atimThe weekend after WCSF I talked at DreamCon, which was our own little Webhost convention/camp for technology and other things. As Matt said, we’re kind of the wacky Webhost, and I love it that way here at DreamHost.

Some of my coworkers talked about the technical stuff, like WP-cli and how DreamPress works, but I talked about some slightly more esoteric and conceptual things, no coding involved topics, because I tried to think about the questions people who host with us asked me the most.

Choosing WordPress Plugins

This was the more geeky of the two, but was an overview on how I search for plugins, value the devs and their work, and determine which ones I use. I mentioned needs and wants a couple times, which makes me think I’ll end up giving people a talk on that one of these days…

The questions I got after this session were interesting. I preemptively answered the long standing question I had never been able to answer before, which is “What is your favorite plugin?” I finally have an answer, and it’s MP6. My eyes suck, and for me, MP6 finally made the back end of WordPress totally readable for me, without having to increase my browser’s font size. The font was better, and larger, and clearer. Normally I hate black backgrounds, but for some reason MP6 doesn’t give me headaches.

The best question I got was how to search effectively. My answer was to be more exact with search terms. Too often we go for broad terms and narrow down, but I like to go the other way. “wordpress plugin calendar event list” – I pick every major term I need in that plugin, and more precise results follow.

Get Out Of The Monkey House

Besides the fact that all the devs in the room cheered when I stated “code is art” I think this one really opened people’s eyes. Remembering that the design of your site doesn’t stop at the pretty stuff, that your content and the flow of how the site works is also a major impact, is huge.

By the way, code is totally art. You’re making something out of nothing, inventing and building a concept that never existed before. It’s just like writing music. Be proud of it. The most standout question from this talk was what do I do when a customer demands they stay in that monkey house? I put my foot down. When I get into contract work, I have always stated up front “You’re hiring me to be your expert, which means you may suggest things for your website that I, out of my experience and expertise, know to be bad ideas. When that happens, I will tell you that we should not do these things, and why. This is my power of veto. I will only use it when I have proof, via research, that what you are proposing is not in your best interests. If that’s not okay, then we don’t sign the contract. If it is, then you will accept my actions on web design, just as I will accept yours about your product. You know more than I do about that, I know more than you about this.”

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Thus far, no ones walked away, and I’ve never made a website with a blink tag (except for the gag website, where the contract was to make it look like Ling’s cars…).

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