Continuing with our series of interviews, we have Dennis Dornon today. He is the co-founder of MainWP, an all-in-one WordPress website management plugin. More than 500k WordPress sites are being managed using MainWP.
Dennis has been a part of the WordPress ecosystem for over 9 years.
A few months back, I had a chance to speak to him. We discussed the future of WordPress, agencies, developers, and freelancers, and exchanged some insights as we share the same audience.
That discussion resulted in partnering with MainWP, providing you the perfect combo for managing your clients’ websites on both the front and back end.
Without any ado, let’s start!
Atarim: Hi Dennis, could you please tell us about yourself?
Hi everyone, I am Dennis Dornon, husband to a wonderful wife, and father to 3 children. I was raised in a small town outside of Syracuse, New York, called Weedsport, and I currently live in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
Atarim: How was your digital life before WordPress?
Before the MainWP plugin, I was all over the place from working at AT&T Wireless, Sprint Cellular, being a busboy, and even a car salesman.
In my early 20s, over 20 years ago now, I learned the coding language ColdFusion as it was the only language used on all the intranet sites where I was working at that time.
Later in my 20s I worked in car sales, and developed a car dealership review website that I was later able to sell. The experience with that website got me into my first digital marketing agency.
I then transitioned into full-time affiliate marketing, and that’s when I started to get into WordPress.
Atarim: What inspired you to create MainWP, and what challenges did you face?
When I started affiliate marketing I used Dreamweaver, and built basic PHP sites for almost a hundred locally-focused automotive-based lead generation websites.
I would add words into a file that then changes the site’s name, manufacturer, models, and some basic text.
Maintenance on those sites was easy, but was limited, and the sites were very cookie cutter. Then Google started to crack down on these cookie cutter sites.
This crackdown meant I needed to find a way to put up better, unique sites that were also quick to work with, and that’s when I dug into WordPress.
I quickly put up almost another 100 sites and realized that even though these sites were better looking and more individual, they were much more painful to maintain.
After some time I became close friends with Chris – the co-founder of MainWP – who was also an affiliate marketer using WordPress.
We saw that affiliates needed an affordable solution to maintain hundreds of sites to increase profit margins.
There were already some similar products on the market, but as affiliate marketers, we didn’t think they were private enough.
Being an affiliate marketer back then was a tin-foil hat time, and you didn’t want anyone to know what your “money” sites were.
And that is the seed for our privacy focus, the paranoia that someone will find your niche and start exploiting it too.
It wasn’t easy. Our competitors, when moving into this space, were already well established, but we believed that the idea behind our plugins would find its audience and get accepted.
And happily, it turns out we were right.
Atarim: How do you see MainWP as different from the rest?
We have three basic things that set us apart from almost any competitor in our space: our privacy focus, Open Source nature, and the ability to self-host.
Privacy is built into the DNA of MainWP, and it has been – and will remain – a primary focus for us. And, since we are open source, anyone can review code for themselves to verify that.
And self-hosting allows you even more of a guarantee of privacy while giving you granular control of your Dashboard.
I recommend that everyone research whether their WordPress manager protects clients’ data.
Atarim: You have been into WordPress for a long time. How do you see the future of WordPress & MainWP? Is there any threat from competitors?
You always have to assume there will be a threat from a competitor. The internet is not static, so there will always be changes.
If we look at BuiltWith’s WordPress usage statistics, you will notice some leveling off over the last two years – and even a few slight dips before bouncing back.
As far as who is ready to take the crown from WordPress, I don’t know if that system has been developed yet.
Even though you hear all the noise about some other systems like Webflow, Wix, Shopify, and the half dozen other systems being promoted out there, I don’t think any of them have what it takes.
Regarding MainWP, I will continue to promote our third-party developer extension program while continually creating and updating our MainWP Pro Extensions, so that MainWP users are provided with more and more options and ways to get their work done simply and easily.
I’m also committed to improving and growing our free offering, as I want MainWP to be a fully functional stand-alone tool for WordPress creators.
Just to add, I talked about the future of MainWP in a WP-Tonic podcast a few weeks ago.
Atarim: How do you keep yourself updated with the WordPress ecosystem?
I try to take time every morning to listen to a few different WordPress-focused podcasts such as WP-Tonic, WPBuilds, WPWatercooler, and WPTuts off the top of my head.
As far as reading, I usually go to WPTavern and MasterWP.
Atarim: Being in the website maintenance business, can you advise viewers on growing their clientele and improving their management workflows?
In my years of experience, I have noticed that many web care businesses don’t educate their clients. One of the easiest and best ways could be as simple as offering a free newsletter or a platform from where they can learn about growing their business.
Provide good content, such as clients’ success stories and testimonials. Your clients will then know more about your business, making it easier to recommend you, order more work, or even upgrade to higher maintenance plans!
Lastly, being an agency, time is crucial. Always find ways to improve your workflows so you can spend less time on maintenance and more on acquiring new clients.
Atarim: Lastly, MainWP & Atarim partnered a while ago. How do you see that this partnership would benefit our mutual users?
I firmly believe WordPress maintenance is far beyond updating plugins, themes, and core.
This is why MainWP offers a wide range of functionalities, such as uptime monitoring, checking Lighthouse stats, security, backups, managing content, and the many other things that go into actual website maintenance; not just updating a site and calling it maintenance.
Keeping this in mind, we partnered with Atarim to extend our solution from managing to collaborating with your clients in a more organized way.
We at MainWP and Atarim have experienced it firsthand, and we both know how time-consuming it can be.
I’m sure this partnership would be a game changer in the website maintenance business by providing better options to both agencies and their clients.
For anyone who doesn’t know how the integration works, I would encourage them to watch the live demo: