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December marked the Inaugural WordCamp US event held in Philadelphia — the tasty city of our country’s forefathers — and it was a grand old time. After devouring a couple of hot cheesesteaks and perogies with some new friends, it’s obvious that Philly was a great location for this year’s epic conference of WordPress enthusiasm, swag and networking. There was A LOT in store for 2015’s wordcampers, including some juicy talk about WordPress 4.4, the REST API, Javascript, Calypso, best practices, and the future of WordPress at large.

A Taste of Philadelphia

First off, I’d like to mention that Philadelphia is an amazing city. Not only is it extremely walkable, but there’s great food everywhere. This made for a wonderful experience away from San Francisco and definitely exceeded my expectations for my visit. The sights were plentiful, but it was the slew of mind-boggling flavors that left the biggest impact on me. Before I discuss my experience at WordCamp US, I must mention that I had the best ramen of my life at Cheu Noodle Bar in the Washington West neighborhood. If you’re ever in Philly and have a thing for ramen, you must stop there!

Takeaways From The Conference

There’s so much to say about the information-filled sessions from Friday’s and Saturday’s lineup at WordCamp US. Here’s a loaded introduction to some of the hot topics I found most educational while socializing with new friends.

The REST API has finally been integrated with WordPress 4.4 “Clifford,” which released on December 8th. This integration greatly amplifies the capabilities of WordPress, and is allowing for the CMS to become a full-on app platform. Various developers are tinkering with making WordPress themes entirely around the REST API, leading to some creative results. However, we’re still scratching our heads as to how SEO will perform within these sorts of environments. But rest assured, some innovative, industry-shaking solutions are on the horizon.

Javascript is the key to unlocking the future potential of WordPress. Backbone, React, Angular and Flux are some of the most popular libraries that are being utilized for making WordPress better, faster and stronger now that the REST API is here for good. In his renowned “State of the Word” speech, Matt Mullenweg has sounded the horn for the community to begin learning and mastering Javascript. It’s definitely on our “to-do” list for the new year.

The new and exciting desktop publishing app, Calypso, is a powerful piece of technology that’s been getting some great press. It is “what WordPress would be if we started today.” Written entirely in React, it centralizes installations into a blazing fast management dashboard and it features a very small API that is easy to learn. We look forward to becoming more familiar with Calypso’s amazing capabilities in early 2016.

HTTPS and HTTP2 is the future of the web, sayeth Google and WordPress. It’s time to SSL all the things with free certificates from Let’s Encrypt, the web’s new favorite destination for internet privacy and security. HTTP2 is blazing fast, and is something to be excited about. Google has also announced that it will be giving priority to HTTPS in the SERPS, making it imperative to make the jump to secure your business’ presence online. It’s time to get to work, folks!

Recently released, PHP7 is making the web twice as fast. And regardless of speculation, PHP is not going anywhere. WordPress will continue to run on PHP and, thankfully, this won’t be changing for quite some time. If your web host has not upgraded PHP to the latest version, be sure to encourage them to do so as there is a considerable difference in performance.

Accessibility has moved to the best practices forefront for designers and developers. The topic of web accessibility is a never-ending conversation that is opening doors for 2012’s estimated 57 million citizens having some sort of disability, whether it be visual, audible, physical or cognitive. As WordPress continues to democratize publishing on the web, it seeks to be more inclusive than ever. A wide variety of tools and auditing resources have become available for testing purposes, so there’s no excuse to not be thinking about it. Oh, and did I mention accessibility is great for business?

As of November 2015, WooCommerce now holds a market share of 30% of the web’s e-commerce platforms. Runners up include Magento (8%) and Shopify (4%). If you’re not using WooCommerce, the time to switch over to this self-hosted platform has arrived. Earlier this year on May 19th, Automattic (the company that owns WordPress) acquired WooThemes. Needless to say, there’s plenty of resources available to expand and build upon the platform, further promising a bright future for e-commerce activity on the web. Get those USPs (Unique Selling Propositions) ready!

Web security is and will continue to be everyone’s responsibility. Website owners are the #1 security threat to the online ecosystem. This is where responsibility lies, and there’s plenty of opportunity to educate our users on how to stay safe and not be a target. After hearing that Google blacklists 11-12k sites a day, it’s an important time to remind ourselves of Tony Perez’s declaration “there are no absolutes in security.” Continue to make security a primary component to your online strategy and you’ll be a-OK.

A Brief Glimpse at WordCamp US

Whew! I just covered plenty of exciting takeaways from this conference. Surely that was enough for everyone to swallow for the time being. During my stay I was able to capture some exciting moments from the weekend and wanted to share them with you. I can’t say I was alone on my adventures because Reggie, NextSpace’s awesome little orange mascot, made the trek out to Philly too!

What’s in Store For Razorfrog in 2016

With the new year comes a slew of emerging challenges that seem a little imposing at first, but will be exciting to take on as we move forward.

Javascript is clearly taking the spotlight, so it’s time to hit the books and online tutorials including Code School and We’ve been busy gathering a lineup of great Javascript resources which we’ll be sharing with everyone in early 2016.

As I mentioned previously, we’ll be testing out WordPress’ Calypso app to see how we can harness its potential. Our understanding of Javascript will play a key role in how we utilize this technology down the road.

Razorfrog continues to keep security best practices in the limelight by strategically hosting with WPEngine, a highly optimized and renowned WordPress web host. We’ve been impressed with WPEngine’s customer service and performance to date, and we’re proud to continue working with this amazing host to produce the best web experiences possible for Bay Area SMBs.

Lastly, we’ll be making an active effort to get everyone on board with HTTPS as the Google demands it. We fully understand that right now it’s more crucial than ever to get that green lock icon showing, and our team will be discussing our strategy for moving forward in January. If you have questions regarding HTTPS or SSL Certificates, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

The Making of History

Just how big was WordCamp this year? It was confirmed that the organizational team sold 1,800 tickets for the weekend conference. On top of that, December 5th has been declared “WordPress Day” by Philly’s Councilman David Oh, followed by an announcement that WordCamp would return in 2016 to Philly. We can’t wait to be back next year!

WordPress Co-Founder Matt Mullenweg and David Oh, Councilman of Philadelphia
WordPress Co-Founder Matt Mullenweg and David Oh, Councilman of Philadelphia

The Best Is Yet To Come

I’d like to end this post with a big “thank you” to all the folks who made WordCamp US a monstrous success, and to those who have contributed to WordPress in 2015. It was great year for publishing on the web, and a gigaton of active momentum for WordPress’ growth. With a confirmed 25% share of the interwebs, our favorite CMS has nothing to lose and everything to gain. We look forward to seeing what the new year has to bring, and of course staying on top of design trends for our amazing Bay Area clients.

Ladies and gents, thanks for reading and we’ll catch you in 2016. Happy Holidays from the Razorfrog team, and we wish you a vibrant and prosperous new year!

Scott is Razorfrog's Lead Designer. He is a passionate web designer, graphic designer, branding specialist, accessibility expert and content creator. View Scott's bio for more details.

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