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Ep. 21, Featuring Rody Davis from Google

The tools and guidance creators have access to make an impact on the entire internet.

That’s why we’re so excited to have once again partnered with Google, this time to bring Material Design to WordPress with a plugin and theme that brings Google’s open-source design language to WordPress sites.

To learn a bit more about what Material Theme is all about, we’re joined by Rody Davis, Senior Developer Advocate at Google.

Learn More About our Work with Google:


Amit: So let’s kick it off. I’m really interested in this. Can you please tell us a little about Material Theme and what it’s all about?

Rody: Yeah, so Material Design for WordPress is a plugin that we’ve been working on together, which allows you to build a theme, whether you have the plugin installed or not, using the Material components.

If you have the plugin installed, it allows you to change and customize a variety of components within the theme. You can change the typography and shape, making it really expressive for you to choose what you want for your brand.

Rody Davis, Senior Developer Advocate at Google

We also allow the user to have this thing called block patterns, which lets you have reusable components like a pricing page, a form, a card grid, or even an image list. We want to make it as fast as possible for you to build your Material Design templates. It sounds like it’s going to be something that has a wide array of adoption within the market.

Amit: Definitely. Can I ask you, with regards to the focus on performance and design, this is an area that XWP really cares about. Why is that so important for website success, and what role do you think performance and good design play in Material Theme?

Rody: One of the biggest things as a business you want to do is try to stand out and make your presence on the web.

Since WordPress powers so much of the web, this is even more important to make sure that the plugins can meet up to those standards. We know that if your site is way too slow, users are going to bounce and go to something else. It’s really important to make sure you grab their attention with a snappy and beautiful design right off the bat.

Rody Davis, Senior Developer Advocate at Google

Not only that, but Material has some great accessibility when it comes to our components. So if users are using your app and they are low vision impaired or they need to use the keyboard, we’re going to make sure that that experience is still usable and works great with whatever you’re trying to build.

Amit: I love that. And a big part of our shared philosophy between XWP and Google is about working with open-source software and building a better web. Can you tell us a bit about why WordPress matters for this?

Rody: WordPress is such an important thing because when you make a plugin that works in the ecosystem, it can reach a huge variety of people.

WordPress makes it really easy for people to try your plugin or theme. You can drop it in and easily remove it later, since there’s no code that the developer has to go in and adopt.

It makes it easy for people to, let’s say, introduce one of your templates. They can install the plugin, drop in the form, and they may be using 30 other plugins, but we’re making sure that that experience works really well with the WordPress ecosystem.

Rody Davis, Senior Developer Advocate at Google

Not only that, it really makes it easy for us to apply updates. So if we want to change how the components render, we can just update it in one place, and then everybody that’s using the system can now all get the benefit of this update, plus making it really easy to theme and add new functionality.

Amit: We’ve worked with Google on a number of really big releases now for WordPress, including AMP and Web Stories. How have you found the experience working with the team?

The team has been amazing to work with. Not only have they been able to clearly decide what matters most about the things we’re building, but when we change direction or include new scope, they’ve been able to react quickly.

Rody Davis, Senior Developer Advocate at Google

Another thing I’ve been really impressed with is the attention to detail when it comes to the WordPress user. A lot of these people aren’t developers. They’re coming to the plugin maybe for the first time, maybe this is their first time ever using WordPress, and our plugin could be the first thing that they ever use. So we want to make sure that that experience is great from the very start, all the way to the advanced person that has been using WordPress for a number of years and is just wanting to find a faster way to build beautiful design.

We want to make sure that this works great regardless, and I’ve really been loving how the team has just, in every part of the plugin and the theme, making sure that the experience works and it’s clear and cohesive.

Amit: I really appreciate the wide scope of how you’re making this quite accessible for a very large portion around the globe. With XWP, we’ve always had this principle of being very borderless in our approach to the workplace, and we hire globally. I’m very interested in your view. What was it like working with a remote team distributed around the globe, just like Google?

Rody: We have people spread across the globe, and working with XWP has been no exception. I’ve really enjoyed working with this team, and while sometimes it may be a challenge to find a time that works great for everyone, when we do find time to work together, it is really amazing.

I feel like regardless of where they are, the passion shows, and it comes through easily in both their work and also the meetings that we have.

Rody Davis, Senior Developer Advocate at Google

Amit: Wonderful, Rody. Thank you so much for being on The XWP Tonight Show, and really thank you for including us in this great project, both to date and looking forward to great things that we do together in the future.

Rody: Awesome, glad to be here, and thank you for the great partnership. Thank you, everyone. We’ll see you next time.

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