An Interview with Yoni Luksenberg, Co-Founder of Pojo.me and Elementor.com
You would expect that the development of a WordPress plugin would be driven by a developer, but that is not the case with the Elementor plugin, a drag and drop form designer for WordPress. This plugin is being driven by the vision of a designer, not a programmer - because who else would know better what professional designers really need and want?
HostAdvice: Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.
My partner and I are web designers. We have been designing custom themes and websites for almost nine years, during which time we have developed hundreds of WordPress sites.
HostAdvice: Before launching Elementor, your company POJO sold premium WordPress themes.
Correct – and that experience has served us very well in the development of Elementor. We started out offering web site consulting and development services, but about two years ago we decided to offer products instead of services. We then focused on developing premium themes and licensing them to developers.
In addition to the knowledge gained from being in the industry for all of these years, we also learned a lot from the experience of selling both services and products. First of all, we know how to think like professional web designers and understand their real needs. In addition, we also know the issues involved in developing a stand-alone product.
HostAdvice: What’s behind the name? In my world, POJO = Plain Old Java Object!!
[Laughs] No – it has nothing to do with Java. It actually doesn’t have to do with anything – we just liked the name. It was a short word, we didn’t need to spell it out for anyone, and there was no competition for it in Google search results.
HostAdvice: Why yet another theme company?
Where we are different is that we focused on the professional web site designer. The professional designer has different needs than the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) designer – even in the WordPress market. The popular theme sites - including the paid ones - are actually full of garbage themes.
The professional designer wants to have a single theme that can be used for many different sites. They don’t want to have to learn a new theme for every new project. The theme must be flexible, feature-rich, high-quality, and resilient.
The DIY designer is usually working on a single web site for an extended period of time. The issues of great flexibility, how the theme works internally, and the theme’s compatibility with a multitude of plugins are not normally that important.
HostAdvice: OK - Let’s dig into Elementor – your new WordPress drag & drop form builder. Is it related to the Pojo page builder I see on your web site? Did you just pull out a piece of your infrastructure and repackage it as a standalone plugin?
Absolutely not! Elementor is a completely different product that we built from scratch, including a new and different framework. The only thing we took from the Pojo page builder is knowledge – the knowledge of what professional designers need and what their pain points are.
HostAdvice: I see references to Front End builders and Back End builders – what is the difference?
With a back end form builder, you must go into a preview mode to see what your form really looks like, whereas with a front end builder like Elementor, it is a WYSIWYG experience inside the designer itself. The biggest benefits of a front end designer are that it reduces your design time and allows for more accurate “pixel perfect” layouts.
HostAdvice: There are already plenty of drag & drop page builders for WordPress – do we really need another one?
There are certainly some successful page builders out there – they were great in their time, but the industry has changed and the demands of users have changed. There is really no flagship product today.
Some of the issues with existing live form builders are slow and lagging performance, lack of a properly designed UI, and a lack of ease of use. We believe that we do a much better job. We have a solid framework that is fast and easy to use. We add a lot of benefits that are not available right now in other page builders.
We couldn't understand why DIY (DO It Yourself) website builders offer such great page builder interfaces, and WordPress does not. These page builders are not meant for professional web designers. With Elementor, we want to address the shortcomings of the older WordPress page builders, while advancing WordPress design to the level and requirements of the professional designer.
Here are some of the ways we are working to achieve these goals:
- Focusing on speed and responsiveness in the visual designer.
- Trying to bring full customization ability to each widget, instead of just offering the defaults that we decide on. We think that we are achieving about 90% customization for our widgets.
- Planning and designing the user interface and experience from the very start. We don’t want the UI to feel like the cockpit of a fighter jet. We’ve made it intuitive and easy to use by separating different functions, such as content and style, into different tabs.
- Offering it as free, open source software.
We want Elementor to become the standard – an open standard – for WordPress drag & drop form builders. Once we achieve that, then the sky’s the limit!
HostAdvice: I see that your toolbar contains both Elementor widgets and WordPress Widgets. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Yes – in addition to our custom developed widgets, we also give you access to other widgets and plugins. Our plans include the ability to offer open support for other third-party widgets and plugins to be included in our toolbar.
HostAdvice: How do you decide the priority of widget development?
We always have our own roadmap and list of widgets that we plan to develop. However, that list is continuously being modified and re-prioritized by the feedback and suggestions we get from users in our various forums, such as Facebook and GitHub.
HostAdvice: Many other page builders make use of WP shortcodes for their designers, but you don’t. Why not?
There are three main reasons for this:
- The number one reason is speed. Using shortcodes slows things down.
- To a designer a shortcode is still code – no matter how simple it is. Most designers do not want to have anything to do with code.
- By generating HTML instead of shortcodes, the form will still be fully functional even if you delete our plugin, because the HTML content still remains.
HostAdvice: It says on your site that you spent over a year developing this plugin - Do you really think you’ll gain enough traction to be profitable? How?
By releasing this product as Open Source, it will practically market itself. There is an active community of millions of users all over the world who want to help. If they see a great product, they will help promote it and help improve it. You suddenly have a situation where 1 + 1 = 5.
We are already using GitHub, where developers can discuss whatever they want about the plugin. We are also finalizing methods for working with external code contributors.
HostAdvice: There is currently no pricing information for Elementor – leading someone to ask on one of your blog posts “Why is it free? What is the plan moving forward?”
Our plan is to offer a paid version – Elementor Pro. This is already in development and we expect to release it in the next two to three months. The focus for Elementor Pro will be features that are related to promotion, conversion and engagement.
It is important for me to emphasize that we will never take out any design feature or widget that we currently have in the standard Elementor plugin. Moreover, we will keep adding new widgets and features to the free version.
HostAdvice: Do you have any plans for developing other plugins?
We are always trying to do different things and to do things differently, but right now Elementor is our main focus.
HostAdvice: How do you see the WordPress plugin market evolving in the coming years?
I expect to see many more high-end plugins. There are many plugins that are successful, even though they are not so great. I think that we will see many more “industrial strength” plugins coming to the market.
HostAdvice: How many employees do you have today? What is the Pojo corporate culture and environment like?
We currently have 8 employees. We all work in one big room. This includes both designers and developers all working together, learning from each other, and supporting each other. Most importantly, we are all enjoying what we are doing.
HostAdvice: How many hours a day do you normally work?
I probably normally work more than 12 hours a day – although you should probably ask my wife [laughs]. For now, I truly love what I do all day. I get up in the morning, have my coffee, and drop my kids off at school. I then go to the office and work there until my wife phones me and tells me to come home…
It is the great feedback that we get from our users that gives me the strength to keep going.