bits & bites from the world of code

Top Takeaways from WordCamp 2015 (Denver)


Last Saturday morning, as I prepared for WordCamp 2015, I squeezed my way through a slew of coffee-addicted individuals snatching up various buttons and stickers. But this enthusiastic bunch wasn’t there for the freebies.

This group – whom some might call WordPress junkies — was awaiting a weekend where it was acceptable (and encouraged) to “nerd out.” It was a weekend to network, to learn and to ask questions.

These were people who had worked in WordPress — whether as designers, developers, bloggers or marketers — in some capacity. Some had been building WordPress sites or more than six years, while others were just getting their feet wet.

Two days and several sessions later, I left my first WordCamp with several key takeaways that will guide me as I develop future sites.

1. Assume You’ve Been Hacked

Although not every site on the Internet has been hacked, a heck of a large number of them have been. Small shop or multi-national corporation…every site is at risk. As developers, it’s our responsibility to ensure we are providing our clients with the tools needed to combat security threats. Some of the things we can start doing immediately, include:

  • Use https over http
  • Choose passwords that are 10-15 characters in length (**great to remind clients of this as well once the site is passed off)
  • NEVER use the same password twice
  • Use scanner tools that look for malicious code
  • Don’t host all of your client sites on one account

2. Mix Things Up…

Do you every find that your days are nearly identical from one to the next? You might shrug it off as merely your routine. After all, it’s consistent and reliable. But what if it’s also dull and uninspiring?

You’re not alone. It’s easy for all of us to get stuck in our ways. As Jeremey DuVall stated:

Reading the same things. Having the same experiences. Leads to the same ideas.

Fortunately, adding small changes to your life can drastically improve your creativity and productivity. And, in an industry where change is imminent, it’s important to embrace new ideas and new tools. Doing so will enable us as developers to provide more innovative, effective online solutions.

3. …But Don’t Mix Things Up Too Often

Just as it’s important not to become too complacent in web development, it’s equally as important to know when and how often change is required. While it’s easy to feel pressure to adopt the latest tool or technology, it’s also important to recognize that these things come and go. The right tools will drastically improve your workflow and productivity…but they must be the right tools for you.

Hopping on the tech bandwagon “just because” is not a good enough reason to switch up your entire process. Stay informed about what’s available and what is truly a worthwhile tool to start experimenting with, but do it at your pace.

The most important thing is to use whatever works for you. There is no one BEST way to develop.

4. Know the User – Make it Persona-l

You have ideas for how a site should look and function and your client almost always does as well. But what about the end user? What information does your user ultimately want to know? How does she navigate your site? What makes her click through the pages?

Too often developers dig into the code without fully understanding the target user. As a developer, the more you know who you’re developing for, the more you’ll be able to add interactivity and functionality that enhances your user’s experience.

This is where persona’s come in. Observe and interview your target user. Determine what she currently likes/dislikes about the site. Based on your research, develop a representative profile of the target user.

5. You’re Not a Alone

Although iThemes founder Cory Miller spoke about his recommendations for how NOT to get burned out as an entrepreneur, I believe his advice applies to everyone in this industry. It can no doubt be challenging and downright frustrating at times. It can make you question your career choice and make you bury your hands in your head far too many times than you’d like to admit.

But, luckily, you aren’t alone.

As this conference proved, there are a whole group of people in the exact same boat. People who are willing to help you when you struggle and clink glasses with you when you succeed. There is always a support system to lean on…whenever you might need it.

And that is part of what makes this industry so incredible.