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Interview with John Lewis of SwiftModders

SwiftModders logo

SwiftModders provides premium pre-made WHMCS themes and Blesta themes for web hosting providers. SwiftModders also specializes in custom WHMCS themes, Blesta themes, and WordPress development services. John Lewis, Jr., is SwiftModders’ front-end developer and a huge nerd. John has over 15 years of experience.

Back in 2007, when John started SwiftModders, his primary focus was creating custom integrations for PHP-based software like WHMCS, vBulletin, Kayako, etc. Originally, the names “swift” and “modders” were short terms for modding these various software providers.

As its business progressed, SwiftModders has emphasized development of its own premade and fully custom themes for WHMCS and for Blesta. SwiftModders continues to offer, in addition to themes, full custom web development services for WHMCS, Blesta, and WordPress.

Interview Questions And Answers

John Lewis, Jr. - Founder of SwiftModders

John Lewis, Jr. – Founder of SwiftModders

How can SwiftModders assist LEB readers’ online presence?

In the web hosting industry, it can be tough to stand out from your competition, and one of the first points of interaction for potential customers is, you guessed it, your website. This can be a make-or-break experience for both the customer and the company. So my thought is always, why leave it to chance? Hiring a professional with over 15 years of experience would be an excellent investment for any business.

SwiftModders has the capabilities to build a completely customized WordPress theme for any business. This theme would be catered to your needs and business requirements. For example, if you’re using WHMCS or Blesta as a billing solution, SwiftModders can also integrate this custom look and feel into a customized theme made specifically for your business. This would create a consistent experience for your customers and promotes a level of professionalism that invokes confidence.

How do you make your WHMCS themes?

WHMCS comes with two themes, “Six” and “Twenty-One.” Each of those themes comes with precompiled and minified CSS and JS files. To create my themes, I go through the compiled CSS files line by line and convert them to SCSS. During that conversion process, I optimize the CSS by removing unnecessary lines or improving the code. I make slight changes to the JS, but I rarely touch too much of the precompiled files for fear of breaking any necessary functionality. However, I do add my own JS to help my theme’s function. For some of my WHMCS themes, I also create RTL compatibility and a “dark mode.”

How do you make your Blesta themes?

My Blesta themes follow the same process as my WHMCS. One of the key differences is that my Blesta themes leverage the Bootstrap 4 framework. WHMCS has primarily focused its support on Bootstrap 3, which is quite old, and only recently provided support for Bootstrap 4 in its “Twenty One” theme. Meanwhile, the world has moved onto Bootstrap 5!

What differentiates you from the competition?

My WHMCS and Blesta themes come with a “Theme Installer” module/plugin unique to each billing solution. Using this installer, you can install, modify, and remove any theme you’ve purchased from SwiftModders. Creating my installer took a lot of work, and I’ve been maintaining it for many years. Still, it allows me to give my themes additional flexibility and allows my customers to make changes directly to the CSS files in WHMCS and Blesta.

By converting the original CSS from WHMCS and Blesta into SCSS, I can leverage the theme installer to modify settings in the Bootstrap framework and allow customers to customize their themes on the fly. For instance, if a customer wants to change the primary color used throughout the theme, they can easily do this by editing the primary color in the theme settings and saving the settings. Once saved, the settings initiate a recompile of the CSS file on the fly and clear all necessary cache elements on the server-side.

I’ve put a lot of thought into making these themes as flexible as possible. I believe this is where my work stands out from the competition. 🙂

Swift Modders Allure Blesta Theme Dashboard

How would you advise startup hosting providers to choose between WHMCS and Blesta?

Before starting SwiftModders, I owned my own web hosting company with a business partner. We ran it for a few years and primarily used WHMCS as our billing solution at the time. This is where most of my experience as a “modder” to WHMCS came into play. So I have some insight into the web hosting industry and experience running that type of business (albeit it ended in 2009).

If you asked me this question, say two years ago, I would have said to go with WHMCS as it’s the industry leader. However, I’ve soured on some of WHMCS’ choices as a business, and they have not made long-time supporters like myself feel welcome. I’m sure you’ve heard many complain about the “owned” license fiasco. That was a significant set up for me in several ways. Many of our clients cut ties with WHMCS and went elsewhere, and I was forced to move to a completely different billing solution myself.

Any startup business will have a limited amount of funds to work with, so you’ll have to factor in many aspects:

  • How much will the billing platform cost you?
  • Can you afford to limit your client base to appease any license restrictions?
  • Are you using any niche providers that require custom integrations?
  • What control panel(s) will you support?

From a technical standpoint, it would be best to do a whole scoping exercise of all of your systems and their integration points and make sure that both Blesta and WHMCS can support your needs. If you’re running more niche platforms, you might find more compatibility with WHMCS due to the larger extension database house at WHMCS Marketplace. While Blesta has its own, the amount of extensions is not as vast.

However, if you’re running a more straightforward system, then Blesta will be cheaper. Not only that, the community is much more engaged, and the developers are readily available in their Discord channel and willing to help guide you in your setup. I’ve seen it first hand as I learned how to code a Blesta plugin for the first time. Their team is supportive and helpful. I’ve never experienced that level of support from WHMCS.

For our beginning or less technical readers, what’s a simple, fast, easy way to tell whether a provider is using WHMCS or Blesta?

That’s an interesting question. It’s pretty easy to tell based on the URL structure for both systems. For example, Blesta has more SEO-friendly URLs in place, while WHMCS still has a handful of URLs that are not as friendly. Here is an example:

  • https://blesta.swiftmodders.com/plugin/support_manager/client_tickets/departments/
  • https://demo.swiftmodders.com/contact.php

I believe WHMCS has been making an effort over the last few releases to work on more SEO-friendly URLs, but there are still many examples.

That would be the quickest way a user could tell what billing solution a provider uses.

Do you think it should make much difference to hosting customers whether a provider uses WHMCS or Blesta?

Honestly, no. For a customer, all they need is a solution that allows them to manage their account, billing, and support quickly. I cannot imagine a customer refusing to sign up for a company’s services because of the billing solution they use.

This could be a rare scenario, but a customer is used to one platform over the other. Once a customer learns where to find the information they need, moving to another billing platform can be a bit jarring. This should not discourage a business from switching billing solutions, but always be mindful of how easy it is for your customers to get the information they need. This is why improving the UI and enhancing usability will be pivotal to your success as a business. SwiftModders will always be here to help you accomplish that!

Usually I ask folks being interviewed whether they want to include a discount coupon or other special offer for readers of their Interview. Do you want to include a special offer?

That sounds great. I’ve created the discount code “LEB35OFF”, which gives the LEB community 35% off any of my WHMCS or Blesta products.

Not_Oles

2 Comments

  1. Great interview, John, thanks for taking the time with LowEndBox to share a bit about your story.

    July 18, 2022 @ 12:26 pm | Reply
    • Thanks, John! I really appreciate the opportunity and enjoyed the interview process with Tom!

      July 18, 2022 @ 1:25 pm | Reply

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