3 Great WordPress Themes for Portfolio Sites

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Recently, we showed you how to create a filterable portfolio and included a free starter theme suitable for portfolio sites. However, if you’re more of a designer than a developer, customizing a starter theme might not be what you prefer to do. To save you the time, we’re going to showcase three great WordPress themes that will fit any portfolio site. Best of all, they’re free and you can download them straight from your WordPress dashboard.

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WordCamp St. Louis 2015 is Around the Corner

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And yet another WordCamp is nearly upon us! WordCamp St. Louis is coming up on March 14-15th, and as we’ve done with past events, we want to give you the scoop on what to see and where to be. None of the WDS team is going to be speaking this time around, but one of our Developers, Patrick Garman, and one of our Project Managers, Cristina Cannon, will be around that weekend, so make sure you say hello!

Although I find it hard to believe that any of our regular readers are unfamiliar with WordCamp (come on, now!), for those of you that are completely green: WordCamps are events held all over the world where WordPress nerds unite to share their skills, insights, and learn a whole lot from a bunch of other smarties.

As we’ve done with previous events, we wanted to highlight a few things to check out while you’re there–it seems like WordCamp St. Louis has a bevy of awesome things going on that you will not want to miss:

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The Basics of Developing Accessible Websites

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Imagine not being allowed to buy a gallon of milk because you’re color blind.

What a ridiculous scenario right!? But the reality is: Grocery stores don’t discriminate against those with disabilities…but your website (probably) does.

The reality is that there are millions and millions of people with disabilities who use the web every day. As a community, we cannot continue to treat them as an afterthought. When I say this, please take note: I’m not trying to shame anyone. When I am talking about our community, I truly mean it; it’s on all of us, including WebDevStudios, to make improvements in this regard.

If you’re not familiar, “accessibility” is the practice of writing code and creating websites that are easy to read and navigate for those who cannot view or hear in a traditional manner. This is not another article preaching the importance of accessibility. There are plenty articles focused on WHY, but even fewer that explain HOW. This will be an article on how, as I take a high-level view of the different types of accessibility concerns, showcase some code examples, and finally introduce you to some software to help you test it all out.

If you’re interested in learning why it’s important (and it is), please consider reading this fantastic article on A List Apart, check to see if it’s the law where you live, then get caught up on W3C standards and look at some tutorials on writing accessible code.

Note: For the remainder of this article, I may refer to “accessibility” as “a11y”.

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Filtering WordPress Form Data with Gravity Forms

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WordPress filters are used to modify data before being rendered to the browser or saved to the database, and WordPress plugins typically provide filters to modify plugin behavior. Gravity forms is an extremely powerful form plugin that has many filters available. These filters can be used for validating form data, creating custom redirects, and even tying form data to other WordPress tables. The filter you hook into for validating submitted form data is the gform_validation filter.

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Using Vagrant and IIS for WordPress Development

vagrant+iis+wordpress

…And lo! It came to pass that I needed to set up a local environment built on IIS.

Many things (like communicating with a MS SQL server) can be emulated or replicated on a *nix environment, in which case the Vagrant workflow I’ve spent a lot of time and energy switching over to would work fine. In this case, however, I needed the environment to be specifically Windows-based, because the plugin I was planning on building was going to make use of COM functions to pull in and execute Visual Basic scripts that just wouldn’t run on anything other than Windows.

First, I asked my fellow devs. We do a lot of Microsoft work; maybe someone had a recipe or a Vagrant box I could use. No dice.

Vagrant is great because you can have different boxes emulating different environments. Your local machine’s filesystem (the “host” environment) can interact natively with the emulated operating system (the “guest” environment). My goal was to stick with Vagrant, somehow, to allow changes I make on my host to be reflected on the guest and then be able to see those changes in a browser. When no response was forthcoming, I took to Google. Surely someone has tried building on a virtualized Windows machine using Vagrant on OSX. Surely.

When I couldn’t find any answers on Google, I tried cobbling together what I could to build my own. What follows is how I have my local IIS Vagrant WordPress machine working. Your mileage may vary. It is, by no means, the best solution, and if you know of ways to improve the setup–particularly in syncing files between the two different filesystems–I’d be interested to hear them in the comments. At any rate, this method and this box works for me and I’m actively using it as a development environment.

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WDS Github Releases for February 2015

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Every month, WDS releases a bunch of goodies over on Github (and occasionally WordPress.org and elsewhere). While we typically share the links on our social media, we know that it’s easy for things to get lost in the noise, so we will be bringing you our top five(-ish) releases of every month from now on. While the vast majority are on Github (and for this month, they ALL are), we’ll sometimes also be featuring non-Github releases as well.

February was a busy month! We had a lot going on, and released some really exciting stuff!

Here are the top five releases from WebDevStudios:

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Team WDS Takes On Prestige Conference 2015

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Prestige Conference is coming up on February 27th-28th (next week!) in Las Vegas, and yes, WDS will be there!

Like PressNomics, Prestige is a tech conference that focuses on business and career development, rather than tech itself; most of the presentations are focused on discussing how to run a business in the tech industry, rather than on improving technical skills.

One of the biggest benefits of conferences like this is, of course, the presentations from well-established professionals who know their stuff, but also, the conversations that happen in between the formal scheduling–the hallway chats, brainstorming over meals, and networking amongst other like-minded pros in the industry.

A few major WDS movers and shakers are going to be in attendance: Brad will be speaking, and Lisa and Dre will be there too, making friends (as per usual!).

Hiring Employee Number One: From Freelancer to Agency – February 28th, 1 PM

Brad Williams will be discussing the process of hiring employee number one based on his experience building and growing WebDevStudios. His presentation will cover how the company grew to the point where hiring additional employees was necessary, as well as what he learned along the way. The process was hardly seamless, and he will discuss lessons learned from mistakes made, as well as tips on how to do it right.

As per usual, we want to highlight a few other presentations that caught our eye:

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10 Things I Learned Migrating Websites to WordPress

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Since joining WDS, I’ve had the awesome opportunity to be a part of our internal migrations team and create scripts to help migrate sites for Microsoft to WordPress. It’s an ongoing joke about my joy for migrations because in my initial interview I expressed that I wasn’t too fond of them and plugins were my thing. Boy, was I in for a surprise, because I’ve been studying and writing migrations scripts for almost a year now.

This post is born out of a year of challenges, growth, and my new found love and respect for the beast known as WordPress Migrations. Its purpose is to help those who may be entering this space for the first time or needing to refine their processes become more efficient (and make some more money) doing migrations.

This is not an exhaustive list, but here are ten things that I learned migrating websites to WordPress:

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Tech Non-Profit Spotlight: Hack the Hood

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Prior to becoming a writer and communications dork, I was immersed in the non-profit world. From non-profits that focused on the arts to those that offered direct assistance to underserved communities, playing small time Wonder Woman (or trying, at least) was my life.

Although I’m no longer part of that world professionally, it’s still something I’m very passionate about, which is why WebDevStudios’  contribution to the community in both charitable and educational capacities appealed to me immediately. As giving back is part of the heart of WDS (and the big, squishy hearts of our wonderful team), it only made sense for us to turn the lens outward and shine a light on other people in the tech community who are passionate about the same.

As a result, this is the first of a monthly column focusing on different organizations who are doing the good work–the meaty, meaningful stuff–and making the world a better place.

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Using Git Flow and Forget to Branch? Stash it.

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Here at WebDevStudios, we use a variation of the Git workflow known as Git Flow.

One of the benefits of using Git is quick and easy branching and merging without conflicts. Git Flow makes extensive use of branches to ensure that work that you are currently developing doesn’t break things that someone else is working on.

A lot has been written about Git Flow–the first time I learned about it was on Jeff Kreeftmeijer’s blog a couple years ago, but it was originally devised in 2010 by Vincent Dreissen. Since then, Git Flow has been added to popular Git GUI clients like SourceTree and Tower.

For those of you not familiar with Git Flow, I’m not going to go in depth about how it works, but I’ll walk through a really simple workflow example and how we use it at WDS.

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