Empathy: The Secret Ingredient in WordPress Work, Development, and Success

Today at the first inaugural WordCamp Maine, I presented a talk with the title “Empathy: The Secret Ingredient in WordPress Development, Work, and Success.” Below, my slides, along with notes and additional info.

I’d love to hear your feedback or ideas — please leave them in the comments or on Twitter!




Why the gdgt+AOL union is a rallying cry for the WordPress community

In my latest article on WP Daily, I talk about why the recent acquisition of tech site gdgt by AOL’s tech publishing arm might be bad news for WordPress in the enterprise:

I’m suggesting that old, tired, and unfair “WordPress is for traditionally-formatted blogs” trope may still be a factor when online media properties choose their technology platforms.

If that misconception is a factor when enterprises choose platforms, it can be particularly troubling as media companies (such as AOL, Vox, and Buzzfeed before them) choose and promote in-house platforms.

If it’s true – that WordPress is passed over, at least in part, because of the outdated and incorrect notion that it’s too generic and not customizable enough for enterprise – what can we do as developers?

Read the whole thing, and share your take in the comments! Thank you to WP Daily for publishing the article – check them out for all kinds of great news and commentary on WordPress.


New article on ideas for WordPress themes

Thank you to WP Daily for publishing my article on the scope of WordPress themes: Should we think about new and better ways to make themes fit into the larger site development process? Here’s a snippet:

Traditionally, themes don’t have opinions about the admin area; don’t acknowledge the presence of frequently-used tools (such as default CPT files); and certainly don’t include files that won’t end up living in the theme’s folder. Themes establish a design philosophy for 40% of a live site – what about the other aspects of building a functional, customized site?

Read the full article and share your thoughts!

Groundwork: A WordPress starter theme

Inspired by my love for WordPress theme development and a great presentation by developer Sean Butze I attended at this year’s WordCamp Boston, I’m happy to present Groundwork, a WordPress starter theme.

Beyond the usual starter theme basics, Groundwork features many nice customizations to a stock WordPress install, including:

  • Custom log in screen logo & styles;
  • Customized admin area including logo and dashboard;
  • Customized/advanced wp-config and wp-config-local (yes, that’s outside the scope of a standard theme);
  • Basic responsive layout;
  • LESS for better stylesheets;
  • Best practices for speed and mark-up.

In short, Groundwork aims to encourage a more tailored and unique WordPress experience for you and/or your clients from how their site responds on multiple devices to how the admin feels when editing a page.

Groundwork is heavily inspired by the following people and projects, which I encourage you to check out:

I welcome your comments and feedback, and I hope it helps you do great work.

View/Download Groundwork on Github

New mobile version

Last fall, I released a mobile version of this very site. At the time, I wanted something quick, so I used a third-party RSS-to-HTML service, FeedDigest, to port my blog’s feed back into a stripped-down HTML page. As I wrote back then, I knew there was a better way. Here’s what I wanted to implement with an upgraded mobile edition of this site:

A simpler URL: My original mobile URL was http://mobile.jasonclarke.org. While this is something (and I stress something) of a standard, I felt the domain was too long too ‘disconnected’ from the brand of my main site. So I chose to go with jasonclarke.org/m (something else of a standard), as I hope it will be easier and quicker to type.

A better back-end: As I said, my initial implementation was lacking. Relying on (even a great) third-party service isn’t entirely optimal, especially with the excellent WordPress as my blog software. Now, the new version relies on WordPress’ native custom templates, and a doubling of the WordPress loop, to create a stripped-down, mobile page that automatically grabs posts directly from my database rather than porting them through a third-party. Even better, I have direct, integrated control of the page via my WordPress admin area, either via editing the page itself or editing my templates within the Presentation editor. This beats my old system, where I had to get at the separate mobile domain via straight FTP.

In addition to these WordPress hacks, I also made a variety of modifications to my theme files (header and footer, specifically), to detect via a variable whether or not a particular page is defined as “mobile” (as opposed to standard). This way, I can utilize single headers and footers for both types of sites without having to create nominally different versions of my theme’s headers and footers just for my mobile site.

So if you’re a mobile web user, check out http://jasonclarke.org/m and let me know what you think.