We just came back from WordCamp Europe, a gathering of more than 800 WordPress professionals from 51 countries.
Most, if not all the countries of Europe were represented, with strong contingents from the Netherlands, the USA and of course, this year’s host nation, Bulgaria.
Thankfully for us, proceedings were entirely in English.
For those who don’t know, WordPress is the software we use to build all of our websites, but it’s more than just a collection of code.
It’s a community – and one that welcomes anyone who uses WordPress, from the small business website owner to advanced web developers and agencies who build highly customised WordPress websites for international companies.
WordPress also supports a whole ecosystem of companies providing products and services. It’s becoming big business, but people remain at its core.
So what happens at a WordCamp?
WordCamp Europe is one of those places where the WordPress community comes together to hear more than 30 talks over two tracks and two days, covering every subject from security issues, to business and even health. A full list of speakers and talks is available on the WordCamp Europe website.
WordCamp is a place where people all come with the same philosophy: They are there to learn, to improve what they do, but also to share.
The various talks are only part of the picture, as everyone there is eager to meet new people and forge new connections – both personal and professional.
In fact you can often find yourself suddenly in conversation with them at the after party!
The ethos of self improvement extends to those who provide services to WordPress users, such as plugin developers.
At WordCamp we were able to connect with many developers whose products or services we use, provide valuable feedback and develop a relationship that helps them improve what they do, and helps us improve our service to our clients. Everybody wins.
It continues with the WordCamp speakers, many of whom can command high fees to appear at other conferences. At WordCamp they don’t get a penny, yet the likes of Chris Lema, Mark Jaquith and Tony Perez not only gave their time but flew in from half way around the world.
To share their knowledge.
And that extends to the organisers, who put months of hard work into setting up everything to make WordCamp Europe a slick and well-organised event – all on a voluntary basis.
Between the talks the halls were buzzing with people of all nationalities getting to know each other, helping each other, sharing information. Collaborating. With people who are essentially their competitors.
This mindset was best summed up in the talk by Simon Wheatley, of one of the UK’s top Wordpress agencies, Code For The People.
Code For The People lives by WordPress’ collaborative principles, sometimes competing with others in the same space, but sometimes working directly with competitors to help WordPress move forward as a whole.
We are not normal, he told us, yet collaboration can be married with solid business principles that not only help us and our clients, but the wider world, too.
It should come as no surprise that this is the approach adopted by the WordPress community, and in particular Automattic, the company that guides WordPress and its development, among other things. Automattic, led by WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg (another speaker at WordCamp Europe) has working practices that are unconventional to say the least. The WordPress system is open source, and contributing to it on a voluntary basis is encouraged through the Contributor Day that takes place after the two day conference. After all many of us make a living through WordPress, and it’s great to be able to give something back.
If your career/company is centered around WordPress, you have a huge interest in it still being around tomorrow. We’re in this together. <3 — Andrew Nacin (@nacin) October 2, 2014
You don’t have to be able to write code to contribute to WordPress, as everyone is split into groups according to skills and what they want to work on.
More than 180 turned up to the Contributor Day, which was held at the Sofia offices of SiteGround, a managed hosting company that offers specialised services for WordPress – so they gave something back by sponsoring the WordCamp.
Some went to work on improvements coming in the next version of WordPress, others on fixing reported bugs, others still on translating WordPress into yet more languages, while another group answered support requests on wordpress.org.
Although we’ve been to five WordCamps before, we’d never taken part in a Contributor Day. We ended up volunteering for a mini project that suited our skills perfectly, under the leadership of Sara Rosso of Automattic.
There were eight of us from five different countries, working together to create an outline for the project that we will all continue to collaborate on remotely – something that will be of use to the WordPress community worldwide. That’s the spirit of the Wordpress community.
If you can’t spare the time for a WordCamp, then why not try a local meet? And this brings us on to…
So why don’t we do this here in Shropshire?
But if we can do this in Bulgaria, why can’t we do it here in Shropshire?
There must be dozens of companies using WordPress and hundreds of people running their own WordPress websites, yet there’s no WordPress community like you’ll find in other areas – Cumbria for example.
And while we have the excellent ShropGeek for all in the tech industry, we have nothing dedicated to WordPress alone.
In our experience, most of the companies in the Shropshire area who build websites regard each other with suspicion. As the competition. That’s a missed opportunity.
Most business people who run their own WordPress websites do so in isolation here. There’s no need for that.
We don’t share ideas, inspiration, knowledge or experience with each other – but if we did we would all benefit.
Many of use owe a lot to WordPress, and you can give back by sharing with others, even collaborating on work to help move the software forward.
The first step could be many things – a LinkedIn group, a local meetup, even our own website, but if you want to help build a WordPress community in Shropshire and the surrounding area then please get in touch.
If you’re logging into your WordPress website for the first time in a while, you’ll notice things have changed. Here’s a quick guide to setting things up the way you need them.
The old dashboard, where you ended up immediately after you log in, was looking a little tired, so it’s had some improvements as part of the latest upgrade to WordPress 3.8.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the menu on the left is now black, but that’s just the start.
A fresh, uncluttered design that is clearer and easier to use
New typography optimised for desktop and mobile viewing
Better contrast and higher definition graphics
A fully responsive (i.e. mobile friendly) admin area
Further improvements for site administrators
It may come as a shock at first, so the purpose of this post is to help you set up the admin the way you want it.
How to set up your admin colour scheme in WordPress 3.8
The new admin area gives you the option to use any one of eight different colour schemes.
You can stick with the standard black, or go for blue, red, purple or coffee tones. Here’s how to do it.
From the Users menu, select Your Profile. You can also select this from the dropdown in the top right that says Howdy, (Your Name)
Under Personal Options you’ll see an option for Admin Colour Schemes. Click the button next to any colour scheme and you’ll get an instant preview.
Your changes are instant so you don’t need to save the settings.
And that’s it!
A note about WordPress updates
If you have a website with Moghill Web Services, you will find the updates have already been done for you as part of our managed hosting service.
If you manage your own site, or your designer does it for you, we urge you to upgrade as soon as possible. It’s a simple process, as long as you take a back-up before running the updates. If you have any questions or need help, then please contact us.
Why you need to update your WordPress (and its plugins)
If you spend any time looking around the web, the chances are you will have come across the latest craze that’s pretty much guaranteed to annoy – or at the very least confuse website visitors: Pop up light boxes, also known as interstitials.
FAQ pages are quite possibly one of the laziest crimes in website usability. If you have one on your site, you need to get rid of it. Here’s how.
Frequently Asked Questions. This is traditionally the place that website owners dump the content they don’t know what to do with – or really can’t be bothered giving it enough thought.
They are about the convenience of the website owner but never, never are they about making things easier for the website visitor, which should always be your focus.
In short the FAQ page is a sticking plaster solution for poor information architecture. In the early days of the web they were useful, but things have moved on and the FAQ page has been left behind.
Take the name: How does a random visitor to your website know whether these questions are asked frequently or not? It’s as if we are expecting visitors to sort out our content for us.
What does FAQ even mean?
Many website visitors don’t even understand what FAQ means, therefore they ignore it. User testing indicates those who do know what it means only ever use it if all else fails.
It’s neither useful nor helpful, unless you’re the person putting the website together. But then you might as well just take all the information from your FAQ page and put it in a new page called Miscellaneous. Or Information. Or even Page.
Website visitors – or to use their proper name: customers – deserve better treatment than this. We should be making it easier for them, not harder.
But FAQ pages are a nightmare, usually presented in a question and answer format that makes them difficult to read or take in.
That’s because everything you find on an FAQs page belongs somewhere else, if only someone would spend the time thinking about where it should be.
If all else fails then make it up
In one large organisation where I worked the various website authors were obsessed with FAQs. Every time a new section was launched, there would be an accompanying FAQ page. Sometimes it would run into hundreds of words, sometimes it would only be a couple of forlorn questions.
My job was (to try) to filter out the worst content before it made it onto the website, so I would always begin by asking if anybody had ever asked any of these ‘Frequently’ Asked Questions.
Nearly always the answer was: ‘No but we had to put something in the FAQ page…. And we must have an FAQ page…’
So these questions were not frequently asked or even asked at all.
And this is often the case as FAQ pages are filled up with imaginary, sometimes off the wall, questions that nobody ever asked. Things like ‘Who built this brilliant website?’
How to get rid of your FAQ page
The secret behind making your website work for your customers – and turning visitors into customers – is in understanding that all web content should be about answering the questions of your website visitors.
Visitors arrive at a website with a task in mind and questions they need answering. These are the real Frequently Asked Questions.
But the answers should not be tucked away and hard to find, they should be obvious and easy to spot: Don’t make your website visitors work for the answers they need.
If your website has an FAQ page start by reviewing it.
Are the questions and answers really things your customers want to know or are the questions just made up? Are some of them so important that they need to be given greater prominence? Should they even be on the website at all?
If the questions/answers are useful to visitors they should be – usually with the other information on the same topic.
Some FAQs may be pointing at a more serious issue – something on your site that is so hard to use that people need instructions. In this case it would be better to look at fixing the original problem than challenging users to work it out with the aid of instructions. Few have the patience to do this.
For example, if one of your FAQs is ‘How do we contact you’ then obviously you need to make it easier for people to find your contact page, or make it better so people don’t have to ask.
And here’s the point: Websites are becoming more customer focussed these days. If your site serves its visitors properly you don’t need an FAQ page.
If you have one you need to question whether your site is serving your customers the best way it can, or whether you are just using your FAQ page as a crutch to make up for poor design.