On September 21st, our 4O1! development team woke up bright and early (on a Saturday!), piled into Devon’s SUV and traveled to the University of Baltimore for WordCamp Baltimore 2013. The WordPress conference was a series of sessions informing developers and designers of the newest technologies within the WordPress community as well as tips and tricks. From Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to security, the well-informed speakers covered a lot of ground about the most popular Content Management System (CMS) around, and our developers took away a lot of new information that they have already begun incorporating into our clients’ sites.
Below is a quick summary of the important practices they learned at WordCamp:
This lecture was based on caching websites and how the whole process works. Caching is in essence saving files, whether on the server or on the user’s computer, to serve the files faster for future requests. Developers learned several caching techniques to prepare a server for high traffic. There were several WordPress plugins discussed that 4O1! has already used, as well as advanced techniques including using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) and Opcode caching, which eliminates inefficiencies in the execution of PHP files by storing the compiled files in the server’s memory. This may be complete nonsense to you, but what’s important to know is that it makes your website FAST!
Responsive design is the practice of resizing content to be displayed in different formats based on the browser’s viewport size. The speaker introduced a myriad of different points to setting up a responsive website, including CSS Media Queries as well as grid-based approaches to design that we have already executed on several of our sites. We did walk away with a few notes that will make future responsive sites easier to set up, including the controversial argument that mobile should be designed and developed before desktop, a discussion that is often brought up and debated around the 4O1! office. There are good points for both arguments: a major pro being that it will cut down on development time if the client will be purchasing both mobile and desktop sites, and a major con being that both the client and designer will have to get used to the idea that they will see progress on the mobile version of the site before the desktop. Only time will tell how 4O1! will fit into this controversial approach to responsive design.
We are relatively comfortable with SEO and have been using the awesome Yoast SEO Plugin for a while now. However, the guys learned a lot of interesting facts about Google authorship and HTML Microdata schemas to create rich snippets, which is the detailed information that Google picks up for search results, such as Justin Timberlake’s tour dates on Ticketmaster, or the rating for Gravity on IMDB.
Then it was time for lunch at Turp’s Sports Bar and Restaurant where Chris ate the best burger he’s ever had.
This lecture described a fascinating e-commerce WordPress plugin called Cart66 which can be implemented onto any WordPress site without the need for an SSL certificate or PCI compliance auditing. The awesome thing is that the checkout section looks like your site by using a method they call “slurping” and can be set up to use many payment gateways including PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.Net. He also explained the aspects of PCI Compliance which are the government standards that businesses need to adhere to in order to be able to collect vulnerable data such as credit card numbers. This is a plugin that we will certainly be using on future e-commerce sites!
SASS is a very powerful language that compiles and processes Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). The use of nesting, variables, functions and mix-ins save a great deal of development time. The presenter was not only hilarious (with a few animated GIF breaks) but very informative. The developers were very excited about starting to live and breathe SASS and have already been implementing it into their workflow.
One of the main things developers have to think about is security when creating websites in WordPress. Different types of hacks that are potential with WordPress were explained, such as SQL Injection, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), and Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF). The vast majority of these hacks are because strong passwords are not being used. For instance, when the username “admin” is used and weak passwords such as “password” or the name of the website are in place.
The web solutions industry is like a living organism and is constantly changing. It’s important to us here at 4O1! to be aware of these changes and also to fully comprehend them, test them out and implement them into client work. We are always excited about creating cutting-edge websites with new technology and improving websites as well as our knowledge base.