I had a great time at WordCamp Fayetteville— it was a long day, but I learned so much it went by quickly. Here’s a short rundown of the sessions I attended and links to the presentations where available.
The Ultimate WordPress Experience: WordPress as a CMS by Mitch Canter, Studionashvegas
It’s more than just a blogging platform; it’s a complete content management system (CMS).
I catch Mitch’s presentations at every opportunity. He knows WordPress inside and out. He kicked it off with some history of WordPress, tracing back to its beginnings in 2003 through the present. I started my first WordPress site in 2006 — it was a great reminder of how far the platform has come.
Mitch pointed out that 12.4 percent of Alexa’s top-ranked websites use WordPress — and it’s the first open source platform that has taken hold in this way.
He went on to talk about page templates, which allow you to override the default WordPress code for pages and customize them, then explained how to build a custom home page and touched on custom post types. Custom post types were introduced with WordPress 3.0 in 2010 and allow you to incorporate other types of content besides posts and pages; common uses are real estate listing, movie databases, event calendars among others.
Target Practice: Using Analytics To Improve Your Aim by Angela Belford of The Belford Group
This presentation was an overview of analytics, which speaker Angela Belford called a website owner’s crystal ball. She focused on Google Analytics and emphasized four reasons to study analytics:
- Determine readers’ favorite content
- Identify your best referral sources
- Understand your readers
- Bragging rights? (maybe!)
She also outlined the four awesome metrics every blogger should look at:
- Loyalty/frequency of visits
- Length of visit
- Depth of visit
One encouraging note is that a slightly higher (>50 percent) bounce rate for bloggers is not necessarily a negative, particularly if you update frequently; it may simply mean your reader came to read your current post.
Custom Post Types and You by Mitch Canter, Studionashvegas
WordPress custom post types allow you to add different kinds of content and are based on either page or post structure. Examples include real estate listings, movie databases and event listings. Using a post structure allows the posts to be displayed in an archive page, similar to a category or tag archive page.
Mitch walked us through this great blog post from Justin Tadlock that spells out in detail how to create custom post types. Definitely something I’m going to be using. Soon.
Numbers & Graphs & Keywords, Oh My! (Analytics for the blogger) by Angela Belford, The Belford Group
Another analytics session; building on the first. We went through the new Google Analytics layout and discussed how to customize your widgets on the site to view the analytics you’re most interested in. Also discussed the ability to filter out your own IP address so that your own visits aren’t counted.
This was a great basic CSS presentation. Tom Hapgood began the session by explaining the separation of content from style, explaining that, “CSS tells HTML to start the party.” He talked about the difference between IDs and classes, reviewed the box model, CSS shorthand and talked about new tags in HTML5.
He ended by giving a basic CSS template for a page, which is a great starting point for any project.
This session was pure fun, which made it a great addition at the end of the day. Advanced (at least to me!) techniques that I’ve seen on cool websites and wondered how to do. Probably the easiest was shadow stacking; adding multiple text shadows via CSS to create a 3D effect. Very cool. Here’s a demo page for the techniques Justin outlined.
Sunday’s Guru Gallery time was held at the very cool office of The Bedford Group, a Fayetteville image-building marketing and website development agency, owned by Angela and Barry Belford who are genuinely nice people.
Coming in as a complete stranger, I wasn’t really sure how comfortable I’d feel, but I didn’t worry too much, as Arkansas folks are naturally kind, hospitable and friendly. The Fayetteville crowd didn’t disappoint, as they not only made me feel at home, but put on one of the best tech conferences of any kind I’ve attended. Kudos to organizer Christopher Spencer and his great team of volunteers. Thanks, y’all — I’ll be back next year!
If you love WordPress and blogging and you haven’t been to a WordCamp, do something about that ASAP — here’s a list of the ones that are coming up.