Notes from Day Two of WordCamp Ireland

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Session 1 – How to Become a Social Media Guru and Make WordPress your Bitch

Sabrina Dent@sabrinadent

Sabrina kicked day two off with her talk on a managible approach to social media using WordPress as a platform. As she later admitted herself, being the first speaker up after three hours sleep in the previous 72 was probably not the best idea in the world, but nevertheless she delivered a very nice presentation.

Sabrina’s talk concentrated on the big three social media sites: LinkedIn, Twitter and facebook, and how you can use your WordPress blog as the hub between all three.

LinkedIn

  • Linkedin more focused than other social media sites. Unless you have your own domain, it’s likely that your LinkedIn page will be the first result in google results. For that reason, be sure that your LinkedIn profile is as you want it.
  • You can pull feeds from WordPress blog to your LinkedIn profile. Everybody should do this. This is one of the best ways to let your LinkedIn connections know that you have a blog. Can get traffic from LinkedIn page to blog.
  • LinkedIn groups? Useful for some applications, but often not for many others. Very few groups done well. If you’re going to use groups, make sure that you’re the group owner, rather than just a member. Build your own community rather than join somebody else’s.


Twitter

  • Many businesses getting on twitter, and getting it. Sabrina recommends Twitter Tools WP plugin, which can automatically create a tweet for each blog post, or create a blog post from each of your tweets (very recursive). If that plugin doesn’t suit you, however, there are plenty of others that will work well.
  • There has been a huge upswing in in-bound hits from tweets. On Sabrina’s site, 70% of hits are now from Twitter links (based on about 2,000 followers). The key to getting good retweets and plenty of click-throughs is to keep ratio of content to self-serving stuff at 10-to-1. Sabrina referred to this as “pay-to-play” – nice way of looking at it.
  • You can consider putting your tweets in the sidebar, but if you do, be careful about the content and tone of your tweets.
  • Every blog post should have a retweet function. Sabrina recommended Tweetmeme. Must check it out.
  • Use naked icons in your posts for sharing links to the various social media sites. Don’t use widgets such as AddThis ( or presumably ShareThis, which I’m using). When presented with the multitude of options to share, users get freaked out, and can’t select one. Queue reference to the Paradox of Choice. Instead, select a few social media sites (facebook, twitter, digg and delicious, for example) and present the user with the naked icons for these choices.
  • If you’re a real stats junkie, read the twitter analytics post by Yoast.

Facebook

  • Use the facebook notes feature to publish your blog posts to your facebook wall. No brainer place to start. This only allows you to publish one feed. If you want or need to publish multiple feeds, then you need to look at alternatives. This was something that I was vaguely familiar with but hadn’t looked into. I set it up this evening, and it was a doddle. I’ll post a quick how-to in the next day or so.
  • Can allow people to post a comment based on their facebook/twitter ID. Disqus or IntenseDebate. Throw out standard WP comments, and only accept comments from FB connect or Disqus. Tie people down to their identify.
  • How can you manage your facebook presence if you don’t have a full-time person to manage the facebook page? The chances are that you can’t so the key facebook strategy for SMEs is to get the fans off facebook and onto your blog. From there you can interact with them directly. One possible way to do this is to provide incentives via facebook, such as prizes for signing up to newsletter. This tends to get a decent audience of more attractive prospects/readers with a low attrition rate.
  • Sabrina advises that you try to keep your facebook friends separate from your LinkedIn relationships. No touching!

Despite Sabrina being a little off her best, this was an excellent talk with plenty of take-away messages, and some good actions – just what I like in a great tech talk!

Session 2 – Beautiful Themes

Katherine Nolan@dochara

Next up was Katherine Nolan, another one of the organisers putter herself through hell by also presenting in the morning. Katherine’s topic was on using WP themes. The talk was mostly aimed at professional designers or developers, but there was plenty of useful advise for anybody who manages their own WP blog.

As a designer/developer you shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed to use a pre-canned theme. As a non WP-designer, that’s not a problem that I’ve ever had!

The most important thing is layout, not appearance. A good theme shouldn’t need too much customisation. Look at underlying structure of the site.

You need to be aware of:

  • Navigation
  • Logical widgets – (is the theme widget enabled?)
  • Typography – should have been given plenty of thought
  • You don’t want a layout that is heavily dependent on images if you want to do a lot of customisation

Get under the hood:

  • Make sure that the HTML validates
  • Likewise that the CSS validates
  • Check that the code is well commented
  • And that overall, that it’s easy to work with

Additional criteria:

  • Is the developer actively developing the theme?
  • Does it have proper widget support? Most themes have this, but you do need to check
  • In the case of an e-commerce site, does it have a built in ad-manager? Usually, this is just a WP plugin that has been adapted specifically to the theme

Be careful that free themes are from reputable sources – otherwise might have dodgy content hidden away.

Commercial themes. Huge improvement in both quality and quantity. May have curtailed rights. In particular, you need to ensure that can you resell work based on the theme (if you’re in the design/development business).

Where to look for free themes:

Commercial themes:

Session 3 – Multimedia Mojo

Ian Huet @kestrelid

Next up was Ian Huet, a developer with choicecuts.ie. The current version of choicecust.ie was developed towards the end of 2008 using WordPress 2.5. They are currently moving from WP 2.5 to 2.9.

Multimedia elements to site:

Images are most consistently supported media artifact online, but you often have to work with them to get a consistent look and feel – what Ian referred to as “image juggling”. One recommended plugin was PHPThumb by Ian Shelby. Indeed, choicecuts have developed their own ImageJuggler plugin to support their blog.

There are a number of new features in WP2.9 that are helpful to manage your images:- inline image editor & post-thumbnail. To use the post-thumbnail feature, you need to add the following line to your theme:

add_theme_support('post-thumbnail');

Also checkout another post onWP2.9 post-thumbnails.

Ian wrapped up by suggesting another a few other plugins that are helpful for managing multimedia content:

Keynote 1 – Site Analysis Clinic

Joost de Valk@yoast

Yoast presented this session, asking the audience to call out their websites, whereupon he did an on-the-spot analysis, pointing out some of the common, and not-so-common, problems that many sites have.

WorldNetTPS.com – payment gateway – just revamped the site.

  • all using .com for different languages – not redirecting property for languages
  • some pages missing – need 301 redirects in .htaccess

bloggertone.com

  • shrink side bar for single post pages – only show large sidebar on front page.
  • use pingdom for speedtests of web page load.
  • browser can only open 8 simultaneous requests
  • Plugins shouldn’t add CSS or JavaScript to your pages.

weddingdates.ie

  • Privacy policy page ranking highly – spread the link juice to other important pages on your site
  • don’t let google index pages that you don’t want them to – e.g. premium listing content
  • put the content on top of the sidebar
  • remove RSS feed icon & link from the site – nobody knows what it is (see my notes from Yoast’s talk the previous day).
  • use unique content on each auto-generated page (e.g. with the various listing results).

sligotv.ie

  • omit ads until you have a decent community following
  • pages with video only don’t rank for search engine, as video is opaque
  • look into media RSS tags
  • avoid cforms (don’t remember why Yoast didn’t like cforms, but he was pretty adamant about it)
  • ideally would like to move the entire navigation to the bottom of the page, and use CSS to move it back to the top
  • don’t use <h3> tags for unimportant content/keywords (e.g. titles of sidebar sections)

Through all of these analyses, Yoast was heavily using his own plugin and service called Quix. He was moving too fast to get a good sense of how powerful this service is, but there looks like there is plenty of detail and demos on the site, so that’s definitely something to check out.

Overall, an excellent session, and plenty of hints and tips for all site owners.

Session 5 – WordPress Showcase

Garrett Coakley@garrettc

After a quiet lunch, it was time for Garrett’s presentation, which centered around looking at a number of WordPress driven sites that had a strong, bold, unique design approach. Quoting one of his buddies:

The user is going to have an experience on your site – whether it’s good or bad is up to you.

Here’s a quick rundown of the sites that he showcased, with some of the reasons why they’re so powerful:

Timberline Lodge:

  • uses active language on the navigation – site in general
  • plenty of calls to action
  • evokes a sense of space and belonging – make sure that the users don’t get lost

Architecture Foundation

  • strong, rigid design (not meant in a negative way)
  • consistent branding throughout the site

RSF Social Finance.org

  • very curvey layout
  • again, very strong imagery

Savie Card

  • strong search box – give them a hint in the search box for what they can search for

Carsonified

  • push cohesive voice
  • different templates throughout the whole site

N.Design Studio

  • amazing example of what you can do with striking imagery

Odd Web Things

  • make an impression with bold photography

IconDock

  • lickable interface << LOL
  • clever shopping basket, but make sure you know who your audience are

Brooklyn Slate

  • boutique slate designer in New York
  • applied organic nature of slate to the rest of their site
  • beautiful product page

We Heart

  • great branding – lots of compelling content
  • changing colour scheme based on topic

UGSMAG

  • busy feel, with blockly overlay
  • tension in the design
  • very important to let people know that there is new content coming through
  • people will scroll as long as they know that there is more stuff

Thinking for a Living

  • collection of artists and writers
  • excellent use of horizontal scrolling – very difficult to pull off well

WSJ Magazine

  • imagery that draws you in
  • look for CC license photos on flickr

Yay, I do

  • unusual wedding ideas
  • simple, consistent grid-like approach

Reknit

  • knitting site
  • example of one powerful idea and a strong platform to enable it

Like just about every presenter, Garrett had a new plugin recommendation – his one was WP Typography. A great plugin for giving you beautifully laid-out and consistent typography, but need WP Super Cache, as it’s somewhat resource heavy. Garrett’s parting words of window were to keep your copy short – don’t use more than 4 lines per paragraph.

Phew! That’s it for my WordCamp notes. I took away a huge range of new ideas, plugins, tips and techniques, met a bunch of interesting people and got reinvigorated about web design and development. Not bad for €65 including two lunches and a dinner!

As I’ve already mentioned, but is worth doing so again, huge congratulations are due to Sabrina, Katherine and their team of volunteers. I see that they have just signed up to run WordCamp in 2011. I’m already looking forward to it.

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2 thoughts on “Notes from Day Two of WordCamp Ireland

  1. Nick

    Hi, thanks for summarizing the second day of WordCamp. I was brave enough to put one of my sites up at the clinic and I got very useful feedback from Joost. I hope to see everybody back next year.

  2. steve Post author

    Nick,

    delighted that you found them useful. I totally agree – putting your own work up for open criticism is always very difficult. Thankfully, Yoast was positive and constructive in all his comments.

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