This past weekend, I was in North Carolina for WordCamp Raleigh, held on NC State University’s beautiful Centennial Campus. Raleigh is now one of the fastest growing cities in the country and a lot has changed since my last visit 13 years ago.
In addition to WordPressers, the lush, tree-lined streets of Raleigh were full of red robes this weekend, as both local and remote college students came together for graduation photos around town. Raleigh is part of the “Research Triangle” made up of North Carolina State University, Duke University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A town with a rich academic past and bright tech future, Raleigh is home to the nation’s first research park established over 50 years ago. So it follows that WordCamp Raleigh is one of the oldest and most respected WordCamps in the world, existing as a community conference since 2010.
The weekend-long event had great talks on content, accessibility, and full-day Gutenberg and SEO tracks. It was exciting to see lots of unique topics, and speakers who really had a ton of knowledge and personal experience to share, making it almost impossible to choose where to spend each hour.
Brian DeConinck and Crystal Tenan, NC State University
The first talk of the day was an excellent journey into accessibility with Brian DeConinck and Crystal Tenan of NC State University. But, unlike many accessibility talks, they didn’t dwell on the nuances of WCAG standards and regulations – of which there are many. Instead, they focused on realistic and actionable steps any organization can take to facilitate accessibility compliance at the content entry level.
Brian introduced the NC State Accessibility Helper plugin, a tool created to help content creators make good choices by leveraging aXe, an open source rules library for accessibility testing. Typically, aXe is only used as a complex developers tool. But Brian’s plugin generates an annotated preview to provide this information at the content entry stage, right in the editor. Easy-to-understand details of accessibility issues are visible to the content creator immediately, and so they can make corrections as they go. This is valuable because it is a lot more difficult for people to retroactively fix accessibility issues. Plus, it paves the way to a bigger conversation about accessibility within the organization. It will also help content creators make better accessibility decisions from the beginning, which will speed up the typical testing process greatly.
Adam Silver has been giving back to the WordPress community for a long time. A former WCLAX organizer, he is now living on the east coast, organizing WCRaleigh in between managing his podcast and WordPress agency. In his talk, Adam introduced a lot of great tools to help run your business and stay organized.
We all know site owners are busy. Business owners are busy. There is a LOT of software out there competing for your attention, that is designed to make your life easier. It’s worth trying out as many as it takes to find what works for you, and many have 30 day free trials so you can experiment without investment. But once you’ve found your tools, only use what really benefits you. Remember to regularly catalogue all subscription services and get rid of the ones you don’t use. The right tools can become valuable investments to your business, so it’s worth some trial and error to find what really works.
In his presentation, Adam stressed that email marketing still works, and gave great tips for its success. Solutions like abandoned cart reminders, email opt-ins for valuable assets like white papers and e-books, and tracking click analytics, can all increase your subscriber list. While it is in our best interest to automate what we can, and integrate tools that help make our lives easier and more productive, some things (like sales) still need extra customized attention. Instead of sending out bulk canned messages to everyone, manually address each need. If it’s a networking opportunity, refer to the great lunch discussion you had. If it’s a client opportunity, speak to their specific needs and how your solution will help them. Every client interaction is unique, and showing that you appreciate each one really makes a difference.
Sharon A. Dawson, TheeDesign
Aaaahh! Sharon’s talk was so awesome I’m still raving about it five days later. I’m still parsing through all the ideas she threw down for repurposing and distributing all your hard-won content.
Sharon introduced the concept of “evergreen” content, which is essentially that well-researched, well-thought-out content that will remain relevant for months or even years. Since it will be useful in so many ways, think big with this content! Sharon also recommends you not only consider your target market now, but who your target market will be five years from now. Make sure the content you create is not limiting your services or service area.
“You take the time to create good content, why use it only once?”– Sharon A. Dawson
A bonus to creating great evergreen content, is that it doesn’t just have to live in your blog. All your great ideas and information can have bright futures as a slideshow, a video, a podcast or an infographic. This now opens up your content to live on numerous channels such as Slideshare, Vimeo and YouTube, Pinterest,LinkedIn, and Tumblr. All of these services reach new audiences who consume information in different ways. Audiences that you are missing out on if your content never leaves your blog. And that is your ultimate goal – inviting new audiences to learn about your brand and engage with your content.
Another tool that came highly recommended is the free service IFTTT to automate sharing and other tasks associated with creating content. For example, you can set it to perform certain tasks whenever you post something to Instagram. You can trigger it to share out to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, or even automatically pin your photo to a Pinterest board when you use a specific hashtag. From there you can automatically turn Instagram posts into a photo post on your WordPress blog. And that is just Instagram! Head over to the IFTTT site to get hundreds of more ideas for automating content.
On Sunday, I gave a talk on how you as a website builder can make security make sense to users and clients. There was some great new discussion during this talk around legality concerns. One of the specifics was concerning GDPR, the EU regulation that drops May 23. This regulation will affect everyone who collects data from visitors to their website, including email information, browsing data, and especially ecommerce transactions. It’s important to educate yourself and your clients on what this means for your business.
Next week on The District, I will be discussing GDPR in greater detail. Specifically, what it is, how it will affect the way you manage your website, and what you can do to prepare. The end goal is to protect users’ privacy, which is a good thing for everyone, and taking some basic steps right now can ensure you know where you stand when it goes into effect later this month.