Tag Archives: WordCamp

WordCamp Shows That WordPress Community Is Stronger Than Ever

Our team recently got back from WordCamp Minneapolis / St. Paul, and it was clear that the WordPress community is thriving more than it ever has before. While other open source platforms are struggling to grow, the WordPress community is going strong with thousands of developers, designers, user-experience experts, writers, translators and many others contributing ideas, code and energy to advance the CMS platform forward.

WordCamp in the Twin Cities is just one of more than 50 WordCamps around the globe, and it’s always great for us to connect with some of the biggest names in the WordPress world.

Per normal, there is an incredible amount of information to absorb from our WordCamp experience. I sat down with {code} Roadies Project Manager Jasper Jacobson to get his take on this year’s WordCamp. Here are a few of the topics discussed by our fellow community members that we’re looking forward to exploring further:

  • Interactive mockups  Photoshop mockups are becoming a thing of the past. Instead, dynamic, interactive mockups are helping streamline website projects right from the start.
  • Search Engine Marketing – There is a vast world beyond SEO plugins in WordPress. A more comprehensive SEO process is focused on visitors’ needs and creating a positive user experience through high-quality content.
  • Voice Search – Voice search now makes up nearly 20 percent of searches. This will certainly affect how we optimize sites for users.
  • Web Law – We heard some interesting advice from law professionals on how to keep websites in tune with regulations and the law.

This is just a bite-sized chunk of what we heard at this year’s WordCamp. Make sure to check out our upcoming blogs to see even more.

WordCamp MPLS 2017 started off with a panel discussion on staying sane in tech
WordCamp MPLS 2017 started off with a panel discussion on staying sane in tech. We discussed the common challenges to mental health within the tech community and talked about strategies to bolster mental fitness.

The Power Of WordPress

Want proof that the WordPress community is leading the way for CMS? Check out these stats:

WordPress powers nearly one third of the internet.

More than 76 million blog posts using WordPress are made each month – Forbes, The New York Times, CNN and the National Football League are just a few of the names that run their blogs on WordPress.

There are more than 445,000 members in WordPress meetup groups around the world.

The Wizardry Of WordCamp

It’s that time of year again. WordCamp Minneapolis / St. Paul is this weekend, and that means a good portion of the web nerds in the upper midwest will be converging on the Twin Cities – including the {code} Roadies.

Why do we pack up our laptops and head to the land of 10,000 lakes?

  • Because it gives us a chance to connect with some of the brightest minds in the nation.
  • We find out about new techniques that they are putting to work, new ideas that they are working out and new work that they are showing off.

But it isn’t a one-way street.

Those folks also get a chance to learn from us, as we engage and interact and brainstorm ideas for making the world of WordPress better.

That’s the beauty of using an open-source content management system: it’s taken on a life of its own.

  • WordCamps around the world are opportunities for the brightest minds in web development to share ideas and work out systems for making WordPress better.
  • It’s an organic, hands-on way of doing R&D that would never happen if the platform was the responsibility of a single entity.

As always, we’ll report back on some of the cooler stuff we see at WordCamp by posting it here on our blog. And if you’re headed to Minneapolis yourself this weekend, look for us before, during and after the events, we’d love to hear how things are going.

Follow us on twitter @coderoadies for real time updates and happenings this weekend.

MSP WordCamp 2016: A Designer’s Experience

This year I attended my first WordCamp. Throughout the conference I saw some great speakers talking about everything from design and content strategy to all things WordPress. This post is a review of my experience and highlights a few of the key insights I gained from the presentations I was able to attend.

 

I

One of the early speakers at the conference was Travis Totz, a designer and strategist. His design-centered talk entitled: Defining a Clear Path, stressed the importance of setting project goals and recommended a four step process to achieve the best results.

  1. Discover – First, a designer must learn all that he can about the project and client. To accomplish this, Totz recommends meeting with your client over and over again, taking notes, researching the competition and stakeholders, understanding the requirements, determining the audience, and gathering content early. Totz emphasized how important it is that content drive the design and not the other way around. A designer must know the reasoning behind everything they create, without which, it becomes nearly impossible to arrive at any well-designed solution.
  2. Define – In this phase of the design process, one defines the scope of the project and preferably writes everything out. Totz advocates for making things measurable, always asking why, and being sure to review your previously gathered content thoroughly. Then creating an action plan including a schedule, project focus, and figuring out who’s designing and building every part of the project.
  3. Design – Finally, the fun phase, where one utilizes all they’ve learned to design away!
  4. Deliver – This often includes a presentation to the client or some form of an explanation about the final design.

In addition to this relatively standard design process, Totz pointed out how important it is for a designer to study business. This is where I personally have a much greater degree of learning to do. If anyone has some good resources or recommendations to help a designer master “the art of business,” please let me know. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Finally, a great quote from Travis’s presentation was a reminder that

“Context is more important than consistency.”

i.e. It’s ok to be inconsistent if your design makes sense that way. Always remember to put people first, and give them what matters.

 

II

Next, James Archer, gave a fantastic presentation entitled: Design for Intention: Getting Users to Do What You Want and was the highlight of the conference for me. In his talk, Archer explained how to encourage users to take action through design.

He began with a discussion on ethics through a brief explanation of Milton Glaser’s Road to Hell, a series of questions Glaser designed to make advertising and design students question the moral and ethical nature of their chosen profession. A fascinating read, the questions are meant to progressively challenge the student’s ethical responsibility beginning with the subtle 1. Would you design a package to look larger on the shelf? to the extreme 10. Would you design an ad for a product whose continued use might cause the user’s death? As an interesting note, Glaser reportedly always had one or two students who would make it all the way through question ten.

With the ethical discussion out of the way, Archer explained the persuasive design model which, upon further research, is based on BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model illustrated here.

bj-fogg-behavior-model-grapic
The Fogg Behavior Model.

Fogg’s model shows that for any behavior to occur, motivation, ability, and a trigger must converge. For example, if a task is very difficult to accomplish, a highly motivated user will still complete it and conversely, if a task is very easy to do, someone needs only the slightest amount of motivation to accomplish it. Finally, a trigger, or invitation to perform the action must be present to spur the action.

Archer’s recommended model for persuasive design is to then 1. Motivate the user. 2. Simplify the experience. 3. Invite the user to do what you’d like them to do.

  1. Remind the users of their motivations. Roughly translated from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and similar studies, Archer highlights five things people desire: Security, Pleasure, Affiliation, Aspiration, and Identity and demonstrated each through real world website examples.
  2. Simplify the requirements. After going over the hierarchy of UX, (functionality, intuitiveness, efficiency, comfort, and delight) Archer described the Flow Model explaining that we learn best when the challenge and our skill level are comparable; otherwise boredom or anxiety occur.
  3. Invite. Finally, invite the user to take your desired action. The trigger in the Behavior Model, is like selling anything really. It’s a courtship process, making sure there is a next step, or call to action, and not being afraid to ask for the sale.
James-Archer-talk
Archer explaining the Flow model.

Overall Archer was an excellent speaker with great sources, tons of real world examples, and imparted enriching thought. If you’d like to see his presentation yourself he has made it available on his site.

 

III

Lastly, Jennifer Bourn gave a wonderful talk entitled, Path to Conversion: Storytelling Through Theme Design. In it, she discussed web design as the primary tool for communicating a company’s story, emphasizing the role it plays in shaping brand perception, audience emotion, and telling a story that produces results and resonates with clients and their customers. With a personal fondness for the premise of this lecture, as my educational background involves visual storytelling, I was amazed at how articulate Bourn was in explaining the relationship between web design and storytelling. A brief review of my notes follows.

  1. Content is hard for clients. You need to act as a discoverer and get to know your clients and their passions intimately. They have deep passion and knowledge of a subject, but have a visibility problem. It becomes the designer’s job to identify and explain the obstacles a client must overcome.
  2. A website is the foundation of a powerful brand platform and a critical piece in sharing their story. Gone are the days of brochure websites, instead sites are acting as hubs and central points of the company.
  3. Why do websites struggle for success? The answer is often simple: clutter. Deciding what is important is incredibly challenging. Oftentimes businesses don’t have enough clarity to focus, thus the importance of really understanding your client. You must help them pinpoint and prioritize the desired action. Figure out exactly what you want a user to do rather than being desperate for any type of action. You may have more than one desired action but be sure to prioritize! I am reminded here of Kurt Vonnegut’s storytelling rule, “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.” I feel a lot of the marketing in this world suffers from this form of generalized pneumonia.
  4. Like a storyteller, a designer’s goal should be to naturally guide a visitor through the company’s story. A typical website story looks like this: Here’s what we do. Here’s our opinion. Here’s some testimonials. Here’s your next action. It’s about giving users what they need, when they need it.
  5. Bourn ended with a discussion about long term design thinking, and some thoughts on future-proofing projects. She explained how it can be helpful to ask what direction your client sees the business taking in the next few years, as it could provide some valuable insight when building the site now.

 

As I conclude this post it is important to remember that this was only a handful of the sessions I attended over the two day event. Reflecting on this experience and writing/researching further into the discussed topics has been incredibly beneficial to me. I’d invite all designers, developers, marketers, or anyone whose work involves creating with WordPress to attend future events. Thank you WordCamp organizers, volunteers, speakers, and sponsors. I look forward to next year’s event!

CR-wapuu

A Developer’s Take on WordCamp MSP 2016

WordCamp Minneapolis 2016 has come and gone, and this year was another rousing success, with lots of new information across a spectrum of topics. There were five main tracks that the presentations followed: Design, Content/Marketing, Business/Support, Community (a very welcome addition), and Development.

I naturally stuck to the Development track that was laid out, but I did have one design detour. Even though it’s been a few weeks, looking back at my notes, my head is still swirling, so I’m only going to focus on a few of the many great presentations.

Build Something Today

build_something_todayIn Andrew Norcross‘s session, he focused on why coders don’t release their code, why that is essentially, well, stupid, and what you can do to start if you haven’t yet.

The short answer is fear. That little voice in your head saying, “This is garbage, and it should never see the light of day.”

Andrew went over how much information is at our fingertips to learn anything and everything, referring to our current time as an “Educational Golden Age”.  However, while you can learn as much as you want, nothing can write code but you, the coder, and it’s the best way to learn.

He brought up the example of a plugin he wrote for WordPress when he was on an airplane and was becoming increasingly frustrated by all the external calls his local install was making, which was amounting to 30 seconds or more every refresh (because he wasn’t connected to Wi-Fi).  So, he spent a couple hours to build a plugin entitled “Airplane Mode” that cancels external calls.  He thought nothing of it, and, as he admitted, mindlessly tossed it up on GitHub.

That’s when it took on a life of it’s own, and within a few days to a week, people were eating this plugin up with numerous praises and pull requests.  He didn’t know anyone else would find this quick plugin to be the sensation it became, but without publishing his code, he never would have found out.

He spoke about how until someone shines a light on the good and bad things in your code, you can’t become a better coder.

“You don’t get good at [coding] until other people get involved.” — Andrew Norcross


Programmers Can UX Too – a.k.a. – Avoiding The Programmer’s Interface

programmers_can_ux_tooThis was a really engaging talk about how the way programmer’s think can lead to some really, really, REALLY terrible UX.  This talk was given by Eryn O’Neil, a programmer who admitted that she probably wasn’t qualified to give a talk on design, even though she absolutely was.

We, as in programmers, can have a pretty myopic take on data & data entry, providing a rudimentary 1-to-1 relationship for administrating data.  That can be fine in small doses, but we need to come to a realization that not everyone thinks in that CRUD programming manner (Create, Replace, Update, Delete).

This is where we tend to get into trouble with UX, is because we’re writing the code for it as we’re “designing” it.  With more complex layouts/data structures, Eryn talked about how it’s OK to take a step back, take a breath, and draw out at least a basic wireframe, so you can work it out in your head first without putting a lot of effort into coding and having to backtrack because it turned out horribly.

programmers-can-ux-too-20-1024
IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT?!?

She brought up something I hadn’t heard before from the late Aaron Swartz about the “Two Conceptions of Taste.”  Please go read that when you have the chance, but the TL;DR of it is that everyone knows what they don’t like, but it takes time to find out what you do like.

When you’re exposed to something, you have an inherent reaction to it if you don’t like it. I’m guessing that the example above got you to immediately cringe.  However, it’s only time and exposure to new things that allow you to define what you DO like.

So, Eryn explained, don’t reinvent the wheel. There are already plenty of great examples of UI/UX, it’s just a matter of exploring to find what you like and finding ways to implement and expand upon them.

“Programmers are uniquely capable of having opinions on interfaces because we are the ones who make them. — Eryn O’Neil


React + WordPress – A Match Made In Heaven

Every talk I’ve ever seen Josh Broton give has been entertaining and informative, which is why I was so excited to hear that he was speaking again this year at WordCamp MSP after his notable absence for the past few years.

A Day At The SPA

To start the talk, he discussed what a SPA is, why it’s useful, and what SPAs and React mean for WordPress and the community.

SPAs, or Single Page Apps, are kind of hard to explain without a modicum of developer knowledge, but it’s basically the idea that you load a page once, and any interactions you make with it only request the information needed and load it into the sections that need to change. This is different from the traditional web, where every time you navigate from page to page, you’re essentially loading the entire site again to get the same result.

In a world where the client-side technology is getting better all the time, we can now offload a lot of that loading/creating to the client instead of relying on the servers to chug along and load the page on the back-side for you.

React-ions

React, built by Facebook, is “A Javascript Library For Building User Interfaces.”  It’s a little more complicated than that, and honestly, still quite a bit over my head.  Needless to say, it’s kind of the next big thing in the development world.

But with the flood of JavaScript frameworks, why now, why React, and why WordPress?

Two years ago, Josh’s last WordCamp MSP talk in 2014 talked about how You Don’t Need jQuery, and, by proxy, all frameworks are becoming bloated and taking up way too much bandwidth. Most of the tips and tricks jQuery was doing for us only take a few more characters or lines of Vanilla JS to do without having to load it every single page load.

So, what changed his mind?  The short answer is that React is small, quick, and doesn’t require loading multiple times.  It also has a much larger community than most other frameworks.  It’s also pretty unique in that it’s written in an easily understood way, at least for those familiar with HTML and JavaScript.

How does this have anything to do with WordPress? …That’s a good question that I don’t have an answer to.  The best I’ve got is: because someone told me that WordPress’s new REST API is going to be awesome with it.  But don’t just take my (or Josh’s) word for it, read about it at Modern Tribe.

Needless to say, this was probably the biggest glimpse of the future I got at WordCamp this year, even though I only understand a fraction of it.  We were given a list of resources that I’ll repeat here for anyone interested in more information:

“IT’S JAVASCRIPT! But it isn’t…but it is.” — Josh Broton

WordCamp Minneapolis 2015

My Badge
My Badge

Another WordCamp is in the books for us, and we had another great time learning and networking with other businesses and developers in the WordPress community.

The opening remarks were given by the CEO of 10up John Eckman, who talked about the idea that everyone in that room is a creator of some kind and influenced us to live in a Do-ocracy. The mentality that the people who DO, drive the work, and drive the direction.

It was definitely busier than last year.
It was definitely busier than last year.

Then we broke out into our own separate groups, and I’ll speak to the sections that I went to, specifically.

First up was, “Writing (More) Secure Plugins” from John Havlik, the author of Breadcrumb Nav XT. This may have been my favorite technical presentation because he didn’t just go over the importance (of course) of making sure you write secure code, he showed us some best practices and how it’s best to get into the habit of using sanitization functions every time.

For the non-technical, sanitization is the filtering out of harmful or hacky code by running it through a series of filters. Here’s an article on Smashing Magazine that goes into greater detail.

Anyway, he went over the typical problems of plugins, whether it be and issue with CSRF (Cross Site Request Forgery) or just simple mistakes like using the is_admin() function to check if the user is an admin. NOTE: That’s not what it does. It verifies you’re on the admin dashboard and has nothing to do with user verification.

From there, I went to the presentation by Nikhil Vimal, a 15-year-old WP Expert of TechVoltz.com. He went over how important it is to take time to contribute to WordPress. It’s so crucial and there are only a handful of people whose full-time job is to look after it, so we need to be vigilant and ready to help where/when we can be useful. For more information, please head to http://make.wordpress.org.

At some point in this rat race, lunch was provided and it was an awesome pick-me-up halfway through the day.
At some point in this rat race, lunch was provided and it was an awesome pick-me-up halfway through the day.

A couple more lectures I went to were by Dan Biel and Matt Johnson of Alley Interactive out of New York. Dan spoke in length about going further than Advanced Custom Fields can take us right now by adding the custom meta data you want through code using their plugin, Fieldmanager, and thus having legacy backups of your content in GitHub or Bitbucket.

While it was a little more of a plug than I’d liked, I respected the way he went about saying, we know our plugin isn’t perfect and that a lot of people use ACF, but there are drawbacks, most of them being how all changes made in ACF are database related, and thus not really able to have a trail to follow with it.

wordcamp_accessibiltyMatt also brought up Fieldmanager in his talk, but he was more focused on content migration and WXR, or WordPress eXtended RSS. Basically, he spoke to the idea of reverse engineering old sites/systems to be able to bring over content into WordPress and make it manageable. Luckily, we don’t have to deal with this too much, but it was important information for if/when it comes up for me.

wordcamp_functionality_pluginJosh Leuze‘s presentation on functionality plugins was definitely something I want to implement when I have the time (but I never seem to). Instead of including code in the functions file over and over and over again, just create a plugin that can be enabled/disabled on a whim, create some toggles so you can turn on/off individual parts. Very intuitive, now the challenge is to take the time to work on it…

I’ll just quickly go over Kelly Dwan‘s talk on Jetpack for Developers. It has a lot of interesting features, but it’ll take some self exploration to find out how it’ll work best for us. She pointed out how everyone will look at Jetpack differently since it’s such an expansive tool, with many features.

wordcamp_accessibiltyThe session I saved is, in my opinion, the best for last. Joe Dolson gave a fantastic slide show entitled “Automating Accessibility“. He talked at length about how many people don’t get the same access to the web as most others, being they are hard of hearing, blind, or another disability that makes navigating the “traditional” web difficult. He stressed the importance of our responsibility to make information available to everyone and not just the majority of web users. Most of the work can be done fairly easily, and some of the testing can even be automated.

Some example automated tools were WAVE – Web Accessibility Evaluation and Tenon.io, Other invalid inspection tools were NVDA, an open-source screen reader for Firefox, Chrome Accessibility Inspector, and aViewer, an open-source API inspector.

Every big project at Werkpress gets their own custom skateboard deck made for their wall in their boardroom.
Every big project at Werkpress gets their own custom skateboard deck made for their wall in their boardroom.

Afterwords, we headed over to Werkpress to have some dinner, drinks, games, and socializing.  They have a great workspace built out of a re-purposed warehouse.  If you get a chance to tour, I recommend that you do.

On our way back the next day, we had the opportunity to have lunch at the new MASSIVE Surly Brewing Co. brewery in Minneapolis.

 

Surly Breweing
The brand new $20 million Surly Brewing Co.

It’s usually a blur, but I always come away from WordCamp with a greater understanding and appreciation for the WordPress Community.  Needless to say, I’m eagerly anticipating WordCamp MPLS 2016.

Jasper buried in swag.
Jasper buried in swag.

Oh, almost forgot!  A great big thank you goes out to our rep at WP Engine for hooking us up with a ridiculous amount of swag!