24 min read

HubSpot CMS with Kevin Fremon from Helpful Hero - Part 1 (HubShots Special Interview)

HubSpot CMS with Kevin Fremon from Helpful Hero - Part 1 (HubShots Special Interview)

Welcome to a special episode of HubShots!

We interview Kevin Fremon from Helpful Hero, creator of the popular CLEAN theme (including CLEAN Pro and CLEAN Lite) for HubSpot CMS. We chat in detail about HubSpot CMS, the good, the bad and the awesome.

The interview is broken into two episodes - in this first episode we chat through:

  • Kevin’s background as a user experience designer and how he got started with HubSpot
  • The quality of the HubSpot CMS platform
  • The evolution of templates into themes (and child themes)
  • How to improve your website performance if you build on HubSpot CMS
  • HubSpot CMS SEO Tool

You can watch the full uncut episode (with bonus extra discussion that didn't make it into the podcast episodes) on the HubShots YouTube channel here.

Or on our YouTube episodes playlist (or just listen to it on our YouTube audio channel)

We’re also available on Spotify or Soundcloud if that’s easier for you.

 

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Please forward this on to your work colleagues.

Recorded: Monday 22 August 2022 | Published: Thursday 29 September 2022

OK, here’s the interview…

hubshots special interview with kevin fremon part 1

 

Kevin (00:00):

Never in my experience so far utilizing the HubSpot CMS in developing for it, have I come across something that was scorched earth detrimental to either the theme and/or any other customer accounts. And that's a godsend as far as I'm concerned.

Ian (00:17):

Hi, everyone. Welcome to this special episode of HubShots. In this episode, we interview Kevin Fremon from Helpful Hero, the creator of the popular CLEAN theme for HubSpot CMS. We chat about HubSpot CMS, the good, bad, and the awesome. And in the interview, we've broken it into two episodes. In this first episode, we chat about Kevin's background and user experience design and how he got started with HubSpot, the quality of the HubSpot CMS, the evolution from templates to themes and now child themes, and how to improve your website performance if you build using HubSpot CMS. Now, you're probably thinking why we're interviewing Kevin is because Craig and myself have both used CLEAN over the last... I don't know. I think it's ever since it’s been out, Craig.

Craig (01:05):

It's many, many years. I was so excited about this interview. I'm such a fan of Kevin and CLEAN theme. We actually use it exclusively now. In our HubSpot agency, we've actually moved away from doing a whole lot of custom development, custom themes just to using Kevin's theme, and we've kind of become experts at it. And it's such a joy to use this theme. And so I knew him from his videos on his CLEAN theme site. And then to meet him and chat with him, he's just such a nice guy, super smart, and I think listeners are going to get a ton of value from this whole interview with him. So, let's get into it.

Ian (01:45):

Kevin, welcome to HubShots. It's great to have you here.

Kevin (01:49):

Oh, I'm so glad to be here with you guys. It's been a long time coming. I've known you guys for a number of years now, so I'm excited to be here and connecting and chatting with the both of you.

Ian (01:59):

Great. So, do you want to tell us how you got started?

How Kevin Got Started using HubSpot CMS

Kevin (02:03):

Sure. How I got started with HubSpot is actually kind of a funny story because I went kicking and screaming into the HubSpot ecosystem. So, about six or seven years ago, I was a co-founder of a start-up, completely not related to HubSpot whatsoever. But our marketing team, at the time, was starting to move over a lot of our inbound contents, our blog contents, landing page, experiments, and the like to the HubSpot platform. We maybe had six, seven engineers. We had probably about four or five marketers. I was on the design team heading up design, and I had another designer as well.

Kevin (02:48):

The kicking and screaming part goes in where I was very much used to WordPress and had been using the WordPress platform for years. And so as my marketing team was wanting to move everything over to HubSpot, I was like, "I don't know HubSpot. How am I going to do anything here? How can I help you guys?" And so I was adamant about not using it until finally everyone was like, "No, we have to use this." And so I told the guys, "Okay, guys, go ahead and look for a template. They have a marketplace. Let's find a template that we could use. And we'll just make it on brands, so it's aesthetically pleasing and goes with our guidelines." And so the head of marketing kept sending me these templates. I was like, "Nope, nope. Not going to use that one. Nope."

Kevin (03:35):

And so during that time in my life, I was actually also starting to listen to Pat Flynn. He runs a podcast called Smart Passive Income. I was just all enthralled with this idea of creating passive income streams. So, what I decided to do is create a template. That's what they were called at the time, not themes, as they're called today. I just decided to create a template for my marketing team to use that was aesthetically pleasing the way that I would want it to look and would allow them to run experiments and not utilize our development resources or even my design team, because I was like, "Hey, they have a marketplace. Let me put this template that my marketing team is using into the marketplace and see what happens."

Kevin (04:19):

And I kid you not, I remember the first morning that I woke up and I saw that little notification on my phone from PayPal saying I made $127 from this template. And I was like, "Oh my God, Pat Flynn was right. This actually works." It was in that moment where I was like, "This is pretty incredible. Let's just see if I can create a few more templates and create some extra income for my wife. And I had gone on vacation." Over that next month, I created a few more templates. And at the end of that month, I think I made about a thousand dollars in passive income, and I was just blown away.

Kevin (04:56):

I mean, here I am, I have a full company and a full team. And suddenly, I've got an extra thousand dollars in my bank account and I was just over the moon. As I kind of continued, I just iterated being that I come from a product design backgrounds and I'm all about customer experience, iterating on the product, and the product is the templates, and just continually improving it. And I have been doing that for the past seven years now to get CLEAN to the actual state that it's in today, which is a pretty robust, if I do say so myself theme that helps other marketers really leverage the platform.

Craig (05:35):

Well, I'll just say that certainly makes sense for me now because I've actually wondered how it's become so good overnight, turns out overnight in seven years, and I guess time flies. That makes sense because it is very polished. I certainly feel that the theme is very feature-rich but very polished in the sense that we rarely find bugs. I'm interested to know, do you think part of that though is because it's you looking after it? And compare that to your earlier history with a team and maybe a team of engineers, is coordinating changes and keeping quality, is that easier, do you feel?

Kevin (06:10):

You know, I've always taken the mindset of being very close with customers. My last start-up, it was with our user base. And I think that the unique thing that I found is the opportunities to understand the pain points or the frustrations or the things that make a product or service unintuitive are opportunities to actually make things even better and create a sort of respect from potential customers certainly and existing customers knowing that the things that they're actually saying, the challenges that they're expressing, there's something being done about them.

Kevin (06:53):

And it's that real keen eye for taking a customer first approach in everything that I do, especially related to HubSpot and the CLEAN theme and all that, has really helped me separate myself from the pack, I believe, and I'm also very obsessive about it. I thoroughly enjoy doing this stuff. There are times where I'm pulling my hair out. I'm grown more gray hair, but I love a challenge and this is one of those things that allows me to sink my teeth into a variety of different challenges, whether it's a bug, whether it's something that's changed in HubSpot that then I have to actually go and try to figure out and make accommodations for. And it's part of the process.

Ian (07:40):

Now, I understand you're from a design and product background, but I guess when you're thinking about HubSpot themes, there's a design element and a coding element, right? So, there's a technical element to it. Have you taught yourself this? Have you built a great team to build a theme? How have you going about that?

Kevin (07:59):

Frankly, I am self-taught on the programmer engineering side. I have been doing web design development for the greater part of 20 years. One of my original businesses, God, 10 or 15 years ago, was a design branding development agency. And it was just myself and a very small team. And I knew that in order to be nimble, sure I could create some great looking mock-ups in Photoshop or whatever I was using at the time, but in order to be very dangerous, being able to actually understand front-end engineering, HTML, CSS, some level of JavaScript was going to allow me to really separate myself as a designer. They call people like me unicorns, or at least they used to not give myself a pat on the back. But it's pretty rare when you can find a designer that has any sort of knowledge on the programming side or a programmer that has knowledge on the UX or the UI design side. I don't know. Honestly, my mom was super creative and my dad was super nerdy and technical, and I kind of got the hybrid in between the two and kind of live in the middle.

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The Good Parts of HubSpot CMS

Ian (09:10):

All right. So, tell us what are some of the good parts about CMS.

Kevin (09:14):

Frankly, I have seen the CMS evolve over the past five, six years. And over the past two, holy moly, it has gotten so much better and it's still improving. It's still got some ways to go, but it has just miles ahead of where it's been since I started with HubSpot. Ultimately, the reason that I have not only recommended the HubSpot CMS more and more to friends and other people that are running small businesses is the intuitiveness of the drag-and-drop system. It's funny because back when I was running a design and development agency, we were charging 20, 30, 50, a 100 thousand dollars for a pretty simple marketing website. Whereas nowadays, a CMS like HubSpot utilizing a theme, anyone can pick up and really start running at building a website that they can truly own the keys of and do it in a matter of days or weeks.

Kevin (10:22):

That's one of the things that I really love about how HubSpot has really geared their CMS. They're really building it for marketers and for marketing teams so that they're not having to tap on the shoulder of their development team that is maybe either working on core product or an app experience not using those resources. Rather, the marketing team can really own, manage, optimize, and run with the marketing website to gain leads, generate interests, you name it. And so that's where I've seen the HubSpot CMS itself excel. This is just a quick shout out to the HubSpot product team who is working on the CMS and the marketplace. I've been really impressed with just how hands on they are with customers, theme developers, like myself, that are really doing a good job of listening and implementing. And again, that's just part of my own ethos. So, to be aligned with a company like HubSpot that has that in their ethos as well is just more inspiration and motivation for me to keep going.

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HubSpot Catching Up with The Trend

Craig (11:25):

I'll make a comment. Tell me if you agree with this experience, because I felt HubSpot has played a game of catch-up in a number of areas on the CMS. So, the drag-and-drop builder, I feel that was a long time coming compared to other tools. Say, on email, you've had other tools like MailChimp that have had that for a while. And then WordPress has had drag-and-drop in their website experience for years. And it feels like, "Oh, okay, HubSpot caught up." And then I think the obvious one maybe for us, maybe not for marketers, but in general is the addition of child themes. That's something that WordPress has had for, I'm going to say, a decade. Might not be that long, but it's certainly a long time. And it's certainly just come out in HubSpot. My view is HubSpot's played catch-up, which is perhaps a criticism, but the flip side is when they catch up, they do it well. Is that your experience?

Kevin (12:19):

Yes, I do agree that they've played some aspect of catch-up with their CMS specifically, but the way that I've thought through that is HubSpot really didn't originate as a CMS as their core offering. They were very much geared towards their CRM product, really helping sales teams understand and optimize their pipeline. It's really been only in the last two or three years where I think they've done one of two things. One, they're trying to capture more of the market and they know that bringing everyone under one umbrella so that their entire marketing team isn't going from another CMS and then syncing with their CRM and have two disparate products. They're trying to gain more market share by actually adding more and more attention and internal team investment into their different products, CMS being one of them. I do get frustrated certainly at times with this aspect even in the last two years as they've come to more fully developed the CMS side of things, introduced themes, shortly then followed by child themes.

Kevin (13:34):

Believe me, there have been times where I'm like, "Why didn't you just do this all at once?" But also, at the same time, I do understand running and working on a product theme where you're really trying to execute fast, but find that line of, what can we ship that is stable, sturdy, and tested, and that is going to provide value to our customer? And then how can we follow that up with interviews to understand either what's missing or what the highest priority item going into the product is going to be, and then move on that.

Kevin (14:05):

So, I have a little bit of sympathy only because I've been in those roles before, but there's definite times where I have grit my teeth at the fact that child themes, like you pointed out, wasn't released with themes because I feel the frustration myself, I feel the frustration that customers have had. But as I mentioned earlier, I've seen the proof and the pudding of how intentional HubSpot in their product theme is with reaching out and trying to move fast on the right things. And I'm hoping that they continue at this pace. And if they do, I think, in the coming years, we're going to see a really, really robust CMS that we're all extremely excited about. I mean, I'm excited now, but I think we're going to be even more excited as more and more comes to fruition in their roadmap.

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HubSpot CMS Platform Quality

Craig (14:53):

I guess, the flip side of the way that HubSpots roll that out and the fact that, well, they control a platform, so there's no option like WordPress is to self-host and things like that. I want to call back to an earlier comment you made in passing, just around while you might be fixing bugs, some of them are yours, some of them are HubSpots. I'm interested how much of the changes that you need to make are, because HubSpot changes the underlying platform. And the reason I ask that is because if I do compare to WordPress, the number of times an upgrade to WordPress or a theme or something like that breaks sites, it's becoming an increasing concern for a lot of our clients. It's one of the reasons we're pushing a lot HubSpot CMS, so that's a little bit of context. But my question is that platform, sure, they might be playing catch-up. It feels like when they do it, they do it well. But from your side, is that the case or how much change goes on that actually impacts, well, your business and therefore clients of your business?

Kevin (15:58):

Quite frankly, as it relates to core platform changes that they're introducing, that either breaks the theme that I've developed and/or any other customer sites, it's very few and far between in my experience. Now, have there been little things that have come up with something that they push live certainly, but they're very, very fast to fix that and push up a fix. Never in my experience so far utilizing the HubSpot CMS in developing for it, have I come across something that was scorched-earth detrimental to either the theme and/or any other customer accounts. And that's a godsend as far as I'm concerned, because, I mean, I'd love to hear more about your experience leveraging WordPress, but I've had those same exact things that happen to my own websites where a plug-in breaks or two plugins aren't compatible. And suddenly, you're just troubleshooting for days or trying to find a developer that can troubleshoot WordPress, which I mean is a shot in the dark as well, just trying to scour through all the millions of them.

Kevin (17:06):

Whereas HubSpot, I've found there's that assurance that if there is something that happens that breaks a website or something detrimental, usually, they're already on top of it by the time you're adding a support request or emailing me. And so for the most part, when it comes to anything that they're changing and how that affects me and my business, it's mostly when they're making large improvements.

Kevin (17:35):

So, the introduction of themes was a big shift for me to reprogram this entire code set to move towards this theme, which I'm very happy that I did. As they're introducing more micro-level features, one that comes to mind, and I think you guys might have talked about this on another podcast, had to do with lazy image loading and how they started to introduce more of that to help with performance. So, as they start to introduce new features, it's more of, "Okay, how can I participate in the beta programs that they have, understand how these things work and how I can implement them into the theme?" So it's tested and then timely delivered to customers like yourselves or clients that the two of you might have.

Kevin (18:23):

One question that I have for both of you on this note, because you're working with clients that are moving from WordPress to maybe HubSpot, how are you either pitching that or how are you trying to talk them through what would normally be a pretty major decision for an organization to shift in such a degree? How do you talk through that? How do you rationalize that?

Ian (18:46):

I think, for us, the first thing is the ease of use. I think one of the things that people, once they get used to using HubSpot, and I say, "You can have this same experience managing a website. You don't have to talk to developers or do things." That's a really big part.

Ian (19:04):

The other part is really speed, Kevin. That's really been one of the things that we have seen that has changed everything. The speed to market that marketing teams, marketing managers can do things is significantly increased. I have never had anyone that go to CMS and say there was a regretful choice I've made. They're always like, "This is so good." And even people have stuck around had sites redesigned and roll things out. And just even that whole process of redesign, having a staging area, being able to preview it to the business, being able to fully test it, roll it out, make it live, massive difference, and just have all your data in one place and bring it all together is amazing. And I think the other big differentiator is the ability to... They use all the marketing features with smart content, with CTAs, with all the split testing, which I'm sure you can do another platforms but is just so easily managed within HubSpot.

Kevin (20:07):

Spot on. One quick thing that just came to mind as you were talking through the speed, the golden question that I always get, and I'm sure you both get this as well, is how long is it going to take me to build my website, right? No context. How many pages your website is, but it's just like, how long is it going to take...? I don't know.

Kevin (20:26):

But one of the things that I always point to when I get that question that really speaks volumes about the HubSpot CMS itself is I've had this one customer, this woman, non-technical, very smart woman, she put up her own marketing website, not a big site, five to seven pages, including a blog. She did it herself in three or four days, and it was good. It's that speed of execution I think is the most important part. Especially in today's day and age, we don't have a month, two months, three months to either launch a site or add a page or any of this thing. We need to be able to move at lightning speed. And so I'm glad to hear that's part of your pitch when you're starting to convert people over.

Craig (21:11):

I'll add a few comments to that. I think, for us, moving clients over there, there's a couple of cases. And I suspect this will be for listeners who are maybe considering this because a lot of our clients still are on WordPress, and then some are moving on their own accord to HubSpot CMS, and then others were chatting with it about why. And so to your question is, why would we recommend it? One is, well, does it meet their requirements? If you go over to simple marketing site, there's probably no barriers, but there are situations. And this is a question we'll ask you later, are there situations where you wouldn't move to HubSpot CMS? And there's still some of those and we can chat what those are, but I'll give you simple examples.

Craig (21:51):

It's very hard to get an Instagram feed into, say, HubSpot CMS when they change API things. Whereas WordPress will have plugins and workarounds for it. So there's some scenarios like that. There's also existing functionality and integrations with systems. All of those areas where maybe they've got it custom built WordPress. We won't even try and recommend it. We'll go, "Look, it's not worth your effort."

Craig (22:14):

But in the cases where it is a move, it's normally a transition pace. So, they've probably got HubSpot in some form. They're creating a few landing pages in HubSpot. And then they're like, "So, hang on, we've got landing pages here. Why is the website so different to use and why can't I see those pages?" And so it's a very easy transition. So, it's actually the best thing for it. It's actually not about features. It's actually more to the points they've both made. It's just ease of use. There is that speed thing. For our clients, we don't find the speed to go live is a big consideration. Most about, it's the larger clients, they're happy with the timeframe, just tell us what the timeframe is. But it's that transition where it's like, "Ah, this makes it all involved, so there's less training."

Craig (22:57):

The other thing though, from our side, and this is less so for the clients, although they get indirect benefit, is for our agency, it's like just trying to look after too many things, so we've really tried to focus down. We had a team looking after WordPress and then another team doing HubSpot stuff. It's like, "This is inefficient. I'm all about efficiency. Let's just focus on HubSpot stuff." And so the benefit for clients is, "We're experts at HubSpot. Get your platform there. You'll actually get a better service from us rather than two teams or two agencies and things like that." So it's not only technical pieces is I guess what I'm saying. It's also the engagement and ongoing support you get.

Craig (23:36):

And I think that's really why we're pushing so hard on CMS. And as you were talking about, their improvements are coming and they continue to get better. And when they are released, there's not a jarring, "Oh, hang on. The site's gone down." And that is in people's minds. So, I think all agencies say this, they rarely get clients calling them up to thank them for doing a good job, but as soon as the site is impacted, the phone's ringing.

Craig (24:04):

As you mentioned earlier, yeah, we haven't really, apart from some very public outages that HubSpot has had probably once or twice over the last couple of years, very rare has the site gone down. Whereas on WordPress, we're seeing that increasingly, and I just don't think we have the skills to, or even the interest in trying to stay skilled just to keep a site up or having team members go in every week just to check plugin updates and, "Oh, we better move to staging first, upgrade the plugins, make sure it doesn't break it, then we can update live." That's a common process. So, there's all those things. I know that's a long-winded answer, but it all comes back to not only technical but service and outcomes, I think, for clients in, and that's where we see the benefit.

Kevin (24:50):

I was just going to point to your focus and I think focus in terms of a service offering, whether it's myself really focused on just providing the theme or your agency really starting to put a stake in the ground and say, "No, we're going to start moving really towards becoming HubSpot experts in all of these categories. And we're going to let anything else kind of start to pitter away. I think that more and more people, at least in my experience, that's what they're looking for. They're looking for a group or agency that is hyperfocused in one area. So, it's music to my ears to hear you say that you're really trying to lean into this. I don't want to call it a niche. It's not really a niche, but kind of. It's a focus on this platform and what it can do for your customers, your clients.

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HubSpot CMS Themes versus Templates - what’s the difference?

Craig (25:42):

I did want to go back and just quickly touch on one thing. Can you just quickly explain the difference between templates and themes? You talked about that transition. A lot of listeners might not be familiar with all of that involved.

Kevin (25:56):

Craig, I'm going to do my very best because, quite frankly, the nomenclature between templates and themes was very convoluted. So, pre, the term theme, which got introduced maybe about two years ago, if my memory serves, the way that the CMS worked is it leveraged what HubSpot called a template. And back then, you could create basically what would be called a template pack, which was a series of templates that would essentially be a theme, but they weren't calling it themes back then. And so fast forward to just a couple years ago, HubSpot released the concept of themes. And themes gives a much better way to control the entire brand aspect of building a website. So, with introduction of themes, you got the introduction of basically your brand or your theme settings, which was a global way to control the style elements, such as your fonts, your button sizes, colors, things like that, across all of the templates, which exists in that theme.

Kevin (27:08):

The way that I look at it from a hierarchy is you have a theme which contains all the templates. Within those templates, you have all of the custom modules, which are the little bits of pieces that make up the actual template layout. I always tell people that it's not about the templates. Don't get obsessed about, "Oh, do you have this template, or do you have that template? Or you don't have this number of templates?" It's all about how much power and flexibility are within the modules themselves. That's where the gold is. And so it's been a little bit of teeth pulling, especially as themes were introduced of just people not understanding exactly what was going on, but that's how I like to describe it.

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Website Performance Tips with HubSpot CMS

Ian (27:51):

So, Kevin, what are some of your things that you've seen that can help improve website performance for people that are using HubSpot or even not using HubSpot or considering using HubSpot?

Kevin (28:01):

Hands down, whenever I get asked this question -- and believe in me, I get asked a lot, probably both of you do -- the first thing when trying to think through, "Okay, I have my website and have these pages and I want to actually improve the performance," the first thing you got to ask yourself is, "What am I optimizing this page for?" Because there's really two roads you can go down and that is, I'm optimizing a page for UX user experience, or I'm optimizing it for SEO. And those two types of pages are really very different. And so the common mistake or the common request that I get is, "Hey, here's a link to my home page. Why is this so slow? How can I make this better and actually perform faster and get better results on Google PageSpeed Insights?" Only to find out that unknowingly they're optimizing for user experience, which there's nothing wrong with that. It's mostly making the decision ahead of time before building a page.

Kevin (29:04):

And just so I'm clear, when optimizing a page for user experience, things like a home page or a landing page where you're sending paid traffic to it where you have a nice explainer video, big graphics, chat widgets, things that are obviously going to create weight on the page and also, at the same time, create a very amazing first time brand experience for people reaching that page through either direct traffic or social media campaigns or things like that.

Kevin (29:41):

On the flip side of that spectrum, if you're optimizing for SEO, meaning PageSpeed is uber importance, these are times where I usually recommend, "Let's focus on the written contents. Let's focus on optimized imagery to strengthen that content with good alt text, clever key-worded headlines." That would be your H1 title tags with clever key-worded, sub-headlines and links to other pages. And really trying to have them focus more so on best practices as it is to create awesome organic inbound contents and put aside all of the cool WYSIWYG, ooey-gooey features, sliders, and different things that are maybe visually appealing but aren't going to help with those performance aspects of a page.

Kevin (30:34):

So that's like, hands down number one, it's like, "What are we doing here? Are we going for our UX? Are we going for SEO? Let's make that line in the sand first and then move towards whatever angle that we're trying to design for." With SEO, the only other thing that I would say is going to be an important piece of that is image optimization and really dialing in how these images are formatted, their size. HubSpot and what I've done with CLEAN can definitely help with some of those, but that's only going to take someone so far. So, a little bit of that onus is definitely on the person building it or designing the website.

Kevin (31:13):

With CLEAN specifically, I'm actually always introducing new performance benefits. HubSpot's been fantastic about introducing new features that help with these, and so staying on top of what they're introducing to the platform, so that can be reintegrated into what I'm delivering in the product is something more on the... We'll call it the core theme side of the spectrum, which is a little bit more on the complex side. Whereas there's still so much room to be had on just what we, as contributors or builders of a webpage, can actually have control over and do when it comes to performance.

Kevin (31:56):

The only other thing that I'll say as it relates to speed and performances, there's always only so much you're going to be able to do and obtain with a robust CMS. By nature, it's going to carry more weight than it would if you had a site completely custom developed from HTML. But the trade-offs just don't make sense, in my opinion. A marketer or people on a marketing team, they're not going to want to jump in that HTML to have that performance. They want the ease and ability to have a robust CMS to make those changes on the fly. And with that CMS and with the robust theme, they're always going to be that little bit of trade off, and it's just something to be aware of. And in my opinion, that trade-off's okay, because speed of execution versus speed and performance of the website is actually pretty darn important as well.

Craig (32:51):

I think the comment I wanted to make is we often get focused on really small contributing performance improvements, sidetracked by those, when actually, the main ones are those simple things, like images. We've all had that experience where we come back and "Why is this page so slow? Oh, that's right. Someone's uploaded a 20 meg image file because it's so easy to do." The CS allows you to, and people don't know. So, often, it is just training. The best way to improve performance on a website is training content managers. Sure, there's all the other technical things and we've had themes that are terribly coded and the poor performance. But assuming you've got a robust theme, it's all about content management, I think. That's the biggest problem we've noticed.

Craig (33:40):

And actually, sorry, one other comment. Well, HubSpot's actually getting better at that because they'll actually optimize images for you sometimes when you don't want them to, but they'll actually optimize them down for use on the site as well. And also, we're seeing a lot more other formats being used as well. Would you agree with that, Kevin? Are you finding that with client sites?

Kevin (34:00):

Yeah, certainly. I mean, there's a lot that I find, and I don't want to just harp on imagery. It's easy low-hanging fruit is the way that I like to describe it, but there are certainly times where I'll get a request of, "Hey, why is this so slow?" And I'll look at the image and it's clearly just downloaded from a photo stock library as a high resolution and uploaded straight to the website. I don't fault anyone for making this. I mean, in most cases, like "Great, there's the image. Great, upload the image," and it's that level of ease that they're already experiencing working within the CMS that they would just expect it to work. And in some cases, it can, to your point about some of the image resizing that HubSpot can do on the fly, but there's also cases where that doesn't necessarily pertain to whatever it is that they're trying to build on the website, so they have to be a little extra cautious. But certainly content creators who are focused on that SEO specifically should be hyperaware of the power that they actually do have to make some pretty solid gains.

HubSpot CMS SEO Tool

Craig (35:06):

Can I ask you about the HubSpot's SEO audit tool? Do you use that on sites?

Kevin (35:12):

Yes. I actually do. The thing that I love about it, and this kind of harkens back to a little bit of my own kind of startup product days, the thing that I love that they put in that SEO recommendations tool is how they put the impact and then the technical difficulty score right next to each other. In my opinion, that's invaluable because something could have a high impact and be very highly technical or maybe even infeasible. And it's just easy to not get tripped up on trying to focus too much time there, go for the low-hanging fruits, and focus on those areas. I love that they provided that level of insight to just help either developers, like myself or non-developers, understand where they should put their focus first and foremost when leveraging that tool.

Ian (36:10):

All right. That's the end of part one of our interview with Kevin. In part two, we'll chat through the CMS/SEO tool, thoughts on HubSpot CMS starter, the common areas that Kevin provides support on with Helpful Hero, and his personal reflections on being a HubSpot CMS developer. You can also watch the full unedited interview, which is more than 90 minutes on our YouTube channel.

[Back to Top]

And that’s the end of part 1 of our interview.

In part 2 we chat through:

  • Thoughts on HubSpot CMS Starter
  • The common areas he provides support on
  • His personal reflections on being a HubSpot CMS Developer

You can also watch the full unedited interview (more than 90 mins) on our YouTube channel.


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Connect with Ian Jacob on LinkedIn and Craig Bailey on LinkedIn 


HubShots, the podcast for marketing managers and sales professionals who use HubSpot, hosted by Ian Jacob from Search & Be Found and Craig Bailey from XEN Systems and XEN Solar.

HubShots is produced by Christopher Mottram from Podcastily.

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