WordPress Cambridge Meetup

The WordPress Cambridge Meetup is a monthly get together for developers and users of WordPress, held at The Boathouse usually on the second, or third Monday of the month.

You can usually expect to see 2-3 talks and an open Q&A session, followed by drinks in the pub.

Find out more about WordPress, whether you’re trying to decide if you should use it, or if you’re an expert that wants to keep on top of the latest features, or anywhere in between – everyone is welcome.

So come along to see how WordPress can benefit your organisation, and get specific advise on any WordPress questions you may have.

If you’re interested in coming along, please let us know at our Meetup page.

Subscribe to our Mailing list/Google group
Follow us on Twitter
Like our Facebook page
Subscribe to us on Youtube

See you at the WPCBG Meetup!

Useful WordPress Courses

Here are some useful WordPress courses. Do you have any others you’d like to add? Let us know!

General WP Courses

WPShout – described as “In-Depth WordPress Tutorials for Developers”

Free Code Camp (free, natch) – Very accessible and of course free, so if you don’t get on with it you don’t lose anything. I don’t think there is a lot of WordPress conent (feel free to correct me on this!) But it does have a tonne of JS and React stuff

WP101 – Described as Easy WordPress video tutorials for beginners. I’ve heard this is the go to place for beginners. Haven’t tried it myself though

Press Ups – A more personal way to learn WP? (Again I haven’t tried it). Looks like lots of short free WordPress screencasts

KnowTheCode (paid) – A huge resource of videos for developers, including a selection of free ones. I found the delivery style of the videos a bit difficult. But it’s probably the most comprehensive resource out there. Learn how to build themes and plugins “the right way”. Learn local development as well. Seemed to have a bit of a bias towards building sites using the Genesis theme as a framework.

Gutenberg courses

Gutenberg Development Courses (online, paid for) featuring instructors Zac Gordon and Joe Casabona. Joe teaches users about how do use the new Gutenberg interface and Zac teaches developers how to develop for Gutenberg, including how to upgrade an older site to be compatible with Gutenberg.

The course will cost you $79 (about £55) but there is a discount for ($49) if you use the discount code earlyadopter (see WP Tavern)

I’ve done courses with Zac before and found them very friendly and useful.

Creatorcourses – Another Gutenberg specific course. One of our members has enrolled so should have some feedback soon. There’s also a discount via the Gutenberg Courses above.

CSS / Design courses

Wes Bos has announce a new CSS Grid course (online, paid for) . If you’re new to CSS Grid or want to know more, check it out.

Learn JS Deeply courses

This is more of an aside than a course suggestion. The future of WordPress development is going to require a deep understanding of JavaScript include the new stuff in ES2015/16/18 and the use of frameworks like React.

Matt Mullenweg goes into some detail about why learning JS deeply will be important for developers in this video:

So, does anyone have any good suggestions for how to learn JS deeply?

I’ve been doing the Advanced Web Developer Bootcamp (online, paid for) on Udemy, which isn’t WordPress specific but does have an excellent section on the latest JS (ES2015 / 16 / 17) and a section on React (you need to know the latest JS to develop for react because it makes heavy use of modern JS features).

Videos

Jakson – Short YouTube videos that tackle many aspects of WordPress development.

Here’s a taster:

24 resources for learning WordPress

Here’s a timely article from regular speaker and co-organiser of the WordPress Cambridge Meetup group, Steven Watts of Newt Labs on some of the best resources for learning WordPress. Includes a selection of some of the best WordPress courses, blogs and Youtube channels for 2018.

Summing up

If you have any course suggestions for wither users or developers? Let us know!

Next Meetup: Gutenberg: Learn the Future of WordPress 12-02-2018

The word "Gutenberg" in metal moveable type

Getting to know Gutenberg – Monday 12 February 2018 6.45pm to 9.45pm, The Bradfield Centre, Central Working, Cambridge

See: Meetup for up to date details

Gutenberg is the name for the new editor focus in WordPress. It is the future of WordPress, and will make creating websites much, much simpler. Tammie Lister will take you through a rough guide to the project. How it began and why it’s needed. Then, she will show you where the project is currently at and finally how you can also get involved. Join her and get to know Gutenberg.

Tammie Lister
Tammie works at Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com as an experience designer. She has a varied background including psychology, design, front end development and user experience. She is a contributor to WordPress and is currently the design lead for Gutenberg.

In other words Tammie is a leading UK expert on Gutenberg. We are hugely honoured she has made the time to present Gutenberg to us. Our meetup group website: https://wpcbg.uk/ with old presentations. Thanks Steve.

Thank you to TwinDots our sponsors

This meeting is sponsored by Twin Dots, the leading branding, design and development agency in Newmarket. Twin Dots has clients like Cambridge Marketing College, 450 GSM, Racing Welfare, and Devam the jewellers.

The usual format:

18:45: Roll up for a couple of beers in the foyer, & chat, mingle etc.

19:15 start: Everyone introduces themselves: 20 seconds max, mainly describing their involvement with WordPress.

2. Up to 4 * 3 minute pitches. Share discoveries, useful tips, requests for help with charitable projects. 3: WordPress News with our star reporter Ben Attenborough.

4. Main presentation Tammie Lister, Gutenberg

5. Clinic: Bring along a problem, and the audience will offer advice. If we can’t, maybe we’ll have a solution by next meeting. Kinda aiming to finish the formal part by about 21:00, depending on everyone’s enthusiasm to chat & discuss.

6. Beer & networking: We should leave by about 21:45 at the latest.

WordPress News – WP 4.9.1 and State of the Word 2017

Top stories

WordPress 4.9.1 Released

Mostly a security and maintenance release (point releases are normally bug and security fixes).

Fixes page template issue:

4.9 introduced an error whereby users would discover that page templates wouldn’t appear in the Template drop down when editing a page.

See more at: WP Tavern

Gutenberg 1.8 Released, includes block templates for custom post types

Block Templates – allows developers to specify where to display custom fields when defining custom post types

Improved design of tool menu – include a space for where plugin extensions will appear in future

Ability to filter by block type – so developers will be able to specify which block types a custom post type can use

Better UI features – Including improve colour picker, contrast checker and tooltips.

State of the Word 2017

Matt Mullenweg, original developer of WordPress, has delivered his annual State of the Word address at the US WordCamp.

To see the entire speech here:

Key takeaways:

Note these are just my scribbled notes from the video, not a verbatim account. Please see the video for the exact exchanges. – Ben Attenborough

Tide project

Tide aims to clean up plugin directory. Runs tests against the plugin directory – allows user to see status of tests.

Gives devs info on how to improve plugins and fix bugs – lets user know which plugins have issues

Links to GitHub so people can automatically raise issues and help fix them.

There’s a slack channel for tide

Growth Council

Will discuss ways WP can grow.

HTTPS

36% of WP sites are over https more than double last year.

This year’s focuses

This year there has been a focus of customisation:

  • Improvements for adding images, videos, audio and text to sidebars (widget areas- could also be header, footer or within the body)
  • New dashboard widget for meet ups – attendances have gone up 30% on average since this was introduced.
  • Drafting and scheduling for customiser.
  • Syntax highlighting to css and code editors
  • No default theme this year.
  • WP-CLI has become an official WordPress project

Gutenberg

Gutenberg is longest running feature development WP has ever had, now more than 11 months, 18 iterations

It’s an effort to simplify everything that goes on in the editor – short codes, widgets, menus and random stuff in TinyMCE into the concept of a block.

Gutenberg expected to be ready by April.

Mission to democratise publishing

Classic editor plugin.

If you think April is too soon to start using Gutenberg, install the Classic Editor Plugin now – will make sure that old editor will continue to be used.

Next step: Gutenberg-based site optimisation

Blocks to lay out the whole site.

Next year’s focuses

Gutenberg Editing

Gutenberg Customisations

Gutenberg Theme

Q&A (See 1:02.00 in video)

Note these are just my scribbled notes of the Q and A, not a verbatim account. Please see the video for the exact exchanges. – Ben Attenborough

Q: Question about page builders and is Gutenberg unfair to creators of page builder plugins as it will replace their functionality

MM: Lots of different page builder plugins, which shows how much demand there is for page building functionality

But problem is it is hard for plugins to work with page builders because each builder works differently. If Gutenberg presents a standard way for building posts and pages it makes it much easier for plugin developers to build applications that work in the expected way.

Will create opportunities for devs.

Q: Fields API – Will it be necessary to continue to have a fields API

MM: Gutenberg will cover a lot of bases for fields, but not everything so a fields API will still be necessary.

Question about WYSIWYG

MM: Will be editing on dashboard not literally on front end. But it will be a lot closer to a true WYSIWYG experience.

Q: Could we get a split community where some people will be on classic mode and some on Gutenberg. How will we get beyond these two worlds?

MM: You really do need to develop for Gutenberg and I’m okay if you drop support for Classic.

Q: Concern that users may find Gutenberg harder to use.

MM: We are building for people new to publishing and websites

Structure will be more intuitive. Ever have an image which is right aligned and you try to move it and move it inside a link and it’s a bit of a mess? Gutenberg is trying to fix that.

Q: If I’m creating sites for clients, I’m putting onus on users to design. What would be great is if I can add certain blocks to a CPT and say that’s it.

MM: Yes, it will be possible to lock down which block types a user will have access to.

Q: Front end responsive issue. There are circumstances where things have to change on different screens. So if the user specifies a 80px font size for a heading, it is not going to be 80px on a mobile phone. How are you going to control this?

MM: We are going to err on the side of letting people do stuff. Including being able to mess it up, but allow themes and plugins to bring in the guard rails a lot more.

Q: Concerned about changes Gutenberg will force on to customers.

MM: Today there is an opt-in plugin. New plugin will give a specific opt out. Trying to provide a gradual ramp. Trying to learn from Gutenberg because going to make big changes in the future.

Q: Are you concerned about React?

MM: Think that React is the future and can fork from the GPL version of React if future React version introduce bad things.

Cross compiling from other language possible.

My thoughts

Gutenberg is happening, and although there will be ways to continue with the old TinyMCE editor it is clearly the direction of travel.

At 1:10.55 Matt gets a question about the danger of “two worlds” one where people use Gutenberg and one where people use classic. Matt responds by saying that over time users will expect everything to work with Gutenberg and demand for classic will fall away.

It was interesting to me that Matt Mullenweg actually says “at some point” he will be fine with plugin developers dropping support for the pre-Gutenberg world (See around  1:14.00). Once plugin start dropping support for classic, people are going to have to either stay still or move ahead under Gutenberg.

It certainly feels like Gutenberg is the future and developers and users will not be able to ignore it, or at least not for long.

Furthermore it seems that the Gutenberg philosophy of using content “blocks” will also be extended into designing pages. It looks like a page building system, like ones such as Beaver Builder, will eventually be part of WordPress core. What will this mean for existing sites built with a page builder system? Will they need to be redesigned using the Gutenberg builder?

This will be controversial, but I’m optimistic that eventually this will be a good thing for users, as it will give them more access to design their own pages and posts without having to code. Hopefully it will also be good news for developers, as they will be able to build sites which give users more customisation options without having to introduce a slew of plugins or custom code.

WordPress News – WP Version 4.9, GDPR, RobotNinja and more

Hello, here are the  notes from the WordPress News section tonight’s WordPress Cambridge meeting (November 13, 2017).

Slides are here (all content is replicated in the post below, so take your pick):

WordPress News slides. Click to open PDF

WordPress News is a new part of the meetup. A quick 10 minute update on all things WordPress. Feel free to give feedback on the presentation.

Top Stories

WordPress 4.9 due to be released tomorrow

For full feature summary see: https://codex.wordpress.org/Version_4.9

New features include:

Save and Schedule Theme Changes in Customizer

WordPress 4.9 will introduce saving theme customizations as draft. Now when you make changes to a theme using the customizer, you will have an option to save your changes as a draft instead of making them live.

This new feature will also allow you to share the preview of changes with a url. You can send this URL to any user, and they will be able to see your website with the changes made in that particular draft.

Want to publish your theme changes at a specific time? WordPress 4.9 will also allow you to schedule changes.

For more information on this see:

http://www.wpbeginner.com/news/whats-coming-in-wordpress-4-9-features-and-screenshots/

https://make.wordpress.org/core/tag/4.9+dev-notes/

Add shortcodes and embedded media into widget areas

WordPress 4.8 brought media widgets including rich text, audio, image, and video. WordPress 4.9 will introduce the new gallery widget, as well as shortcodes and embedded media.

This will allow users to better access to adding content into widget areas. For example sidebars, header and footer areas.

As an example contact form plugins often generate a shortcode which you add to a page or post to display. Now you will be able to also add such a form to a footer on your site.

See: https://wptavern.com/wordpress-4-9-will-support-shortcodes-and-embedded-media-in-the-text-widget

Better user management for activating plugins

It is now possible to manage capabilities for activating and deactivating plugins more granularly through the following new capabilities:

activate_plugin checks whether a user can activate a specific plugin. When checking the capability, it gets passed the plugin file (such as current_user_can( ‘activate_plugin’, ‘my-plugin/my-plugin.php’ )).

deactivate_plugin works similar to activate_plugin, but checks whether a user can deactivate a specific plugin as the name indicates.

deactivate_plugins allows to check whether a user can generally deactivate plugins

See: https://make.wordpress.org/core/2017/10/15/improvements-for-roles-and-capabilities-in-4-9/

WordPress 4.9 Protects Users From Fatal Errors Created in the Theme and Plugin Editors

Over the years, there have been many discussions and debates on whether or not WordPress should have a built-in file editor for themes and plugins. The file editors, while convenient, allow users to easily trigger fatal errors that can be difficult to fix, especially if they don’t have FTP access.

Instead of removing the editors from core, the WordPress development team has enhanced them by adding fatal error protection in WordPress 4.9. When a user accesses the theme or plugin editor for the first time, they’re presented with warnings.

If you try to save changes to a file and WordPress detects a fatal error, the change is not saved and a warning message is displayed that explains where the error occurred

In addition to safety features, the code editors are powered by CodeMirror, an open-source, JavaScript powered text editor that adds features such as line numbers. The plugin editor includes the ability to look up documentation for filters, hooks, and actions with many of the links pointing to the new WordPress Developers Resource site.

See: https://wptavern.com/wordpress-4-9-protects-users-from-fatal-errors-created-in-the-theme-and-plugin-editors

Better mapping for widget areas when switching between themes

Sometimes widget areas and even menus could become ‘lost’ when switching themes, because different themes have different names for menus and widget areas. 4.9 tries to fix this by trying to match up widget and menu areas from one theme to another.

Other news

GDPR for WordPress Project Seeks to Provide a Standard for Plugin Compliance

WordCamp Denmark organizer Kåre Mulvad Steffensen and WP Pusher creator Peter Suhm are working on a GDPR for WordPress project that aims to provide an industry standard for getting plugins compliant with EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation. The deadline for compliance is May 28, 2018, approximately 200 days from now.

See https://www.gdprwp.com/

Woocomerce – Introduces Robot Ninja

A tool to provide continuous testing of your site’s storefront, which provides warning if functionality fails, so you can make quick corrections and avoid a loss of sales

Find out more at https://robotninja.com/blog/introducing-robot-ninja/

Gutenberg Development Advances

Up until the release on October 24, Gutenberg did not support the meta boxes that so many WordPress content creators rely on. The new editor now has initial support for meta boxes as well as a host of other critical features for content creation.

WordPress 4.8.3 Security Release

At the end of October, WordPress 4.8.3 was released containing an important security fix for all previous versions of WordPress. If your WordPress installation has not updated automatically, please update it now to protect your site.

Take the 2017 Annual WordPress User Survey

The annual WordPress User Survey is a great opportunity for you to provide your feedback about how you use WordPress. This year is no exception, as the 2017 WordPress User Survey is out now. See https://wordpressdotorg.polldaddy.com/s/wordpress-2017-survey

October 2017 Meetup: Managing WordPress & WP Transients

Managing WordPress

Steven Watts of Newt Labs talked about WordPress management, which also included a quick introduction to Slack – an instant messaging/support system.

See the slides below:

Click on the image above to see the slide (pdf format)

This is a cut down version of the presentation, for more see https://www.slideshare.net/StevenWatts8/managing-wordpress

Takeaways: where to get help, how to setup a staging site, a backup strategy, quick security wins, eyes on your site, and a better understanding of quality hosting.

Slack – We at WordPress Cambridge have two channels. There are a bunch of UK channels, and also a bunch of international channels. You can stay in contact with the Cambridge group, and get help/support from the UK and internationally.

Newt Labs is a sponsor of our Meetup group. They provide site care for WordPress websites by providing unlimited small fixes, implementing best practices and taking care of ongoing technical tasks. Keeping WordPress sites secure and effective, from £49 a month.

WordPress Transients API

Adam Maltpress of http://maltpress.co.uk/ talked about the WordPress Transients API.

Transients help speed up your site by reducing the number of database queries needed to create a page. We discussed the code needed to start using transients in your theme or plugin as well as looking at a couple of ways of measuring your code’s performance while developing and testing. We also discussed some of the issues around caching content and the compromises involved.

See the slides below:

Transients API presentation cover
Click on the image above to see the slides (PDF format)

Blogging

Several presentations from Dawn, Chris and Jonathan on the theme of blogging for this meeting!

Content ideas for blog posts – Dawn Fisher

First up was Dawn Fisher of Remedial Massage Treatment.co.uk/

Dawn has been using her site to find customers for around 10 years and her blog is an integral part of this. She spoke to us about the way she creates her blog posts.

The first step in a successful blog (and for each successful post) is to work out what the purpose of it is. You should aim to attract (and retain) people who are actively looking for your goods or services. Ask yourself what they might want to know, and write about it.

Using Google Analytics is also important – it helps you find out what search terms are bringing to your site: you can use these to write your blog.

Another useful technique is to ask your past visitors and customers what they found interesting on your site. You should also make note of what your customers ask you most: these are the sorts of questions people will be searching for online.

Dawn keeps a notebook of ideas for blog posts and suggested that, rather than writing brief notes or titles, you should write out as much of the post as soon as you can – short notes might not mean much when you come back to them! These notes might be about the day’s interesting challenges or questions or just topics which come to you in a flash of inspiration. Topics may also come from the things you read. Wherever the topics come from, it’s important to keep everything – even those unfinished posts – so you can revisit them in future if inspiration strikes. Returning to an old post and writing an updated version can also create new content for you!

One part of Dawn’s success is down to keeping a human side to her posts: not just writing technical jargon, but writing for your audience. It’s a hard balance: you need to be technical enough that other experts respect you, and that customers know that you know your subject, but not so technical that you’re not understood by the layman.

Regardless of where your inspiration comes from, make sure you check your spelling and grammar – nothing undermines your point faster than a poorly written post.

Cats and Tags – Chris McMahon

Next up was Chris McMahon of Very Simple Sites

Blog post covering talk – https://verysimplesites.co.uk/categories-tags-wordpress/

Chris talked about categories and tags and how you can use them to organise your blog’s content in WordPress

DISCLAIMER don’t just change cats and tags without adding 301 redirects

Content needs organising just like libraries

Yoast is a good example of cats and tags – easy to see the cats they have and the different content available

Don’t do it for seo so it for your readers

You need to think about and plan your websites structure before you start writing

Use pages and posts accordingly. Pages can be inferior to pages for content that is time based – getting content out there and seen as and when..

Cats can be broad and must be used, they are hierarchical

Tags are flat and optional

Cats is contents page (or umbrella)
Tags is index (or raindrops)

Did a group exercise to see what could be cats and what could be tags. There are actually many possibilities depending on your blogs focus.

Suggestions/best practice

Less is more – limit categories
Put post in one cat but there are reasons when you might put in more
You don’t have to use tags……….
You can have many tags but limit them to not look spammy
Do not have tags that only apply to one post

If you want you can use neither and just rename the default cat form uncategorised to something like general/updates etc
You can noindex the archive page for this term so it’s unused

Archive pages should be used as standalone pages – add an intro, some more info, you can even sticky posts on these pages sometimes depending on theme plugins etc.

Cat and tag pages can be used for seo

Yoast keeps it simple and well organised they use few tags and cats per article

Only a handful of cats for a clean site structure

Don’t forget your category archive pages! Fill out the fields provided by the Yoast seo or other plugin. Make them descriptive and relevant.

In permalink settings you can change your category base i.e. Decade instead of category.

The whys and hows of micro blogging – Jonathan Whiteland

Slides – https://whiteland.net/jonathan/static/presentations/micro_blogging.html

Click on the above and use cursor keys to scroll left and right… or visit https://whiteland.net/jonathan/static/presentations/micro_blogging.html

Last but not least was Jonathan Whiteland

It’s like blogging….. but smaller..

Think social media updates

Why?
Ownership
Independence
Control

How are people going to find it?
A platform like WordPress.com or a
Self hosted WordPress website on micro.blog

WordPress has support for this such as shorter post formats, post categories (separate from your main blog)..

Plugins
Jonathan’s plugin – A few micro blogging tweaks
Another – character count for post content and excerpt

Micro.blog “a new social network for independent micro blogs” micro.blog

Vision is to take feeds from people that have their own micro blogs and combine them (a bit like twitter).

You can cross post with services like twitter using apps like ifttt to push to twitter your micro blogs

Can do via WordPress app on your phone when out and about.

Json feed – similar to rss and atom but in json – check it out! Jsonfeed.com.

Aftermath

Simon talking about potentially moving the wp meetup to the bradfield centre.

Need a sponsor for tea coffee snacks

Security with Tim Nash

Another amazing guest speaker – this time Tim Nash of 34SP.com (and timnash.co.uk).

Tim is the platform lead at 34SP.com for their Managed WordPress product in addition to being the company’s Developer Advocate.

Tim’s presentation managed to be both scary and reassuring about security: making it clear that security is everyone’s responsibility but also that there are plenty of things we can do to make our sites secure.

Tim pointed out that sites are as likely to be hacked if they’re running a security plugin as they are if they’re not! This underlines the fact that plugins only really fix one small part of a larger security process which includes making sure the server is set up correctly, that people are sensible with the way they use passwords, and that site administrators set up users correctly.

It’s important to make sure that users are only given the permissions that they need and that sites have as few administrators as possible. Some site owners have two accounts – an editor and an administrator – and purposefully change their administrator password to something ridiculous so it’s impossible to log in with it unless it’s reset using the site’s database. Others add alerts to their sites which make it really clear when logged in as an administrator and they may have too much power!

In terms of passwords, most have been leaked at some point so it’s important to change them regularly and never use the same password for multiple sites.

Whether you use a password manager or not (see Keypass and Keeweb, password length is far more important that complexity (i.e. combinations of letters, numbers and special characters) so an increasingly popular way of handling passwords is to use pass phrases

Two factor authentication (using a phone app to provide a special login key every time you log in) is another great way to increase your site’s security. There are several plugins which add two-factor authentication to your site. Just make sure you print (and keep safe) your backup codes! The best method is to combine a long pass phrase and two-factor authentication.

Keeping everything up to date is also vitally important – core WordPress, plugins and themes (even if they’re not active) and don’t pirate themes which might not be updateable. Using child themes, as ever, is strongly recommended. Tim pointed out it’s worth updating even if it breaks little things – it’s better to have a secure site.

Site monitoring is a handy tip Tim gave us: use visual regression testing, which takes a visual snapshot of your site (or part of your site) and warns you if it looks different. Visualping.io is one example of a visual regression testing service. Testing backups when you take them is also really important – and it’s handy to automate this as much as you can, if you know how!

Hardening WordPress refers to making sure the server is set up correctly. There’s a great guide at https://codex.wordpress.org/Hardening_WordPress

Finally, use HTTPS on everything! We’ll be covering HTTPS in more depth in a future meetup but in the mean time it’s worth checking the sort of HTTPS/SSL certificate your hosting service can provide you with. You shouldn’t need to pay – there are plenty of free services available now, inlcuding Amazon.