WordPress Europe 2014 Conference

Written by on in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Notes I took during the talks of the first and second day of the conference.


The conference was 2-track and I focused on the “lighter” topics that centered around humanities, design and especially usability. The reason being a) that I get a lot more from the actual atmosphere during the talk that I don’t from the videos or slides. I will checkout the developer talks with enough time to skip or pause when they are available. And b) I want to attend Contributors Day on monday and focus on design and usability there, so it made sense to prepare fore those topics.

Noel Tock: Beyond the Code

Diagnosis: Higher WordPress adoption means more work for us and less time for ourself

WP adoption rate is bigger than we as skilled WP workers can catch up with. The amount of work developers and designers face, is eating up on our ability for self development.
Noel describes how web design used to be what he does when he had time off from his job and how the “unstructured” time helped to be more creative in things that he is passionate about. Now that the web is his main job and he tries to find a way to make room for his non-work related priorities.

Noels approach: use tools to structure your work-life basis

Noel wrote an inventory of all the things he is interested in, to find what he actually wants to do with the limited time he has.

He uses ReadKit to collect all interesting articles from sources like sidebar.io, Medium or HN in one place. He tries to separate between “discovery mode” where his skims rapidly through content streams and “consumption mode”.

He uses a Trello board to organize his todos in columns from one for future tasks, one he is doing next and the ones he shipped. He uses color labels to mark projects.
He uses Rescue time to track how much time he spends on certain kinds of activities. That allowed him to pursue more projects he is passionate about.
(from the Q&A) His system is more like a default routine.

Yana Petrova: Why sometimes happiness requires effort: depression in IT

Diagnosis: Depression kills more people than are killed in car crashes.

We all experience it in our life, yet nobody talks about it (that’s the first and second rule of depression). Yana shares the story of a friend called Victor. He started coding early in his life around 10 but then got lost into the feeling of “having to catch up” with his work until he lost the meaning for his life.

Yanas recipes to cope with depression

  1. Take deep breaths. It helps you relax. Create rituals for you. Don’t give away this time for work
  2. Make lists. These are your backup plans so don’t loose focus in your life.
  3. (I couldn’t read the slide)
  4. Think about your thinking. Create a user manual for your self and don’t forget to provide it to others.
  5. Learn to listen. Learn to share.

Like a food recipe you need to adapt them to your taste.

She recommends to read If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him: The Pilgrimage Of Psychotherapy Patients and the Black Book of Depression.
A member of the audience recommends practicing Yoga. Another one says he took 6 weeks cycling through the world to find his real self. Another tries to get off the computer and phones as much as possible.

Konstantin Obenland: Inside Underscores

Underscores has become the semi-standard starter theme at wordpress.com. Tested against edge cases. Based on the development of the 4 default themes. Has smart defaults and advanced defaults. It is unopinionated about what libraries and frameworks you want to use. Supports a lot of things out of the box like responsive menus and accessibility. Use it!

Karin Christen: A modern take on interactive prototyping

“Interaction should be designed on the real canvas, the browser”

Mockup in Sketch, design in the browser.

Pick a framework: Bootstrap or Foundation. They have a fluid grid and components.

Start with 1) wireframes, 2) add content as soon as possible, 3) refine the design and 4) let users test it. Then implement it in code for production and add more features if necessary.

Karin describes the making of ricardo.eu where this approach worked very well. All frontend styles are documented in a styleguide even later on.

“The modern prototype is living playground, not a project milestone.”

Dario Jazbec Hrvatin: Usability Testing: Have Fun and Improve Your Work

Use Skype, Google Hangout or what ever you like to bring all test participants together. Fast internet connections are required for the participants of the testing sessions (testers, test-leaders and observers).

Find testers on your website/blog, search in forums or social networks. Meet them at a 5 minute talk before and evaluate if they fit your requirements.

During the tests the observers will be watching and taking notes. Prepare a document to collect all the tests.

Create scenarios that testers need to go through. Setup a testing site and provide logins for testers. Explain that the test is of your product not of the tester. Ask them to verbalize their thoughts and be blunt and honest. Get them comfortable; ask about they background (family, origin, occupation). This is essential for a successful test.

Guide the tester through the test. Be neutral and don’t help but be friendly. Have phrases ready like “What do you think?” Use the last 5 minutes to ask for additional questions, answer questions they might have and thank them.

Ask observers to read the issues they noticed. Compare notes, discuss possible solutions, rank problems. Create and distribute fixes to implement.

You will learn a lot about your own products, make friends, have fun and improve your work.

Recommended reading:


Hristo Pandjarov: The Dark Side of the WordPress Speed Optimizations

Recommends Integrity for site checking, WP Rocket for Caching and GTmetrix for measuring site performance.

A member of the audience asks about Edge Side Includes. Hristo says it’s hard to implement with WP.

In the Q&A session I ask about if its a good idea to use Conditional Tags to conditionally load CSS of plugins like WooCommerce or load them all the time and concatenate them into one file that the browser loads once and caches on every consecutive page load. We can’t agree on a general answer; Hristo recommends benchmarking to find out.

Andrey “Rarst” Savchenko: The Craft of Answering WordPress Questions

Recommends using keyboard shortcuts on WPSE. Make sure you visit your account settings and enable them.

WPSE Profile

Mark Jaquith: Next Generation WordPress Hosting Stack

A WP installation has an infinite number of possible content views, so there are limits to static HTML output caching. Plus only anonymous users profit from it.

Shared hosting is slow and unflexible because they try to please everyone. Dedicated WP hosters are Siteground, Pressable, Pagely, WP Engine, GoDaddy, Kinsta, Pantheon. Mark likes Linode and Digital Ocean.

Nginx is the best (see his nginx.conf). PHP-FPM is fast (use PHP 5.5!). HHVM is very fast but might not be production-ready for everyone. Nice things: query cache, mysqltuner.pl, HyperDB. Redis (Pantheon has it). Fragment Caching. TLC Transients. OpCache is included in PHP5 but if you need user caching try out APCu. SPDY

Marks website havebabyneedstuff.com is very fast.

Tom Nowell: Code Deodorant

Let your editor auto-indent. Don’t mute errors or add anonymous objects and functions to hooks (Otto on WPSE).

Q&A with Matt Mullenweg

Matt talks about the role of media in the future of blogging and WP. Facebook and twitter get the major share of published media (photos, videos…) nowadays. Custom post types and post formats are a ways to incorporate these into WP. It’s also a good way to own your content and keep it available in the future (cool URIs don’t change!).

No plans about a premium theme/plugin store inside wordpress.org.

“Push notifications are for mobile what email was for desktop”
Om Malik