This year I had the pleasure of attending WordCamp Chicago, June 28-30 2013. If you've never attended a WordCamp before, I highly recommend checking one out.

Speakers and Presentations

I actually attended both of Gloria's sessions, Text Widget for the Non Coder and Create Great User Documents. When she introduced herself, it was very interesting to hear that she has been speaking about web technologies for a long time now, beginning with a CSS presentation she gave back in the late 90's.

In her first discussion, she talked about the importance for WordPress plugin developers to write good user guides. Her personal perspective was an important one for me - If there is not good documentation, she generally won't use the plugin. Good documentation, first off, actually helps users get up and running with the plugin. It can also show the author's willingness to help the WordPress community use the plugin - which can include both updating the plugin and responding to forum threads about the plugin.

In her second discussion, Text Widget for the Non Coder, she demonstrated how easy it is to use the standard WordPress text widget to accomplish many of the tasks many people naturally turn to additional plugins for. For example, you can avoid unnecessary plugins and instead use text widgets to show things such as Facebook and Twitter feeds, or embed things like Google maps and YouTube videos. Adding additional plugins can cause more work for your server and also pose security risks, so using the text widget when you can will save some headache down the road.

I was able to talk with Erik the night before his presentation, Grow Your Business NOW: Maximize Marketing Efficiencies With WordPress. I had the chance to learn and ask questions one on one about ORBTR, a WordPress plugin he helps manage, that helps give valuable insight into specific actions your website visitors take. I initially thought it was another analytic package like Google Analytics, but Erik explained the value of being able to know details about each individual user to your site. Unlike other stat programs that only give you generalized data about your traffic, such as Google Analytics, ORBTR allows you to see which specific users are visiting which specific pages on your site. When your talking with potential customers, knowing exactly what pages on your website they were reading can give you the upper hand.

Erik's presentation showed how ORBTR can help you with your Marketing Campaigns, but his talk was much more than simply a plug for the plugin. Marketing campaigns can be very extensive, usually including email marketing, social media, presentations and talks, and more. With all of these chances to speak to your clients and potential clients, what are you going to say? It was a bit of an aha! moment when he explained that you can use the exceptional content you write in your blog to help drive all of these areas. Focus on writing really helpful and interesting content for your blog, and that content can then be used to feed all of your marketing channels.

I also had some interesting conversations with the following speakers before their presentations:

Joe presented, Accessibility & WordPress: Developing for the Whole World. This topic covered many things you normally wouldn't think about, in regard to WordPress and Accessibility. Unless you specifically designed a website with accessibility in mind, how else would you know what to pay attention to?
Tom's presentation, Plugin Unit Testing for WordPress, covered WordPress' testing environment (which not many know about, including myself).
Michelle gave a great talk about website design. The typical mentality is that a good designer creates beautiful websites. Well yes, but there's much more. Website designers focus on fully understanding their client's goals, and they use their knowledge of things like share of voice, call to action, and usability to help their clients meet their goals.
Andy presented, Type on the Web. I was able to talk with Andy before he gave his talk. It's interesting to learn how in depth fonts can be, and you can tell Andy really knew his stuff.
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