I'm back at work after a two day WordCamp conference in Chicago. The sessions were fantastic! Most of them provided information that I've been meaning to look up or information about problems I'm bound to run into. I stayed primarily in the developer track and picked up a number of tricks to improve my sites. But as usual, I find more value in meeting other developers and picking their brains.
Onto the things that I learned:
Working with WordPress can Mean a lot of Different Things
As one can imagine, I met several freelancers who simply configure premium themes and plugins and sell them to clients. On the flip side of that, I talked to someone who mentioned working with a team of people for a $700,000 WordPress website. It was incredible seeing the differences in their processes and how much effort can be put into functionality if it needs to meet very specific needs. There was another freelancer I met who doesn't charge a lot of money up front but builds functionality for the client on a monthly basis – not a bad business model since it will be easier on the client's pocketbooks.
I also talked to some of the developers for Sears – one of which has been developing a custom plugin for two months. Who would have ever thought that you can work for a big corporation and spend two months time working on a custom plugin for WordPress!? It was also great listening to the Sears developers talk about their process and how they get a project from the UX/Design team and are expected to code it. You would think there would be more communication between the UX & Development.
Automate WordPress with Git
One of the better presentations was WordPress and Version Control: A Workflow (slides here) presented by Aaron Holbrook (@aaronjholbrook). He discussed how he was able to create a parent theme for all of his companies microsites and use to git to automatically push any changes to the parent theme across to the different sites.
Managed WordPress Hosting
There were at least two presentations by the crew at WPEngine. They gave two really great talks praising the virtues of managed hosting which pushed me from wanting-to-try to will-try for my next project. I really have no desire to be a sysadmin and no need to play around with the different versions of PHP. If someone else is willing to do that so I can focus on WordPress then I'm fine with that.
I met several people who worked for startsups, surprisingly both startups are bootstrapped (meaning no one has invested in them). One of them is Sucuri and they gave a presentation about security and the other startup focused on crowd sourcing article proofing.
Things that I'll be Trying Out
Using Git for Deployment. I was really impressed with the presentation and since I already use git for source control I plan on setting up git to automatically deploy to the webserver.
Managed Hosting. I had been looking forward to the talk about managed hosting since I saw the schedule. I don't want to be a sysadmin and if their hosting cost is something I can pass along to clients then I can focus on putting out great work. What more could you want?
Losslessly Reduce Image File Size. I already knew that you could further optimize images and losslessly shrink them down using various desktop programs. What I didn't know is that there is a plugin you can install that will automatically losslessly shrink the images for you. Brilliant! I'm looking forward to this one.
Improve The Navigation for Responsive Sites. I thought Rachel Baker's (@rachelbaker) presentation Developing WordPress for all Screen Sizes was really well put together. I've been developing responsive sites for a while so some of the presentation was repetitive but I liked the two plugins that help with navigation.
- HorizontalNav – which makes a navigation bar fill 100% of the width. Now you don't have to figure out the individual pixels for each block
- Tinynav.js – which converts your navigation into a select box with works for iOS, Android, and Blackberry phones – which is an improvement over other scripts which don't play well with Blackberry phones.
She even shared her gist script to switch between the two. Thanks Rachel for the awesome presentation!
Thanks @WordCampChicago for an awesome event. I'll be checking out other WordCamp events in the area.