WordCamp US: Afterthoughts on Lessons Learned and WordPress Trends

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Photo courtesy of Mendel Kurland (Evangelist at GoDaddy, @ifyouwillit)

I’m fresh off the plane from Philadelphia and still working through all the experiences I had over the weekend at WordCamp US. It’s a testament to what a devoted and collaborative bunch the WordPress community is that several hundred attendees stuck around for a full day on Sunday for Contributor Day after the conference officially ended on Saturday night. The energy was infectious, and it was encouraging to see so many people contributing their time to an open source project. The WordPress community continues to impress me with its collaborative, forward-thinking spirit.

The vitality of the “people” component of WordPress was just one of a handful of lessons I internalized this weekend. As I made my way through the conference, I had the good fortune to have conversations with freelancers and attended a variety of fascinating talks. Here are a few of my takeaways from WordCamp US and some predictions around next year’s trends I’d like to share.

The Top Three Lessons Learned

  1. WordPress continues to evolve technically in really exciting and forward-thinking ways. New approaches like REST API and JavaScript are being incorporated into WordPress as those technologies become widely adopted and developer expectations advance.
  2. The “hallway track” is just as important as the formal presentation. Many of the conversations I had with site owners, designers and developers as I made my way around the convention center were just as informative and insightful as the prepared talks given by speakers. While both types of experiences were extremely valuable, it’s good to remember that serendipity rules, and you never know who you’re going to stand next to in the coffee line.
  3. Over a decade into its evolution, the WordPress community is just as vibrant and committed as ever. As I mentioned above, hundreds of WordPress community members stuck around on Sunday to contribute core code, provide documentation and participate in other related activities. By nature, WordPress is an open source project built from a collective effort—so I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that people are willing to donate their time, but it’s still awesome to see!

WordPress Trends in 2016

  • An evolving technical architecture: WordPress is increasingly moving towards a new technical architecture. Saturday’s keynote was given by Matt Mullenweg and he recommended that anyone involved in WordPress “learn JavaScript, deeply.” Many technical changes in the next year will have to do with the modernization of WordPress, and JavaScript will be used for a number of capabilities that historically were handled via legacy methods. It will be a primary focus for the WordPress community in 2016, and GoDaddy is making sure our customers and teams are thinking about this.
  • Accessibility: There was a lot of conversation around how accessibility should be a core design principle, not an afterthought. The community wants to ensure that anyone working with WordPress is able to do so, regardless of potential challenges. This is a really forward-looking, progressive trend that I’m excited to see evolve.
  • Global reach: The internationalization of WordPress will continue to accelerate. There’s a goal to have the top 100 plugins translated to all supported WordPress languages in 2016—that’s pretty cool!
  • Simplicity: WordPress is a project that continues to grow in size, and new users may find it difficult to find the best way to get started. Programs from partners are popping up like GoDaddy’s Hot 100 list that catalogues the most popular plugins and themes each week, as well as its Plugin Partner Program that offers an official badge to approved plugins. Roundups and verifications will continue to help simplify user experiences and give developers more exposure to the audience they want to reach.
  • Cutting-edge technologies: New advances including PHP7 and WordPress REST API will be important to the WordPress community next year.

RELATED: Chris Carfi on The WHIR: Cloud Talks podcast – listen here

Biggest Takeaways from WordCamp US

  • I was blown away by how smoothly this event went, considering it was the very first year. The organizers of WordCamp US deserve a huge round of applause.
  • I’d like to see more viewpoints represented by the attendees. There was reasonable gender diversity across the speakers, but the audience ranks skewed exceptionally male. It was obvious to me that the organizers took diversity very seriously when organizing the speaker panels, but I was disappointed to see such homogeneity in the attendees. Given GoDaddy’s commitment to advancing women in tech and involvement with Grace Hopper, I’d love for us to work with the organizers to ensure a more diverse audience from a race and gender perspective.
  • Next year I’d be interested to see more about the business of WordPress. Perhaps this could be another track on Contributor Day as well.

This year’s WordCamp US gave me so much to think about as we close out 2015. Did you attend the conference? I’d love to hear your takeaways and predictions for WordPress in 2016! Comment below or feel free to reach out to me directly via @ccarfi on Twitter.

About the Author

Chris Carfi is product evangelist at GoDaddy on the GoDaddy Pro team. Chris is a Cloud and Hosting expert and WordPress enthusiast, and a veteran of both startups and the enterprise. He has a deep track record in developing customer community and evangelist programs for brands such as Adobe, H&R Block and Aruba Networks.

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