We love WordCamps! WordCamps are a great opportunity to personally meet those people that we interact with on Twitter all the time. It’s a time to meet new people and drum up new business. It’s a safe place to learn more about WordPress and anything related to design, development, and good business practices. Then there’s the swag… even if it ends up in the kids’ toybox. 😉 Because we’re located in the suburbs of the Emerald City, it was a no-brainer to attend WordCamp Seattle. We even brought along a friend that is totally new to WordPress and I think he’s hooked! It was a great weekend, but we did discover there are some drawbacks to attending a local WordCamp (more on that later).

Networking

I think this is pretty obvious, so not going to spend a lot of time here. At WordCamp Seattle, there were all kinds of people there – people who are brand new to WordPress (and there were lots of 1st timers this year) and then the “experts.” Sometimes we clump the speakers into the “Expert” column, but really the speakers are anyone who’s excited to share what they’ve been learning. No matter the reason for coming, WordCamp prides itself on making it a safe place for everyone. Yeah, it can be hard to talk to someone new, especially if you consider them an “expert.” To help make this less intimidating, WordCamp Seattle had a Speaker Q&A lounge with bean bag chairs so you could just hang out and ask questions. How cool is that?

WordCamp Seattle Topics

Wow! There were so many awesome topics, it was sometimes hard to choose. All the sessions were recorded and the speakers provided slides to their presentations so if you can’t attend one session, you still get the slides and don’t really miss out on anything. Each session ended in a Q&A (different than that Q&A Lounge) so everyone can benefit from others’ questions and/or comments. Here’s a brief recap on some of the things we learned at WordCamp Seattle 2017.

SEO

This was probably my favorite topic by Kori Ashton. She showed us super simple way to make Google recognize a site. It had me wishing I had my laptop, instead of my iPad, so I could immediately start putting into practice what I was learning! We learned how Google reads a site in order of importance and how important repetition is. Many resources I was already familiar with but there are some new ones I look forward to checking out. I couldn’t help but think how this session could help us and how we, in turn, could help some of our clients. SEO is hard for most because it’s a never-ending job, but Kori shared secrets her business uses so we could all succeed too.

Pricing

One talk was about pricing. Nathan Allotey shared multiple real-life examples so we could learn from his successes and failures. How awesome it is that people will share their mistakes willingly so others don’t fall into the same trap? As a growing agency, we’ve experimented with all the pricing modules Nathan talked about. If you’re being honest, pricing is something that everyone struggles with at some point or another and it’s given us a few things to think about.

Responsive Design

Michelle Schulp shared some great tips on responsive design and introduced us to some new tools, like patternlab. We learned the importance of:

  • staying within the general rules of design and not getting too creative (A good design works and you don’t really notice it)
  • breaking things before you make it (troubleshoot potential issues before you get too far)
  • keeping Style Guides updated as you work on a project (obvious, but not always practical)

These tips may seem obvious, but many fall into the trap of jumping into a project too quickly.

Design Tips for non-designers

I’m not a designer so this was titled appropriately for me! Raven Gildea shared simple things to make a site attractive and easy to read. He taught us:

  • limiting line length (45-75 characters) makes a more pleasant experience for the user
  • creating hierarchy draws the user’s attention to what’s most important
  • white space is “a designer’s friend.” It’s easy to lose people when trying to cram too much content onto a page. Essentially, less is more.
  • contrast between text and the background should be around 80-86%
  • color adds variety to your site

Like all the other speakers, Raven shared some awesome tools to help get the job done.

BuddyPress

Tanner Moushey, the founder of iWitness Design, shared some tools and techniques you can use to build your BuddyPress community… while maintaining your sanity! Here are the slides from his presentation as well as a recent blog about using BuddyPress registration alternatives. It was hard to pack all the info into 30 minutes, but Tanner loved the opportunity to share his knowledge and make himself available to answer questions.

Drawbacks

Believe it or not, there actually are pluses and minuses of attending a local WordCamp. So far we’ve talked about all the things we gained from WordCamp Seattle, but we found out something that seems counterintuitive. We discovered that commuting from home adds a lot of travel time… for us it adds up to about 8 hours of traveling (including the Friday night Speaker Dinner)! It’s also harder to pull away from regular commitments and we try to fit it all in. When attending an out of town WordCamp, you’re likely staying close to the venue and possibly even in the same hotel as other attendees. There’s more opportunity to network and more time for the afterparty, Karaoke, and whatever else is happening. So for next year, we’re thinking of becoming Seattle tourists and staying downtown!

Takeaway

There’s no way you can leave a WordCamp without having met someone new and/or learned something new. Speakers willingly share their real-life business experiences and the WordPress Community is wonderful that way. Instead of viewing other attendees as the competition, there’s a genuine sense of community and wanting to see others succeed as well. It’s wonderful when you live close to a WordCamp, but if the budget allows, make it a weekend away and get the most of it.

Were you at WordCamp Seattle or have you attended another recent WordCamp? We’d love to hear your thoughts on what you learned!

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