WordCamps are tech-oriented gatherings for people who like to learn, hang out and share ideas, and discover new tools for web hosting, blogging, internet marketing, graphic design and coding. These events are specifically focused on the content management system (CMS) and blogging platform that many know and love, as WordPress. And these casual tech conferences happen in cities all around the world.
There are several WordCamps around the state of Michigan, and this year many of the folks who have been involved in the Jackson and Ann Arbor monthly WordPress Meetup groups launched the very first WordCamp Jackson. WordCamp Ann Arbor has been going strong since the 2014 inaugural event, and 2017 will undoubtedly be a great time, so you should definitely check it out!
I’ve helped out with WCA2 over the past few years and I had the privilege of serving as Sponsorship Wrangler for this first ever WCJXN, which just happened on May 5th and 6th. Planning is now underway for WCA2 2017, and if you’re interested in going to that one, there’s already a great looking site up with more details.
WordCamp Jackson was a great experience for me, and I was glad to be a part of organizing the first one to happen in my home town. I plan to start attending more WordCamps as often as I can, because not only are they fun and educational, they also inspire me to challenge myself, level up my skills, publish, and create.
If you’re into web development, design, marketing, technology or entrepreneurship, you should definitely find a WordPress Meetup or WordCamp in your area!
What is a Website Worth?
Most understand that a solid web presence is key for any business or entrepreneurial endeavor these days. The value that a website can bring, for connecting with customers and clients, building up e-mail lists, and selling products and services, can really be quite priceless.
A well designed website, powered by WordPress, created with mobile first in mind, and optimized with great add on products like Yoast SEO, Google Analytics, and some other must have security, caching, and site monitoring tools (paired with various must have plugins and widgets) together will supercharge your site! The power that these elements can bring to your online publishing and marketing strategies is simply invaluable.
Where to Begin…
But where does one start, when looking at the possibility of using WordPress for web development? One of the best ways to get acquainted with WP is to set up a free blog on WordPress.com. Once you get signed up, you can choose from various themes that will decide the layout and style of your blog, choose a “your name.wordpress.com” URL or even set it up with any custom domain you’d like!
How to do More
Once you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ll become well acquainted with the standard WordPress.com “reader” dashboard, which offers some built in analytics and other cool features, like JetPack. But you can also switch your dashboard view to display the WP Admin panel, which will give you a good idea of what a custom, self-hosted WordPress.org site looks like in the back end. You can add pages, manage various settings, and edit your site with the customizer.
Bringing it All Together
For me, this is where I first began to understand the overlapping pieces and the biggest differences between the two sides of WordPress. Utilizing the admin panel can help one gain familiarity with essential native WP tools and features, while blogging and exploring the world of WordPress will orient new users to the very broad and textured landscape of web development.
A lot of people do first experience WP as a blogging site, and use it as an easy way to publish content, which is certainly something it excels at…though the deeper you dig, the better it gets, and the more you’ll want to use it!
The Future of Web Design
If you’ve paid any mind to recent trends in web design, mobile apps and smartphone usage, you’re probably aware of the fact that people are viewing more and more of the web on portable devices with small screens. Responsive design brings an approach to web development that begins with the mobile user experience first, and scales up from that perspective.
Responsive Design with WordPress
The core of WordPress open source software makes great efforts to accommodate forward thinking ideas such as responsiveness, while maintaining some semblance of backwards compatibility with deprecated designs, practices, and systems that may have fallen by the wayside.
By following best practices, keeping up with current web standards, and considering search engine visibility, those developing the web today will do well to keep responsive design front of mind.
Why Develop with WordPress?
When I discovered WordPress, I thought it was primarily a blogging platform (and at the time it pretty much was), sort of like Blogger, which I had had previous experience with…but that was about as deep as I went with it at first. Blogger and Tumblr are more flexible than some platforms, and users can custom code their UX a bit, but WP is still the best content management system (CMS) and website building tool there is, with more than 25% of the internet now built on its foundation.
What I do With WP
I’ve always managed to write a few posts here and there with WordPress over the years, while experimenting with other blogging, microblogging, photo-sharing platforms, like Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter…but there always did seem to be something special about WordPress. I still post and share content on all these sites occasionally, so feel free to connect with me in those spaces if you’re out there! But WP is now my focus, and this website in particular is where I will be sharing the bulk of what I’m learning while also seeking input, critique, and clientele.
More Personal Experiences
Right around the same time I began blogging on WordPress.com, my partner Koren and I started up a little coffee shop, and realized a website was a good idea for the business. Soon a friend was offering to set up a basic site for the coffee place and I quickly found myself writing more and more blog posts, learning some HTML and CSS here and there, and implementing search engine optimization (SEO) as well.
Then a few years into running the coffee shop business, managing our website and online presence of the company (named Cuppa, by the way), I started learning more about customizing themes and developing websites from the ground up using WordPress.org. Thanks to Kyle Maurer of Real Big Marketing, I quickly acquired lots of new skills, tools, and great resources for building up my knowledge and experience in web development.