When Orbiteers Head to WordCamp
Every so often, we Orbiteers get out. This time it was to WordCamp Chicago, a WordPress-centric conference that is organized by locals in cities around the country and open to all users and lovers of WordPress. (I don’t often admit to my nerdy loves in public, but WordPress is up there with my love of SciFi and gluten-free baking.)
I talked Jimmy into going, and we spent a weekend here in Chicago packing our brains with knowledge to improve both our WordPress specific skills and our design/ development skills in general. Sure, there were cupcakes from a truck, cocktails, and some new friends, but the best part was what we learned.
Who uses WordPress? Some facts & figures
Tomas Puig of WPEngine brought some hard numbers to WordCamp. According to a study (with 1,500 respondents) he found that 30% of general US adult audience knows that WordPress exists as a platform. Age affected those answers, and when you look at respondents aged 25-34, 40% of them knew what it is.
Even more surprising? The fact that 7.4% of adult users either currently use or have used a WordPress site.
WordPress powers (at least part of) 18% of all websites. Even here at Orbit, when you have a blog on a site powered by MightySite, we use WordPress to power the blog.
You can read all the stats and slides on SlideShare.
Responsive Design (and more facts & figures)
Responsive design was a big topic at WordCamp, and just about every presentation touched on how important it is to the future of the web. But there was one talk in particular that covered Responsive, and that was from Josh Broton (slides). He also had some pretty compelling numbers for adopting this philosophy.
How are people using the web?
- 55% of US adults use web on mobile.
- 31% of US adults’ primary browsing device is mobile.
- 77% of mobile searches happen from home.
- 2013 is the year most Internet connections will be via mobile in the US. This has already happened in other parts of the world.
- 1.038 billion smartphones (10/16/2012)
- 600% growth in mobile usage
Those are some crazy numbers. And they are exactly why you need to consider having a responsive web design rather than just a desktop experience. But it isn’t just that people are digesting content on mobile devices. They are ignoring and abandoning content and websites that don’t provide a mobile-optimized experience.
Why UX is king (or numbers for business managers)
- 61% of people leave a site if it isn’t mobile ready when they are on a mobile device.
- 79% will search for another site.
- 50% look outside of the existing relationship (i.e., your competitors).
- 48% said that if a site didn’t work on a mobile device, they feel like a company doesn’t care.
And if you think these numbers mean that you should invest in a native app, think again. People download an average of 2.5 apps a month, but they will visit an average of 24 sites per day on a mobile device.
So, what does this mean for designers?
We are going to have to change the way we design things. We are going to have to unlearn all the habits that years of design school and work have taught us and learn to be flexible and create sites that respond to the size and format of a particular device.
Read more about Orbit’s approach to Responsive Web Design.
There was a lot of talk about the design and development process, in particular an agile design process. In a traditional design process, every page is mocked up in Photoshop for a client, and then a developer takes those files and turns them into a site. Presenters at WordCamp were arguing that the whole process needs to be collaborative, with designers, developers, and content creators working together at all stages of the process. They even went as far as suggesting some new design processes that take their cues from agile software development.
Read more about Orbit’s Design Process.
We were encouraged to start using design thinking
“Design is something that both inspires and transforms an idea into a blueprint for something that adds value.”
With web design, we need to stop being pixel pushers and pretty-makers; and we should be interior designers rather than interior decorators.
There are 3 parts to web design:
- Aesthetics: illustration, photography, art, branding
- Usability: user experience, marketing, psychology, accessibility
- Structure: development, content strategy
And, while all of these are important, it isn’t what they are that matters. It is the why. Why did you choose that picture or that layout? Why grey instead of blue? Design choices need to be deliberate and they should address more than just aesthetics.
Some thoughts from Matt Mullenweg
The founder of WordPress and Automattic (the company behind WordPress), Matt Mullenweg, stopped by WordCamp to have a town hall meeting. There were questions about everything from what mistakes he thought were made in WordPress to what is in store for the next release and beyond.
I learned that I should probably change my keyboard layout to the Dvorak layout, which optimizes the keyboard for speed and comfort rather than using a layout that is a hold over from typewriter days.
I also learned that there are some exciting things happening with post formats, the media uploader and autoupdates. None of them have concrete timelines, but they are all in the works. Nifty stuff.
Where do we go from here?
We go forward. We make as many sites as we can responsive. We use WordPress to power client websites when it is the right tool for the job, and we keep refining our process to be efficient and easy for a client to understand the end product. As designers and developers, we make sure to use design thinking to create sites that solve problems, convert, and look good.