Last weekend the first ever WordCamp Europe took place in Leiden, which is a smallish town a stone’s throw away from Amsterdam in The Netherlands. After attending earlier in the year WordCamp UK (you can read my thoughts on it here), I was excited to spend 2 days in the company of fellow WordPress geeks.
Pictures will appear from my day and a bit in Amsterdam & Leiden in a more touristy fashion later this week, but here are my thoughts on the talks I attended.
Vitaly Friedman (@smashingmag) – I Want To Be A Web Designer When I Grow Up
The first talk was from Vitaly Friedman, the co-founder and editor in chief of Smashing Magazine. This talk was focused on the growth of Smashing Magazine, it’s popularity over time, it’s ups and downs and tips and tricks along the way. It was insightful to see behind the scenes of the growth of such a popular blog, and at times it was a personal account on how it grew.
Smashing Magazine started as a a bunch of list articles, but expanded into an editorial rich website with products and conferences supporting it.
- Since switching from list articles to editorials, Smashing Magazine gets less traffic but higher quality traffic .
- Quality content is expensive – each article costs around $850, and per month it’s about $17,000 just on content.
- If you stick to your principles, you will slow down or annoy people – Smashing Magazine has a “best post first” policy and an “everybody-gets-paid” policy, both of which have harmed growth, but Vitaly says it’s crucial to maintain integrity.
Rocío Valdivia (@rociovaldi) – BuddyPress and a Multi-site Case Study
Rocío’s (of Mecus) talk focused around elclubexpress.com, a multi location Spanish Social Network. The solution they used was BuddyPress with WordPress Multi-Site. Rocío talked us through the development, the challenges faced and how they overcome them.
- When building a large site with plenty of editors, you need both the backend and the front end to be friendly.
- They developed three plugins (Frontpage, a modified version of Mail Poet, and SPDM Shortcode Slider Multisite Plugin) for functionality that wasn’t in the original plugins.
- Some other recommended plugins include WordPress MU Domain Mapping, Capability Manager Enhanced, NS Cloner, WP Super Cache, Multisite Global Search, BuddyPress Private Community and WangGuard.
Tammie Lister (@karmatosed) – The Life Of The Theme
Tammie’s talk covered the life of a theme, how to build one from the start and to the end of the theme life – if the theme even ends.
Tammie (of Logical Binary) talked her through her process of designing a theme – from concept to completion – and what we could learn on it – though it’s important to remember that processes are currently changing, and you should as well.
- Planning is essential, this can involve user testing if need be.
- Style Guidelines and wireframes are a great way to mock-up a design without Photoshop.
- Photoshop can set unrealistic expectations and involve a lot of design, go straight to code instead.
- Increment testing and filtering , it is less painful than doing it just at the end.
- Use the theme review to become a better coder – both as submitting your own theme and reviewing somebody else’s.
- Do a launch slowly.
- Launch isn’t the end of the process.
Kim Gjerstad (@kgjerstad) – Is The Freemium Model Right For Your Plugin?
The next talk was a replacement talk, but one I was rather interested in hearing through my work on WP Email Capture: the Freemium Model and see what it is like.
The speaker – Kim Gjerstad – was the head of MailPoet (formally Wysija), and he told his story over the last 18 months in the release of the plugin.
- Get your plugin out there on the WordPress Repository (Repo) – 55% of users find them on Repo, 22% on Google & 23% come through on Recommendations.
- Start a simple plugin at a high price and build towards it being valuable.
- Support is crucial in getting feedback.
- If you give free support ask users to rate them on the repository.
- Upgrade regularly, helps increase downloads.
Running a European WordPress Agency – Panel
The next talk was all about running a European WordPress Agency. It was a panel featuring Simon Dickson (@simond) of Code For The People, Tom Wilmot (@tomwillmot) from Human Made, Remkus De Vries (@DeFries) from ForSite Media, Arnstein Larsen (@ArnsteinLarsen) from Metronet.
This discussion was surrounding how to grow a European based search agency.
- Tom Wilmot – with a largely US client base – sees his client “at the kick-off meetings and at the launch party”.
- Simon Dickson has his workforce entirely based in the UK, makes life “so much easier” in the long run, despite being a distributed workforce. But finding people can be hard.
- Simon Dickson says WordPress pros need to shout about their ability . He has never posted a job application. If it was it would ask for a wordpress.org profile and a twitter handle.
- Remkus De Vries says working with enterprise clients require you to cover your bases in terms of uptime .
- Arnstein Larsen says the problem with WordPress for enterprise is it’s legacy. People consider it to be a “blogging” platform. Simon Dickson disagreed, saying WordPress’ history is it’s strength.
- Remkus De Vries says people don’t say “Can you make X, Y & Z in WordPress?”. They say simply “X, Y & Z”
- Tom Wilmot said there are so many benefits as an agency if you are part of the WordPress Community .
Vladamir Prelovac (@vprelovac) – A ManageWP Case Study
Vladamir Prelovic is head of ManageWP and talked us through the process of creating a WordPress plugin business from scratch, and how he grew from a bunch of free plugins to ManageWP.
- Write plugins that solve your own problem .
- Use your free plugins to promote your paid plugins
- Plugins are one of the great ways to start a WordPress business, but do not expect overnight success .
- No matter what, customers should always know you are on their side
- It is much cheaper to try to retain current customers than creating new customers
- Building an API can help create partners.
- Competition validates your market and model.
Brad Williams (@williamsba) – Writing Secure WordPress Code
The final talk for me on the first day was how to write secure WordPress Code by WebDevStudio‘s Brad Williams. Brad’s talk was quite heavily code based but also had a lot of snippets that could be taken away. A lot of the coding examples were present in the WordPress Codex so it’s always good to refer to that instead.
- The Golden Rude of Code is to Trust No One.
- Consider all data invalid unless it can be proven valid.
- For security advice check the date as it may be out of data.
Hanni Ross (@hanniross) – Being Part of WordPress
Hanni’s talk was interesting, as it covered her journey on how she began with WordPress at the age of 14, through to her current role in the community, and how it helped her grow and how it could help you grow and getting your foot in the door.
- There is a misconception in WordPress in that contributing to WordPress requires you to be a coder - Linguist, Writers, Designers, Organisers, Teachers & all enthusiastic people can also get involved too.
- Since the beginning of WordPress there have been 555 people listed as contributors.
- make.wordpress.org is the hub on how to give back to the community.
- There was 67 WordCamps in 2012, and been 53 so far in 2013.
Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) – Q & A
The next talk was a Q & A with Matt Mullenweg, head of Automattic, and co-creator of WordPress. This session simply started with a brief introduction from Matt, questions were asked to him about WordPress, Automattic and the WordPress Foundation.
Matt Mullenweg’s vision for the future of WordPress is to democratise publishing , and there’s still a lot of work to do to localise it – it would be great to have a localised plugin directory for each country. Language packs are probably the most important part of WordPress democratise publishing. Matt would love WordPress to power the majority of the web, or Open Source software. He expects in the next 5 years that open source software will power the majority of the web .
It is unlikely for there to be a WordPress Certified programme as it won’t be an open curriculum, Matt recommends clients to look at profile.wordpress.org to differentiate between coders – Code Poet may bring a developer rank.
Accessibility can be tricky to develop as a lot of accessibility tools don’t meet web standards.
The plugin directory is unlikely to have a seal of approval for code, as it is difficult to make it scalable. Matt encourages the community to leave reviews for each plugin they use – Matt also has recommended agencies to do this, and is leading this with the wordpress.com wordpress.org account.WordPress to grow will need to keep an open mind.
Supporting the local WordPress Community through local meetups is the best way to contribute to the community and to help the community grow. The WordPress Foundation is looking to help this, particularly through the costs involved with Meetup.
Noel Tock (@noeltock) – Less Is More: The Journey of Happytables as a SaaS
Noel Tock from Human Made talked us through the development of Happytables, a Software as a Service built on WordPress designed for the restaurant industry, particularly the long tail restaurant industry with not much budget.
After the first release they found they had a lot of power users, users that were familiar with WordPress, but none of the target market. After some work they redesigned it for Happytables 2.0, that was aimed at the restaurant owner.
- They were expecting push back, but people in general were happy being told what to do.
- Happytables USP over website builders was to help them build the business. It has an automated way to send newsletters once a week.
- Another problem they find was to keep users engaged. Some small business owners see websites as a disposable resource so they are unlikely to update it. They sent out weekly newsletters to clients with a call to action on relevant opportunities
Dre Armeda (@dremeda) – Real WordPress Security: Kill The Noise!
Dre Armeda’s talk was a high level talk on Security. Security has become a major business (one that Dre’s company, Sucuri, is a big player in) as the internet gets bigger. Dre quoted some figures, that there were over 2.4 billion internet users today, which equates to a 480% growth in the last 11 years. There are 2+ million Malware Strings every month, which costs the US over $2+ billion a year, and Google issues 3+ million warnings and blacklist 10k sites a day.
Hacks happen mainly because hacked sites can make affiliates a lot of money, rather than any target. No site has no risk associated to it, and the main issues arise from outdated software, exploited passwords, hosting issues and zero day exploits.
- Keep software updated and do it quick, however do your homework – what has changed in the latest version of WordPress?
- If it’s not in use (plugins, themes and sites) then remove it from the server.
- Give people enough access to do their job, nothing more. And remove access when they complete their job.
Miriam Schwab (@miriamschwab) – Learn From My Mistakes! The Business of WordPress
Miriam’s talk was a talk on WordPress as a business, as in running Illuminea – an agency surrounding WordPress and the challenges faced. Miriam’s talk was very open in some of the troubles she faced when running her business.
- Diversify Your Services – a lot of WordPress’ work is project based – think of ways to secure recurring revenue including WP Hosting/Maintenance, Digital Marketing, Courses & Consulting.
- Use a CRM, now. Only 0.5% of people use CRMs. A CRM gives you valuable data on projects and data on leads.
Photo Credit – “My Personal WordPress Hero” Kimb Jones
Joost de Valk (@yoast) – A Victory For The Commons
The final talk of the conference was from the ever-present Yoast. In it he implored the audience to make money and to expand the ideals on open source. At present, making money from WordPress is still in it’s infancy – Yoast’s talk was all about how you and why you should benefit yourself as well as the open source community, and how he does it.
- Support can kill you if you have popular plugins.
- The importance of good branding is vital.
- It is very easy to build a reputation by doing good work, and doing good work for free.
- By growing and make money on open source and then reinvesting are good for you, and more sustainable for the community.
Overall, I really enjoyed this Two-Day WordCamp. By being the first European WordCamp you met a lot of the bigger players in the WordPress community, particularly those from the States & further afield (particularly a few who travelled from Australia). Also – it was great to finally meet Ryan after speaking for a fair few years!
It was also remarkably slickly organised – Wi-fi issues aside I cannot remember of one thing going noticeably wrong. Also Leiden was beautiful, and I’m so glad I attended – as it’s inspired me to grow further and grow with WordPress (and maybe help WordPress grow? I was quite interested in hearing about the Handbooks which I could help with).
Here’s to next year!