Interview with Robby McCullough, Co-founder Beaver Builder

Today we're interviewing Robby McCullough, the co-founder of Beaver Builder a complete design system that includes a WordPress page builder plugin and a framework theme that lets users efficiently build pages in a visually stunning way!


TWPH: Thank you so much for joining us today Robby! So tell us, how'd it all start? What inspired you to be where you are today? How did it all begin? We’d like to know everything!

Robby:
Thanks for having me! Let’s see...I made my first website back in the 90s when animated gifs and marquees were all the rage! I built and managed several sites and always had a passion for web tech, but I was reluctant to do it full time as the idea of working at a computer full time seemed a bit depressing. This is when I was pretty young and eventually I realized I needed to get a “real job” and decided to pursue a career in web.

TWPH: What was your first step in building Beaver Builder? How’d you create a product roadmap for it? Tell us your journey of co-founding this amazing page builder!

Robby:
After building out a few portfolio projects and doing some freelance web work, I landed a job at a web design agency called FastLine Media. There were three of us and we made a lot of small business websites. One of our clients asked us to use a WordPress Page Builder for their project. At first we were reluctant, but we completed the project and saw the benefits of using a visual design tool for client work. It streamlined our build and the client was able to make changes to their site themselves.

We decided we wanted to implement a page builder for all of our builds, but we couldn’t find one that had all the features and functionality we wanted. So we decided to build our own! Originally, we only planned to use it internally, but as it came together we realized we could polish some of the rough edges and try to sell it.

TWPH: How have WordPress Page Builders evolved during the last 5 years? Any worth mentioning trends or major shifts you’d like to highlight?

Robby:
I mentioned how we were reluctant to use a page builder. Back then, there was a real stigma around builders. They were not very user friendly and the code they outputed was a mess. Also, all of the WordPress builders operated in the WordPress admin area as opposed to the frontend of the website. So you had to build your pages using placeholders, then publish and load the actual page in another browser window. You weren’t able to see how your page looked as you were building it.

Beaver Builder was one of the first builder tools to offer WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) on WordPress. A lot of people that refused to use a visual builder tool would try Beaver Builder and have the same realization about their benefit that we did.

The stigma around using builders for serious projects slowly started going away all the way to the point where now WordPress’ default editor (Gutenberg) is essentially a visual builder. The space is a lot more saturated and there are a variety of different tools available that specialize in different niches.

TWPH: What was the biggest challenge in getting Beaver Builder to the market? What and how did you overcome development challenges?

Robby:
Getting it to market was relatively easy. I mean, we built the tool for ourselves and decided to try to sell it. Whipping up a landing page and using WooCommerce to set up a payment and licensing system wasn’t all that difficult. What was challenging was getting people to use it, scaling the product, and dealing with all of the different hosting environments and caching solutions so that it worked everywhere. We underestimated the amount of support inquiries that we would get too.

TWPH: You’ve got an amazing and active community of supporters and users of Beaver Builder that contribute their ideas through their experiences. How has that helped your team and your brand?

Robby:
Thanks! It’s helped immensely. We have been so fortunate that Beaver Builder seems to attract a genuinely smart and helpful crowd. From feature requests, to QA testing, to word-of-mouth marketing…I think the community around Beaver Builder is one of the biggest contributors to the project’s success and growth. It’s a great thing to be a part of.

TWPH: So you like to travel a lot (We did a little bit of digging on the socials :D), mention the one place you’d advise anyone to put on their bucket list and most importantly why 🙂

Robby:
Haha! Yeah, over the last year I did a LOT of travel. I decided to try out the digital nomad lifestyle and I visited over 20 countries in 2019. At the end of the summer I started getting a bit burnt out on the nomad routine (or, lack thereof). I settled in for a bit, but I am starting to get the itch to get on the road again.

It’s hard to single out a particular place that I think everyone should visit. I took a trip to Alaska with the goal of seeing the Northern Lights. It was the coldest I’ve ever experienced in my life. Several times each night I would put on every layer of clothing I brought and spend some time outside trying to see them. On some nights I would even set a few alarms throughout the night… I was starting to get a bit discouraged because my trip was coming to an end and there hadn’t been any aura activity at all. On my last night in AK, the sky was cloudy all day but there was a break in the clouds forecast around 3 am. I set an alarm, went outside, and got to see a fantastic Northern Lights display! It was mind blowing. I would absolutely recommend anyone that can try to make a Northern Lights trip! It was life changing.

I found out later on, there are web cam feeds you can tune in to and check if there are any auras. I could have looked at those instead of going out in sub-zero temperatures in the middle of the night, haha!

Robby McCullough Interview

TWPH: We noticed that you guys work remotely, has that ever been a challenge, how do you guys overcome remote working blues and what is the best part about it?

Robby:
Working remotely and managing a remote team has been an ongoing challenge. There are more and more resources available for learning about remote work and remote teams. We read a lot of content from Automattic and Buffer in particular.

The lifestyle freedom that comes along with working remotely is amazing. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to work this way - sometimes to the point where I feel guilty talking about the downsides of it. I like your term “remote working blues.” I’ve definitely felt that way. When I started working remotely, I was living alone and after a year or two started feeling intense loneliness. That was one of my major motivators to move out of my place and start traveling more. I used to prefer a private place to stay when I traveled, but I switched gears and started looking for shared dwellings and travel partners. I’ve found it a lot easier to meet new people and make friends on the road, although a lot of those friendships tend to be fleeting and short-term.

TWPH: If we had to ask you about your preference for hosting (Shared, dedicated, managed) which one would you choose and why?

Robby:
Different projects have different hosting requirements. When I was young and learning web design, I would use the cheapest web hosting I could find because that was all I could afford. At that point in my life, I had plenty of time to install and optimize things myself and manage my websites. Learning how to upkeep and customize web servers was something I wanted to learn more about. Nowadays, I much prefer to spend my time designing, writing, and not filling the role of a server administrator. So for me, managed hosting is fantastic!

TWPH: Given all that you have experienced, given all that you now know and given all that you have learned, if you could pass on only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Robby:
Hmmm. This is a tough one to answer in a non-cliche way. I almost feel disingenuous trying because, like, what do I know!? 🙂

One thing I have made a conscious effort to do over the last few years is to break out of my comfort zones and routines. Do things that are scary. Push the limits. Break some rules.

I used to be really afraid of flying. I had to confront that fear to realize how much I enjoyed traveling. My old home was super comfortable. It took a leap of faith and committing to a move to realize, while comfortable, it was very isolating. For me, a lot of my personal growth has come from forcing myself to do something I knew in my gut was the right thing but I was afraid to pull the trigger on.

TWPH: Could you please share a picture of your workstation with us?

Robby:
Sure! My home set up is in a transition phase right now. I usually try to keep all my cables and wires hidden but that’s definitely not the case. Here’s a good shot of my “road” set up.

Robby McCullough Interview

You can reach out to Robby on his Twitter or check his amazing photography skills here.

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