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Comfortable to Confident: A Chat with Pinegrow CEO Matjaz Trontelj

Comfortable to Confident: A Chat with Pinegrow CEO Matjaz Trontelj

I had a chat today with Pinegrow CEO, Matjaz Trontelj. We discussed Pinegrow’s areas of focus, their philosophy as a business and a product, and their plans for WordPress. In the span of one hour, I went from comfortable to confident about my decision to make Pinegrow my agency’s primary tool. In this video, I’m going to share some of the insights I gained and how our conversation reinforced the insights that I had previously inferred.

YouTube video

Hi, I’m Adam with Peak Performance Digital. We are a web consulting firm that provides websites and digital marketing solutions to run, grow, and market your business.

A little over six months ago I made the decision to make the Pinegrow Web Editor a tool for my agency that would complement the Oxygen Visual Site Editor and WordPress’s Block Editor. Since then, a few things in the WordPress ecosystem changed that lit a fire under me to officially set the direction of making it our primary tool and to take steps toward creating standards and processes to support it.

If there was any one thing that stood out to me about our meeting, it was Matjaz’s statement that Pinegrow was built to give freedom to developers. He said that he built Pinegrow 8 years ago with openness in mind so that developers are free to extend and integrate with Pinegrow, and also so that developers would be free from lock-in to Pinegrow since it outputs clean and standard HTML, CSS, and PHP code.

That is worth repeating. It’s free from vendor lock-in and it’s free to extend and integrate.

Just so there is no confusion, the Pinegrow platform is free as in free speech, not free as in beer. It’s a paid tool with an active team of developers, excellent support, and in the case of their Interactions Module an Enterprise license for Greensock.

One of the main questions I had for Matjaz was about the product’s focus and primary market. He mentioned that he sees websites going in two branches but sharing the underlying roots. One branch is to better support WordPress development of custom blocks and themes and the other branch is adding support for technologies like Vue, React, and Angular.

We’ve already seen quite a bit of movement on the WordPress front, with the WordPress Builder module and the recent Shop Builder for WooCommerce. What I’m really excited for is their upcoming WordPress plugin and the plans for Pinegrow Online. I didn’t realize this until today, but Pinegrow Online actually runs as a WordPress plugin already. Seriously! Go to any of their Pinegrow Online demo sites and check the source code.

I asked Matjaz how they envision the Pinegrow WordPress plugin working, and he told me that it will have the same open philosophy as the desktop version but that it will run in a browser and remove some of the steps you need to go through to support a local development environment. He specifically said that you’ll be able to remove the plugin and continue to use the blocks or themes you create with it, just as you can with the desktop version of Pinegrow. He even went on to say how he’s not interested in being woken up in the middle of the night and scrambling to fix a security flaw in the builder that has taken down thousands of sites. He wants agencies to be able to simply deactivate the builder plugin and still have the site and blocks work as they were designed.

Prior to our meeting, I sent him a short video with some of the things I’d like to see on Pinegrow’s roadmap. Some of those items were:

  • The ability for 3rd parties to create and sell ready-made blocks and templates.
  • Pre-build helper components for things like accordions, animated progress indicators, flip boxes, and image comparisons.
  • A visual menu builder for WordPress.
  • A visual WordPress query builder for complex and nested queries, similar in functionality to the one Oxygen Introduced in version 3.9.

Matjaz raised an excellent point that they are trying to balance the desire for pre-built and helper components with their policy of being framework-agnostic. I appreciate that they have given it that kind of thought and, while I would love to see them create things to make my life easier, I appreciate that they aren’t doing it at the expense of compatibility. One thing we did discuss, however, is how they might be able to leverage the Interactions module to support some of these things since it has many of those capabilities and is licensed separately from the core Web Editor.

The Interactions module already has sliders, galleries, and tool tips. The great thing about them is that you can edit and modify those components any way you want once you add them to your project. In the future, I’d love to see them leverage this Interactions Module to deliver more components than they already have.

Toward the end of our meeting, we briefly discussed the 3rd party ecosystem for Pinegrow. Or, rather the lack of 3rd party developers. With such an open platform I would think that developers would be falling over themselves to build on it. Sadly, Pinegrow suffers from the “chicken or egg” syndrome where 3rd parties would help increase its visibility and value, but without a large user base they aren’t incentivized to build for it. Personally, I’m hoping that the WordPress plugin helps make it more mainstream and attractive to both users and developers alike.

Lastly, we talked about content creation, tutorials, and how to spread the word about what Pinegrow can do. Pinegrow is an incredibly deep product, and it enables nearly unlimited possibilities. If you have spent any time on their site or YouTube channel, you’ll find an incredible wealth of information, documentation, tutorials, and how-tos. In fact, there are so many available that it’s a bit overwhelming, in my opinion. Matjaz brought up the valid point that they have the “how” covered, but they could use some help communicating “what” developers and agencies should be focusing on and “why” they should be using certain features.  

To that end, I’d love to hear from you about what kind of content you want to see around Pinegrow. I already have a list of topics I plan to cover, such as workflow differences between Pinegrow and other WordPress tools, how to create a WordPress starter theme in Pinegrow, and how to create WordPress menus. I’m sure I could dive deep into any of those topics and create a year’s worth of content, so it’s always helpful to know just what it is that interests you.

As always, please like and subscribe to this channel to get more information related to websites, web technologies, or digital marketing. You can also visit us online at https://peakperformancedigital.com or email us at [email protected].

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