I took my Asus netbook with me (that my best friend gave me for Christmas a few years ago). Because it was small and I didn’t want to lug my Sony Vaio laptop around. That would have required a dolly. The netbook, its AC adapter and a mouse all fit into a hardshell case that was much easier to tote around. I miss my full size keyboard, but I was able to Tweet, read and reply to emails and chat with Ivan while there. Someone (Mark Coppock to be exact!) caught me on camera peering at my computer screen with my glasses perched on top of my head. He simply had to have a photo so I let him.
Below are some of my highlights from the session, which lasted from 9 a.m. to about 6:30 p.m. (we left around 5 p.m.) on Saturday, December 4, 2010.
JOHN CHANDLER: Before the Famous Five-Minute Install
The crowd pleaser which was tweeted incessantly all morning was John’s opening salvo:
Is WordPress the best choice? Answer: Yes!
John outlined the differences between self-hosted WordPress installs and WordPress.com, cautioned against hosting on a Windows server (although it CAN be done; it’s just not best practice) and talked about things you should ask yourself before even deciding if you need a web site.
He talked about how to get clients thinking about their site design and introduced Moo’d cards, the brainchild of John O’Nolan. This is a great creative and inspirational tool! John also talked about Balsamiq and other wireframing and flowchart tools available to help plan the site’s flow and layout.
John’s bottom line is that when asked if WordPress is a good choice, and when clients balk at using WordPress or say they want a site built on WordPress, but they don’t want it “to look like a blog,” his reply is:
Anything we can create in Photoshop we can do in WordPress.
Audience participation included answering the question of what the going rate for web designers and developers is in the Austin, Texas area ($40-$100/hour). When an audience member asked what the best steps are to make sure the designer/developer and client are on the same page about the project and how to get the best results, I chimed in to say that we developed a lengthy (9-page) web site planner that we ask our prospective clients to fill out because if they cannot or will not fill that out, they likely are not ready to have a website built for them. And this is a useful tool to get them thinking in the right direction, whether they hire us or another designer.
- Some premium themes that the audience recommends are themes made by Studio Press, Woo Themes, iThemes, Elegant Themes.
- Suggested theme frameworks include Thesis, Genesis, Thematic.
- Custom themes are the most expensive options; they can be built on existing frameworks.
- Suggested theme frameworks include Thesis, Genesis, Thematic.[/list_item]
- Custom themes are the most expensive options; they can be built on existing frameworks.
- e-Commerce solutions include PHPurchase and the web-based Shopify. (Bill Erickson did chime in to state that he doesn’t necessarily use an e-commerce plugin, but instead goes with the “best of breed” in regard to an ecommerce site.)
BILL ERICKSON: Beyond Blogging
Bill began his talk by exploring theme frameworks and immediately zoned in on Thesis, and to a lesser extent, Genesis. But he shares one bit of logic with Pixelita Designs: Give control of the web site to the client. And the best way to do that is to use a CMS such as WordPress to empower them to take control of their own web sites.
Bill explained there are basically two kinds of theme frameworks, option based (easier to use) and code-based (more control for developers). He views Thesis as somewhere in the middle of these two and Genesis as code-based; and correctly advocates the use of child themes to build the design; this ensures that the design survives updates to the framework.
He went on to outline many of the plugins available to take WordPress beyond blogging and make it do just about anything you want it to do.
- Use Custom Post Types to organize content;
- Don’t put PHP into sidebar widgets; it can break the site;
- Recommended widget plugins are Widget Logic and Widget Classes;
- Harness power of custom queries;
- Use shortcodes to help clients inject HTML into posts and pages when needed;
- Recommended reading: Justin Tadlock, Otto on WordPress, and the WordPress Development site;
- Use BuddyPress‘s built in BBPress feature if the client wants to integrate a forum into WordPress. (Ed. Note: This was my lightbulb moment.)
- He also recommends Genesis for a community site, since it has a BuddyPress plugin written specifically for the Genesis framework.
NICK BATIK: Migrating Static Sites
The presentation was entitled “Migrating Static Sites (or, what to say when people tell you, “You can’t do that in WordPress…”),” but it was mostly a step by step tour through an odd little plugin called Pods CMS. That Pods CMS was instrumental in Batik’s recent migration of a very large site (a book actually) to the web is irrelevant. Beyond using Pods to achieve such a large-scale migration, there wasn’t much takeaway.
Just remember Pods CMS is one of the tools you can used if you are ever faced with a similar task. In short, Pods CMS lets you create specific templates to pull data from the database into the web site, and not necessary as a page or post.
- Use Pods to set user levels (can’t do that with Custom Post Types)
- Use Pods if you have different data types (Ed. note: Why can’t you use Custom Post Types instead?)
- Use Pods if you have a lot of interactive data (the example given was live conversion of pounds to grams from right inside WordPress)
- Pods connects different taxonomies to one another
- Nick’s LinkedIn profile
JARED ATCHINSON: Common WordPress Mistakes
Every WordPress themer and plugin developer should be made to listen to this presentation. If you didn’t show up for anything else, then you got your money’s worth with this presentation, IMHO.
- DO use the jQuery code that ships with WordPress (or add your own in no-conflict mode)
- DO NOT add your own version of jQuery or remove it
- DO NOT add jQuery directly to theme your theme
- Include “require_once();”
- Include “get_header();”, “get_sidebar;” and “get_footer();”
- DO NOT start page permalinks with %category% or %postname%
- DO NOT start from scratch building a theme unless you have to
- DO build your theme on a known good theme foundation.
- Debug your own problems by turning on “WP_DBUG” in your wp-config.php file
- Deactivate plugins and themes to find culprits
- Stay informed by following WP devs and other WP gurus on Twitter, read developers’ blogs, subscribe to relevant WP mailing lists
BREAKOUT PRESENTATION (Ptah Dunbar: Child Themes)
Ptah Dunbar treated us to a lunchtime breakout presentation on Child Themes since the audience expressed interest in this. Ptah is one of the developers of BuddyPress, along with being a core WordPress dev. He also is the creator of WP Framework and a few free (and well done) themes.
DEVIN PRICE: Custom Post Types
Devin talked about something that I’ve been very interested in and which he admitted is a misnomer: Custom Post Types. Most people, myself included, had the impression this was some kind of Tumblr-like post type. But that’s not really what they are. Custom post types are actually custom content types. Anything that can be sorted or managed as content. He gave an example of a real estate site that needs to keep track of property types. Audience members volunteered recipes. I also thought of movie or book reviews.
- Functionality more like a page than a post.
- If you can manage the content as a category, do that rather than use the more cumbersome Custom Post Type
- RSS feed can be achieved using Custom Post Type, but it doesn’t happen automatically
- Use a plugin to create a custom post type (e.g., Custom Post Type UI or WP Easy Post Types)
- Or code it yourself for more control.
- Resource for Custom Post UI Icons
- Read Justin Tadlock’s Custom Post Type tutorial, it’s the best one out there.
STEPHANIE LEARY: Content Migration
Stephanie went through content migration hell a few times just so we don’t have to. She outlined how easy it can be to migrate content from another system such as Drupal or Joomla! and even from HTML. She also went over the pitfalls of such migration and how careful you have to be when moving the contents of one database into something that WordPress can use. She also outlined the step by step process for moving a database.
Of interest is her article about importing single WP installation into a multi-site WP Network.
- Use her plugin, Gallery import plugin is her latest accomplishment; it’s more difficult to import images and preserver their paths; this plugin imports images into the media manager.
JASON COHEN: Optimizing WordPress
Jason took a very complicated and technical topic (page optimization and server behavior) and made it palatable and understandable to the layman. He spent quite a bit of time going over one particular plugin that he recommends, W3 Total Cache, but that was a good thing since it allowed him to discuss a lot of technical aspects of page caching that the plugin allows you to configure.
- Plugin W3 Total Page Cache best tool to manage server load and page caching. Good for high traffic sites as well as low traffic sites.
- Page load affects SEO.
- W3 Total Cache keeps calls to database to a minimum.
- Cached items keep Apache from having to load PHP or WordPress or even touch the database, enhanced pageload means better SEO.