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5 things I learned at WordCamp Orange County 2014

1. Don’t worry about going alone!

Last year I attended WordCamp Los Angeles by myself. I didn’t know anyone, and figured I’d be staring at my phone a lot – pretending I’m reading. That did happen, but I did meet a few people and get into some conversations. Fast forward to WCOC, and some of those people are here and we get to chat, along with meeting some new people.

People for the most part are approachable and happy to chat. You have to remember you’re around people who have similar interests as you. Whether you’re a developer, designer, or blogger – we’re all using WordPress and can share ideas.

2. Try using the tool or technology

The past two WordCamps I’ve attended, Steve Zehngut from Zeek Interactive, have introduced me to new tools in WordPress development – Underscores and Foundation. Underscores is an empty theme you use to create your own theme. It has the basic structure setup so you have a starting point to building your WordPress theme. Foundation is a responsive framework, a great tool for building a responsive theme.

I’m already using Underscores for projects and plan on using Foundation for my next responsive website project.

The point being, that it’s worth trying out some of these tools you learn about.

3. Plugins over functions.php

This doesn’t apply to every website, but in the case of a website that maintains certain functionalities, plugins are your friend.

We’ve all had the instance where you build a new theme for a website, but realise that the old theme had functions you still need. You then have to dig through the previous theme and grab the function to integrate into your new theme. That’s a hassle and unnecessary.

Build the functionality into a plugin. Then no matter which theme you use, you’ll have that functionality available to enable and disable at your will.

4. Responsive: Design or build as you go?

Tammy Hart’s talk about ‘Designing a Theme in the Browser’ had me conflicted. On one hand, the idea of not designing an entire responsive site sounds sort of nice. Rather than following a design and specific rules, you get to build the responsive theme the way you think it should work. Often this is the easier route because you know of the limitations and tricky areas.

The downside to this is you have to be upfront and strict with how flexible you can be with changes. The last thing you want is to have the client agree to letting you decide on the website’s responsive actions, but then spread the job out for months to make everything work the way they like.

On the other hand, there’s the design, scope, and budget. Client knows you can’t change everything and you have that as leverage. As long as you know what the design shows is possible, you don’t have to deal with endless changes.

5. Balance between home and work

For those of us who work from home, it’s easy to mix home and work life. In many cases, you’re either working too much or working too little. It’s tempting to respond to emails when you hear that email alert noise, regardless of  the hour. It’s also tempting to mute the speakers and take a nap on the couch while watching The View.

The idea is to set hours and rules (which I’m bad at). Make a schedule of days you work and the hours you’re available. Also allow some breaks during your work day where you go outside and get sunlight. It’s supposedly healthy to get sunlight and movement, and it allegedly gives you energy!


WordCamp Orange County really nailed the itinerary. Normally I like the schedule on my badge, but I think since the location was good and it wasn’t hard to find the rooms.


Ben May

Ben is Managing Director of The Code Company. He is passionate about working with publishers on clever and innovative ways to solve complex problems. He works with The Code Company team on all projects, bringing his perspective and problem solving skills to deliver great outcomes.

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