Saturday June 12th and Sunday June 13th saw Bournemouth host the annual WordCamp event at the Executive Business Centre. It’s the seventh event of its kind, aimed at providing multi-track teaching and resources for WordPress publishers, designers and developers. We sent three team members along in the baking Bournemouth heat to see what it was all about and report back…

Toby

I was excited to hear that Bournemouth had been awarded as the host venue for WordCamp 2014, as I’d wanted to attend in previous years, but a trek north of “the wall” to cold-sounding places like Lancaster seemed like too much effort! So it was with considerable joy I journeyed the huge distance of about 50 yards from the Createful office to the Executive Business Centre which was hosting the event.

It turned out to be an ideal location for something like WordCamp, with 3 well-equipped lecture halls spread over 4 floors, plus the cafe on the ground floor. In fact, there were so many floors in use that it was tricky at first find my way around! I don’t think it helped that the rooms were labelled A, B and C on the printed handout, and 1, 2 and 3 on the website, but we got there in the end! A hectic weekend with the family meant I couldn’t attend both days or the social events surrounding the conference, but what I did see, I liked.

Following registration (darn – just remembered I forgot to pick up my free WordCamp T-shirt!), I headed upstairs to the 3rd floor (then back to the ground floor, then back up to the 2nd floor!) where attendees were gathering and getting fuelled up on tea & coffee. I met up with Michelle, Richard and Gareth and we went to the introductory session with Tony Scott. Attendance was good, with around 80 or so people from a wide range of disciplines.

To start, I opted to go to the Coding Challenge talk with Richard, despite the full knowledge that I, in my creative capacity would have little to bring to the table! Hosted by Dave Coveney, we were told the challenge was to make a JavaScript game, and Richard and I spent a few minutes throwing around ideas linked to camera APIs and bubble bursting! One idea I had was to create a game that would help people choose (and more importantly remember) a good, secure password for their account (the importance of which was addressed later in the How to Secure Your WordPress Website talk).

Next was “How to Secure You WordPress Website” with Mike Pead, which was thankfully a check list of a whole bunch of stuff we’ve been introducing to all our WordPress-powered client sites for some time. The list includes (but is not limited to) using the iThemes Security (previously Better WP Security) plugin to monitor changes to core files, prevent common attacks on the admin area and more. Some of the more experienced members of the audience disagreed about one or two of the suggestions made, but this was more to clarify what was said – not that anything Mike said was inaccurate. After lunch, I opted for the “Finding Better Quality Clients with WordPress” by Michael Killen. This was a good opportunity for me to get my sketch pens out, as he had some very interesting things to say about the general concept of attracting business.

All in all it was a great weekend; well organised and delivered. I’m not sure how far I’d travel for next year’s event, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the location.

Michelle

I attended WordCamp Bournemouth both days but the highlights for me were on the Sunday. Donning my newly acquired WordCamp t-shirt and lanyard, no doubt looking suitably awesome and not at all nerdy (massive lie), I made the exhausting 15 minute trek to the event. I felt very fortunate; I met someone who had come all the way from Birmingham!

Mark Wilkinson (@wpmark) did an excellent and accessible talk for us design-minded folk titled “From Local to Staging to Live Using Version Control and Deployment Tools” which for me tied up some loose ends of my Git and MAMP knowledge. It perhaps won’t help so much with my work here at Createful as we have our own internal methods, but it will definitely be a huge benefit running my own personal blogs and projects in the future.

Later in the day, Jack Lenox (@jacklenox) did a talk on the Underscores starter theme from Automattic. For me, this couldn’t have come at a better time as I had actually started creating a new WordPress theme from scratch earlier in the week. I was trying to re-hash the ‘Twenty Fourteen’ theme to my own ends and discovering that it was perhaps a bigger job than I anticipated. Trying the Underscores theme out at home, I was able to hook Foundation 5 and SASS into it very quickly, and unlike other base/starter themes encountered in the past, I didn’t have to sift through and throw out reams upon reams of unwanted scripts and styles. It is a very bare bones structure which Createful will probably start using for future new WordPress builds.

Lastly, in “WOW Plugins”, Kimb Jones (@mkjones) went through some plugins which we perhaps didn’t know about but could be very useful. Some standouts for me were front-end browser editors Spots and Front-end Editor, Clarity, Post Types Switcher and Bug Herd. All in all, for me it was a very educational and inspirational weekend; both days, I couldn’t wait to get home and try out some of the things I had learnt! Effectively losing a weekend was a small negative in a sea of positive benefits and I feel wiser for the experience, so many thanks to all of the speakers and organisers who made it such a great weekend!

Richard

WordCamp Bournemouth was my first WordPress event, and as a regular WordPress user and developer it was great to attend a well organised event hosted so close to home.

I was well aware of the excellent community behind the project, but I really enjoyed meeting with such a diverse group of people to chat about how they are using the system. Certainly as a developer, it gave me a renewed perspective on the various ways in which WordPress is being used, and also how the project is evolving to meet the demands of its users.

I particularly enjoyed the talk from Rachel McCollin about customising the WordPress dashboard. Rachel went into great detail about developing with the WordPress dashboard in an extensible way. She discussed not only the various widget and metabox APIs, but also how to completely change the admin theme to suit a project. It was great to see how developers are using the powerful extensibility of WordPress to meet a variety of needs, but equally, to learn how to do it properly.

I also enjoyed chatting with Herb Miller about improving the performance of WordPress sites through use of various caching technologies. We exchanged tips on several WordPress cache plugins, and how to extract the best performance for website users. It is clear that as the complexity of the average WordPress site grows, performance and page load time becomes a greater concern. Equipped with some handy tips I left WordCamp Bournemouth with a new-found understanding and appreciation of the amazingly dedicated WordPress community.

(Leader image courtesy of Naomi Kay)