Neuralab is a digital agency from Zagreb, Croatia and a proud sponsor of WordCamp Croatia. Thank you Neuralab for making WordCamp Croatia happen. Read their thought on the beginnings, WordPress, WordCamp Croatia and Transmeet.tv – first internet television in Croatia.
Can you tell us more about your company, how did you started out, what was your first contact with WordPress?
We started back in 2007 as a software engineering team on college and conducted artificial intelligence experiments. During rookie years we did a lot of small projects with neural networks so this is the catch behind our name – Neuralab. In these days we also did a lot of custom CMS development and concluded that with every project we basically reinvent the wheel for typical software functions, you know… users, roles, object models, content editing, post revisions etc. A lot of time was wasted so we decided that we need one stable framework for web projects. WordPress landed on our lap as the most obvious choice and to this day i think it was one of the best team decisions.
Can you say that WordPress is in your focus. Is there something else that you are experts in – except WordPress?
eCommerce is our primary business focus as these projects tend to involve all aspects of digital production – in broad terms these aspects are design, development and content. These types of applications really draw-in the whole Neuralab team and if you can build an eCommerce platform, than you have the knowledge to build practically any application out there.
Nowadays we look at WordPress not as a CMS, but as a framework that solves main functions and team goals. What I mean is, WordPress IS our main tool but we also embellish projects with all sorts of different technologies and platforms, especially iOs and ASP.NET. Overall, most important thing is to first look at users expectations and interests. Tooling and technology is second to that.
While working with WordPress, how do you use it? What kind of websites do you produce “the most”?
We build mostly large scale portals and eCommerce platforms like CineStar’s tv channel multisite, Ziher.Hr news portal, Volonteri.Hr platform. These projects incorporate custom plugins and custom themes developed in-house so this is the way we mainly produce WP projects. Genesis and Storefront (WooCommerce) frameworks are popular right now in the team, but these choices tend to change over shorter periods of time. eCommerce principles are applied to every application so we surely know what goals to measure and how the user will flow through whole web experience.
On the backend side, our team handles full-stack development and manages cloud hosting on Rackspace, MS Azure, AWS and Digital Ocean. So basically, we have project control from nginx / apache to final html / css layers. In that way, customer gets one point of contact for every possible issue and maximum knowledge about their own product, straight from our team.
How do you see the future of WordPress? It is clearly that WordPress is nowadays more than “just a blogging platform”?
WordPress strived in a market where content got the center of the stage. Other CMS rivals where focused on bells & whistles with heavy functions, modules and all sorts of integrated developers tools. Users of DotNetNuke will know what i’m talking about. In these times WordPress got out as a market share winner by riding the content wave and got massive community of followers, enthusiasts and end-users. This popularity is also its burden right now and WordPress future battle has shifted towards different fronts.
First of all, security is a major concern that we hear a lot in every client meeting and workshop. We can debate that every software is secure to the knowledge level of product owner and system admin, but WP has this stigma of security issues like Flash was having and still has. In this way, WP is losing battles from some half-written proprietary custom vendor-lock-in CMS solutions and it’s very agitating to watch. I think this needs to be our primary discussion topic and that we need to do everything to minimize security flag that corporate suits try to raise on every opportunity.
Second, scalability and performance is becoming an issue once you start to deploy larger portals and applications. This is not a heavy topic like security but every team that handles high traffic portals need to take care of loading and speed primarily. WordPress ecosystem with bloated themes and all-in-one plugins tend to swim away from these concepts. This is just an observation, but we need to be more focused on bare bones solutions, support performance and speed rather than bloating of functions. Once again, these developments are connected to popularity of software and software tends to bloat as this is a path easier to travel.
Third, there is a rise on modern CMS approaches like Ghost, Bolt or Modx that will tend to chew on WP market share. We don’t think that this new platforms have any real new value over WP. For some of them it’s a passing fad and if you look at it closely, core WP with custom post types and some caching engine can be turned into ANY type of web platform! How do you challenge that? And most of all, how do you challenge it on a scale of WP ( that has nearly 25% market share)?
In our field, things are looking even brighter as Woocommerce is a top choice for eCommerce solutions. We have worked with Magento or OpenCart and from first-hand we know that these platforms don’t stand a chance against WP in a modern “Content is the king” world. Of course, this is a complex topic and for different kind of article, but community just needs to stay focused on first two points and everything else will flow in good long-term direction.
What do you expect of WordCamp Croatia?
Meeting good, smart and enthusiastic people. These events always gets my juices pumping. Additionally, Neuralab will actively seek new team members on WordCamp #WCHR so we’re on a lookout for junior developers which fit in the above description. Seems like a weekend of geektalk with beers & pretzels on top of it 🙂
And one last question – other than Neuralab you are also behind Transmeet.tv – can you tell us more about this internet television?
Yes, we are guilty as charged! Transmeet.Tv started off as the first Croatian web television with original content, and morphed into a digital publishing platform. Indeed, we are techies, but we also enjoy creating and consume art, design, music and overall cultural content. To this day TTv team had produced over 500 videos or long form original content pieces. This subject matter is somewhat detached from all Neuralab business projects, but it gives us a different perspective on the online publishing world.
The team is comprised of enthusiastic individuals who seek to write, shoot or talk about topics we all care about. From day one we tend to cover topics which mainstream media either doesn’t understand or simply hates to write about. With this in mind, we are in a position to give users some really interesting talks with artists, bands, designers and producers who deserve to be in the spotlight, but simply don’t get a chance to express themselves in a typical media landscape.
Thank you Neuralab for being our gold sponsor. If you wish to speak with these cool guys and girls you should visit them at their table at WordCamp Croatia.