency highlights

  • Voted Top UK Web Design agency by Clutch.co
  • Human Made consists of some of the world’s most respected WordPress developers, including WordPress Core lead developers, the lead developer of the WP REST API project, the European WordPress Polyglots team lead and many more

February VIP Roundup

If you got through February without stumbling across the word “curling” once or twice, you clearly don’t follow Mr. T on Twitter. Kudos for podium performances from VIP clients Olympic.ca and Pyeongchang OlympicChannel (which also handily delivered content to the main Olympic.org homepage via widget), and to the FiveThirtyEight crew, who scored an Up Close And Personal shot with the victorious US Curling team. Read on for huge news on the AMP Project and WordPress plugin, loads of partner updates, and a special extended spotlight featuring VIP client Harry’s Five O’Clock.

Stylized shot of AMP Conf stage
From AMP Conf, February 13-14 in Amsterdam

News and Releases
Updates from around VIP, our clients, and our agency and technical partners.

  • At AMP Conf, we shared exciting news about the latest plugin, AMP for WordPress 0.7, co-created along with our partners XWP and Google. This version debuts a new AMP native mode that makes it much easier for publishers to create a single version of their content in WordPress and still take advantage of all of AMP’s benefits. (Additional thoughts from Alberto Medina, Developer Advocate at Google.)
  • VIP Enterprise Support team lead Klaus Harris provided a glimpse behind the scenes at a recent client onsite with Grupo Abril.
  • We kicked off our partner profile series, Six Questions with, starting with Trew Knowledge. Trew Knowledge released a GDPR plugin this month designed to help manage efforts to meet GDPR requirements and obligations.
  • WordPress 4.9.4 maintenance release rolled out this month. (lobby post, announcement) Jetpack version 5.8 deployed (lobby post), including updates to Jetpack Search, Lazy Images full availability (now out of beta), significant reduction in the JS and CSS footprint for certain features, and a new global filter to filter the list of active modules.
  • VIP client Quartz ran #Qzchartweek, with Managing Editor Kira Bindrim challenging the team to surface charts that are a story in themselves.
  • Alley Interactive completed a custom billing report and time tracking plugin for VIP client ThinkProgress. It allows their editorial staff to keep track of how and where their time is spent. Records are available for admins to export in bulk or review individually, along with advanced filtering options and basic analytics on data.
  • Dekode has some sort of a super top secret print project a’brewing. (We expect updates just as soon as they get back from Tobogganing Day at WordCamp Oslo.)
  • A month chock full of news from 10up included: integrating Amazon Polly technology to transform POLITICO in Europe’s daily newsletter into an engaging podcast, a core contribution to AMP which brings native support for MathML, by Lead Engineer Adam Silverstein, a tutorial authored by Engineer Nicholas Andre walking through 10up’s WP-Migration plugin for WP-CLI, featured on Smashing Magazine, a v1.1 update to their Ads.txt manager plugin, now in use on several VIP client sites, updates to their ElasticPress plugin now with full Elasticsearch 6.1 support, and a look back from the vantage point of their 7 year anniversary.
  • Marketing technology partner Sailthru released v.3.2 of their plugin. (lobby post for clients, GitHub repo).
  • Trevor Kaufman, CEO of monetization partner Piano sat down with Ricardo Bilton of NiemanLab for a conversation on the state of paywalls, revenue, and marketing in big media.

Gutenberg News and Notes
The latest tools, demos, and updates around the block-based editor coming to WordPress 5.0

Media and Marketing Notes
Research and perspectives on the business of media and the practice of marketing.

“The cornerstone of next-generation, sustainable business models for news, we believe, will be direct audience revenue supported by high levels of reader engagement.”

Elisabeth Hansen and Emily Goligoski, in the Tow Center’s Guide To Audience Revenue and Engagement.

“It’s not inexpensive to produce the content in all the different formats we produce it, so the fact that we’re investing this much into platforms like Facebook and Instagram and getting nothing in return is incredibly tough.”

-An anonymous snippet among many curated by Hilary Milnes from candid conversations at the Digiday Retail Summit in February.

Client Spotlight: Harry’s Five O’Clock


This month we are excited to share an extended spotlight featuring Harry’s Five O’Clock, which launched in January on VIP. This extended interview with Editor Caitlin Ganswindt covers the pioneering native brand publication’s evolution as a platform as well as the new social mission Harry’s has unveiled with a new short film last week.

Upcoming Events

  • VIP Director of Business Development Peter Slutsky will be featured on the Remote Work Summit this week. His talk will cover building and scaling remote teams.
  • VIP Happiness Engineer/Wrangler Shannon Smith will be giving a talk on code review April 11 at Web a Québec, the largest French-speaking digital event in North America.
  • We will be sponsoring and attending ONA Insights: Revenue and Engagement in Toronto, May 11th at the Globe and Mail Headquarters.
  • Kicking off VIP Workshop May 14-17 at the Carneros Resort in Napa will be new WordPress.com President Kinsey Wilson! Kinsey previously held executive roles at the New York Times and NPR and will share his insights on the future of digital and organizational change. We’ll be making more speaker and schedule announcements soon. Join us in Napa!

Ready to get started?

Drop us a note.

No matter where you are in the planning process, we’re happy to help, and we’re actual humans here on the other side of the form. 👋 We’re here to discuss your challenges and plans, evaluate your existing resources or a potential partner, or even make some initial recommendations. And, of course, we’re here to help any time you’re in the market for some robust WordPress awesomeness.