WordCamp UK 2011 Talk Notes

This post is simply a record of the notes I took when I was at WordCamp UK 2011. I know I’ll find it useful and thought that maybe others will as well. And if not, at least my work colleagues should :)

WordCamp Intro

  • VaultPress – Used for realtime backups. Takes snapshots of site. Can rollback to earlier versions of plugins or themes etc. Paid for, $15 per month for basic account.
  • Research WPMU as a strategy for having separate smaller sites instead of one massive site. Definitely helps to improve performance.
  • Look into Gravity forms. A paid for plugin that is supposed to be awesome for form building. Can use conditionals and integrates with other services such as Campaign Monitor & MailChimp.

Legacy to Latest

  • Enable debugging after performing upgrades as well as before them. Helps to resolve the use of deprecated functions, or such functions that are marked as so. Setting is in wp-config.php.
  • When using custom post types remember to flush permalinks if you don’t see them.

Create a theme in 1 hour

  • Read theme guidelines by automatic/wp for best practices.
  • Study the twenty-eleven theme to see how those best practices are put into use.
  • Read up on the 960 CSS grid. Is it any better than Yahoo grids?
  • Research CssEdit. An application to edit your CSS files. Is it worth using over plain text editing?

Beyond the 5 minute install

To much to take down in this talk. Only captured some highlights. View the slides at http://sltaylor.co.uk/wordcampuk2011.pdf to get everything else.

  • Lock the wp-admin directory – IP restrict and/or use HTTP authentication for a second login layer.
  • Protect the .htaccess and wp-config.php files from being accessed with the browser.
  • Don’t use the %categories%/%postname% format for your URL structure. This is known to make large sites really crawl. Fix should be coming in a later version of WP.
  • On core upgrades check the sample wp-config file for updates. You may want to back port any new changes into your wp-config.php file.
  • It is recommended to change the MySQL database table prefix from the default for better security. A caveat though is that some crappy plugins may not work right by hard coding the default table prefix name as opposed to calling the relevant function to retrieve it.
  • Limit the number of post revisions that WP stores within the database. Helps to keep the DB more responsive.
  • You can disable theme and plugin editing from within the admin by using this setting define(‘DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT, true)
  • If you create a /mu-plugins directory and drop plugins in here then they will auto-run, bypassing the need for activation.
  • For people who cannot or should not perform updates to plugins and the core, disable the update notification prompts.
  • For improved speed performance, use the Google Libraries. This switches requests to commonly loaded WP files from using your own server over to Google CDN, where the user may have those resources already cached.
  • There are plugins available to improve login security by auto-locking accounts after three failed attempts for a set period of time and another to force the user to create a strong password.
  • Look into the members plugin for more security and I think permission levels.

WOW Plugins

Must have or be aware of plugins
  • Gravity – Already mentioned above.
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast – Some people are switching from All In One SEO and just starting new sites with this plugin.
  • Google XML Sitemaps – Tip: Turn off the reindexing of every page when only updating a single post.
  • Jigoshop, WP E-Commerce and Marketpress – Investigate these if you need to add e-commerce to your site.
  • Jetpack – Offers 6 plugins within one. Includes one for spelling and punctuation.

NB. Deliberately missed out some I already knew about.

Niche plugins
  • Pages Tree View – Only needed when you have a lot of pages, say a hundred plus. Provides an enhanced navigation to easily find specific pages.
  • Contact Form 7 – An alternative to Gravity forms. Not as good. Downside, slows sites down by loading it’s CSS, JS and images resources on every page and not just the pages that has a form on it.
  • Easy Table Creator – Allows easier creation and editing of HTML tables. Includes built-in CSS and JS polishing by default. This can be turned off
  • Custom Post Type UI – Provides an easy interface into creating custom post types and taxonomies as opposed to writing you own plugins.
  • Eg-Attachments – Like the image gallery viewer but for everything that isn’t an image e.g. PDFs, MS Office docs etc.
  • Widgets on Pages – Allows you to add any widgets within a page/content area so you are no longer restricted to the sidebar.
  • Widget Logic, Dynamic Widgets – ?????

10 proven steps to improve SEO

  1. Keyword research – Use Google adwords. Look at the Panda update by Google as well as Adrenaline.
  2. Homepage links – Have greater weighting. Use a site map.  Use Google XML sitemaps in WP.
  3. Page structure – Create one page per keyword. Ensure all filenames, including images are descriptive.
  4. Copywriting – At least 250 words. One or two keywords per page.
  5. All in one SEO pack. Follow character limits. Mention keyword once in title and twice in description.
  6. Blog. Become an authoritative source. Use keywords in site category names.
  7. Social media and online PR – twitterfeed.com, rssgrafiti.com
  8. Link building. Make useful tools and ask people to link to your site.
  9. Don’ts – All obvious things.
  10. Calls to action – Again use common sense.

Resources: Sphinn, Majestic SEO.

Choosing the best theme for your site

Theme providers
  • Premium Themes: Elegant themes, studio press, woo themes
  • Theme Market Places: themeforest, mojo themes, wonder themes
  • Free themes: WordPress.org only. Other sites are unsafe and cannot be trusted due to security issues.
Theme Notes
  • Know your site strategy before choosing a theme.
  • Headway themes is for ultimate control and flexibility but be aware this maybe too much and over complicate things. Others are woo press – canvas and page lines.
  • Test a themes applicability by hacking it with Firebug. Gives a quick and immediate idea if suitable.
  • You can use a site like Photo Bucket to share your hacked theme with a client to help get feedback.
  • You can use Adobe Cooler for helping you to pick complementary colours to go with any primary or constrained colour choices.

Site Doctors

  • Use http://www.semrush.com/ and http://www.majesticseo.com/ to help with your SEO.
  • Definitely use schema.org to help tell search engines everything about your site. This is done by defining search engine meta data about the site to help improve it’s SEO ranking.

Associated image note by Saskia, available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic licence.

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