WordCamp Europe 2018 Recap

7 min read
Oliver Lindberg

A few weeks ago, more than 2,000 attendees from 76 countries descended onto Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, for the sixth edition of WordCamp Europe, the continent’s biggest WordPress event. Another 808 people joined via the livestream to take part in the 33 talks and 9 workshops.

GoDaddy was there, talking to attendees (one of them, Danijel Gajan was especially happy, because he won our Macbook Pro!), soaking up the atmosphere, and interviewing many of the speakers, including WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg, pioneering designer John Maeda, as well as one of the organisers, Milos Mihajevic, part of the GoDaddy Customer Care team in Belgrade.

Much of the event was dominated by Gutenberg, of course, the much anticipated update of the editor that will add customisable “page builder”-like functionality to WordPress. However, other recurring themes included JavaScript, accessibility, inclusive design, performance, personal growth and mental health, remote working, brand-building, search and security – WordCamp Europe struck a great balance of the practical and the hugely inspiring.

Contributor Day

WordPress Rest API sub core team
A sub-core team focusing on the WordPress Rest API (Photo by Florian Ziegler)

The event opened with Contributor Day, an annual event that provides attendees with the opportunity to network and better understand how to contribute to the WordPress community.

A record-breaking 525 people registered and worked across 24 teams. Reflecting on the success of the day, Remkus de Vries, organiser of Contributor Day, said: “It was a fruitful day with lots of great discussions about how to improve the various aspects of WordPress. Lots of issues were fixed and numerous improvements were made across the board. From documentation to core, from community to polyglots, from marketing to core: editor and many, many more.”

The road to Gutenberg

wceu speaker
Photo by Florian Ziegler

Unsurprisingly, one of the highlights of the two-day conference that followed was the keynote and Q&A with Matt Mullenweg, creator of WordPress and CEO of Automattic, who updated the audience on Gutenberg’s progress and how it’s going to evolve. You can read our interview with Matt Mullenweg on the future of WordPress here.

The editor is nearly ready and features are about to be frozen. The UX is now being refined, major sites are being encouraged to move over to Gutenberg (more than 14,000 use it already), and WordPress 5.0, which will include Gutenberg, is expected to be released in August. By that point hundreds of thousands of sites will be using Gutenberg. A full mobile version will be added to the WordPress apps by the end of the year.

Tammie Lister, an experience designer at Automattic and design lead for Gutenberg, then covered some of the new editor’s design patterns. She encouraged to think in adaptive blocks and imagine what they would look like on different devices. One of the most exciting features she talked about is the placeholder because it helps us get an idea for how a page might take shape. Read our interview with Tammie Lister here.

The general message was to start using Gutenberg and not to worry about it as much. The many talks and workshops helped ease people’s concerns and got them a lot more excited about the Gutenberg future.

Day 1

Kicking things off on the main stage was Paolo Belcastro, who provided a fascinating insight into his experience of leading a fully distributed team at Automattic, which has been 100 percent distributed since the beginning with a staff of 744 spread out over 64 countries. Paolo enthused that there was no real limit to what a distributed company could do. The bigger the company becomes, the smaller the difference between a distributed company and a ‘normal’ one.

Paolo also highlighted the importance of documenting everything (Automattic does so using P2), so that everyone can participate in the conversation, and explained how Slack has taken over the real-time conversation at Automattic. He admitted that it’s harder to celebrate wins for distributed companies but stressed the value of meetups and the community, which is a great first step to becoming distributed.

Accessible design

accessible design speaker
Photo by Florian Ziegler

One of the topics that featured quite heavily throughout the conference was accessibility and inclusive design. There were workshops on prototyping and testing accessibility, and on the main stage Berlin-based WordPress contributor and web designer Maja Benke gave a broad overview of accessibility considerations, tips, tools and resources.

Maja covered the different kinds of disabilities (cognitive, physical, audio and visual), but pointed out that accessibility isn’t just important for people with permanent disabilities but also temporary ones. Every fifth person, for example, has struggled to use the internet in any way.

Accessible design, Maja explained, supports the content as well as the functionality and provides access to everyone. Links should be made visible, and you should use a high colour contrast (test your designs with the Contrast Checker or Sketch WCAG – a plugin that lets you test an entire colour palette against the WCAG 2.0 contrast guidelines). Make sure that typography is easy to read and styles aren’t overdesigned. Caps should be used sparingly, for instance, as screen readers will read upper case words as single letters.

Maja recommended this workflow for designing an accessible website:

  1. Select content formats
  2. Create layout with semantics in mind
  3. Style the text elements (in black and white)
  4. Add colour
  5. Create a style guide (for developers and content creators)

Check out Maja’s slides for a ton of best practices (and most common mistakes), and start integrating accessibility from the beginning.

Other highlights on day 1 included John Maeda’s talk on inclusive design (our interview with John Maeda is here), Morten Rand-Hendriksen on the ethics of web design (we interviewed Morten about the ethics of web design here), Mauricio Gelves on the 10 steps to follow to become a freelancer with WordPress (we interviewed Mauricio Gelves here), and Joost de Valk on technical SEO to grow your WordPress business. (We interviewed Joost and Marieke van de Rakt about Small Business SEO). There were also standout presentations on JavaScript APIs, dealing with anxiety at work, as well as workshops on building a Gutenberg block and voice search and conversational interfaces.

Day 2

The second day kicked off with a somewhat surprising introduction to fellow open source content management system Drupal.

Highlights of the day then included Noel Tock on WordPress in 2019 (watch an interview with Noel Tock here),  how our industry will change and what it means for you and your business; Hajj Flemings on Rebrand Cities, a project that aims to crush the digital divide by bringing 10,000 small businesses online; (check out our interview with Hajj Flemings to learn more) and Simon Cooke, commercial director of Brighton-based WordPress agency Pragmatic, who gave an overview of the origins of design inspiration. (We interviewed Simon Cooke here.)

Meanwhile, Aaron Campbell, WordPress security team lead, funded by GoDaddy to contribute to WordPress full time, gave a talk on succeeding as an introvert (you can see our interview with Aaron Campbell here), while Nela Dunato explained the concept of the human-centred brand and provided practical tips on how to grow a relationship-focused business. (Read an interview with Nela Dunato here.) Standout workshops covered developing for privacy and data protection and Gutenberg block development with React.

Hallo Berlin!

The event ended with the announcement that WordCamp Europe 2019 will be held in Berlin on 20 to 22 June, and it’s set to be massive: the venue that can accommodate up to 12,000 people and will host the entire event, including the Contributor Day, the two conference days and the after party. Tickets are on sale from 1 September. See you there!

All photos released under CC-BY SA.