Why Design Matters

Good design helps a website stand out; even more importantly, it increases engagement and the amount of time a user will spend on your site. How users feel about your brand, how they engage with it, can be largely dictated by how user-friendly and pleasant to look at your website is. Read more

Why Everyone Should Learn to Code

Learning to code is like learning to speak another language; you have to learn a whole lot of new “words” and phrases, and if you get just one word or letter wrong, the person (website) you’re talking to might have no idea what you’re trying to say. Many people prefer to outsource coding work, or use plugins that allow them to do really cool things without needing to write a single line; even if that’s you, it’s worth knowing the basics so you can spot if something’s wrong, or make small tweaks if you need to. If supermodel Karlie Kloss can learn to code between international flights, fashion shows and photoshoots, you can fit some basic coding lessons around your busy life too.

code

It turns you from a consumer into a producer.

If you can’t code, you’re always buying someone else’s project or time; if you can, then you’re either building and selling entirely original content, or taking bits and pieces from other people and incorporating them into your own creation to make it better (like building your own house, and getting furniture from someone else to add colour and variety to your creation). It’s a guarantee that you’re going to stand out.

It allows you to fix – or at least patch – problems right away.

Rather than spending long hours waiting for the person who developed or maintains your website to come to your aid, knowing how to code allows you to fix the problem yourself – or at the very least, patch it so that your customers and visitors aren’t at risk of malware or suffering serious glitches during that time. The amount of money an online shop might lose just by being down for a few hours in a busy period could be staggering. You might not get to a point where you can perform major surgery on your website, but you can learn how to tie a pretty damned great bandage.

You can make sure that your project matches YOUR vision.

Trying to get another person to see the picture in your head is an incredibly different thing; even if you and your developer/designer are totally simpatico, they’re not always going to get things the way you want them. Knowing how to write your own child themes or even make small tweaks to someone else’s design will make it that much easier for you to transform your design dreams into reality.

Plugins Could Be The Key to Boosting Your WordPress Client List

When people commission a WordPress site, they’re looking for something unique; something that is as visually appealing as it is functional. They want a website that will give them an edge over their competition. They want people to think their site is as “cool” as it is useful. As a WordPress developer, there’s a number of tools you need in your professional toolbox to create sites that are so visually appealing, functional and interesting that you don’t need to fish for clients (instead, they come to you).

The ability to write good child themes is important; this is what sets a website apart visually, lets you choose colours and fonts that really celebrate someone’s personality and underlying business philosophy. What’s perhaps even more important is taking the time to test out a range of different plugins, with a range of different functions so you can turn your clients’ dreams into reality, whatever they might be.

plugins

There’s a lot of plugins that do similar things, but not all plugins are created equal. For example: BuddyPress is the best known social networking WordPress plugin (for a while, it was the only option), but support can be lacking and it doesn’t mimic the social networking experience people are now accustomed to (ie, Facebook). There’s a wide variety of plugins and services for people wanting to run online courses, from OptimiseMember to Moodle; which one you choose will depend on their content, and how they want to deliver the course. On top of that, not all plugins work well together; other plugins are an unintentional match made in heaven. What will make you really stand out as a developer is being able to give reasoned, individualised advice that will help your clients choose a set of plugins that’s really going to fit their needs and make their website shine.

If you’d like to see what PeepSo can offer your clients, join our community to see how it works. Once you’ve got a handle on the practical, it’s up to you and your client to dream big about what’s possible.

Interview: Bridie Amelia Designs

Bridie has been working with WordPress since 2011, and is really passionate about the platform; her website includes an entire page devoted to explaining why she thinks people should use WordPress, and the advantages it has over other web design choices. We interviewed her to find out more about what she does, why she loves WordPress; and in keeping with our Women of WordPress theme, we also asked who she looks up to in the world of WordPress and how gender has impacted her experience.

bridie amelia designs

Tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you do.
I’m a web + digital designer/developer with an extensive graphic and print background. I work closely with SMBs and digital marketing agencies on a freelance/contract basis, and provide services such as WordPress websites, print collateral, and animated banners to fulfill marketing, design and online presence needs. I’ve created e-commerce, membership and e-learning WordPress websites, and my focus is providing a smooth user experience for all users of the sites I create.
When did you start working with WordPress?
I did the classic seachange and moved north from Sydney when my firstborn was 2 months old. After my second child was born I moved back into part time work, and found how much the world of design and web had changed. I mean seriously, before having chidren we were making websites with frames and animated GIFs were an acceptable inclusion on a homepage! WordPress wasn’t even around.
In 2011 I inherited a client from a colleague who had a WordPress site. I’m what is now known as a digital native, having used computers from the age of 8 – our first computer at home ran on DOS, and had 40Kb of RAM! – my brothers and I used to type in BASIC games from a book, then play them. So diving into a new platform didn’t faze me – I learnt as I went, and haven’t looked back.
How has your experience as a WordPress professional changed over time (what’s different now to when you started)?
From a design and user experience perspective, template styles have changed immensely. In 2011 there were still a lot of skeuomorphic styles (when a design mimics real life, like a calculator interface that looks like a real calculator) were still pretty common. Since then trends have moved towards flat design, parallax, and minimalist. It’s also  absolutely essential now to have knowledge of responsive design and mobile device prototyping, as users commonly visit websites first on mobile devices then complete their tasks on desktop. There are some great responsive WordPress frameworks out there – Bootstrap is my preference.
 
What’s your favorite thing about the platform?
WordPress is so accessible, and open source, which means there is a great developer community and lots of free options for those starting out. As you move into more complex developments, there are also some great premium plugins that are well supported, like Paid Memberships Pro (PMPro), Gravity Forms and Woocommerce. The successful ones, which have a good market share, often have excellent integration with each other also.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
I absolutely love learning, and believe it’s the secret to staying young – in mind at least! – but as with any digital field, if you’re going to work with WordPress, you’ve got to understand every job will have a learning curve. My most exciting – and challenging at times – project so far has been developing a groundbreaking organisational change e-learning site, 12 Steps for Business (12SFB). This has been a pretty complex project that’s already been through three or four iterations – it brings together e-learning, membership and forum functionality to deliver something quite unique for small businesses to large corporations.

Do you think your gender has impacted your work or sense of professional community in any way?
I think as women we do tend to being more intuitive, and approach tech in a different way. I guess I’m very approachable for female business owners, and I understand that how a person feels when they visit a website is as important as ensuring a website functions correctly. You’ve got to assure a user when they visit a site, and this is a core aspect of user experience.

Who are some other WordPress women who have influenced or inspired you, and why?

@messica (Jessica Oros) of PMPro knows her stuff, and has been a fantastic help in some gritty custom PHP dev I’ve implemented for 12SFB. Michelle Shearer of Mamabake is just bloody inspiring (can I say that?) – not only is she a fellow fan of 90s riot grrl bands like Bikini Kill – but she’s (almost) singlehandedly built an online community of over 24,000 women using WordPress and Facebook.
What advice would you give to other women wanting to get into working with WordPress?
Don’t be intimidated – learn the difference between wordpress.org and wordpress.com. Start playing around with a wordpress.com site to learn the ropes, then move across to a self-hosted site. The more you try, the more you learn. Make use of developer forums – there’s so many out there, such as groups on Linked In and Google+, as well as support on wordpress.org. If you’ve got technical aptitude, check out Udemy or Lynda.com for basics in PHP and CSS. When you start working out your own solutions, don’t forget to post them to a relevant forum or thread for the benefit of others.