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Back to the Future – WordCamp Minneapolis St Paul 2018 Presentation #wcmsp

Here’s the presentation deck from my WordCamp Minneapolis St Paul 2018 presentation. Below is the text version that pretty much covers what I said.

We often get distracted by the new things we can do with our sites. Sure, it’s easy to add in new features, but do we really need them? Let’s take a step back and focus on the basics. Customers demand better websites across all platforms, and better isn’t always bigger, or fancier. Sometimes it’s just getting the basics right.

Lets start with…


The best products don’t focus on features, they focus on clarity.
– Jon Bolt

“Does it better” will always beat “did it first.”
– Aaron Levie, CEO at Box

Who are your users? Have you done user research? Have you talked to them? Did you do user testing?

Knowing your user is extremely important to the success of your business. Build what they want, not what you want.

What does your analytics say? If you can’t do the user research with actual users, then look at your analytics and see where people are coming from, what their browser is, connection speeds, what content they’re looking for. Analytics can provide a lot of valuable user information.

Remember: You are not your user. It’s easy to forget this, but just because you like something, or like it one way, doesn’t mean that your users do.

When you look at your site, ask yourself “What value does this feature have for the user?” If you can’t answer that question, then what’s the point of having the feature? Don’t add features just to add features. Keep it simple and keep it focused on the user.

Test It!

Don’t assume anything works. Just because it worked in staging, or worked when the site was launched, doesn’t mean it still works today. Test your site.

  • Does your form work?
  • Is address, phone, email, hours correct?
  • How old is your content? Maybe it’s time to re-write it.
  • What does it look like in other browsers?
  • What does it look like in other devices?
  • Don’t assume anything works.

Also, do A/B testing. If you question a feature, do A/B testing to see if users use it. Test new features with some users before rolling it out to all users. Test button colors, images of people vs pets, content, test everything and add what works for your users.

Tools you can use:


Inclusion is a right, not a privilege for a select few.
– Judge Geary, Oberti v. Board of Education

Not everyone visiting your site has perfect vision or is using a mouse. Your site should work for everyone. This isn’t just about people with disabilities either, this is ease of use for everyone visiting your site.

Things to keep in mind:

Design It Well

  • Colors – Text color vs the background it’s on.
  • Font Size – 18pt
  • Tab Order
  • Form Labels – Even if hidden, they still need to exist.
  • Landmarks
  • Clean Code
  • Focus State
  • Skip to Content Link

Create Accessible Content

  • Meaningful ALT Text on Images
  • Underline Links
  • Meaningful Link Text
  • Plain language and simple sentences.
  • Clear Headings that convey structure.


Some accessibility is better than nothing.

Trying counts.* Being perfectly accessible is hard work, but every little bit helps.

*Except in the court of law.


There are so many variables to account for when building for the web: screen sizes, devices, network speeds, accessibility, internationalization – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Standards are the backbone that reliable, consistent, accessible, maintainable web experiences are built on.
– Eric Kidd – Front-End Domain Lead

Web Standards are like building codes, they’re put in place to ensure things are built right.

What are the standards? Find out at:

Not all features work the same in all browsers though even if they are a standard. Can I Use will help identify the differences in browser adoption of features.

Why are standards important? Because we have a lot of browsers on many different operating systems.

Browser Logos and Opperating System Logos

Not only that, but there’s a lot of different screen sizes.

Google Device Lab

A sampling of devices at Google Device Lab.

Browser Testing Tools


The web is a bit of a hot mess these days.

Much like city traffic, navigation times are often unpredictable. Worst of all: the cause of delays is unknown, the end is not in sight, and the only certainty is that an indeterminate amount of your most precious asset in life “time” has been wasted.
– Michael Liquori – Web Developer

Not all users have high-speed internet. The average internet connection speed in the United States in Q1 2017 was 18.75 Mbps. – via Wikipedia

Most developers are probably on high-speed internet that is blazingly fast, but their users are probably not. Not all users are in a major metro that have 60+Mbps. Mobile networks, rural areas, small town, internet speeds vary greatly. So does peak time of day or poor coverage areas. Make your site performant so that users don’t have to wait for your content.

Page Speed Tools

There are a number of page speed tools out there that will give you a good run down of how long it takes to load your site and where the slowdowns are. Below are a few tools, but keep in mind that these are subjective. Use them to gain insights, but don’t get addicted to trying to get a perfect score.

Image Optimization
Compress your images so they load faster. These tools can help reduce file size without reducing quality.

Caching Plugins
Cache your content so that it loads faster for repeat visitors.

3rd Party Tools

  • CloudFlare can provide a free CDN, minification, and caching.
  • JetPack can offload your images to WordPress’ image CDN. WordPress will then compress images and provide users with just the size they need. No coding required. All free.


Security is a chain.

The hardware, the technologies, the code, the database, the developers, the admins, the users, are all part of this chain.

Anyone and everyone who touches the code, touches the infrastructure/network/hosting, who uses the site, are all responsible for security.
– Rich Aber – WordPress Engineer

All sites should be secure these days. Browsers are now telling users when a site is not secure and that could mean that they’re scaring the average user away from your site if it’s not secure.


  • Secure all the things!
  • Free SSLs from Let’s Encrypt
  • Check with your host as quite a few offer Let’s Encrypt SSL.
  • CloudFlare also offers free SSL certificates.
  • Sucuri offers SSL as part of its offerings as well.


Always be updating. Update everything and update it often. When a security patch comes out for WordPress, or a plugin, the security hole is made public so hackers know what they can target. If you don’t update, you can be their next target.

  • Update WordPress
  • Update Themes
  • Update Plugins
  • Update Server
    • If you, or your client, is running your own server, ensure it’s updated as well. Securing WordPress is no good if the the server is insecure.
  • Always Be Updating

I highly recommend turning on auto updates. This allows your site to update itself when WordPress, or a plugin, is updated. It’s a way of keeping you safe without you having to check for updates every day.


  • User a service like VaultPress (via the JetPack personal plan) or a plugin like UpdraftPlus to automate backups
  • Check with your web host as well as they may have backup options.
  • Don’t save backups on your server. If your server crashes, or goes up in flames, your backups will go with them.
  • Don’t assume you have backups!

Passwords & Accounts

  • Ensure you are using strong, unique passwords for all accounts on your site. You can use a password service to help you remember your strong, unique passwords.
  • Remove Unnecessary Accounts – When someone leaves the company, drop them to subscriber or remove them entirely.

Hold everyone accountable for the security on your site. Just because their “just an editor” doesn’t mean that they don’t have to worry about the sites security. If they’re password is weak, they’re putting the site at risk.

In Closing

As the web evolves, your website should evolve with it, but don’t get too distracted by the shiny new things. Sometimes we all need to take a step back and focus on the basics. Know your users, test your features, make your site accessible, build on standards, optimize it, and secure everything. Your customers have a lot of options, don’t drive them away because you’re too focused on the new fancy things that you screw up the basics.

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