Interview: Bridie Amelia Designs

Bridie has been working with WordPress since 2011, and is really passionate about the platform; her website includes an entire page devoted to explaining why she thinks people should use WordPress, and the advantages it has over other web design choices. We interviewed her to find out more about what she does, why she loves WordPress; and in keeping with our Women of WordPress theme, we also asked who she looks up to in the world of WordPress and how gender has impacted her experience.

bridie amelia designs

Tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you do.
I’m a web + digital designer/developer with an extensive graphic and print background. I work closely with SMBs and digital marketing agencies on a freelance/contract basis, and provide services such as WordPress websites, print collateral, and animated banners to fulfill marketing, design and online presence needs. I’ve created e-commerce, membership and e-learning WordPress websites, and my focus is providing a smooth user experience for all users of the sites I create.
When did you start working with WordPress?
I did the classic seachange and moved north from Sydney when my firstborn was 2 months old. After my second child was born I moved back into part time work, and found how much the world of design and web had changed. I mean seriously, before having chidren we were making websites with frames and animated GIFs were an acceptable inclusion on a homepage! WordPress wasn’t even around.
In 2011 I inherited a client from a colleague who had a WordPress site. I’m what is now known as a digital native, having used computers from the age of 8 – our first computer at home ran on DOS, and had 40Kb of RAM! – my brothers and I used to type in BASIC games from a book, then play them. So diving into a new platform didn’t faze me – I learnt as I went, and haven’t looked back.
How has your experience as a WordPress professional changed over time (what’s different now to when you started)?
From a design and user experience perspective, template styles have changed immensely. In 2011 there were still a lot of skeuomorphic styles (when a design mimics real life, like a calculator interface that looks like a real calculator) were still pretty common. Since then trends have moved towards flat design, parallax, and minimalist. It’s also  absolutely essential now to have knowledge of responsive design and mobile device prototyping, as users commonly visit websites first on mobile devices then complete their tasks on desktop. There are some great responsive WordPress frameworks out there – Bootstrap is my preference.
 
What’s your favorite thing about the platform?
WordPress is so accessible, and open source, which means there is a great developer community and lots of free options for those starting out. As you move into more complex developments, there are also some great premium plugins that are well supported, like Paid Memberships Pro (PMPro), Gravity Forms and Woocommerce. The successful ones, which have a good market share, often have excellent integration with each other also.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
I absolutely love learning, and believe it’s the secret to staying young – in mind at least! – but as with any digital field, if you’re going to work with WordPress, you’ve got to understand every job will have a learning curve. My most exciting – and challenging at times – project so far has been developing a groundbreaking organisational change e-learning site, 12 Steps for Business (12SFB). This has been a pretty complex project that’s already been through three or four iterations – it brings together e-learning, membership and forum functionality to deliver something quite unique for small businesses to large corporations.

Do you think your gender has impacted your work or sense of professional community in any way?
I think as women we do tend to being more intuitive, and approach tech in a different way. I guess I’m very approachable for female business owners, and I understand that how a person feels when they visit a website is as important as ensuring a website functions correctly. You’ve got to assure a user when they visit a site, and this is a core aspect of user experience.

Who are some other WordPress women who have influenced or inspired you, and why?

@messica (Jessica Oros) of PMPro knows her stuff, and has been a fantastic help in some gritty custom PHP dev I’ve implemented for 12SFB. Michelle Shearer of Mamabake is just bloody inspiring (can I say that?) – not only is she a fellow fan of 90s riot grrl bands like Bikini Kill – but she’s (almost) singlehandedly built an online community of over 24,000 women using WordPress and Facebook.
What advice would you give to other women wanting to get into working with WordPress?
Don’t be intimidated – learn the difference between wordpress.org and wordpress.com. Start playing around with a wordpress.com site to learn the ropes, then move across to a self-hosted site. The more you try, the more you learn. Make use of developer forums – there’s so many out there, such as groups on Linked In and Google+, as well as support on wordpress.org. If you’ve got technical aptitude, check out Udemy or Lynda.com for basics in PHP and CSS. When you start working out your own solutions, don’t forget to post them to a relevant forum or thread for the benefit of others.

Interview: Leanne Hughes on Social Media and the Body Modification Industry

Leanne Hughes is an internationally respected body modification artist (specialising in body piercing), and has recently moved from Australia to London to continue her professional development. Her next project is a membership site focused on connecting industry professionals with trusted vendors (conceived and built by Samppa and Aneta VonCyborg, owners of VonCyborg Body Art). We spoke to her about social media and the body modification industry; the pros, the cons and the potential.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and your background in the industry.

I grew up as a somewhat isolated and lonely individual, never really feeling like I fit in, until seven years ago when I began my career in the body modification industry as a body piercer at The Piercing Urge in Melbourne, Australia. The body modification community is my family and I am very much at home within it. I did my piercing apprenticeship at The Piercing Urge, Australia’s leading body piercing and tattoo studio. I fell quickly into it, piercing came very naturally for me and after a few years I started specialising in genital piercing and had a lovely and loyal client base.

leanne hughes tongue splitAt the start of the year I made the decision to leave Australia, pursue my desire to travel and my dreams to move further into the body modification scene. On June 30th 2015 I flew to London and have been residing there with Samppa and Aneta VonCyborg. Samppa VonCyborg is one of the world’s best known and respected body modification artists; body modification has its roots in the piercing industry, but has developed and progressed into more extreme modification of the body.

I am currently working as a Personal Assistant to the VonCyborgs, as well as working part time in a well known tattoo studio, Love Hate Social Club London, which is part of the famous Love Hate Tattoos chain by Ami James of Miami Ink. Body Piercing, modifcations, tattoos, scarification and  body suspension are my biggest passions. My personal modifications include several piercings, heavy tattooing, scarification and a tongue split. I also partake in body suspension when I can, it is the most beautifully intense and euphoric experience I have ever known.

Do you think social networking has had an impact on the piercing community, and how people perceive body modification?

leanne hughes piercing 2Social networking has definitely had an impact of the piercing community and the way people perceive body modification. I believe for the most part it has been a positive impact in that it has brought the industry into the mainstream and it is becoming more accepted in society to be pierced, and tattooed, and the more extreme modifications are also becoming more accepted. There is definitely a fascination held by those not involved in the scene. However there will always be people who view modification negatively and will judge harshly. But that goes with anything in life.

What are the upsides and downsides of social networking, from your professional point of view?

The downside to the industry being brought into the mainstream is that the line between those passionate about modification and those being modified to be “cool” has become blurred. And sadly, true artists are being “copied” by individuals not good enough or qualified to be offering modifications. This includes not only piercing and tattooing but sadly extreme procedures such as tongue splitting and ear pointing. It is one thing to receive a dodgy piercing that you end up having to take out, or a bad tattoo that you have to get removed or cover, but it is another matter altogether to have what is technically a “surgical” procedure performed by an incompetent artist and suffering severe medical conditions and/or disfigurement as a result.

That said, there is thankfully a good deal of focus and effort made by the industry to communicate the importance of doing research before undertaking in any form of body modification, whether a simple ear piercing, a tattoo or a tongue split.

Facebook, Instagram and the other major social networks have fairly strict content policies; have you ever seen photos reported that you don’t believe should have been?

I have definitely seen photographs that have been reported with no need to have been, generally by those who are narrow minded and judgmental. I personally posted a photo on Instagram of a male nipple piercing I did and it was reported as nudity as someone thought it was a female nipple (off topic, but for the record I strongly support the “free the nipple” movement).

On the other side of that I have also seen photographs posted that definitely should be reported. I think the way social media sites, Facebook and Instagram particularly, moderate posts needs improvement.

Are there online communities for piercers outside of the “major” social networks – if so, how popular are they? If not, do you think there’s a market for one?

Outside the realm of Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr, there really aren’t any alternative social networking sites for the piercing and modification industry. Fetlife has become a means of communication, but is not an industry specific site. BMEzine was the biggest site for the industry, an online magazine noted for coverage of extreme body modifications, but sadly it has slowly been diminished over the years – the founder of the site, Shannon Larratt, passed away in March 2013.

I think there could potentially be a market for industry specific sites, but with the ability to create forums and groups, either public or private, on Facebook this is perceived as a much easier and more favorable option. These forums and groups, more so the private ones, give piercers, tattooists and modification artists a means to communicate, share, ask questions, seek advice, discuss and debate. The privacy also allows the sharing of photographs that would not be permitted to be shared publicly, so that is definitely a bonus. There are many forums and groups, some piercing only, some tattooing only, some extreme modification only, some shared. Some are wonderfully informative yet some are not so great, as is the way with any industry.

I personally would love to see an industry specific social networking site, however I don’t see it happening any time soon due to the dominance of Facebook.