Finally feeling settled in Austin, I took my head out of the proverbial sand to pop in to an Austin WordPress Meetup hosted by Pat Ramsey. A diverse group took advantage of the Cospace hospitality to network with some peers and professionals, share a few tips and tricks, and trade resources and opportunities. If you are doing anything in WordPress, or have considered as much, check out the group in Austin or your neck of the woods.
Who’s Who of Austin WordPress
A few fantastic suggestions and tips came out of the event, as well as the chance to meet WordPress Developer Carol Cody, Houdini Labs founder and WP Designer Eric Weiss (by the way, I’d love to talk more in that regard Eric), DreamLadders founder Kevin Wilson, of course Pat Ramsey, and the man who reminds you why you want to retire early, providing SEO on the road, Dan Hunt (who seems rather elusive online).
I regret not having more time spent to catch everyone.
On the plus side, I’ll be checking in to Cospace a bit more as a home away from home.
The Good Stuff – Or, Plugins You Should Use
- W3 Total Cache – One of the least understood (or known) considerations in search engine optimization is your page load time. Simply, the amount of time it takes for the page to load is a factor in where and how Google ranks your site. Little understood, not in that it’s a complex consideration; rather, it’s fairly straightforward, reduce image sizes, keep code concise, and make it easier to load all the content that serves your site. The question is how, and the answer often lies in technical considerations such as caching and pixel dimensions. I’ve explored plugins to address this in the past but each experience has been fraught with conflicts and bugs. Thanks to Austin, I’ve discovered W3 Total Cache and it works like a charm. Turn and on and watch as your site races past everyone else. This is going to immediate use! (well… not quite “a charm” but let’s keep that quiet… if any WordPress ninjas want to troubleshoot this, W3 doesn’t seem to like Redirection)
- Highslide – Popups are annoying aren’t they? That said, there are some elegant ways to use the concept of a popup to create better user experiences. A lightbox is a popular technology used by photography sites and photographers to display their portfolio. Images float above the page while the background is shaded, creating an experience like that which you might have seen on Hulu (quick tip though, they are terrible ways to present photos if you are considering SEO – you are trading presentation for traffic). There are countless ways to create a lightbox experience on your site but what I’ve always wanted is an easy way to show not images but web content – forms, FAQs, or products available for purchase. This, I’ve long believed, eluded us; until Austin, again, delivered, with an introduction to Highslide.
- PHPurchase – As some of you know, I do a lot of work with eCommerce, both in a marketing context but also through the development of online stores. WordPress is easily one of the single greatest eCommerce platforms available. Surprised? Don’t be. Its flexibility as a CMS, dynamic format, and ease of use makes it perfect for would be store owners. Don’t let me mislead you, if you want support and an easy to implement a store, you probably want to go with a web service (Volusion is top of my list for their brilliant customer experience and insights), but for those that want complete control over everything, let’s set you up on WordPress. The catch – eCommerce platforms are difficult to distinguish from one another without getting your hands dirty with the granular details – they all do SEO, shopping engine feeds, carts, credit card processing, etc. It’s the details that matter, so recommendations are gold. Volusion is the go to web service because their customer support rivals Zappos. I haven’t yet used PHPurchase but it was the hands down winner at WordPress Austin.
Don’t miss out next time, if you’re in Austin, join the Meetup here and get involved. Groups are popping up all over the country and should be easy to find in your neighborhood.
Oh! Icing on the cake…
While I didn’t have a chance to meet Bill Erickson, as he didn’t make the event, he’s already been an unbelievable resource via the WordPress Austin Google group. I tip my hat to you sir for the advice and look forward to meeting.