WordCamp San Diego 2015It’s always a good thing when your expectations are far surpassed and WordCamp San Diego 2015 was no exception! This was my first time attending and I’m still glowing from all the amazing people I met, tips I was given and the sense that we really have something truly special here.

Here’s a lit’ recap in an effort to spread the love and share some helpful insight with our followers.

What is WordPress, and Why Do We Love it So Much?

WordPress is our Content Management System (CMS) of choice. It’s a free open-source tool that makes it soooo easy to update and manage your website on your own. We like to talk about setting a good foundation here at { ae } Design Co. and building your website with WordPress is a huge part of it. You can easily update content, change the design quickly and extend and expand the functionality of your website as needed using their plugin directory of over 37,000. It’s easy to use, it’s scalable, it plays well with others, anyone can use it, it’s awesome!

Many people contribute to it in a collaborative public manner to ensure that it is rock solid and always evolving. And, just to get an idea of just how popular the software is… WordPress was used by more than 23.3% of the top 10 million websites as of January 2015 (source from Wikipedia). Bottom line is that it’s a leading software, trusted my millions and is a the perfect technology to use for any small or enterprise level business.

What Makes WordCamp the Best

Alright, alright… so let’s get to the meat and potatoes here. What’s up with this WordCamp? I’ll get to all the amazing insights I have to share in a few, but first it’s important to understand what makes WordCamp so amazing… the people.

Wow! These attendees, speakers, organizers, sponsors and everyone in-between are extremely devoted, enthusiastic and down right the biggest fans of this amazing software. There was so much talent all around me and a ton of people using the software in a variety of ways. Some owned businesses and used the software to keep their marketing machine or online businesses running on their own. Some users were agencies, designers or developers that built custom websites with the software for their clients. And others are devoted to building amazing plugins and themes to allow people to utilize the platform for just about anything!

WordCamp Meat and Potatoes

They really like to promote WordCamp as an informal conference of which I certainly attest to. The size was small and the atmosphere was casual allowing everyone to chitty chat about the real stuff. WordCamp just like WordPress is put together by a community of people from casual users to core developers. Everyone get’s together to learn, to share, to collaborate, to get to know each other and to work together for the greater good of the platform.

WordCamp San Diego was put together very well thanks to the dedicated organizers, Chris Perryman, Devin Walker, Phelan Reissen, Mandie Shaner, Derek Springer, J.J Springer, Michael Bastos and Chris Lema. They broke it down into four tracks focused on beginners, designers, developers and admins and I sat in on all of them!

Big Take-Aways

I think when ever you go to a conference, sometimes you find out that the information shared just validates what you already knew- it just somehow helps you take it more seriously. While I learned a lot, I’ll try to only share that which I think can help my followers in their own business.

  1. Mobile Design. Design for mobile first, then desktop. And why not? More people are using mobile devices instead of desktop and the number keeps going up. We need to make sure the experience is amazing here first. Makes sense.
  2. Project Management needs to be taken more seriously. I think the most successful Design & Marketing agencies have the best communication. Good communication keeps everyone on the same page, sets expectations and keeps projects running smoothly and completed on time.
  3. Release Process. Our local to staging to production process is rock solid!
  4. Hosting. There are better hosting companies out there with amazing customer service, super fast servers and nice price points. We recently just made a switch after I tested our website on three different servers. More to come on this later.
  5. Site Speed. I learned some server side settings, free and paid resources to help speed up the performance of your website. This is no joke. Google is all about best practices and page speed is no exception. You can test your website’s speed out here to see how it’s performing and what you need to do to make necessary improvements.
  6. Website Backups. We have a pretty solid process on this, but you can never be too careful. Moving forward we’ll be putting more focus on this during initial discussions with clients so they can budget according. I can guarantee if you ever had your website hacked or any other issue where a backup was needed, you’ll be sure to get things in place so it never happens again It’s pretty much a nightmare without a backup.
  7. Local Search. Since attending, I’ve since added a few more items to my checklist when helping clients gain more visibility on local search results. But for your insight, just make sure that you don’t ask people for reviews. Yelp seems to catch these things quite often. It is comforting knowing that these key players are really trying to make people more honest. And, here’s a paid service to get your site on local directories, however, it’s more important for your site to be listed on directories that are in direct relation to your type of business. Many of these are quite general.
  8. Setting Your Site up on WordPress. The biggest take-away here is to really think about your future growth. There were some tips regarding different ways of setting up your media library. As Matt Cromwell stated “You don’t want future you to not be happy with present you”. Just another reason why it’s so important to strategize and plan for both immediate needs and future growth.
  9. Design Workflow. It was very reassuring to learn that other agencies are going straight to interactive prototypes too. This eliminates the need for project deliverables that are essentially thrown away, i.e., flowcharts, wireframes, etc. Since WordPress is so easy to use, it only makes sense to essentially start building right in there working out layout and content mapping in a real interactive prototype. However, in the end it depends on the type of business we’re working with and the overall project needs. We have a standard process, but every project is unique and may need a slightly different approach. What’s important is it stay agile and meet our client’s where they are at.
  10. Responsive Design. We’ve been digging into Google Analytics for years to determine what browser sizes our clients’ website visitors are using in order to determine the appropriate break points to use when coding their new website. The huge take-away here is that things are changing quicker than ever now and you can’t rely on this. Most likely these benchmarks will change in 6 months, so build the site based around the content first and forget about the factors that you have no control over.
  11. Functional Design. This was a great overview of some key functions you can build into your websites. While I learned a couple new things, for the most part it was validation that our process in handling this is rock solid. We build what we feel are site defaults directly in a plugin, so that if our clients decide to change their theme, core functionality is still working for them. Look for the “AE Design Co. Default Settings” plugin on your site.

In Closing

I’ll certainly be going back and look forward to sharing more tid bits from the next time. Coming up we have WordCamp Orange County on June 6th and WordCamp LA currently in early planning stages. These people are great and there was much value out of the conference. I really can’t say enough good stuff about it all.

Doctors say they have a practice, but in my opinion, if you are committed to your profession you have a practice too. None of us are experts, the web hasn’t been around long enough to claim that. However, if you are dedicated to it and constantly experiment to improve on it, well, then, you have a practice too.

Keep on learning and evolving!

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About April Edwards

Hello! I'm AE Design Co's lead Digital Strategist & Creative Director. For over 15 years, I've been helping busy businesses get a grip on their marketing to increase profits year-over-year.

Meet me!