What I learned at WordCamp London

I’ve spent the last few days at WordCamp London 2019, a huge WordPress community event. It’s always exciting to get together with others in the field, picking up new knowledge and adding to my burgeoning promotional T‒shirt collection.

There was a lot to do, and a lot to learn, with speakers and workshops from across the industry.

It’s impossible to go through everything I learned over the course of the weekend, but here are a few of the highlights:

PageSpeed ‒ think about more than just a number

Website speed is a hugely important consideration and something we’re always trying to optimise as part of the build process. If a visitor gets bored waiting for your site to load and leaves, you’ve lost their business. It’s as simple as that.

In Sabrina Zeidan’s talk, we explored some tips and tricks, and went over the pros and cons of different approaches. It’s tempting to just fixate on a metric ‒ PageSpeed currently being the most popular.

But, while helpful, PageSpeed is just a tool. Think about what the numbers mean and how they compare to your competitors to ensure you’re optimising for people, not just machines.

Website attackers need to be right once; us, every time

Security is a scary thing to think about, and it’s even scarier to consider what could go wrong.

In Tim Nash’s talk, we looked at some website hacks from the perspective of the attacker, and some of the most common ways that websites fall prey to their cunning strategies.

Security is something you should always consider when planning a site ‒ what do you stand to lose? Whether you risk falling afoul of GDPR, or simply having a broken site for a day, it’s important to have an internal plan of action for when the worst happens. This is something you can’t outsource to your agency, your hosts or anyone else, so you need to make sure you’re prepared for any problems that may occur.

 The tricky world of software and image licensing

On the WordCamp Contributor Day, I worked as part of the Theme Review team, assessing WordPress themes against a number of criteria to see if they could be approved for submission to the WordPress.org directory.

Contributor days like this are a great opportunity to give something back to the Open Source software that makes a lot of my work possible.

Security is a major part of the review, but the other biggest area is licensing – with all themes needing to be compatible with WordPress’ GPL license.

There are a lot of technical details you can go into here, but one thing stood out for me, which can be applied to a lot of work: Make sure you know what you can do with the image or software that you’ve bought or downloaded.

There’s often a temptation to just grab something labelled free and assume it will work out, but that’s often far from the case. Some (free) licenses put specific restrictions on what you can (and can’t) do with images and software, also specifying whether you need to link to their source.

Make sure you check out the usage details or you could end up in hot water.

Community ‒ WordPress’ greatest strength

Every time I go to a WordPress event, I’m blown away by the friendly and inclusive nature of the community. Everyone truly comes together to make the project the best it can be, and to pass on their skills. This applies to freelancers, hobbyists and even development houses.

Despite the fact there’s a lot of money in the industry, the Open Source principles encourage information sharing and collaboration, rather than the more secretive approach found in some technology sectors.

For me, that’s the greatest strength of the Open Source community, and WordPress is a pinnacle of what we can achieve together.

Author: Joe Bailey-Roberts

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