A Designers Guide To WordPress

I’ve been attending the Sacramento WordPress Meetup Group for the past few months and I’ve enjoyed discussions talking about Genesis, Responsive Styling, and most recently how to design for WordPress. For this most recent talk we had a guest speaker from the Bay Area, James Hipkin, from Red8 Interactive.

Mr Hipkin mentioned a couple times during the discussion that he is not a designer, nor a developer. Instead he brought a unique perspective as the manager of a creative team. He interacts with the clients and has a first hand look at things that do and don’t work. The topics ranged from how to best start a project to designing responsively and responsibly. I wanted to touch on a few things that really stood out to me as a developer in his designers guide to wordpress.

Responsive vs. Adaptive

One of the first thingsĀ covered were some basics of web design before jumping into WordPress specific topics. Mr Hipkin first talked about designing mobile first and mentioned one of their clients, Bev Mo, recently surpassed 50% mobile traffic on their site. He then talked about how he differentiates between a responsive and an adaptive site. I’ve never had a great answer for the difference but his explanation made a lot of sense.

Responsive sites adjust all the content of the site to fit the screen being displayed. Whereas Adaptive change the content that is available based on the device. A great example was a call now button that might show up on a mobile phone, but disappears once the screen size is beyond mobile devices. Another example was a slider that might turn into just a static image on mobile.

While the difference is slight I feel more confident in this discussion with future clients.

Static Content

Using WordPress I often want to make it so the client could go in and change any part of the site. I mean, that’s what makes WordPress so easy, the customizable back end that doesn’t scare off clients. However if speed is of upmost concern (and when isn’t it?) you want to limit the number of calls to the database. This means if you have content that doesn’t need to change, like their social links, phone number, or other static content you can build it into the html to minimize the amount of times the database is accessed. So the footer doesn’t necessary need every part to be widgets. You can build things into the template directly.

Control your Visual Editor

Mr Hipkin brought up a great point when talking about all the elements that need to be styled. He said clients often forget to specify what they want the styles of their visual editor to look like. There are a lot of controls on top of the content box and lots of ways the client can kill the site if things are not styled appropriately.

Footer Fettish

Ok well he didn’t mean to talk about the footer in this way. Mr Hipkin just said he wished more love was given to the footer as they are often forgotten by the client and designer and can hold a lot of secondary information. He said he wished there was a group for people who liked the footer as much and this was turned into a footer fettish by the audience. But potty humor aside it’s a great point to make your design with the footer in mind. It’s a great place to put terms and conditions, style guides, contact information, newsletter signups etc.

Closing Thoughts

James Hipkin is a great speaker and obviously very excited to talk about all things WordPress. He answered a lot of the audiences questions as he went through his talk and also took some time to show us examples of work they had completed. He also gave a lot of insight on how to work with clients and build your design business. I know Red Cart will be no where near what Red8 is any time soon but it’s a nice thing to shoot for.

You’ll never get anywhere if you never try.

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