WordCamp Victoria 2013

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WordCamp Victoria was the second WordCamp I’d attended, but unlike WordCamp Vancouver in October 2012 – where I spoke about the Top 10 Things to Know About WordPress – it was the first time I was able to stay all day.

Why WordPress?

I arrived in time for the keynote speech by Morten Rand-Hendrickson of Pink and Yellow Design, where ye asked the question, “Why WordPress?”

In the paradigm shift in which words could be published and responded to, he called 2003 the demarcation line in the history of the Internet.

“Most of what we do on line that matters these days didn’t exist before then,” he said.

2003 was not only the year WordPress was launched, but also when the web went from being an information source to a thought and idea exchange.

Platforms like WordPress, Morten said, take away the complication of the interface with computers and humans, they make humans and databases play well together.

That anyone can publish to the world is truly revolutionary in the history of the world.

Ultimately, he said, WordPress is like socialism defined: people building shit for free giving it away for free, and doing it because they want to part of something greater.

After that I spent most of the day listening to talk of themes.

Paying for Love: When to Buy Premium Themes

Mike and Cheryl DeWolfe of Those DeWolfes Creative described the reasons to buy a theme or use a free one. They asked when do you buy a theme?

“When you have run out of room of what your free theme will do for you, to have a professional, cohesive, branded look.”

And especially if you want a responsive capability to respond to various devices. After giving your premium theme all the functionality it can handle, they suggest getting a developer who understands your needs to customize the site.

In making your decision, they used a real estate analogy.

  • Free themes are like fixer uppers in which you invest time and money along the way.
  • Custom themes are parcels of land where you’ll build the house from scratch and have everything you want.
  • Premium themes are move in-ready houses.

Does that mean our fixer upper house is like a free WordPress theme?

Choosing a Theme

George Plumley, blogsitestudio.comGeorge Plumley of See How Two, said that over the years, themes have become very complicated. What they do is provide design as well as functionality, but in the old days, themes provided more functionality than design. They never had the theme options, shortcodes, and custom post types commonly seen today.

The problem with building sites with complicated, overly functional themes is that when you switch themes you can loose some of that functionality.

To circumvent this, he suggests using child themes. It will separate design from functionality. Using a child theme built on a framework – which lacks design – makes it easy to switch to themes that use the same framework.

These are some of important considerations when future proofing your site, he said.

He suggests auditioning new themes not by viewing the front page, but by examining the back end to see exactly how it works. Features lists don’t always describe how those features work.

To make your site appear more like the demo theme, he suggests going to Settings>Reading and setting the home page to Recent Posts.

In the end, he said, “Great design does not equal great coding.”

When I asked him what I should do when my WordPress Workshop bloggers come to me with their complicated themes with custom post types, and they want me to help them figure out the source of each shortcode that runs it, his answer was curt.

“Chalk it up to experience and move on,” he said. Find a theme with a better framework. Find a theme that does the same thing for free.

I’ll have to remember that.

More WordCamp

jon valade, blogsitestudio.com/wordcamp-victoria-2013After that, I bounced around to a variety of sessions. In particular, I liked WooThemes and WooCommerce Unveiled presented by Jon Valade of Idea Zone.

This was a working workshop in which he demonstrated how to set up an e-commerce site using WooCommerce with the Canvas Commercial theme. It seemed very easy to set up a shopping cart site using Pay Pal and it even takes care of inventory.

Now that I’ve seen WooCommerce in action I feel more comfortable working with it in the future.

Overall, WordCamp Victoria was a fun and invigorating experience for picking up web tips and marketing ideas. Here is the full schedule. There were so many sessions I missed, but the things I did learn were invaluable. Thanks to the organizers for organizing it and to the speakers who spoke.