wordcamp logoI attended my first ever WordCamp in Boston last weekend. WordCamp is a conference for WordPress user enthusiasts held in various cities around this time of year. Today I selected eight TED type talks to attend on a range of topics, that perhaps only nerdy web developers and designers would love, but their clients will benefit from.

I arrived at 8:15 or so and found a nearby parking lot for only $12, despite being warned it could cost $30 due to a Red Sox game held today…. making up for the $75 parking ticket I got last month at a meter during a Red Sox game! But, that’s another story. If you’d like to skip this first hand account and read real transcripts, go to the WordCamp website.

I found out from the first talk, Intuitive Editing Workflows by Erik Bernskiold, that Structured Data Input is an important feature to offer clients, so they can keep their web sites fresh. Problem is, there isn’t a plugin or theme that does this very well yet. We have two options: Create Custom Post Types for the client to write in updates or use a Builder type plugin or theme. The second option can be dangerous as the design can get destroyed without the client realizing it. Some themes, such as Divi by Elegant Themes allow editor roles, thus limiting the ability to change the format.

Next that morning was, The Frustration with Website Security, hosted by Surcuri software. It was labeled WordPress 101, which I took to mean it was for “beginners”. I picked up a few tips, but basically it reinforced what I already knew. 1. Back up your site, not on the server, for instance with Amazon SImple Storage, Dropbox or on your hard drive. Do not rely on the hosting to do it for you. Their backup may also get infected. 2. Attacks are highly automated. which make money for the hackers, even with your small family website, as it can act as a jumping off point to infect other sites. 3. Use a password manager, such as Evernote, so you can have a different password for everything. 4. You can get malware from many places, even plugins!

Designing and Theming for Performance by Matt Dorman was really nerdy, so I won’t go much into it. In a nutshell, Performance of your website, i.e. speed, is important. And there are various tools to determine and help you fix that problem. Obviously, you don’t want your site to load in more than two seconds or you’ve lost the smart phone customer. Sometimes it’s the size of your imagery, or its a plugin or the theme or even the hosting. Test your site on Pingdom, Yahoo’s YSlow, or Google’s Page Speed Insights and then let your web designer/developer know there is a problem so they can help you.

Designer’s Panel with four designers/developers of various backgrounds was next. A lot of chatting, but the important points were: Sliders are on the way out… too much movement especially for phones, which is where all the design is focused now. Give reasons for your design decisions and back it up with information. Quote data and anecdotes. Clients don’t always know what is best for their websites. Consider that what is fast for you and the client, because we have good wifi, is not necessarily the case with many of our users. Someone said the next iteration of WordPress, REST API, will focus on design components and not just the whole page.

Page Builder Showdown given by Gina Deaton rated six or so page builder themes (such as Divi) for creating web page design. A couple came out at the bottom, a few in the acceptable range and two on top. Surprisingly, Divi got knocked down a few points because Gina felt there was a learning curve and the theme only builds out to four columns. She acknowledged that it is a powerful theme, but that in order to use it at it’s full potential, you need to know css coding. The winner was Beaver Builder and a simpler free new theme called Elementor.

Why Good Design Matters was given by a young designer, Andrea Trew,  from the agency Fly Wheel. She mentioned a few books on design or design philosophy including As Little Design As Possible by Dieter Rams. She designed a clever intern campaign based on the Wes Anderson movie, Moonrise Kingdom. New interns were given notebooks backed with fake fur. The take home was “It’s not how it looks, it’s how you make people feel.”

Organizing Your First Website Usability Test by Anthony D Paul, was all about testing web design prototypes. Some results can be “too much content” which can be determined early in a testing environment and problems with Brand Perception, which usually takes some time to uncover and shopping cart abandonment. His favorite quote is “The Price of Light is less than the cost of darkness, by Arthur C.Nielson, market researcher.

Intro to Wireframing, by Karalyn Thayer pointed out that wireframing saves time and money, because you can easily make changes early on. A wireframe, either low fidelity such as a sketch on a napkin, or high fidelity made with software,does not contain any color, fonts, or other stylish elements. The client can more easily understand the hierarchy of content, layout and path of the user.

Are we having fun yet? That’s it for Day one!