The WordPress Interview With Dustin Halyburton

XX min
Aug 01, 2023
Here we sat down with Dustin Halyburton, Ascedia's Technical Architect. Dustin has been with Ascedia for over 20 years. Throughout that time, he has worked on hundreds of CMS driven sites, and that includes plenty of WordPress sites!

With that amount of knowledge and background we wanted to get his take on what’s working, and why WordPress is such a good choice for many.



Let’s start with this, Dustin. What type of work do you do in WordPress?

As lead architect, I am often the designer, developer, and integrator of WordPress themes and plugins. I have experience in a range of projects, including e-commerce solutions, integrations, and yes even brochure websites. Each client’s needs and objectives for their website vary significantly, calling for unique and tailored approaches.

For brochure websites, I focus on creating visually captivating and informative online platforms that effectively showcase the client’s products, services, or brand. These websites act as a digital brochure, allowing businesses to establish a strong online presence and engage their target audience.

My goal is to design user-friendly interfaces, seamless navigation, and compelling content layouts to ensure visitors have a memorable and enjoyable browsing experience.

When dealing with e-commerce projects, my approach revolves around developing robust and secure online stores. I integrate powerful e-commerce functionalities, such as product catalogs, shopping carts, payment gateways, and inventory management systems.

My priority is to create a secure and efficient platforms that streamline the shopping process for customers and allows the client to manage their online business effectively.

Regardless of the project type, I always begin by thoroughly evaluating the client’s specific requirements and goals. Based on this analysis, I determine whether a custom-built theme or a hybrid custom theme integrated with a theme builder is the best fit. This consideration ensures the final solution perfectly aligns with the client’s vision while offering seamless functionality, stunning aesthetics, and an exceptional user experience.


WordPress has changed a lot over the years. Can you fill us in on some of the changes?

One of the most significant recent changes is the adoption of the Gutenberg “block editor,” revolutionizing the way websites are modified.

Unlike the traditional approach where editors were constrained by rigid forms with limited content flexibility, the new block editor introduces a modular system that empowers editors with unparalleled creative freedom.

Rather than filling out forms, editors can now seamlessly drag and drop modular blocks onto a page, granting them extensive flexibility to design and customize pages according to their unique vision. This shift to a modular approach allows editors to craft pages exactly as they envision, bringing forth a new era of intuitive and dynamic website creation.


You mentioned custom themes and theme builders — can you talk a little bit more about this?

In WordPress, the default theme provides a basic appearance for new websites, but users often want more uniqueness and alignment with their branding. This is where custom themes come into play. Custom themes are designed and built entirely from scratch based on the specific requirements of the project.

Custom themes offer us a lot of control in creating visually engaging designs while ensuring ADA compliance, optimal performance, and consistent branding. This high level of customization allows us to cater to our clients’ specific needs and preferences.

Despite the custom work, clients maintain full control over their website, including the navigation, content, and pages. The site is branded and functions exactly as they desire, guaranteeing a seamless and consistent user experience. This collaborative approach ensures the final product not only reflects the client’s vision but also empowers them to manage and update their website with ease.

Theme builders are tools or software that enable users to create custom themes without having to write code from scratch. They provide a user-friendly interface with drag-and-drop or point-and-click functionalities, making it easier for non-technical users to design and modify themes.

Theme builders often come with a wide range of pre-designed elements, widgets, and styling options, allowing users to mix and match these components to create visually appealing and functional themes. These builders may also offer features like real-time previews, responsive design options, and seamless integration with various platforms.

The right path all depends on the website’s goals and budget.

Dustin, I know you have built WordPress sites from scratch, and you have rebuilt sites. Are there businesses you have come across that shouldn’t be using WordPress?

Absolutely. WordPress’s widespread usage might not be the best fit for every business. One aspect that gets attention is the management of user permissions, particularly regarding editor access and control over different website sections. Although plugins can address this concern, some alternative CMS platforms offer better capabilities. In other words, if you have a lot of people touching the site and need various layers of permission so that certain people can touch only certain sections. There are better options out there.

Additionally, the volume of content a business plans on handling is a critical to consider. While WordPress can handle millions of posts, you need a robust hosting platform to support such scalability effectively. In our experience, performance issues we encounter often stem from plugin-related complications, rather than the volume of content.


We talked about the limitations… what are the advantages of using WordPress?

WordPress is a fantastic platform for creating websites, and there are several great reasons why. First, it’s free and open source, meaning there are no licensing fees, and it’s constantly being improved by a dedicated community of developers.

Two, finding hosting for a WordPress site is a breeze. A quick search will bring up a range of hosting services, making it easy to find the right fit for your needs.

Three, one of the best things about WordPress is the user-friendly admin interface. It’s well-designed and laid out, making it simple for anyone to manage and update their website without any technical headaches.

Four, is the continuous updates and upgrades. When new versions come out, you don’t have to rebuild your entire site. Just update it, and you’ll get the latest features and security fixes. This ensures your website stays secure and up to date without much effort.

And finally, let’s not forget the extensive plugin support. There are thousands of plugins available, allowing you to easily add all sorts of features to your website without the need for complex coding. Whatever you want your site to do, chances are there’s a plugin for it.


Dustin, with clients you also mention security. Talk about security and WordPress sites.

At Ascedia, we prioritize website security to meet the highest standards and protect our clients from potential threats. Our approach involves a comprehensive strategy that covers every aspect, from the fundamental code level to plugin selection and hosting.

When it comes to choosing plugins, we take a cautious approach. We thoroughly assess each plugin’s suitability, considering critical factors like the number of websites using it, update history, and any past security issues.

If we find any concerns, such as inconsistent updates with WordPress versions, we seek out other solutions. Or we even develop custom plugins to ensure our clients’ needs are met without compromising security.

Our hosting partnership with Pantheon is a vital component in website security. One significant advantage is their container-based hosting, which isolates each site’s security, providing an extra layer of protection from potential threats associated with shared servers.

Pantheon’s production site is non-writable, meaning unauthorized files cannot be added or modified, significantly reducing the potential damage that could result from an attack.

Talk to us about the costs typically associated with hosting and plugins for a WordPress site.

Hosting costs can vary significantly, with some options starting as low as $36 per year. However, it’s important to consider the quality of hosting often corresponds to the price.

We highly recommend Pantheon as a hosting provider for our clients. Their service starts at around $350 per year, and offers a reliable and secure environment, specifically designed for WordPress and Durpal websites.

When it comes to enhancing website functionality, we primarily use free plugins, which provide great value without additional costs. However, certain websites may require specific features or integrations that necessitate paid plugins.

These paid plugins can be obtained through either a one-time purchase or an annual licensing fee. Generally, the cost for these plugins is quite reasonable, typically averaging around $100 per year.

For e-commerce sites with more complex integrations, the cost of plugins may be slightly higher, averaging around $500 per year. But, the additional investment ensures the website is equipped with the necessary features and functionalities to support the business’s online transactions and customer experience.


Let me give you a scenario. Let’s say you were opening a business and you wanted to build a WordPress site, but you’re a busy guy and don’t want to build it yourself. What are the questions you would ask a developer to make sure you’re getting the right team for the project?

When looking to hire a developer for my WordPress website, I’d begin by inquiring about their approach to building the site. Are they leaning towards using a theme builder or creating a custom theme from scratch? I would also be curious about the editing experience for content updates, so I’d ask for a demo walk-through to see how user-friendly it is.

Additionally, it’s essential to discuss the estimated costs of any plugins they plan to incorporate into the website. Understanding the potential expenses related to plugins can help me assess the overall budget for the project and make informed decisions about which functionalities are essential for my website.

You should also inquire about the ownership of the website’s code and its portability. So, I would ask the developer: “Do I own the code to the website, and will I have the freedom to move it to another hosting provider if needed? Is there a code repository being used to track changes and updates to the website’s code?”

Having ownership of the website’s code is essential as it gives you full control over your website and the freedom to make changes or move it to a different hosting provider if necessary. Additionally, having a code repository helps in managing version control, tracking changes, and ensuring that updates are implemented seamlessly.

I would also ask to what level of ADA & WCAG Compliance the site will be built to. I recommend 2.2 AA as a minimum.

Ok, what about SEO features with WordPress? Are those, built in?

Absolutely! WordPress offers a variety of built-in SEO features as well as additional enhancements through SEO plugins like Yoast SEO. These features play a crucial role in improving your website’s search engine visibility.

For starters, WordPress generates XML sitemaps automatically. This helps search engines easily crawl and index your website’s pages, ensuring that all your relevant content is discovered and displayed in search results.

Next, many WordPress themes are designed to be responsive. This means your website will adapt and look great on various devices, which is essential for SEO rankings, as search engines prioritize user experience based on mobile devices.

WordPress also allows you to customize your website’s URLs to include relevant keywords, which improves the overall SEO of your website.

You can further optimize your website’s images by easily adding alt tags. This helps search engines understand your image content and may boost your image search rankings.

Also, WordPress provides a solid foundation for fast-loading websites. Speed is a crucial factor in SEO rankings and search engines prioritize websites with better user experience.

You can categorize and tag your content with WordPress, creating a hierarchical structure that helps search engines better understand your website’s organization and content relevance.

And finally, WordPress automatically sets canonical URLs, preventing duplicate content issues and ensuring search engines index the preferred version of your pages.

How easy is it to learn to make changes to WordPress sites? Not in terms of code, but just updating, content.

As a developer, my primary focus is on creating websites that let clients manage their content effortlessly. While I can handle content updates, I believe my expertise is best utilized in building user-friendly interfaces that clients can easily update and maintain on their own.

So, my goal is to provide the necessary tools and resources to be self-empowered once the site is built. This way, they can confidently make updates and manage their website without the need for constant developer intervention.

By streamlining the process, I want my clients to take full control of their website and focus on their core business while I continue to develop and enhance the functionality and features they need.

Last question, Dustin. What else should I know about WordPress?

WordPress has undergone significant evolution since its inception as a blogging tool. Today, it has transformed into a robust and powerful CMS that competes with the big and expensive CMSs in the market. The growth and advancements in WordPress have been remarkable, making it a top choice for an increasing number of clients, ranging from small businesses to large state universities.

The platform’s versatility, user-friendliness, and extensive plugin ecosystem have driven this trend, leading more and more organizations to embrace WordPress for their website and content management needs.

If you’re reading this and would like to know more about WordPress let us know. Reach out to