26 min read

HubSpot CMS with Kevin Fremon from Helpful Hero - Part 2 (HubShots Special Interview)

HubSpot CMS with Kevin Fremon from Helpful Hero - Part 2 (HubShots Special Interview)

Welcome to Part 2 of our chat with Kevin Fremon from Helpful Hero, discussing HubSpot CMS

This is the second part of our interview Kevin Fremon from Helpful Hero, creator of the popular CLEAN theme for HubSpot CMS. We chat in detail about HubSpot CMS, the good, the bad and the awesome.

If you missed Part 1 of our chat with Kevin, you can listen/watch/read all the details here.

In this second part we chat through:

  • When HubSpot CMS isn't a Fit 
  • Thoughts on HubSpot CMS Starter and  Theme Pricing
  • The common areas he provides support on
  • His personal reflections on being a HubSpot CMS Developer (and how it has changed his life)

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.

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: Friday 30 September 2022

Interview with Kevin Fremon

hubshots special interview with kevin fremon part 2


Ian (00:02):

Welcome to part two of our chat with Kevin. In this part, we chat through the CMS SEO tool, thoughts on HubSpot CMS starter, the common areas he provides support on, and his personal reflections on being a HubSpot CMS developer. Kevin, I wanted to ask you, where have you found CMS hasn't worked for people?

When HubSpot CMS isn’t a Fit

Kevin (00:26):

So, in my opinion, the CMS is fantastic for marketing websites as a lead generation tool, landing pages and blog content or inbound organic content. Fan frigging tastic. Where I've seen some customers either email me and ask, "Hey, I'm trying to do this. Can HubSpot CMS do this?" It's usually two things. It's either they're better off with a Shopify website because they're either trying to create an eCommerce focused solution into our website, which HubSpot's not an e-commerce platform. You can certainly add in some of their apps to sync things, but it's not natively a e-commerce platform.

Kevin (01:10):

So I would always steer people away or at least have them look in other areas if that's their end goal. The other common one I get has to do with any sort of learning management system or online course creator where there's other great platforms, whether that's Teachable or Kajabi or things of that nature, which in my opinion, the HubSpot CMS isn't a great tool for. Now, don't get me wrong, there's some great themes or products out there that will allow you to accomplish that goal within the HubSpot CMS, but I'm really of the mindset of what's the right tool for the job and let me go find that tool.

Kevin (01:55):

And for me, the HubSpot CMS tool is all about lead generation and an incredible front facing marketing website or experience for their customers. The only other thing that comes to mind is when I have someone reach out and they have had either a designer or someone create this beautiful Figma mocked up website and basically kind of a more app-like experience. And again, that kind of falls in more of that app territory. Not impossible to do with HubSpot to be sure, but not the best tool for the job, in my opinion. Did I miss anything? Is there anything either of you two are hearing that people are either trying to attempt with the CMS and you're like, eh, this is probably not a great fit?

Craig (02:46):

I'll just mention one little thing. This is not a macro. I think it was good you highlighted those two macro areas, learning management and e-commerce. Where we sometimes hit little legals is just simple things such as our landing pages have multistep forms. How do you do that in HubSpot? Okay. Requires a bit of custom coding and JavaScript to hide fields and all. Like that's not out of the box. I know it's coming, it's on their publicly released roadmap that they're going to do multistep forms, but it's normally little things like that. So you get caught in the weeds. Oh, it doesn't do this, doesn't do this, and it can be a bit of a death by 1,000 cuts.

Craig (03:22):

You get five or six little things and they're like, ah, we'll wait. I think most of those are being removed and we're seeing less of them. But the other thing is just also resourcing. If you've got a very customized design, and you kind of alluded to this earlier, the number of WordPress agencies that you can go to that'll build big enterprise WordPress sites. There's tons of them. And I don't think the number of HubSpot partners is as well known. I think it's growing and it's definitely the capability is there, but finding them can be harder. So that's sometimes an education around available agencies to help with it. That's probably the other area I'm seeing. Ian, you seeing others?

Ian (04:06):

I was going to say, what are the areas of improvement or what are the areas that you're most excited about that we can talk about that's coming up in HubSpot CMS, Kevin?

Kevin (04:16):

Let me just tell you what most of my wishes are. Let me just start there. What I'm seeing as what's the top of the list of things that I would love to see them focus on? They have their own roadmap and some of the things I'm privy to, but let's just keep it kind of where I would love to see them go. So if any HubSpotters are listening to this, it's even more fuel for their product roadmap fire. The blog is one area where I think that they can focus even more attention as it relates to their cool drag and drop CMS. One of the things that I would love is more flexibility as it relates to the blog post pages in way of being able to drag and drop, add new modules, things that can wrap the content or give us more flexibility on the post side.

Kevin (05:07):

Currently in its current state, it's pretty locked to whatever the blog post template feature contains, but I would love to see a little bit of effort and energy put there for sure. Some of the other things that I'm focused on as a theme developer is, how can I provide a seamless update experience by way of either improving new modules, introducing new, making more radical changes to the underlying theme code that exists as HubSpot evolves and as HubSpot changes, and creating a way that is actually preventative from any kind of disasters or large issues that customers might be having that might update the theme.

Kevin (06:00):

So for me, it's like, now that we have themes that feels a little bit more fully baked, we have this concept of child themes which actually makes that whole update process easier. We have the CMS, which is, it is what it is, and it's a pleasure to work with depending on the modules you're using. Now, how can we actually improve upon that experience over time without disrupting, whether it's the actual user experience of using the CMS or the modules, or at the end of the day really people's websites.

Kevin (06:33):

The third thing that I'll say, and I'll just leave it here, is one of the things, and this I'm just going to gripe vent a little bit. One of the things that I would love to see HubSpot do is a little bit better when it comes to page organization and management within the CMS. We have one long list with all the pages, some pretty cool search tools and filters, but I would love, love, love a way to better organize different pages in different folders to kind of keep track and access all the various pages on my own website, much less, I'm sure clients of your own with hundreds of pages and being able to manage those a little bit better.

Kevin (07:16):

Those are really the three areas that have been on the top of my minds and I've been kind of poking and prodding HubSpot when I do speak to them about, I'd love this and I would love that. But now that I've shared mine, are there anything that's either driving you nuts about the CMS currently? Or if you had a magic wand and you're like, this feature exists or it's better, what would that be for the both of you?

Ian (07:42):

Well, let me start. And I don't know whether it's really CMS related, but as marketers, I think Kevin, they get on with the job, but when you look into the file section, images are everywhere, documents are everywhere, and then it often becomes a really big effort to go, oh, where is that? Or there's multiple versions of it, because they haven't organized their file structure correctly. And I don't know whether this is something that can be done as a default. Okay, have the images directory, have a system folder, have all of these where people put their assets into. So, that's something that I wish I could quickly clean out for a number of people on the HubSpot side, but I don't think that this is going to be something that's just a HubSpot problem. It's probably a problem everywhere, but yeah, it's something that often comes up.

Craig (08:34):

Yeah, I can imagine the idea of having folder structure templates when it says create folder, or if it said create folder set and you decide, here's a template that we use for websites, or here's one we use for blog list things. Because you're right, blog images are the worst. They just go into the root folder and yeah, it becomes a mess. My comment is the whole power of HubSpot is it can cover a number of hubs. So you can have your website, you can actually have your support site and a knowledge base and things like that. And I'm puzzled that the website pieces seem to be using a different engine or a different approach than say, knowledge based articles. And even your ticketing, your support site, it just seems odd that you can't have, oh, I'm actually going to buy a marketplace theme and oh, here's the template, or here's the theme that applies to my knowledge base articles. And here's to my customer portal for tickets.

Craig (09:33):

It's like, why are these separate? And there's definitely no kind of drag and drop builder aspect to those as well. It seems odd. It's almost like two different teams have worked on these features and I'm like, why? This is the whole power of HubSpot, this all in one. So I find that odd. I don't know if that's going to change. And even then, I don't think they use the same file system anyway. So you've got different things almost in different file folders again. So that seems odd. It's the kind of thing I think they will fix knowing HubSpot, but I have no knowledge of that. I don't know what the approach is. Have you ever come across that when you're purely just landing pages and web pages, Kevin?

Kevin (10:14):

No, definitely in my own use cases, whether it's using the knowledge base feature of their service hub, which I leverage. I like it a lot, but I also dislike it for everything that you've just mentioned. It feels like there's a lack of cohesion between someone's website and then what would be their knowledge base. Also, I know that HubSpot has recently released a new feature called memberships, which frankly I have little experience at this point with. However, I'm excited to get in and play with this. And that's yet another kind of new feature that they're starting to roll in, and there's pretty limited ability for a theme or a brand kit to actually apply across that to my knowledge at this point in time. So yeah, I definitely agree with you. I think that being able to wrap everything that would be front facing to a customer in and or under one umbrella is kind of a no brainer at the end of the day. And so my fingers are crossed that one day they'll start to bring synergy between these different areas of their service offering, but one can be hopeful.

[Back to Top]

Using HubSpot CMS as a Starter

Ian (11:26):

I was going to ask you, Kevin, we've seen the introduction of CMS data and now Free, which we've played around with. And we know that one of the, actually when Starter came out, I think I might have actually bought your theme for a customer that we did some work for. So I was an early user of that, and I think I ran into a few little humps along the way. How do you see the progression from now with starting with Free Starter, and then there's a bit of a jump to Professional and then Enterprise? How are you seeing customers, A, move through that, or where are the points of resistance and where are the points of yeah, we should do this, when you see things happening? Because I think you'll probably see a wide variety of customers in your customer base and how they're utilizing CMS.

Kevin (12:19):

You know, at the end of the day, I'm very excited that they're starting to go a little bit broader in their market in terms of who they're trying to bring into the platform. And I think the CMS makes perfect sense, whether it's the Starter or whether it's the free plan to get people in and at least understanding what HubSpot has to offer as opposed to managing WordPress plugins and themes and all the common frustrations that someone who, in my opinion, would be a great fit for a HubSpot Starter, HubSpot free plan. As far as them kind of moving into these lower tier accounts and starting to look up towards the higher end accounts, my hope is that it'll become even more clear at the level of ease over time that one has managing their website through the platform, whether that's uptime, whether that's not having to deal with updates and the pitfalls that we were talking about earlier. From where I stand as a theme provider, having a premium close to $1,000 theme available.

Kevin (13:32):

Also, a light version, a less expensive version of Clean, which is a little bit more bare bones. I've actually been very surprised at the sheer number of customers that have come in on these lower tier CMS plans and not having a problem spending on a more premium theme or a premium product for their website because they're already getting a pretty darn good deal using the Starter plan. And so, my hope is some of the features that are being blocked, the CTA feature is the one that comes to mind on these freer starter plans. As HubSpot starts to kind of iterate on their product experience to provide better upgrade paths so that some of these people who are just dipping their toes in the water of HubSpot are like, oh, that could be useful. I use this in one place, whether it's CTA that gave me the cool tracking analytics or an AB testing of one or two or however many mount pages that they want to put that constraint on.

Kevin (14:39):

I'd love to see them have more opportunity to get people from an early user of a starter plan into trying these features to get to that aha moments. This is why HubSpot costs so much to be on this plan, and I can actually get a lot out of it if I were to use those features. And now I see the value, maybe I'll kind of upgrade to those different service offerings. So I think HubSpot has a little ways to go to really make that a seamless experience for some of these early customers and to make these upgrade paths clear and understandable that there's value to be had, but I'm pretty hopeful that they'll get there.

[Back to Top]

HubSpot CMS Theme Pricing

Craig (15:18):

Can I make a comment on pricing? And I'm interested whether you see this as well. So you said that people will come in on Starter, which is very small, minimal monthly cost, and they will happily pay for a premium theme. So $1,000. I'm not as surprised by that as maybe some people will be, because one of the problems we have with WordPress is people get fixated on the free, but they don't realize, oh, there's hosting. Okay, that is small. Let's say you can host a perfectly good WordPress site for 30 bucks. But then increasingly it's the plugins that are annual costs. So you'll have a drag and drop builder plugin for WordPress that you have to buy, and it costs 100 or 200 bucks a year. And I've just had this with a bunch of clients sites, I'm like, oh, plugins won't update.

Craig (16:07):

Oh, we've actually got to upgrade our subscription. Oh, it's an annual subscription. Oh, that's $149 a year for that one. There's another one here that's actually an SEO plugin. And so, when you actually add it up, the minimal cost of WordPress actually has quite an ongoing annual cost with upgrading plugins. A lot of people don't realize that and don't upgrade and then wonder why their sites break, by the way. So that's another issue. That's an education issue. So why am I mentioning this? You come back to HubSpot and you're like, well, there's none of those ongoing plugin costs, although I want to flag this for a later question for you. It's a one off cost. You buy that theme, you're going to get upgrades continually. There's no kind of annual cost. I wonder whether that'll change. But at the moment it's like, right, come in on Starter, that's your only monthly cost. You've paid for your theme and maybe a few, actually on Starter, you can't buy the modules, but on Pro you can.

Craig (17:03):

But it's like, you know your costs. And all the updates that happen in the background, they're not going to break the site, don't have to be worried about recurring additional expenses that are hidden. So you come in on Starter, you buy your premium theme for $1,000, and you kind of know what your costs are. I actually think it works out cheaper and it's less to work out or to consider ongoing. So, do you see that as well? I guess what I'm trying to highlight is this inaccurate focus on costs when actually it's cheaper in the long run just to buy a premium theme on Hubspot?

Kevin (17:37):

Yeah, it's funny. I'm always shocked when I get emails from people, which happen maybe every other week of just that question. Hey, this theme looks great. Is this recurring? Do I have to pay this every year? And my answer is usually, I wish. I'd be a pretty rich man. But no, the answer is no. And I think that in my own experience, buying themes or buying products, not being locked into a recurring monthly and or annual payment is actually kind of nice at times. Certainly lower to your services. Nice to pay a small monthly, not a problem. But I've definitely found when it comes to a larger product purchase, such as a theme or something that is going to allow you that level of control over probably one of your most valuable assets on the marketing team, which is your website, it seems like for customers that I've spoken to, it's a no brainer.

Kevin (18:40):

Once they hear it's not a recurring cost that they're going to have to add onto their monthly HubSpot bill and their Slack bill or whatever other recurring costs that they have, it makes it a much easier thing to get into, especially as a lot of the businesses that our customers of mine, they're working with a quarterly budget and knowing that this can fall right in their quarterly budget and great. Never going to have to deal with this again. Yeah, no brainer.

Craig (19:13):

Well, let me ask you then, do you think that's going to change? My slight concern is that HubSpot's always looking for ways to further monetize. And so they're going to consider, well, I'm sure they're already considering, but whether they roll out modules and themes going to subscription models on the HubSpot marketplace. Do you have thoughts on that?

Kevin (19:34):

First and foremost, the one thing that I've always been impressed upon as it relates to how HubSpot works with app or asset, that's like themes and modules developers like myself, is they're very hands on. Again, like I had mentioned earlier. And they're always testing the waters and trying to understand what's going to work for us and our benefit and also for their customers. Now, surely it would be exciting to have some aspect of a recurring revenue stream for my own business model. However, I don't know, or I haven't heard anything about that even being a potential option for the HubSpot marketplace. I think if anything, HubSpot's focus right now is how can we spread the word of HubSpot and specifically the CMS. I think in part this was one of their partnerships with Invato. It was one of the other kind of theme template sort of companies and opening up themes to be available there as well.

Kevin (20:39):

So I really think they're trying more so to utilize what's working, and in my opinion, and probably in their opinion, themes, assets and apps. They're working right now. How can we broaden the appeal for these assets to bring more people into the platform and hence purchasing these assets or leveraging these apps> so for me, what would get me super excited is probably less about the recurring revenue of an assets, but it's more so a seamless experience for customers so that, if I have this theme and then I have all of these additional add-on extensions, call it modules or whatever it might be, that I can either upsell to specific customers for a specific need that can plug right in, how can there be a kind of micro ecosystem within the greater HubSpot ecosystem? And that's what I would love to see them go towards more so because I think it provides more opportunities for people like myself and other theme developers and even greater experience for their customers.

[Back to Top]

The Benefit of Offering Free Support to Customers

Craig (21:49):

Actually, one I'll ask you, this is more just for my interest. With your Clean theme purchase, you offer two hours of support, free support for customers. How many people take you up on that?

Kevin (22:02):

You know, I would say if I were just to put a percentage to it, probably between 50 and 60% of people do, so a considerable number. And I encourage it. I'm not like, hey, all right, oh my God, you say you're going to get these two free hours, but see ya. So it's something that has actually been a unique differentiator for me early on. It was one of the things that you started to see everyone do, but being one of the first people to offer that, it's an opportunity to gain trust and this touchpoint with customers to know that, okay, there's going to be things that are going to come up and at least I'm not going to be charged extra for something little that I want done or to come up. And that's yet another example of, great, I got my fixed costs and I got a little support should I need it.

Kevin (23:01):

And I feel happy about that. And then it also allows me to build better relationships with customers. The other question, just to compound upon that, is I do offer what I call hourly packs. So if someone uses their two free hours and they're like, "Hey Kevin, I want this other module built." I basically have these little hourly packs that you can just purchase, a two hour pack, five hour pack and so on. So the real interesting thing that I have really strived to do in my own business building Clean, being that it's a very product oriented business, I really provide focus services, but I collaborate with agencies like yours. So if customers need more hands on agency style services, I'll pass them off. So the real question that I find interesting is, how many people or how many customers that are leveraging Clean end up wanting or needing to use hours outside of that two free hours?

Kevin (24:03):

And that number is even smaller, literally maybe 20, 25%. And I actually see that as a good thing because that means what I'm continually introducing into the theme itself or what I'm able to do with the time provided is exactly what they need and they don't need to spend more. And so, it kind of doesn't make sense from a business model perspective not to want to sell additional services. But for my case, if the product's doing the work and the product is selling, then I'm doing the job that I've set out to do. And so I don't know, that's the other number that I really keep a keen eye on.

Craig (24:44):

That's interesting. First of all, I'm surprised 50 to 60%, that seems high to me. I thought you were going to say hardly anyone ever does. But I'm glad that they do. What are the main things they ask for help with?

Kevin (24:57):

Part of the value that I provide as someone kind of in this HubSpot ecosystem and community as it stands, is really an unparalleled level of support. So if someone has a question of how do I do this or what can I do to achieve this goal? I love the whole concept of teach someone to fish rather than give them a fish. And so, I always take the standpoint of, if there's something that I can just show you how to do and give you a Loom video or create a tutorial, I am very much in the mindset of let me do that. Because one, it could either help that person or if I'm creating greater content, it can help someone who's just finding me on YouTube or one of my tutorial videos on my website. But when it comes down to those customers that are actually like, okay, no, we need this customized and we want to leverage these two free hours, it's usually something that is pretty specific to their use case.

Kevin (25:59):

So a great example of this is a customer that I was working with, they wanted me to create a pricing slider. Those little things you go to the pricing page, you're like, how many contacts do you have? And you slide the thing over and then all the numbers change. That was a really good example of them wanting something that was very specific to their business model, their pricing model. And so those are fantastic because I can take some of the core that is within the theme and the modules and then just either add to it in certain cases, or in their case, basically create something with the logic that is to their spec. And so that's one end of the example. The other end is, hey, I just want someone to jump in and add our fonts and add our brand colors and things like that, which I always say, here's a video.

Kevin (26:50):

This is something you could totally do yourself. If you really want to use the time for me to do that, I can, but let me do more heavy lifting. This stuff's easy. Just have a go at it. Part of the iterative cycle that I take is if I start to hear the same thing over and over again, once it hits three customers emailing me, I'll add it, like it'll go on my backlog or get prioritized and it'll get introduced as a theme update. And that's one thing that I'm very forthcoming about. So if you Ian were like, hey, I have this feature added to the pricing module, or whatever it might be, and if that's something that I've either already heard a couple times, I'll be like, you know what?

Kevin (27:35):

Winner winner, chicken dinner, I'm getting this added to the theme and you can expect it in two weeks, right? No charge. I don't want to waste your time when it's going to get rolled in. And that's just something that I take a very integral, if that's a word, I have a lot of integrity when it comes to working on the product or working with customers. So I wouldn't want to be like, sure, Ian, that's going to cost you X amount of dollars. And sure, I'll work with that. And then it shows up in the product in a month. So I usually work mostly on a very specific use case basis.

Ian (28:08):

Kevin, I'm just curious. We've got so many different people using HubSpot. Who are the kinds of people that are looking at your theme and then who are the people that are interacting with you and then purchasing the theme, and then what happens after that?

Kevin (28:25):

It's really become a lot more broad over the years. So while I would love to have one target persona that I could be like, this is who buys my theme, ultimately it's separated into four categories. So first and foremost, just the marketer. And so, typically these are, whether they're solo marketers at a small or medium sized business, and they literally are the marketing team, all the way up to smaller marketing teams, whether it's three to 10 people that are on the marketing team and trying to leverage the HubSpot platform. So you got marketers on one end. The other end, especially over the past two or three years, would be entrepreneurs, people that are hands on with their business and with their websites. They could own a local gym, they could own an accountancy or a range of different small businesses, and they're a single co-founder. Maybe they have another co-founder and they're just trying to run at putting up their website.

Kevin (29:32):

The third would be designers. So whether it's a freelance designer or someone that runs their own small business that services clients on a kind of lower end scale that is just doing the migration work, whether that's from WordPress to HubSpot or just building a new site. I work with a lot of designers as well. And then the fourth are organizations and agencies like yourselves and people who are actually servicing clients at a much higher level and being a lot more hands on with their clients who are leveraging the HubSpot CMS and doing work on their behalf. So it's really those four categories that I'm hyper focused on. And agencies like yourselves, I have my affiliate program so that there's some level of reciprocity if you were to refer Clean to your clients, but also it's being able to look at each of those different segments and ask myself, okay, what do they need this product to do that's going to help them excel with their business and almost more importantly, with their clients?

Kevin (30:43):

And that answer is usually pretty different asking you two versus asking a marketer who's running marketing and a startup, what that would be for them. And so really it's about taking a lot of that input and trying to make it cohesive such that I'm not building so hyper specific for agencies like the two of yours such that it doesn't make sense for the common marketer and so on and so forth. So it's a lot of synthesization. Gosh, I'm using big words and shouldn't be. It's about synthesizing a lot of that input and making sense of it from a product perspective.

Ian (31:23):

Great. Now, how often, so I guess there's probably two things in here. I know you have a pretty regular schedule for releasing updates and often people can forget, I've got the theme and maybe I should actually update the theme and see what new features there are that I can implement. What is your recommendation in terms of how often people should, A, be checking, but B, trying out new features and looking to improve their site over time?

Kevin (31:53):

I'm a firm believer in always trying to stay up on releases, whether that's with a theme, or if you are still using WordPress, those plugins and platforms. Coming from my WordPress days, I have been bitten in the butt so many times by not keeping up with updates. So when it comes to everything that I'm doing with HubSpot, I'm trying to really keep a pretty routine cadence, which is usually every say two weeks. Sometimes it can get stretched out to every month now that a lot of the dust with HubSpot's new themes and child themes has settled. And so if I can create that regular cadence of expectation, so whether it's you and your team or any other customers that are like, oh, cool, it's been a couple weeks. Let's see if there's a new update. Being frequent with those will help prevent those scorched earth moments from actually happening, from jumping from a very, very early version to a much later version where there's like a year or two gap.

Kevin (33:02):

There's a lot of changes that can happen in those periods of time. So I've been very happy that HubSpot has improved their own notification systems. So when there is a theme update, everyone gets notified through the HubSpot platform and through emails. And so they've been doing their part as well to help mitigate potential problems and to ensure that people are actually updating. And I'll give a special kind of warm thank you to a lot of the HubSpot team because HubSpot has their own approval process. So it's not like I can willynilly just, okay, let's throw an update out there to the universe and cross my fingers and hope for the best. There's actually a process that validates any new code. The HubSpot team, someone actually has to go through and manually go through that approval process. So the rigidity of some of their processes has definitely helped with making sure that customers can confidently keep their theme updated and whatnot. So yeah, keep your themes updated people. It's going to help you.

Craig (34:06):

One thing I guess, and this does separate HubSpot from say WordPress. One advantage with WordPress hosting is you can take daily backups and you can roll back to yesterday's site at a site level, whereas on HubSpot, you can't. There's no sense of, I'll roll it back to where it was yesterday. Sure, there's page revisions at a page level, but at a theme it's very hard to roll back. And not that we've ever needed to, but that is one thing that I know IT managers maybe perhaps think about, how do I roll back? Where's my backup from a week ago? Oh, something went out. There's no sense of that, but there hasn't needed to be really. I guess what I'm thinking as I go here is auto update would be great, but there's no chance to roll it back. So maybe that's why it's maybe not automatic. Are there other reasons why you wouldn't have it automatically update, especially now that we have child themes?

Kevin (35:02):

Well, just to clarify, so there isn't a built in way where you can say, roll back the theme or just roll back to the prior version. However, HubSpot can do this. You have to contact them. And there has been cases early when themes were introduced where customers had to roll back to a prior version. So it can be done. It's just not accessible from customers on the front end. In my opinion, I love the concept of auto updates, especially if it's an opt in option. I don't think it should necessarily be an opt out option, but if you were to go in where you would normally click install update and be like opt in to auto install. I love that feature as so long as you and or the customer has some level of agency over that, which can be toggled on or off. If I were to play devil's advocate, the only thing that I would be cautious of in any sort of auto application for updates would be anything changing.

Kevin (36:03):

Now, HubSpot safeguards a lot of this quite well, but I wouldn't want to be in the circumstance where something changed unknowingly to a customer's website or accounts. And it could be a change that's perfectly fine, but suddenly a marketing manager or the CEO is like, what the heck's going on? I would be careful or cautious of those sorts of things happening. But again, that goes back to the idea of, if I can toggle this on or toggle this off, it would be a really useful feature to have, especially because I get reached out by people all the time that might be on a super early version and they're wanting to leap ahead 30 or 40 versions. And I'm a little trepidatious around doing something like that. So yeah. I will second that idea, Craig. Absolutely.

Craig (36:58):

I wonder if down the track there'll be a sense of major and minor versions even, so auto update minor versions, but then a major version is handled separately. I mean, we'll see. I think one of the things with your theme is that it's continual incremental improvements. So there's no, well, you tell me, but I've never felt there's a sense of, ah, this is a massive change, major revision, apart from maybe going to a theme base or maybe child themes I think was possibly one thing. But it is always incremental, incremental improvements. Or do you have a sense of, oh, I'm actually going to do a massive new version next year and you've got things in mind that wouldn't be part of an incremental release?

Kevin (37:44):

So short answer is yes. However, since I've been doing this for so long and HubSpot's evolved for so long, I had been doing, I've been doing micro improvements over the course of a year to a year and a half, and then I'll do a large kind of sweeping improvements. And that's kind of the reason that I've gotten to what would be considered Clean 6.2 is the front facing version number. And that's really just because I've been doing it for almost six and a half years. Now that themes has been introduced and the way that HubSpot has really started to move more towards this experience of custom modules as a subset of a greater theme, I am taking a lot more of an iterative approach to these theme updates. So there isn't some big jarring release that could interrupt someone's website. Now, that's especially important nowadays because the theme update process is so much better than it was back before themes existed.

Kevin (38:52):

I mean, it's seamless. It's literally one click, you get all the new stuff. And so taking that approach has had me actually take a lot more thoughtful approach when considering larger updates. And frankly, I think HubSpot CMS and how they treat themes has a few more steps to evolve before I can actually do a much larger sweeping change to some of the underlying code and modules and feel confident in being able to do so. And so I'm hopeful that's to come. Maybe next year? I'm not really sure, but I'm confident with the trajectory that I see them on, that they're going to start to address these problems now that they have all these themes in the market and they're like, great, these people want to keep these updated and there's going to be bigger changes, so how can we make this seamless? So yeah, one can hope.

[Back to Top]

Personal Reflections on being a HubSpot CMS Developer

Ian (39:44):

No, I think that's it. We did have some questions, Kevin, around, well, I guess this is away from Clean and HubSpot, more about how has HubSpot changed your life?

Kevin (39:59):

It's funny because I entered the story of how I got started kind of kicking and screaming going into HubSpot. And the reason that it's really changed a lot of how I treat my own business and just my life in general is the fact that I can honestly be anywhere in the world now and continue to support this product, meet interesting people like both of you, work with customers from around the world, and create a pretty awesome low overhead business as a result of working and building products for this platform. I mean, it's allowed me to buy a really nice house here in Austin, Texas. It's allowed me to have the, we'll say, freedom to really live my life where and how I want. And that's something that has been, it's been really cool at this point in my life. And I'm in my mid-40s and I've had an agency and run teams and had startups with tons of employees and being locked in these different areas.

Kevin (41:12):

And so to be in this position I'm at today where I can be nimble and I can really take an approach to my own lifestyle that is rewarding for me and my family, it's HubSpot and continually working on this product for the platform has really allowed me to unlock that. And quite frankly, I have to remind myself of that because I've been doing this for so long, not just Clean and HubSpot, but web development as a whole, that I can get a little like, eh, yeah, it is what it is. But it is pretty cool to be at this day and age and to be able to work from my cool home office and take my laptop wherever I want to go and not miss a beat.

Ian (42:02):

Kevin, we just want to say a big thank you from ourselves for, A, spending the time and being so free with the information. Craig and myself from the very start have had your theme as the kind of benchmark. When we used Clean for the very first time, I remember telling Craig, this is so good. And you have just maintained that and I think that's a reflection of you as a person and just in the interview with what you shared. So thank you so much for spending the time with us and with our listeners. Now listeners, if you want to see the full episode, you can go to our YouTube channel and see the full unedited 90 minutes plus of this interview with Kevin Fremon, and we hope you enjoy it.

[Back to Top]


A big thank you to Kevin for sharing his story and insights.

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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