WordCamp Nashville 2015 Highlights – Part 1
Part 1 of 2, morning session
The coffee was great, and there was free stuff everywhere
WordCamp Nashville was my first ever WordPress/web development conference. Actually it was my first conference I’ve ever attended. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the talks and meeting all of the cool people who attended.
One of the best parts about WordCamp was the coffee, the donuts (which I sadly missed out on) and the free stuff provided by local agencies and startups. The coffee was provided by FrothyMonkey. I can honestly say their coffee can only be described as piping hot happiness in a little paper cup. I kid you not I drank 12 cups (not totally sure I should be proud of that).
There were also free stickers, t-shirts, water bottles and other swag put out by local design agencies and startups like , Ninja Forms and Event Appi. Free stuff makes anything better.
Great information for people of all skill levels
The thing I loved the most about WordCamp Nashville was that there was something for everyone. The various talks were divided into three categories by skill level: beginner, intermediate and developer. I attended all of the developer talks but I was told by several people that the other talks were very well done and provided great information for people of all skill levels.
If you are a non-dev who is only slightly familiar with WordPress, or if you have a working knowledge of WordPress but want to expand your skillset by learning about things like theming, then WordCamp is definitely for you.
Don’t worry, everyone is super nice and willing to explain things if you do not understand. Plus, if you have questions about something technical you are literally surrounded by people who want to help. WordCamp even has a separate room dedicated to answering WordPress questions throughout the day. Visitors are encouraged to bring their laptop in and sit down with a local expert to have their questions answered.
WordCamp Nashville 2015 Highlights:
I was very careful to take plenty of notes throughout the day at WordCamp. Since not all of my remarks will fit into one post I am splitting the WordCamp highlights into two separate posts, one for the morning session and one for the afternoon session.
1: Advanced Custom Fields and Metaboxes – Joe Hills
The first talk of the morning was Advanced Custom Fields and Metaboxes, presented by Joe Hills.
In his presentation, Joe covered some of the strengths and limitations of WordPress when it comes to building client sites. While WordPress is a great platform for building websites, it is rarely provides all of the necessary features and functionality for a client’s website.
To solve this problem most developers turn to using custom post types and custom fields. While it is possible to create these post types and fields manually, Joe highlighted that this method is extremely tedious and time consuming. With all of the extra moving parts involved in this method, it is also very easy to screw up your project.
Instead, Joe recommends using tools like ACF, Pods or CMB2.
CMB2 functions as an abstraction layer for WordPress. Essentially it streamlines the ‘WordPress-official’ way of handling custom fields. CMB2 also handles most of the security concerns that arise as well as the sanitization and validation of the field data. CMB2 is extremely useful for being embedded into a theme or plugin, since you do not have to worry about the licensing issues that come up with plugins like ACF Pro.
Pods provides a full toolkit for handling custom fields. It functions in a similar way to ACF, but provides lots of additional features and options. Pods has a friendly-looking user interface, and even includes the WP-CLI (WordPress Command Line Interface) plugin as well as the ability to work with custom MySQL queries. This solution is extremely flexible, but in many cases would prove to be overkill. When the situation calls for it though, Pods is an invaluable asset to any WordPress developer.
Finally Joe covered ACF or Advanced Custom Fields. ACF is an very well-known plugin that provides a streamlined UI for creating, managing and implementing custom fields within your WordPress theme. ACF includes support for repeater fields as well as the Google Maps API. The downside to using ACF is the licensing. There are many stipulations as to what you can and cannot do with ACF when it comes to bundling it in a theme or plugin. However for most applications, ACF is the perfect solution to working with WordPress’s custom fields. ACF is very easy to set up and use, and has a highly intuitive interface that makes working with the custom fields extremely easy for clients and content writers.
2: Hacking the Community to Build Themes Faster – Andy Wilkerson
Andy’s WordCamp presentation centered around refining your theme-building process. Every client wants quality work, but they inevitably want it done yesterday. Like Andy, speeding up my workflow is something I have struggled with for a while, so I found this presentation particularly useful.
The first tip that Andy shared with us was to really consider who you are building your theme for. Are you building a single site for a client, or are you creating a theme that will be distributed? Although this may seem like an obvious thing to consider, it is a crucial step in making the right design and functionality decisions for the the site.
Andy also recommends exploring a variety of tools and methods in your theme-building. Instead of stubbornly sticking to one method, he encouraged everyone to try using frameworks, starter themes, drop-in frameworks or completely custom work. Depending on who you are building the theme for, one tool may be better suited to the task than another. Selecting the right tool can mean the difference between a smooth and efficient workflow or a frustrating project that seems to drag on forever.
The most valuable tip that Andy shared with us at WordCamp was to audit your previous work. Instead of refining your workflow as you work on a project, look back at previous projects and take note of what methods worded well in the past. By looking back at previous projects, we can learn what works well for us personally and use that knowledge to refine our workflow in future projects.
Andy brought out that by reinventing our workflow from one project to the next we waste large amounts of time ‘reinventing the wheel.’ If we can take note of what works in previous projects and apply those methods in current ones, we can spend more time creating better websites for our clients.
Check out Andy’s design and development firm, Parallelus!
3: Infinitely Scalable WordPress – Scott Humphries
Scott Humphries’ WordCamp presentation was centered around creating WordPress sites that are scalable and perform well regardless of the amount of traffic the site receives.
Although I did not quite agree with everything he shared (in my opinion caching is a much better solution to this problem) he did have some interesting points and some great alternative solutions.
Scott made reference to the famous Aaron Swartz quote that “Some websites are fried up for each user, others are baked and served up again and again.” Essentially Scott was making reference to having a static version of your website vs. a dynamic version.
Again, I can’t say I fully agreed with everything he shared. However here are a few links to services and other sites that he mentioned in his presentation if you would like to learn more about using static site generators:
Amazon’s S3 static site hosting
In short, a thoroughly enjoyable day – can’t wait for next year!
To summarize WordCamp 2015, it was a day full of great presentations, meeting great people of all skill levels, and learning more about using WordPress to its full potential. I will definitely be attending WordCamp 2016, and I can’t wait to see you all there!
Be on the lookout for part 2 of the WordCamp 2015 highlights series, where I’ll be covering the highlights from the afternoon session of WordCamp 2015.