Episode 266

Rodica Irodiu Shares How to Make a Fast, Beautiful Online Course WordPress Website with the Neve Theme by ThemeIsle

Rodica Irodiu shares how to make a fast, beautiful online course WordPress website with the Neve theme by ThemeIsle in this episode of the LMScast podcast hosted by Chris Badgett of LifterLMS. Rodica shares why the ThemeIsle team decided to build the Neve theme, and what unique functionality it has to offer WordPress and LifterLMS users.

ThemeIsle recently built for WordPress the Neve theme that focuses on speed, among other things. There is LifterLMS compatibility with the Neve theme. So if you’re working with LifterLMS on any sites, you can find the free Neve theme in the WordPress repository if you want to test it out with your website.

The inspiration for the Neve theme came about when the ThemeIsle team considered that there are a lot of themes in the WordPress ecosystem that don’t integrate well with page builders or offer a lot of options. They decided to build  a theme that was compatible with all of the page builders, and to have a focus centered around website speed.

Rodica Irodiu shares how to make a fast, beautiful online course WordPress website with the Neve Theme by ThemeIsle

Rodica also speaks to remote working and team building. The ThemeIsle team is located across many places in the world. They use that to test their theme’s functionality with varying internet speeds. One thing as website developers we can sometimes fail to consider is the internet speed of our end users. A website that works well with a fast internet speed may not work as well for someone with a slower internet speed. That is why ThemeIsle team had speed as a top priority with the Neve theme building project.

ThemeIsle started in Bucharest, Romania seven years ago, and that is where Rodica lives at the moment. They launched the Hestia theme and Zerif Lite theme a few years back, and those have been a great success.

The team behind ThemeIsle is also very involved with the WordPress community with events such as WordCamps, so if you’re in Europe and attend WordPress events, be sure to look out for them there.

If you’d like to try out the new Neve theme on your WordPress website, you can find it here. They also have a blog and other resources there for WordPress site builders.

At LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us!

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re a course creator looking to build more impact, income, and freedom. LMScast is the number one podcast for course creators just like you. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of the most powerful tool for building, selling, and protecting engaging online courses called LifterLMS. Enjoy the show.

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. Today we’re joined by a special guest, Rodica Irodiu from Romania. She works at a company called ThemeIsle, and they have an awesome newer theme on the market called Neve. It has some LifterLMS specific capabilities built into it. Rodica, welcome to the show.

Rodica Irodiu: Thank you for having me.

Chris Badgett: I’m really excited to talk to somebody who’s, we interview a lot of different types of people on this show. You’re in the same industry I am in terms of building products for WordPress. And people who are building sites, they want them to be fast, they want them to do certain things. We connected because your company Theme Mile built the Neve theme and it has a focus on speed among other things. And we’re really grateful that you added Lifter LMS compatibility and your pro version. But to back up a little bit, what was the story behind Neve? Why did you build it and what is really the focus of the Neve theme? And just for the listener out there, they have a free version on the WordPress repository and then they have a pro version that adds more stuff. But why Neve? Why did you guys decide to build that?

Rodica Irodiu: Well, we actually worked on [inaudible 00:01:49] , which is another thing that we have and the just adding stuff on it. But at some point we thought that page builders are coming and it’s not that easy to work with an existing team that has lots of options. And we decided that is the best time to start a new theme from scratch that’s compatible with to all the page builders and the for which we can really focus on speed. That’s the main thing that we wanted to achieve with Neve. And with the latest update, I think we did that. We are proud that it’s kind of the, I mean it’s the most is the fastest theme at this point.

Chris Badgett: Yeah. That’s really important. I mean especially, I mean some of us that work in the tech industry though, not always the case, we have pretty fast internet or whatever, but it’s easy to forget that there are new people coming online all the time. They may live in rural areas and not have the best internet. So speed is extremely important.

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah. Yeah. Actually because we are a team spread across many places in the world. This is a good start because we actually can test multiple internet speeds in different areas. Because in Romania for example, we have a really good speed for the internet. Yeah. So maybe we cannot understand the difficulties that some somebody else can experience.

Chris Badgett: I definitely noticed as well the rise of the page builders. So how do you build a theme that takes page builders into account. What are some of the things that are either built into the product or ways you think about constructing it that keep things like Elementor and BeaverBuilder and whatever in mind?

Rodica Irodiu: Well, the base templates you have to have a way of the allowing page builders to actually create the landing page. I mean if you, for example, in Hastia, we have the default base template has a big header on top of the page that wouldn’t allow for a page builder to actually create a nice landing page, a full landing page. So that’s one thing.

Rodica Irodiu: Another thing would be to just consider how you write your style to not interfere with any of the style added by the page builders. For example, in Neve right now we have a bunch of a library of starter sites we call them which are building different page builders, Elementor, Beaver and so on. And for example, for the ones in Elementor, there are two options in Elementor settings that allows you to, Oh, how should I say it, the typography and colors that come from the team, to be more, I don’t know the word.

Chris Badgett: To match or integrate or something?

Rodica Irodiu: No. To be more important than the options from Elementor to be on top of them.

Chris Badgett: Oh to priority or-

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah.

Chris Badgett: Yeah.

Rodica Irodiu: And this way we are making sure that when you are using the template with Neve, the typography for example is the same everywhere on the site. It matches all the other pages, not just the ones in Elementor. And this is a nice touch I think.

Chris Badgett: Yeah, that is a really nice touch. It’s interesting, I come from plugin land and we’re a lot about functionality and I mean we do get into design a little bit but I’m always amazed at the focus on design and consistency and making sure things match that really great themes like Neve and what you guys just have a really strong design eye. Where does that design strength come from inside of ThemeIsle as a company?

Rodica Irodiu: Actually we, for the starter sites, where we have the most part in design, we have somebody called the Joan Frescoes. I’m not sure if you know him.

Chris Badgett: I don’t know him.

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah, you should Google him.

Chris Badgett: Okay.

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah, he has a really nice eye for design. And he really knows how to organize himself and how to organize the entire design process. I mean when he started helping us, we didn’t have anyone on the design part actually. And he came and now we also have one intern and he put in place a system that works very well right now. His project is analog WP. If you know about it.

Chris Badgett: Analog WP.

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah.

Chris Badgett: I will check that out. Yeah, that’s very cool. Well thank you. Thank you for sharing that. Can you tell us more about ThemeIsle as a company? The history and what makes ThemeIsle what it is?

Rodica Irodiu: Sure. So we are a company that started here in Romania, in Bucharest about seven years ago. In the beginning there were three of us, or four [inaudible 00:07:59]. and at the beginning we were called Coding WP, not ThemeIsle, and we were doing some just custom work teams for clients. And I don’t know about one or two years later we did the Zerif team, which is a now called Zale. I’m not sure if you’ve heard about it.

Chris Badgett: I did.

Rodica Irodiu: [inaudible 00:08:33] by myself. Okay. Sorry. Yeah. So we made Zerif Lite, which had a big good, a pretty good success at that time. And after that we, in a couple of years we launched Hestia. But in the meantime we also had other teams that didn’t have much success. I mean we learned from them. And now we are focusing on Neve. Apart from the teams part, we also have some plugins. We also have two blogs, Coding WP blog and ThemeIsle blog.

Rodica Irodiu: We are constantly getting involved in WordCamps, organizing or participating as volunteers. We are currently in the first phase for work [inaudible 00:09:32] 2020. So if everyone wants to come is going to be on 25 of April.

Chris Badgett: Awesome.

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah, we are. I mean the company is trying to get involved in the community, not just with the teams but with the WordCamps as well.

Chris Badgett: Let’s talk about Romania a little bit. I’ve always, I’ve worked, I mean this before I started Lifter, which is five years ago, we ran a digital agency building sites. Back then we hired a designer out of Romania and I was just really impressed with all the technical and design talent in Romania. How as a country, what’s the current state of the tech industry or the remote working freelance industry? Kind of what makes Romania special at this point in time?

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah. I think we are known for the IT industry

Chris Badgett: Is that mostly in Bucharest or is it spread out?

Rodica Irodiu: Not just in Bucharest. There is another town in Romania called Cluj, which is starting to become the IT hub for Romania. Big companies are going there right now. I’m not sure exactly why the Romanian people are good at this. Maybe because, I mean in college we, maybe it’s the education system. I’m not sure if it’s a… I think it’s different from other countries. Romanian people will say it’s worse, but, maybe that’s why we are good. But yeah, there are a lot of talented people here, especially young people. I mean students actually start to work from the first year of college.

Chris Badgett: They start working while they’re in college?

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah.

Chris Badgett: So they’re getting hands on experience.

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Because in college you don’t get that much experience, practical experience. But we have a lot, I mean we have a lot of… I don’t know how call it. Hackathons and stuff like that in college. I know every time there was something like this.

Chris Badgett: Oh, that’s very cool. Very cool. Well you mentioned doing a lot with WordCamps and WordCamp Romania or Bucharest sounds awesome. I’ve helped organize some WordCamps and participated in and whatnot. I’d love to get over and go to more in Europe and Asia and whatnot. Part of the WordPress community is, it’s all about one of the values is to contribute back to the community and you guys do that with your free themes. We do that with the free core Lifter LMS plugin. How has that worked out for you? In terms of how do you balance giving away for free versus what people pay for in the pro version? How do you approach that, with Neve for example?

Rodica Irodiu: I don’t think we have… I mean this freemium model really worked for us from the beginning. I mean Zerif started like this. We really, I mean we focus more on the free version than the pro version at some point. I mean we really dedicate dedicated to the free version. I mean resources, time thinking, we know that having a good free product will get the product to succeed. I mean we are more focused on the free version than the premium one.

Chris Badgett: Yeah.

Rodica Irodiu: [inaudible 00:13:35] what worked for us and I think this is important and it’s actually working.

Chris Badgett: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I mean that’s what’s worked for us as well, in terms of, we always ask the question, how do we give away the most value possible for free and figure out a way to make the business work. So the Lifter LMS booster, that’s in the pro version is really cool. I’ve just got it up right here. I’m looking at you basically, Lifters mostly functionality, but you guys come in with a bunch of design options to allow people to start customizing the course catalog and different colors and layouts and things. How did you choose Lifter as something worth focusing on in your pro add on? And what other tools do you put in your pro add on?

Rodica Irodiu: When we were thinking about the pro ad on, we first considered adding modules for WooCommerce because it’s quite popular. There are lots of people that want it. And after that, after WooCommerce we were thinking about what other interesting models we would be able to add and we are about online courses. And for just a simple Google search, Lifter was the choice for online courses and yeah, we decided to add some extra features in the premium version because I mean Neve has, I mean we added compatibility with Lifter in the free version just to make sure that everything works okay when you start Lifter and you can use it. There is no problem with that. But when you get the premium version you also get some nice options that you can use to make sure the course and membership pages feel the way that the other pages in the site feel. So there is consistency across the site.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I mean that’s really the design fundamental is consistency. Consistency is everything and plugins by nature WooCommerce or Lifter or whatever, they try to just be really plain so they can kind of blend in to any site, but they’d need a little extra help sometimes.

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah. Yeah. That’s why the Lifter [inaudible 00:16:03].

Chris Badgett: Exactly. Can you talk to us about AMP at all? Maybe first for people that aren’t familiar, what that is, what is amp and then how does Neve help with compatibility with AMP? AMP.

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah. Well it’s a plugin that you can install and make sure your site is mobile ready. I don’t know how to say exactly. And it’s really good for Google. And what we did in Neve, we made sure it works. Okay. We did. The thing is that for example, if you are using Elementor or WooCommerce , these plugins are not working with AMP so there is going to be a problem with that. But we made sure that Neve by itself it’s working well with AMP. And for example, because it doesn’t allow for much JavaScript and stuff like that, we made sure that we have some fallbacks for example, we have infinite scroll for the blog page and we made sure in AMP to replace that with the normal pagination so that everything works okay. Yeah, we see is basically.

Chris Badgett: Very cool. Very cool. I wanted to kind of talk a little bit about how you work at ThemeIsle. And so for you and I, I’ve been working online since 2010, you said you’ve been with ThemeIsle for six or seven years I think.

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah.

Chris Badgett: So the course creators or the people building these online businesses with WordPress, eventually you kind of get to a point where you can’t do it all by yourself and you need to start hiring people. And really the biggest opportunity is with a remote team. Because then you can get talent from all over the world. What are some tips you have, because you said you have people at ThemeIsle in different countries and it all works, the magic happens. What are some tips you have for people that make remote work possible and avoid some of the common mistakes that can happen if it’s not done well?

Rodica Irodiu: Let me think. I think the first thing that’s working for us is that we have quite independent people that actually can make decisions and don’t depend so much on others.

Chris Badgett: I have a phrase for that. I call it batteries included. You have to have your batteries included if you’re going to make it as a remote worker. What else?

Rodica Irodiu: We communicate often. I mean we use Slack for day to day communications. But Git as well, you can follow everything that happens there. Let me see. I actually don’t work remote so that’s a bit, I don’t know exactly how is it work remotely?

Chris Badgett: So you have a hybrid model where some people are in the office and some people are remote.

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah.

Chris Badgett: Which is also a way to do it, which is awesome.

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah. Yeah. We started, everybody was here in the office, but as time passed by, we found interesting people that couldn’t join us in the office because they were either in other countries or in other cities of Romania. And that wasn’t a problem. I mean because they are doing their job and I mean everything can work as good as if they were here.

Rodica Irodiu: Yeah. So we have a hybrid model and I work at the office. But we have, once a month we have a monthly meeting where everybody gets to discuss about different things that happens in the company. We try to communicate daily and keep in touch on each other, birthdays. And we also try to see each other once a year at WordCamp Europe when possible. We also have been to WordCamp India to meet our colleagues from India. Yeah.

Chris Badgett: That’s very cool. We actually at Lifter LMS have not done a everybody in one place yet. We’ve done parts of groups of people, but I’ve always wanted to do that. So I love that you guys have already done that and you’d do it around a WordCamp, which is helpful because it, there’s already all this other stuff going on and some people might be going there anyways, so that’s really cool. Well Rodica Irodiu, did I say that right?

Rodica Irodiu: Irodiu.

Chris Badgett: Irodiu. She’s from ThemeIsle. Go check out the Neve theme. You can go to themeisle.com. Click on WordPress themes and you’ll see Neve up there and then if you look at the pro version, you can see what it can do for Lifter LMS. Rodica I wanted to thank you for coming on the show. Do you have any final words for the people out there?

Rodica Irodiu: Thank you for having me. The time flies by. Yeah, just if they want, they can check out Neve. We are really, really proud of it. I mean we dedicated our time in the past months to make it the fastest out there and yeah, if they want to build their online courses with lifter, they can use Neve because it’s working really good with it.

Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well thanks for building that, and thank you so much for coming on the show.

Rodica Irodiu: Thank you.

Chris Badgett: And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMScast. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I hope you enjoyed the show. This show was brought to you by LifterLMS, the number one tool for creating, selling, and protecting engaging online courses to help you get more revenue, freedom, and impact in your life. Head on over to lifterlms.com and get the best gear for your course creator journey. Let’s build the most engaging, results getting courses on the internet.

Exclusive Download: 2020 WordPress LMS Buyer’s Guide – Stop wasting time and money researching online course and membership site tech.

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