Tips from WordCamp St. Louis 2016

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Overview

WordPress is our favorite content management system (CMS) because our clients find it easy to learn and use, which means they are more likely to keep sites up-to-date and to meet their online goals.  Ease of use is a primary WordPress goal.

WordCamps are informal, WordPress community-organized events held all over the world. Everyone from casual users to core developers participate, share ideas about working better with and improving WordPress, and get to know each other.

Below are some tips you may find helpful from WordCamp St. Louis 2016.

Planning a Website Project – Keeping Costs Under Control (and profitable for developers)

A very brief summary of a talk by James Hipkin, owner and managing director of Red8 Interactive, which provides website development to design agencies:

  • GUESSING is expensive! Define project objectives, functional requirements and technical requirements in detail before starting the project.
  • CUSTOM DEVELOPMENT can be expensive – you may need to expand your budget or postpone some features to phase II.
  • ITERATIONS cost money. (See GUESSING…)
  • MEDDLING costs money. Trust your designer or developer and let them do their job.
  • CHANGES happen.  Plan for change, manage change, budget for change.
  • PIXEL PERFECT IS AN ANACHRONISM. Designing sites to be look exactly perfect on every screen is not realistic given the large number of various sized devices.
  • WEBSITE USERS DON’T HAVE LARGE RETINA MONITORS. Design for small screens and utility / functionality first; design for aesthetics second.

Accessibility

Jennifer Swisher provides support for healthcare company websites and volunteers at Blank Canvas Studios, where she helps adults with developmental disabilities create art and access their community.  A summary of tips from Jen:Tips from WordCamp St. Louis: use heading tags for accessibe websites.

  • 1/5 of web users have some form of disability
  • Page structure
    • Don’t use tables for page layout
    • Use Paragraph, Heading 3, Heading 4 tags for section headings so assistive technology (AT) can skip through headlines.
  • Color usage for text
  • Tips from WordCamp St. Louis: use care in choosing text color and background color for accessibe websites.Links
    • Make anchor text descriptive, not “click here”.
    • If you do use “click here”, use it at the end of a phrase that provides a description and context for the link.
  • Images
    • Think twice about using moving images, such as animated gifs.  They can trigger seizures in susceptible people.
    • Make sure assistive technology can read information about images by using captions or alternative text.
    • If an image is used only for decoration, provide a blank alt tag so that AT can skip it easily.
  • Video
    • Provide a closed captioning or a description.
  • Audio
    • Provide a companion transcript or lyrics
  • Navigation
    • Make sure navigation is skippable.
  • Animation
    • Make sure any animation can be turned off so AT doesn’t get stuck.

Security

Gregory Ray is owner and principal of Dot Gray Inc, a technology consultancy, and a veteran system administrator (both Unix/Linux and Windows) with special expertise in web services. See also the WordPress Chicago 2016 post for additional security ideas…

  • Why do hackers want to hack into your website?
    • Conscription: using your host / server to send emails or infect other hosts / servers / computers.
    • Content manipulation: display their content to sell their products.
    • Steal user data: credit cards, login credentials
  • What can you do to reduce the chances your website will be hacked?
    • Especially for eCommerce or sites collecting sensitive data, choose a hosting company that takes security seriously.
    • Use strong passwords.
    • Back up your backups.  Make sure your backups work.
    • Choose actively supported plugins.
    • Keep WordPress, themes and plugins up to date.

Why WordPress Works This Way – the Philosophy behind the software that runs over 25% of Internet websites

The second keynote of the conference was by Aaron Jorbin, CTO of Happytables and a WordPress Core Committer.  Some ideas he talked about:

The WordPress philosophy is “democratize publishing”.

How does this impact decision-making about what WordPress looks like, how it functions and how decisions are made about its future?  Here are some principles that guide WordPress decisions.

WordPress:

  • Works out of the box
  • Requires little configuration
  • Has the famous 5-minute install
  • Supports Emoji, and with that, unicode character storage & display for languages requiring such
  • Is designed for the majority – most users are not technical
  • Has a solid array of basic features that can be supplemented with additional functionality from a plugin system. Providing 100% of features would be too much.
  • Is maintained so the majority of users shouldn’t want to turn off features.  NOT adding features is a feature of WordPress.
  • Core developers take on technical debt so users don’t have to.
  • Favors decisions, not options.  This is based on the work of Havoc Pennington… – worth a read if you’re into user interface / usability.
    • Options are expensive.
    • Users can’t find what they need within a UI that has too many options.
    • Preferences impact QA and testing.
    • Preferences make integration and UI difficult.
    • Preferences confuse users.
  • Strives for simplicity
  • Ease of use matters
  • Accessibility is important
  • Deadlines are not arbitrary; it has strict release schedules.
  • Is focused on real users, real world, real feedback.

Want to know more about what WordPress can do for you?  Talk with Carol at O3 Internet…

 

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