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I am Tammie Lister, an Experience Designer at Automattic, Ask me anything

Mar. 22, 2017


I am really excited to be around today to answer your questions. A little bit about me...

I currently live in the middle of England and work at Automattic as an Experience Designer in the Theme Division. I have a varied background including psychology, design, front end development and user experience. I even once upon a time studied art; its been an interesting path I've followed through freelance to Automattic. Before joining I was for several years focused as a community designer, helping design communities for BuddyPress.

I am a long standing WordPress contributor, committer for core themes and design team rep. I am involved in a lot of different contribution areas and have also organised several WordCamps. My open source journey has seen me be part of a lot of different areas, allowed me to see lots of different parts of the world and helped me be the person I am today.

When not at a computer I spend time doing yoga, with my dog and husband and I still enjoy creating art.

Ask me anything :)

26 votes   Flag

Hi Tammie,

I hope your day is going great.

Thanks for taking the time for AMA.

What is the biggest danger to WordPress in your opinion?

How to improve the User Experience for newbies in WordPress?

Thanks :)

Tammie Lister

Hi Aleksander,

Two very good questions, thanks for asking.

In WordPress I think the biggest danger is the bias of experience, being clouded by and accepting the 'WordPress way' of doing things. It is crucial to step outside that headspace, its also incredibly difficult to do. We are not our only users, yet we create often like we are.

As far as improving the user experience for new users in WordPress goes, I think right now any step on that path is a big improvement. I feel we need to iterate, test those changes and then bit by bit move the gauge. One thing I feel really does this is looking at the language we use in our interfaces - we don't always do that and we need to.

We need to acknowledge our post install experience is not great for a lot of users. Starter content helps this a bit, but we should be guiding and supporting a lot more.

Milica Spasojević

Hey Tammie,

Thanks for coming on to AMA.

I have a few questions for you. I am a designer myself and at the moment I am looking to expand my skills to front-end development. Do you find it useful to know both, and how did you go from design to front-end?

You did a great talk on WordCamp London about the importance of knowing your user. I agree entirely that it's essential to incorporate UX research in everything you do. But, how do you convince others to invest time in this?


Tammie Lister

Hi Milica

That is awesome you are looking to expand your skills.

I actually have gone both ways in my career - I studied software engineering (of all things) right as the web became a thing (feeling super old saying that). After a while being a starvingish artist I wanted to actually get a career that paid well. I was though always a tinkerer in code, so it fit. I had since a child poked around computers, despite my education being psychology and art focused.

I have found for me doing creative code helps me. I can highly recommend exploring Processing JS for example: processingjs.org/.

As a designer I do value knowing how the bricks work in sense of code. If you are interested in the WordPress world I think themes are a great in road for that. Hope you have fun exploring code. Seeing code like a paint brush to create with helps.

Thanks so much for your compliment on my talk. As far as convincing others to invest time, that's not always easy. I would say though, user research doesn't have to take time, or much time. When it feels like a chore or gets in way of process.. thats when its a problem.

Think of lean, low friction and cheap cost (time is a cost) ways. Just doing cheap research also means you can prove what a little bit does and then build on that. Nothing like proof on a small scale to lead a client to invest in a bigger amount. Same goes to making it part of the process you work in. I used to have it as part of that for clients.

Mustaasam Saleem

Hello Tammie,

Thanks for taking out time from your busy schedule.

I have just a few questions:
- Page builders slow down the site? If not, any plan to integrate into the core?
- Do you keep human psychology while structuring the design?

Looking forward to your answers.

Mustaasam Saleem

Tammie Lister

Hi Mustaasam, great to meet you.

As far as page builders in core goes, personally I would question why we would. The work going on with the editor for example and content blocks, to me could remove the need for what we think of today as page builders.

I think thats an important thing to think about, what we think of today as a page builder is an answer to the clumsy way themes and content works in WordPress. As that changes, we no longer need the same solution.

Your second question is also interesting. To me humans are at the centre of any design as whilst robots have come on and my dog understands a lot, I don't think robots or dogs are the majority users. Thats a flippant answer, but to me you can't design without humans being at the heart of what you do.

I strongly believe all designers should study psychology, at least have a basic understanding. I also would extend that to anyone involved in making products. It matters so much and for me, I couldn't do what I do today without my foundation in that.

Mustaasam Saleem

Thanks for your answers.

A few days ago, I read an article based on Integrated Site Builder, that raised the question.

Regarding psychology in designing. I agree with you completely. :)

David McCan

Congratulations on getting the theme review queue below 100! When I browse the theme repository I don't usually think about the possible path it took to get a theme up in front of me. Thank you for your contributions to the review process.

Tammie Lister

Thanks David. I can't at all take the credit there, there is an amazing team of people in the theme review group. They all do such tireless, unseen work. I really think reviewers, those in support - those are the quiet glue in our community and we don't realise that all that much.

Milan Ivanović

Hey Tammie,

Thank you so much for doing this AMA!

I have a community and one everyday question in a life of a designer/developer :)

Community: How did you get involved in the community? - For me it was you and Ulrich that helped me with starting of with Theme Reviews, which completely changed my life for better!

Everyday: What are your tools of the trade? What is your favorite piece of software that you couldn't live without?

I lied, I have another question :) It is about the photography that I know you are a huge fan, so, how did you start with that and do you have some advice for us who are at the very beginning?

Once again thank you so much for doing this and it really was a pleasure seeing you at #WCLDN :)


Tammie Lister

Hi Milan,

The contributions you bring to this community are so amazing and important - so awesome to see that.

My path to contributing came from using WordPress on my own blog. I had been involved in other open source communities, so my passion was already there for this. I knew what I was getting for free and wanted to give back.

After a while in various teams I hadn't really found my home, I found my way to BuddyPress and received such a welcoming I stayed there for quite sometime as my focus. Eventually I ended up doing less BuddyPress and my focus turned back to core and to WordPress.

Day to day my tools include:
- Sketch
- Annotate (screen grabs and gifs)
- Ulysses: for writing posts
- Slack
- Textual: yep still use a little IRC
- Atom: my editor of choice
- Spotify: I need music :)

I think my favourite piece is actually Instapaper. I use it so much as a 'read later' tool.

As far as getting into photography, its really a lot about just doing. Take a lot, often. I see the value in low cost kit, phone photography can be amazing. I got started very young and it was along with painting the main art forms I created in.

Photography to me isn't about having an expensive kit, I don't myself. It's about having an eye, a passion for capturing a visual moment. I adore happy accidents and experiments. Learn to play, have fun and never think you need to spend a lot of money to begin or enjoy photography.