One of the perks of being part of the WordPress community is the opportunity to connect with people who share the same love for WordPress and the same thirst to learn more and give back. Some even become friends along the way.
Ana Segota is one of those friends we’re happy to have met and collaborated with. She’s a WordPress lover, themer, passionate web designer and co-founder of Anariel Design. In this interview, she lets us in on her WordPress journey, walks us through the process of creating themes and shares some advice for those interested in building WordPress themes.
Hi, Ana! It is always a pleasure to talk to you and this time we’ll put it in writing. I know you’ve answered this question many times in different interviews, but please tell us and our readers – how did you start designing WordPress themes?
Ana Segota: Thanks a lot for inviting me for the interview, it is a pleasure. I’m excited to share a bit of my life journey so let’s start 😉 .
I have always been interested to do something creative and web design was my wish for a long time although I’ve ended up studying Civil Engineering, as it is traditionally considered “a good choice” in my country, Croatia. After I finished Civil Engineering studies and moved to Germany, I couldn’t find myself in this role and I finally decided to do something for myself, something I’ve always wanted but didn’t have the opportunity to do. Having Marko’s enormous support (I couldn’t have managed this without him) my new & happy life journey started 😉 .
After the learning period, I started creating HTML templates and selling them on ThemeForest. This was a great way to get feedback and improve my skills cause when you learn something by yourself you often need someone to verify you are doing it right or not 😉 . After a while I noticed that HTML templates are not so interesting for the users anymore, so I decided to learn WordPress and to create WordPress themes. Again Marko has pushed and helped a lot during the whole process of learning and creating the first WordPress theme for sale. Having almost no coding experience, it wasn’t an easy task for me and I wanted to quit many times, but at one point it all started to make sense and I finally made some real progress 😉 .
After 3 years of learning and many up and downs with selling themes on different marketplaces, we opened our own WordPress theme shop Anariel Design and also started selling our themes on WordPress.com.
How did you come to the conclusion that you can make a living out of WordPress? Were you unsure or scared at any point? Was it difficult to let go of the, let’s say, more conventional lifestyle?
Somehow I didn’t think a lot about it, I just wanted to do something that I love and enjoy doing. It was also the first time I found myself in something that I felt I’m good at. You know that feeling when you can do something the whole day and not be bored or stressed? This is a great feeling that I’ve never had before so it wasn’t so hard to decide to try to do this for a living.
I’m very anxious and scared by many things really, but never by this choice. I wanted to make this happen and finally do something that I love and that’s it. I don’t like to overthink things, as overthinking does more bad than good. I’ve never looked back and I just kept learning and creating themes .
I never liked a conventional way of living, to live like most people do. I was always a bit different and had my own imaginary world so this part wasn’t difficult for me. Being aware that I can do this from home or from any place in the world is amazing and a great motivator. I can have a day off when I want or I can go and travel whenever I choose to.
Why “Anariel Design“? I get the “Ana” part, but I am not sure about the full word. How did you come up with the name?
Happy to share this one with you . Many people think my full name is Anariel because of our site and they probably think that is also the reason we named our site Anariel Design, but here is the story behind the name.
I’m in love with cartoons and, since I was a kid, I always lived in a kind of imaginary world, where everyone is happy, people are helping each other instead of killing each other… a kind of a better world than what we have now. My favorite Disney cartoon was Little Mermaid and the main character is Ariel, so the name comes from Ana and Ariel together.
You might ask why not Anariel Themes instead of the Anariel Design? When we started with Anariel Design website we had mostly HTML templates and it was like a portfolio website. Later, we switched to a WordPress theme shop, but we decided not to change the name as we had already created a bit of reputation with this one.
Please walk us through the process of creating a new theme. How do you pick a vertical (e.g. charity, restaurants), how do you choose the features that the theme will provide, what is the process of actually building the theme?
First, I need some kind of idea behind the theme, sometimes we watch some documentary or something similar and get inspired to create a new theme. Sometimes I just see some design that inspires me to create a new theme. We decided to do niche themes for charities, blogs and restaurants, as this is something I enjoy and love the most. I think it is important to do something from your heart and something to which you are able to give 100% of yourself.
After we decide about the topic of the theme, I start to make the research. Searching for real websites in this niche, making notes of which features are important for this niche, what I need to pay attention to and so on. Colors are very important too, I pay attention to the meaning of colors and choose the ones that will represent the topic in the best light.
Next I make some kind of mockup, sketch in Photoshop, where I decide about the typography, colors and layout. Once I’m happy with the look of the theme, I start the development part with the Underscores starter theme and build from there.
At the end I do bunch of testings and also beta testings by people and colleagues I respect and who are willing to do a test of the theme before it goes live.
What are some potential new themes or projects on your list that you are very enthusiastic about at the moment?
I have so many plans and ideas for future projects, but I doubt there is enough time to do all the things I want to do 😉 . Next project will be a new WordPress theme for WordPress.com, where we sell our themes too. I can say it will be for the charities and non-profit organizations. After the theme is done for WordPress.com, it will be developed further and added to our own shop.
We also have one interesting project we want to do in the future, but need to learn a lot first, as it has nothing to do with what we are doing now. So, let’s see what will come out of that.
How do you get your inspiration?
Basically, everywhere. For example our two latest charity WordPress themes were inspired by real life documentaries. Maisha was inspired by the great documentary Virunga Movie we watched one night and I’ll confess, it made me cry like a baby. Pena was inspired and it is dedicated to the Living On One Dollar documentary. We wanted to somehow contribute to both projects and decided to develop WordPress themes to help spread the word about them. Sometimes I see some interesting design, graphic design, web etc. that inspires me to create a theme. Sometimes talking to different people about different things inspires me, like our Lolipop theme that is dedicated to my school friend Lola who loves fashion. Most of the time, inspiration is everywhere, you just need to find a way to it 😉 .
What determined you to get engaged with the WordPress community and how did you start doing it?
This is something I can talk about for hours but will try to make it as short as possible.
I came from a country where helping someone to learn something and sharing knowledge is not a very common thing. People are often closed and sometimes I had the feeling that they don’t like to share their knowledge, as if someone will take that from them. During my school days and study, I often experienced that teachers are not enjoying what they do and are not really motivated to help or teach you something. You know the phrase “there are no stupid questions, just stupid answers”? Well, in many cases, if you’d ask something, they would do their best to make you feel stupid and thinking how could you even ask the question. This way I’ve learned to better keep it to myself and don’t ask anything 😉 .
From my very first steps with WordPress, I was so pleasantly surprised about how helpful and friendly people are in the WordPress community. People I’ve never met in person are taking their precious time and helping me learn new things. That’s something I’ve never seen before and one of the biggest values of being a part of such a community. We all share the knowledge and support each other.
In 2015, Marko and I started to visit WordCamps. Camps are places where you can share ideas, have fun, make connections and real friendships. Last year, during WordCamp Europe in Vienna, Sami (a WordPress developer I met online) and I organized a themers meetup, we had a great time and decided to do the same thing this year in Paris.
I met so many amazing people, so many real friends that I could write a novel about each one of them 😉 . They are all special to me and they are giving me the courage, strength and belief in a better world. In the same way, I met Topher from HeroPress who helped me open up and share my personal story on his blog. You can read it here.
In short, WordPress community = friends, happiness, better world & love
What WordCamps are you planning to attend in the upcoming months? How do you usually pick the WordCamps that you are going to attend?
Next is WordCamp Europe in Paris, where we plan to have a themers meetup too and than WordCamp Croatia in September.
We love WordCamp London. It was the first camp that we visited and this year it was our third camp there. It is a really well organized camp and it is getting better each year. I have family in London too, so we connect the WordCamp and the family visit. This April we went to WordCamp Helsinki, mostly because we became a really good friends with Sami. He invited us, so we decided to go to visit him, WordCamp and Helsinki, as we’ve never been so far north before. We added a two day trip to Tallinn for a good measure .
You and Marko really make a good team, there’s so much positive energy around you two guys How do you split your work? And what do you like to do in your spare time?
Yes, Marko is my soulmate, someone who believed in me from the beginning and without him I would never be where I am now and do things that I really love.
Marko is doing theme support and the business side of Anariel Design. He also writes articles, creates presentation videos and helps during the theme development process by giving advice on how to improve something from the users point of view. My part is doing themes, theme updates and socials 😉 .
Before Anariel Design came to be, Marko was a full-time musician. I love music as well, so music is a big part of our lives. Marko is playing and singing almost every day and I enjoy listening. Sometimes I also play piano but due to some health issues I am not able to play as much as I’d want, but will try to change this in the future 😉 . We also love to go in the nature, to walk, play sports.
By the way, there is also the third member in our team. It is the cutest teddy bear in the world, that we named Bubi. He is our lucky charm and a faithful companion on our journeys. Whenever you see us, you can be sure that he’s near, watching you .
The main advantage of this business is to be able to travel and work from any place in the world, so we love to travel. I love to cook and to take photos of finished meals. I often use these photos in our theme demos if the topic fits. As I already have a lot of photos, I decided to upload some of my photos to Unsplash so others can use them for their theme demos or projects.
Do you have any advice for people who have considered, at one point or another, to start building WordPress themes?
First, find your own niche, something that you really love and where you can give your 100%. If you create themes, do it from your heart and not just because you think it will sell better if you do this and that. Make a real research, find what this niche really needs. Connect with others, ask for help, there are always people willing to help, no one can make it alone 😉 . Concentrate on what you do best, create the best theme you can and provide the best support to your users. Most importantly stay true to yourself 😉 .
If you need any advice and help you can always contact me via Twitter or social channels.
Is there an inspirational quote that is close to your heart and that you would like to share with our readers?
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
“Here is my secret. It’s quite simple: One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Thanks a lot, Ana!
Originally written by Claudia Borceanu