Tag Archives: WordPress

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.

Planning Pays Off On The Web

Imagine that you are a construction contractor. You show up on the site of your next job with your thermos and your tool belt, and the customer brings you to their backyard and shows you an empty spot of grass. “I’d like you to build me a tool shed,” they say.

“OK,” you reply. “What kind of dimensions, design and materials do you think you’d like to use for this project?”

“I’m not completely certain,” the customer replies. “I’ll know what I want when I see it.”

So you build a shed based on the best information you can obtain, making educated guesses using other sheds you’ve finished as examples. But when the building is completed, the customer steps out their back door in their puce bathrobe with their ALF coffee mug and says “That’s not really what I was hoping for.”

As a contractor, what do you do next? Do you build another shed? Do you continue to build sheds like some tiny SimCity run amok until the customer sees something they like? That’s one way of doing it – an expensive way (since the customer ends up paying for sheds that they don’t actually use).

We see this conundrum a lot in the world of web development. While the example above seems silly (nobody would really expect a contractor to build shed after shed), for some reason the intangible nature of the internet leads people to believe that it is a reasonable plan for site development.

Yet web developers get paid by the hour just like carpenters, so costs add up quickly if there isn’t proper planning on the front end of a project. The trick here is to know what you want before you see it. The only way to develop a website “as you go” is if you have unlimited resources or angel investors who are willing to roll the dice. And for every success story about Facebook, there is a cautionary tale about MySpace (how’s that working out, JT?).

Here’s the problem: Normally, a company doesn’t decide to build or rebuild their website on a whim. It’s a big decision. There are usually committees and meetings and compromises and budgets. It’s exhausting, and by the time everybody is finally on the same page (“build the website and have it done by the trade show in June”), nobody wants to start a whole new process and actually plan the site out. Deep down they wish that they could choose a developer, slap them on the back with a hardy “go to it, sport” and sign off on the finished product a month or so later.

But it never, ever works that way. Deciding you need a new site is just the beginning of a whole new process (that sometimes includes committees, meetings, compromises and budgets). Here at {code} Roadies we try to use our experience to streamline the undertaking as much as possible, but inevitably we find that this stage is the single most important part of any web development. Planning pays off.

Of course there will be some experimentation in any web development. The key is to do that experimentation on the front end before integrating it into the rest of the site. For example, it’s much more efficient to choose a WordPress plug-in by trying out a demo or looking at it on somebody else’s site than it is to do so after it is already coded into your own. You may not be able to see what it will look like exactly once it is customized for your site, but you can get a solid idea – and using your imagination just a little bit at this stage can result in significant savings in time and money on the final invoice.

In fact, it would be safe to say that planning and cost are inversely proportional when it comes to web design. The more you plan, the less your site costs and the quicker it gets completed.

Now the good news: you don’t have to do all this planning on your own. If you choose a good web developer, they will do it with you, lending their experience to the task so that it goes smoothly. We’re all on the same side, after all.

We all want to build that shed right the first time so the result is something we can be proud of.

Embracing The Digital Canvas

I teach a course in digital publishing at a university, and one of the main points that I try to impress upon students is the freedom provided by content management systems, particularly WordPress. You see, for a designer, having someone hand you a set of sizes and shapes for your work can at first seem very limiting. But in truth, having a team of coders proactively accommodate all of the web’s many (many) idiosyncrasies is incredibly freeing. Rather than worry about how your design looks on a tablet versus a phone, you can spend your energy building a powerful design, at ease that WordPress is taking care of all the formatting voodoo on your behalf.

In many ways, a CMS like WordPress puts you in a similar position as the greatest artists and designers of all time. Van Gogh had a canvas, Helmut Krone had the size and shape of a newspaper ad – great designers don’t see those dimensions as limitations, but rather as an opportunity to work with abandon without having to spend resources on minutiae. Without having to think about the rules, we can instead think about the artwork itself. Inside the universe created by WordPress, we have the ultimate power, confident that no matter what we choose to design, everyone will be able to see, use and enjoy it.

Some students embrace the idea, others chafe – constantly struggling against the boundaries imposed by the internet and its arcane code. The most successful of the bunch take the CMS and transform it into a thing of beauty, a medium for the delivery of communication that is both strategic and surprising. I’m proud to say that our clients very often hit this sweet spot as well, empowered by our programmers who understand that above all, the very best websites combine a sense of purpose with a sense of wonder.

Find your true potential on the internet. We can help.

Wow ’Em With WordPress

Not that long ago we completed a website (two websites, really) for a client called Northridge that builds and manages hotels and apartments. The site is live here, and the design really shows off what WordPress can do in the hands of experienced web developers.

There are a lot of content management systems in the world, and their supporters all claim that their choice is the best. For its part, WordPress began primarily as a blogging platform – and sometimes people still remember it that way. However, the Northridge site proves just how much the WordPress CMS has changed since those early days. Today, nearly 75 million websites depend on WordPress, and that massive community of users and developers has created an ecosystem that allows for tremendous creativity and innovation.

Best of all, one thing has not changed: making updates to a WordPress website is still as simple as editing a blog. Have a new employee? Add them to your site in just a few minutes. Want to show off a new product or project? Create an entry, add a few photos and make your work live in the time it takes to make a cappuccino – no web coding necessary.

Here at {code} Roadies, we always keep our eyes open for the best web development tools for our clients. WordPress just continues to impress us with its incredible flexibility and expandability. The old days of cookie cutter CMS websites are gone. Instead, WordPress opens up a world of potential, letting us create exactly the sites our clients are looking for. Check out our portfolio here and see for yourself why WordPress has become the standard by which all other content management systems are judged.

Then give us a call.

Your Website Will Never Be Finished

I am spending my summer, as I often do, preparing for fall. I teach at a local university (in addition to my work here with {code} Roadies), and this year I have two classes dealing with the creation of digital content for the internet. As I have reviewed textbooks, I’ve come across an interesting contradiction: most authors that write books about the subject of digital content readily admit that their texts are out of date long before they actually make it to print.

Why do they keep writing them? Why do we keep using them? I suppose it’s because they offer a solid – if outdated – way to teach the history and fundamentals of the subject. However, my classes this fall will also feature a lot of supplemental online reading and video viewing from more current sources.

The point of this post isn’t to pick on the inadequacies of textbooks, but rather to illustrate the unrelenting march of technology on the web. The content you place on your website doesn’t really fare much better than that offered by the poor textbook authors toiling away on their old Smith Corona typewriters, chain smoking cigarettes with their Wite-out stained fingers (see, even my imagination is outdated when it comes to the process of writing textbooks). Minutes, days, weeks – months if you’re really lucky – and your content is out of date and in need of a refresher.

Just like that neighbor who keeps tinkering on his 1972 Barracuda but doesn’t take it out of his garage, a website can never really be finished. It is a living, breathing organism that either keeps growing and changing or it dies – search engines ignore it, users bypass it and sooner or later technology simply buries it (R.I.P. Flash – thanks for crashing our computers for all those years).

So give up on the idea that your website is done. Websites, by their very nature, cannot be finished. That’s why a good CMS like WordPress is so important. Just as I am teaching my students how to continually update the web with fresh, engaging content, you, too, need to make a commitment to keeping your online properties (from websites to social media pages) as current as possible. WordPress simply makes it easier to do.

Time to embrace change as a way of life on the web. It makes your life less stressful and your business more attractive to your customers.

WordPress Empowers The People

The stereotype of the “I.T. guy” has become something of a classic in the United States. He’s always a young male, he’s always socially awkward and he always lords his knowledge of the arcane arts of technology over the hapless co-workers who plead to him for help.

Very little of that stereotype is true anymore outside of TV shows, and that’s partially because nerdy things are suddenly very popular (Anybody see a comic book movie in the last 10 years?) and partially because new advancements have made it possible for everyday people to find success using technology without as much assistance.

An iPhone is a good example. It’s a wildly complicated and powerful computer, but you’d never know it when you look at the young children or grandparents or technophobes that use it everyday and will gladly show you how to use it, too, if you ask. You may love Apple or you may hate Apple, but it would be hard to deny that they do an outstanding job of making complex technology into user-friendly appliances. An iPhone isn’t nearly as scary as a computer, even though it is one.

wordpress-logo-stacked-rgb

We work with WordPress for the same reason. The software and the community behind it help us to build websites that look great and use the very latest techniques on the web, while still being so easy to maintain that anybody who can use a web browser can make changes. It used to be that your web developer was just another I.T. guy stereotype (we speak to far too many prospective clients who aren’t just tired of asking their developer to make changes, they’re actually afraid to).

Not anymore, and certainly not at {code} Roadies. When we build your site in WordPress you can modify nearly all of your unique, modern, effective website on your own. And as an added benefit, you’ll never feel any anxiety if you need to give us a call. We’ll be glad to help, and we may even give you a short review of the latest superhero movie if you ask us to. We are nerds after all.

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!