WordCamp Chicago 2013 Speaker Interview: Gloria Antonelli

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Gloria Antonelli is a WordPress consultant, trainer and developer since 2006. She started teaching and presenting about the web in 1996. Rolling 17 years of consultant into a holistic approach of web development, her expertise spans WordPress, UX, IA, SEO, Social Media, Web Standards, CSS, Content and Documentation Strategies.

Gloria’s clients include advertising agencies, universities, corporations and startups. She has been presenting for over 10 years at local/national conferences and workshops including WordCamp Chicago, WordCamp Detroit and WordCamp Milwaukee. Happiness for Gloria includes researching the latest tech trends, stacks of coding books, and 3 day tech conferences.

She will be presenting two sessions for Foundation Friday: “Text Widget for the Non Coder” and “Create Great User Documents”

Interview with Gloria:

Why do you use WordPress?

I first learned of WordPress in 2006 from Peter Merholz during Adaptive Path’s “Beyond Usability 2.0” workshop. That is when I began learning and developing with WordPress and never looked back. I use it for many reasons – flexible, extensible, SEO friendly, and the community.

What do you like best about WordCamps?
I must really like them because I attended 5 last year. You would find me in the dev track at Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, Grand Rapids, and Detroit learning the latest best practices. What better place to learn then from the best WordPress community has to offer! Plus making new friends with a common bond.

What is your favorite tip or resource for a new WordPress user?
I have presented at many web design/development events in the last 10 years. I usually pick a topic based on my need to know or my clients pain points. I am focused on user experience, information architecture and best practices to help the WordPress long tail of new users. Tip: do your pre-website needs assessment, stretch to learn more about WordPress before you start and know your coding limitations. Then do research on picking a theme that meets your needs. Don’t judge a theme just on its visual appeal. Try to look behind the curtain.

What is a common problem you see in WordPress sites, and how would you avoid it?
Some problems in sites are caused by designers/developers and some by the users. Poor coding standards tops my list. So much time wasted trying to get a poorly coded site to work with top grade plugins. Users have a hard time evaluating a quality theme from behind a walled garden of documentation and support forums. Their skill set is limited. If there is quality docs, they may not understand or even read them. WordPress.org is working hard at evaluating themes and improving the .org docs. I also see improvement on the commercial side providing a good knowledge base for users.  I think any user who wants to build their site on their own could spend more time learning about web development in general.

How do you stay up to date with new information about WordPress?
Staying up to date! It is like a carrot on a stick dangled just out of my reach. Okay it does take a lot of work keeping up. So many variable come into play, what is the next release, what new plugins are good, what development style just fell out of grace, Oh my! Thank god I have an iPad. I play shows like WP Water cooler when I am cooking, watch WordPress.tv when I wash the dishes and I read eBooks in bed. I confess to being a learn-aholic and like knowing the latest stuff. I also go to WordPress meetups.

Do you have any advice for a person who’s building a business around WordPress design/development?
First know your stuff, not just WordPress and PHP but study user experience, user testing, information architecture and SEO. If your business model is client-centric, educate your clients on the importance of focusing on the business needs before coding and design and have someone dedicated to producing content. If your business model is providing Themes and Plugins, I can’t stress how important it is to provide an effective learning channel for your users. Start here docs, step by step tutorials and videos. Don’t just have a forum.