The next time someone asks me, “What’s so great about WordPress?” I’ll be able to quickly and confidently reply, “The Community”.
Except this time I won’t just be talking about the hundreds of developers that contribute to the core every day, or the ever-vigilant forum moderators, or even the avid members and users across the globe. This time I’ll be talking about the real-life collaboration of passionate WordPress “activists” that make the community what it is. I’ve used WordPress to design, build, and manage websites for years, but wasn’t until my first WordCamp that I feel like I really get it.
I attended WordCamp Fayetteville with my fellow UpTrender and WordCamp veteran, Tammy Hart, which we kicked off with a Friday night VIP dinner and meet n’ mingle. Organizers and attendees had a chance to break some bread and some ice, and speakers introduced their topics. We all indulged in some good food and drink before a full day of Saturday sessions.
I left my TARDIS at home so I wasn’t able to catch all of the awesome speakers, but I’ll recap a few highlights from the ones I attended.
Designing and Building Modular WordPress Themes
This was one of my favorite presentations, and not just because Tammy is one of our own UpTrending developers, but because she brilliantly presented on how we use a slick little plugin called ACF to create unique page layouts in WordPress more efficiently. We’ve battle tested this on a number of sites, including our own.
Some key points from her session:
- Building unique and flexible custom page layouts is easier than you think
- ACF Pro allows you to create unique field data and reusable content modules for various pages
- Drag n’ drop content sections give non-developers (clients, content writers, etc.) an intuitive solution for custom page layout and individualized content structure
- Writing elegant code and adhering to modular file structure keeps your code extendible and easier to maintain over time
Customizer? I Barely Know ‘er!
Aside from just getting points for the most kick-ass title, Sky provided some great insights on the somewhat underutilized Customizer feature in WordPress. He walked through some of the core features added to the Theme Customization API in 4.0, including a bunch of additions and improvements to the UI, new built-in Customizer controls, and some even more recent enhancements.
$wp_customize->add_control(new My_Custom_Control( $wp_customize, 'my_setting', array( 'label' => 'My Custom Control', 'section' => ‘my_section', 'choices => array( 'one' => 'choice one' 'two' => 'choice two' ) ) ));
Here’s a few things I learned about in Sky’s talk:
- How to add new panels, sections, and settings to the Customizer
- How to create a custom control class by extending WP_Customize_Control
- Menu Management (formerly available as a plugin) is now merged with the core in 4.3
Additional Customizer Resources:
Baking in the SEO
Sean stepped us through a great use case for website optimization, using a number of tools to take a client’s site from a 55% Google page speed rating to a 90% and a load time of under 2 seconds. He touched on critical factors in site performance, such as selecting the right hosting provider, leveraging a content delivery network, and improving overall page speed.
A few key takeaways from Sean:
- Add expires headers for common static file types by modifying your .htaccess file (and if .htaccess makes you squeamish try this plugin)
- Remove query strings from static resources (and yes there’s a plugin for this too)
- Use a caching plugin like WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache to improve page load time
- Some nice tools exist for optimizing images like Kraken and WP Smush
- BJ Lazy Load will save you some valuable bandwidth and is degrades gracefully (so it’s totes Google compliant)
- Managed hosting solutions can be worth the investment when it comes to speed, security, and uptime
- Using a good CDN like Cloudflare makes a pretty big impact on performance
Additional Page Speed Resources:
Design Thinking & Going Pro
Coming to WordCamp I was hoping for an impactful and inspiring design talk, and Daniel Herron hit the mark. He shared some of his personal strategies for being a “pro” designer, and common snags in the creative process. His beautifully designed preso and engaging speaking style left us exhilarated and wanting more.
“Find someone who is doing what you wish you could do and get obsessed.”
Some points I loved in his talk:
- Good designers are problem solvers, a great case for this is The Elevator Problem
- Whether it’s good or bad, we are constantly surrounded by design (we also learned of Daniel’s loathing of microwaves)
- If you’re not careful as a designer you can become immersed in distractions, which become oppressive. Disconnect, put on headphones, and find your creative sanctuary
- Be aware of feature creep and avoid becoming overwhelmed by too many options (true on so many levels, like controlling user flow)
- Seek out inspiration in various forms: books, podcasts, music and mentors
- Learn to say no, so people will trust you when you say yes
- Make progress … every single day
Additional Design Resources
This was a really great intro to responsive web design techniques, and had a lot to offer for all levels, from newb to RWD master. I particularly enjoyed the brief demo on some of the features of flexbox.
Some of the takeaways:
- The three main ingredients of RWD are fluid grids, flexible images, and media queries
- The distinction between adaptive vs responsive design is important (breakpoints defined at explicit device widths vs natural fluid layout that responds at any viewport size)
- Using ems (instead of px) for media queries allows designs to be resolution independent
- Flexbox offers some great advantages over a traditional fluid grid approach: More efficient layout for dynamic container sizes and source ordering flexibility
Protect Yo Self or Wreck Yo Self
Sean gave an in-depth presentation on the introduction of the WP REST API into the WordPress Core, and the inherent security risks. He also explained how to how to access data securely through the API.
- The new API offers a way to fetch or manipulate data from your WordPress site
- RESTful development helps the client speak to the server with the same HTTP verbs you might already be used to: GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, etc.
- There are multiple ways to securely access an API: Cookie, Basic, OAuth, and HMAC with HMAC being considered impossible to invert
- The WP REST API is planned to be fully integrated into core in WordPress version 4.4 in December 2015
Additional API Resources
I want to extend a special thanks to Eric and the organizing committee, and of course all the volunteers, speakers, and campers for making awesome events like this possible. For more info on WordCamp Fayetteville check out the website, or their Facebook and Twitter pages.