If you live in Cleveland, Akron, Lorraine, Canton, Youngstown or anywhere in-between in Ohio you’re in the heart of a thriving WordPress community. WordCamp NEO was held this past weekend at the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center. It was a great 2-day event with many important takeaways.

SiteLock was a sponsor and I had some great conversations with many of our fellow community members. In addition to sharing website security tips, we also learned a lot from everyone else attending.

Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center

Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center

Speaker Sessions

Below are some of the talks we were fortunate enough to attend.

Design for Real Life – Day One Keynote

Eric Meyer sharing a powerful personal story.

Eric Meyer sharing a powerful personal story.

Eric Meyer’s presentation discussed the fact that traditional customer personas aren’t enough and that you can’t always predict who will use your products. More importantly, the emotional state of your users matters when they’re on your site and you should be designing for personal experiences.

He also shared a very personal and powerful personal story to illustrate his point that had the audience in tears.

UI Testing with Selenium in PHP

Ben Cool showed us the importance of User Interface testing to increase product quality and decrease support costs. He showed how to Automate UI testing with the Selenium WebDriver using PHP.

Ben Cool

Ben Cool getting technical.

Streamlining Mockups & Theme Styling

Shelby Elliot focused on things she learned the hard way when working with themes for her clients. The processes she shared routinely save her a lot of time and frustration in the mockup and styling processes, using simple techniques and free tools.

Shelby Elliott

Shelby Elliott letting us all know it’s OK to be a “figure-outer”.

How the WordPress Community Changed My Life

Jeff Matson took us through his journey into discovering WordPress and how he (somewhat reluctantly at first), found a community and true friends that he didn’t expect.

Jeff Matson

Jeff Matson telling us his WordPress story.

Can I Predict Your Future? – Day Two Keynote

Chris Lema discussed the importance of continuous learning and experimentation in order for us all to help push WordPress into the future.

He illustrated this call to action by walking us through the history of how the simple act of choosing a movie to see has changed in the last two decades. From looking in the paper to find descriptions and times for a theater showing, up to the present day when we simply click a button on our devices.

Chris Lema

Chris Lema doing what he does best. Inspiring others to take action.

WP Battles: Entrepreneurship vs. Employment

Adam Silver and Kyle Maurer presented a unique talk in the form of a debate. Without getting political, the two “candidates” argued about the benefits and downsides of working for yourself or becoming an employee of a WordPress-centric business.

In the end, they both won the hearts and minds of all the session attendees.

Adam Silver and Kyle Maurer

Adam Silver and Kyle Maurer

Adam Silver and Kyle Maurer preparing for the final debate.

Just as with previous WordCamps, the organizers, speakers, sponsors, and attendees all did an excellent job of making everyone sure everyone was given ample opportunities to learn, connect and grow.