July 13, 2017
About a month ago, I was able to attend this year’s WordCamp Minneapolis-St. Paul. This is an event put on by local WordPress users who bring in other users from across the country and world. This was my second year attending, and it is both crazy and inspiring how far I have come in that past year. Web development changes daily, with new languages, new best practices, and new features being released every waking hour. It’s nice to see that while the WordPress features adapt and evolve as the years go on, the core structure remains the same, which makes it easy and effective to work with.
I don’t want to assume anything, but if at this point you do not know what WordPress is, I can start there. WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that allows developers to build a website, then turn it over to the client to make updates. Even if the developer who built the site is the one in charge of updating it, using a CMS makes it much easier and less time-consuming. Gone are the days of searching through code to update a site. WordPress is also a great tool to learn as it centralizes a lot of the web hosting while still letting the design and functionality differ from site to site.
Back to WordCamp! It’s hosted at the University of Minnesota and takes place over two days, with a demo day on Sunday. Each day has a schedule and about fifteen different talks to attend. Because I am a developer, I stuck to the developers’ schedule and learned things I had only heard mention of before, such as modular design, the WP-CLI, and a lot of dos and don’ts lists.
Last year when I attended WordCamp, I was only a few weeks into a WordPress course, so most of these terms flew right over my head, but it was a great introduction for when things came up months later and I could refer to my notes, or had at least heard the phrase “advanced custom fields”. They never taught us that in school, but it’s pretty essential to building dynamic WordPress sites. I think half the battle with starting out in web development is hearing all these terms and understanding/not understanding when those terms apply to your project. To counter that, it’s always a good idea to immerse yourself in the front-end world, go to the talks even if they don’t apply to you, hear all the things to hear and listen to all advice.
Here are a few more specific things I learned this year at WordCamp. Mental health is important in every industry and in every life. Go talk to someone; it will make you feel better. Modular design is very useful for large websites that repeat basic structure. Spending time organizing your stuff will (obviously) help you in the long run. The web can be a very automated place, but that doesn’t mean it has lost its customization. Always use https. A fun fact: as of August 2017, 59% of Firefox page loads are https. Learn git, use git, why aren’t you using git yet? In a team big or small… use git. While you learn git, learn the command line. After doing that, use the WordPress Command Line Interface (WP-CLI). You can check for and run a WP core update with a few lines of code, from your terminal, without overwriting anything, all without opening up a single browser. Learn git, learn the command line, learn WP-CLI.