A Simple Way to Customize Your Site

Slides, links and resources from my talk at WordCamp Miami in March 2017, about getting started with the Advanced Custom Fields plugin.

The following materials and information are posted in connection with my talk at WordCamp Miami in March 2017. That talk, A Simple Way to Customize Your Website, details the powerful and value of the Advanced Custom Fields plugin, while highlight the simplicity of its use.

Resources from Liam’s Talk

Access Liam’s slides on Slideshare

Download Liam’s 2017 Demo Child Theme (on Bitbucket)

Download Liam’s Advance Custom Fields XML export (for importing into your own practice or demo WordPress site)

Learn about Custom Fields in the WordPress Codex

ACF Resources + Links: The Basics

Download the Advanced Custom Fields plugin from the WordPress plugin repository

Advanced Custom Fields Documentation

ACF Resources + Links: Leveling Up

Adding Custom Fields to a Custom Post Type, the Right Way – Tracy Rotton

Performance considerations when working with ACF – Craig Simpson

Related Resources

Child Themes in the WordPress Training Handbook

How to Create a Child ThemeLouise Treadwell

Looking Forward to WordCamp US 2015

A few highlights on what to look forward to at WordCamp US. It’s in Philly from 04-06 December.

For the past few months, much of my working life has been consumed by helping organize WordCamp US. While it has been a lot of work, as the date for this massive WordPress conference draws closer, I find myself increasingly excited for it to arrive.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about what specifically excites me about WordCamp US. I thought others debating with themselves about whether to attend might take some value and insight from my own expectations.

The People

WordCamps are a great way to meet up with old friends and to connect with new ones. WordCamps are delightfully ego-free zones; interaction between seasoned professionals and people just exploring WordPress is actively encouraged and supported.

As for specific people I am looking forward to meet in person (for the first time!) at WCUS, here are four: Cory Miller, David Bisset, Josepha Haden and John James Jacoby. (By sharing their names here, I think I’ve just challenged myself publicly to introduce myself to these four people.)

The Talks

There are so many exciting talks scheduled for WordCamp US. It sounds cliché, but there really is something for everyone. If I had to recommend one “must see” session, I’d select Rami Abraham’s WordPress: The Next Generation – A Look Into WordPress Sites 5, 20, and 50 Years into the Future.

That said, I am a big fan of lightning talks: a quick glance or dive into so many topics. Some above my head and some outside of my immediate area of interest, but it’s like an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of WordPress-focused knowledge. Bring it on!

Working with the Volunteers

WCUS: I'm volunteering!As part of the local organizing team, I have been privileged to focus on coordinating volunteer efforts in the run up to WCUS. I am really enamored with the generosity of the WordPress community, so I consider the opportunity to work closely with more than 120 volunteers a real treat. I can’t wait to get into the Philadelphia Convention Center and work alongside these wonderful people.

The After Party

The planning that has gone into the after-party for WordCamp US is amazing: the WCUS after-party promises to the be the mother of all good times. I won’t give away any surprises, but I’m confident that the party will go down in WordPress history as one of the best ever.

There are definitely a few tickets left, but you better get yours now! I am pretty sure they will sell out, and you definitely won’t want to miss out.

Get your tickets for WordCamp US »

WordCamp Philly 2015: Thoughts from a Co-Organizer

A few thoughts and comments following the wonder that was WordCamp Philly 2015.

As it’s been a full month since the work, excitement and rush of organizing WordCamp Philly 2015, I wanted to share a few thoughts about my experiences in 2015.

A Good Planning Team Works Magic

WordCamp 2015 was the second year that I was privileged to be a part of the organizing team for Philadelphia’s biggest WordPress conference. This year we had a bigger team than ever before and – wow! – did it make the job that much easier and more enjoyable. The team (Brad Williams, Doug Stewart, Tracy Levesque, Jodie Riccelli, Alx Block and me, led by Reed Gustow) really blew me away by its “can do” attitude that was very much centered around “how can I help”. I’ve certainly heard nightmare tales of planning teams not working well together – and WordCamp Philly was exactly the opposite. Someone would flag up a concern, a need or a task and two others would volunteer to look into or address it. So much fun! And of course, a lot of work too.

Great Speakers Engage The Audience

Aaron Jorbin delivering a keynote talk at WordCamp Philly, by Seth Goldstein

Aaron Jorbin delivering a keynote talk at WordCamp Philly, by Seth Goldstein. Used with permission.

In the run up to WordCamp Philly, we had to review speaker applications. I was astounded by the width and depth of the proposed talks. There were so, so many high quality speaker applications. Certainly more than last year. Whether that was a reflection of the growth of – and within – the WordPress community, it certainly made for a very difficult challenge. Saying ‘no’ to people who have put so much thought and energy into their work is really hard.

On the day of the WordCamp, I was approached by more attendees than I can remember who shared their thanks about how great the talks and speakers were. It was so wonderful to hear. The strength of a WordCamp significantly relies on the quality of the presentations. The women and men who shared their skill and knowledge at WordCamp Philly 2015 did not disappoint.

Volunteers Make for Light Work

Part of my role for 2015 was to recruit and coordinate the efforts of our volunteers. I was delighted that we were able to recruit 30 people to help out on the day. Thirty people! That was our biggest group of volunteers ever. On the day, the wonderful volunteers made the registration process so fluid and easy, answered plenty of questions at the Happiness Bar, recorded presentations, ran the WordCamp Philly Twitter account, took photos and more. Thanks again to all the volunteers!

Attendees Set the Tone

WordCamp Philly, by Susan McCreadie

Photo of WordCamp Philly 2015 by Susan McCreadie. Used with permission.

The efforts of organizers, speakers, sponsors and volunteers will all be for nothing if no one shows up on the day. WordCamps are no different. In many ways, it’s the attendees at a WordCamp who set the tone. Yes, organizers can try to offer structure and the like, but ultimately, yet it’s attendees who set the tone with their level of engagement, their response and their enthusiasm about the event. As long as I’ve been attending WordCamps in Philly (2010), the attendees have always been great. I think 2015 was the best crowd ever – so friendly, so engaged, so happy to be there and with each other. The vibe was really thrilling to feel.

Location, Location, Location

University of the Sciences, by John Lauber

University of the Sciences, by John Lauber. Used with permission.

Our entire planning team was really excited when we reviewed the facilities at University of the Sciences. The space was amazing: new, open, beautiful and just about a perfect fit for the size of crowd we were expecting. Yet what made the USciences experience so great was the team of people that delivered services both in the planning stages and on the day. Of particular value was Scott Sisson, the Meetings + Events Coordinator at USciences. He responded to our every need or concern with amazing speed, patience and performance.

New Amazing People

A successful WordCamp is about people first and WordPress second. One of my measures of a successful WordCamp is now many people I met or got to know better. Here are just a few from WordCamp 2015.

Susan McCreadie: Susan and I have known of each other for a few years through a mutual client. I was excited when she volunteered to help at WordCamp Philly. She ran the Twitter account on the day, helping answer questions, share updates and feed the online buzz around the event. Susan also took some wonderful photos that day.

Joe Casabona: Joe and I have danced around a few WordCamps together for a few years now. Not literally, mind you. Just figuratively. I got to know him a bit more at WordCamp Lancaster as we hung out in the speakers lounge together. Yet it was only during this past WordCamp Philly where I felt like I could call Joe a friend.

Briana Morgan: Briana was kind enough not to walk out of the room when she learned that I would be giving the talk for that time slot. (I was asked to deliver a talk about WordPress when one of the scheduled speakers unexpectedly fell ill.) With a winning smile and a warm personality, Briana is very active in the Philly tech community. I certainly hope to get to know her better over time.

Jodie Riccelli: Although I’ve known Jodie for a couple of years now through her work with YIKES, it wasn’t until working more closely with her this year that I realized just how amazing she is. If everyone with internet access in Philly knows Reed Gustow, then everyone in the events industry must surely know Jodie. She is so resourceful, so connected, so professional, so hard working and so, so nice! The success of WordCamp Philly 2015 owes a lot to Jodie.

Can’t Wait for 2016!

I know, I know. WordCamp Philly 2015 has only just passed. Still, I am very much looking forward to getting started on planning for 2016. What wonders await us there?

The photo of me delivering a talk at WordCamp Philly 2015 was taken by John Lauber. Used with permission.

New and Old Friends at WordCamp Philly 2014

A recap of some of the more amazing people with whom I spent time over the weekend of WordCamp Philly 2014.

Jeremy Pry + Liam Dempsey at WordCamp Philly 2014

Having just caught up on sleep from WordCamp Philly 2014, I wanted to thank the people who made it such a wonderful weekend. What follows is a list of just some of the amazing folks I met or with whom I spent time while talking about WordPress, design, version control and more. Clearly there were too many people for me to thank here, so please forgive me if I left you off!

Jeremy Pry

Jeremy and I were introduced to each other about two years ago at a Philadelphia WordPress Meetup or at the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup. Since then, I’ve come to have a deep respect for Jeremy’s prowess as a developer. He has the rare ability to not only write advanced code but also to teach the less technical how to write code or use version control. Crafting and delivering a presentation about GitHub with Jeremy at WordCamp Philly was a lot of fun. I learned a lot from him and his presentational style. Jeremy is online at jeremypry.com.

Tracy Levesque

I first met Tracy in 2012, at the first WordCamp at which I presented. Since then, I’ve gotten to know her a bit more through our involvement with the WordPress community. Over the past few months as we worked together to help organize WordCamp Philly 2014, I have come to consider Tracy a friend. She’s smart, very funny, outgoing and very generous. Getting to hang out with her so much over the past weekend was a definite highlight. Tracy is a designer who codes and a co-owner of YIKES, Inc.

Brian Messenlehner

Brian is a man who really knows code and is one of the owners of the amazing Web Dev Studios. Over the course of Friday night and a good portion of Saturday, I had a great time hanging with Brian, talking WordPress, helping people in the Happiness Bar and relaxing at the After Party.

Sonja Leix

Sonja Leix is a a New York based User Experience and Web Designer. I was lucky enough to meet Sonja on Friday evening, before WordCamp Philly. Her talk about UX was delivered to a packed room at WordCamp Philly and the reviews that I heard in the hallways afterwards were all very positive. It was fun chatting more with her at the After Party. Sonja’s online at sonjaleix.com.

Tom Rose

A Philly-based designer/developer, Tom Rose is a classy, friendly guy. Although I’ve known Tom for a few years now through the Philly WordPress community, it was only over the weekend that I got spend any real amount of time catching up with him, learning about the etymology of the word slurve and some of the finer points of baseball. We may have also chatted about design, WordPress and the Advanced Custom Fields plugin.

Ben Lobaugh

Ben’s a nice guy with a welcoming smile and a full beard. He’s also an Automattician who calls Seattle home. When we discussed how to best to trim a beard, Ben was kind enough to share a bit of advice with me. Ben blogs at ben.lobaugh.net.

Spencer Hansen

I met Spencer on Friday night at the Speaker’s Party. He arrived late, half starved and wearied by the journey. (There was all sorts of traffic coming into Philly that night.) Yet by the close of WordCamp Philly, Spencer had regained his stride and was able to carry us to victory in shuffle board at the After Party at Buffalo Billiards. I look forward to catching up with Spencer before too long at another WordPress event.

The #wcphilly Crew

When Brad Williams asked me to help plan WordCamp Philly 2014, I was thrilled at the invite. Brad is a professional for whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration. To be able to work with him, Doug Stewart and Reed Gustow was a wonderful opportunity — and I was grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Now that WordCamp Philly 2014 is now a memory, I must extend my thanks and admiration to these guys – along with the amazing April Williams – for putting together what was an amazing weekend of WordPress, community sharing, knowledge exchange and great fun.

Bring on 2015!

WordPress Plugin: Feed Anonymizer

A shout-out to a local developer who put together a simple WordPress plugin in between finishing his breakfast and getting his kids to the bus.

Feed Anonymizer plugin

As a co-founder and co-editor of chickenmonkeydog, I have a story to share with you. I want to share this story because it demonstrates a certain business savvy, a dedication to community and a professionalism that stands out from the ordinary.

On chickenmonkeydog.com, we publish anonymously. We think it’s part of our appeal. Our readers don’t know which of the writers shared which quirky observation. However, WordPress adds author information to the RSS feeds by default. Then Google Reader comes along (and perhaps others will in its wake) and picks that up, highlighting which author wrote a specific piece.

Historically, I’ve just hacked the WordPress core to override that functionality. Admittedly, that’s not an ideal approach, but it was for my own site and it was a single, simple hack.

Over time, my impromptu approach meant that I always had to remember to hack the core every time we update WordPress on the site. On at least a few occasions, I forgot to do so in a timely fashion, allowing our readers to circumvent our attempt at quirky anonymity.

This past spring, I emailed a web developer that I knew, asking if he’d be up for coding a plugin or an addition to the functions.php for me. I believe that my initial email made it clear that I was more than willing to pay for the help — I was not seeking a freebie or favor.

In looking at my sent items, I see that I sent the first email at 5:08 am. At 7:18 pm, I received an email from the developer with a link to a plugin on the WordPress.org repository:


My initial reaction was ‘How did I miss this plugin earlier?’ Then, after some gentle prodding from the web developer, I saw that the plugin has just been posted that same day and it was written by the developer. Whoah! I later learned that the plugin was actually written in between the time that the developer finished breakfast and saw his children onto the morning school bus. Double whoah!

In thinking about the story, I think we can draw a number of interesting conclusions:

  1. Good web developers are doers. They see a problem, they quickly assess a reasonable solution and they write the code.
  2. A quick favor is a solid business move. Since this plugin was created, I’ve involved this web developer on a number of small projects, and I continue to look for ways to involve him in others.
  3. The WordPress community is a giving one. As I mentioned above, I was prepared to pay for code. Although chickenmonkeydog.com does not generate income, I thought it fair to pay for web development to improve the quality of experience for our readers. That this web developer not only wrote the code for free, but did so in a single day, shows just how generous and giving those within the WordPress community can be.

By now, you’re probably asking yourself “Who is this famed web developer?” He is Owen Winkler, @ringmaster on Twitter and a regular contributor to the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup. In fact, you can watch Owen develop and launch a custom WordPress site in 30 minutes at the July 2013 meetup.

Advanced Custom Fields: A Designer’s Approach

Slides and thoughts from my presentation about the Advanced Custom Fields plugin for WordPress.

Liam speaking to the Philadelphia WordPress Meetup

On Thursday, 07 February, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak to the Philadelphia WordPress Meetup about Advanced Custom Fields: A Designer’s Approach. I walked the group through the process of using the Advanced Custom Fields plugin on a WordPress install.

My slides from the presentation are below.

That WordPress Community

Although it won’t be a surprise to anyone within the WordPress community, I have to say that I was blown away by the receptiveness of the audience. It was my first attempt at delivering a technically-minded “how to” presentation. Rather than pour disdain on my trepid steps to improve my code-knowledge, the audience was supportive and respectful of “a designer’s approach”. In retrospect, I should have expected nothing less from the WordPress community.

Yet I think it says a lot about the community when it is so welcoming and supportive of different professional approaches and backgrounds.

Photo credit: Andy Christian. Used with permission.

10 People I Met or Got to Know Better at WordCamp Philly 2012

Highlighting just a few of the wonderful people I encountered at WordCamp Philly 2012.

Liam dressed in costume for WordCamp Philly 2012

For the second year in a row, WordCamp Philly has blown me away with the insightful presentations, the dynamic and friendly people and the shared knowledge of the WordPress community. From Friday evening to Sunday evening, I spent the weekend meeting, chatting and hanging out with some wonderful people from around Philadelphia and across the USA. I met new faces and learned more about others whom I had previously met.

For me, WordCamp Philly is about people. If I just wanted knowledge about how to create a Custom Post Type or which app is best for coding, I would have sat at home and Googled those topics. I wanted to meet and enjoy the company of people who make WordPress what it is today … and WordCamp Philly 2012 did not disappoint.

What follows is a list of ten (or slightly more than 10) people whom I met or got to know a bit better over the weekend. The list is presented in chronological order as I encountered or spent time with them. Of course, I met many more people than I could list here, so if I left someone off, I do apologize!

1. Brad Williams, Doug Stewart, Anthony Bubel and April Williams

While the names above are for four people, they acted as one in bringing together a fantastic WordCamp yet again. Brad, Doug Anthony and April put in a tremendous amount of energy, time and passion into creating a fantastic weekend-long WordPress-focused event that was exciting, engaging, educational and more. Brad is online at strangework.com, Doug calls literalbarrage.org home, Anthony posts photos at anthonybubel.com and April blogs at twoandthezoo.com.

2. John Kleinschmidt

The Director of Technology Development at CURE International, John and I met while traipsing our way around Old City, Philadelphia, hearing scary ghost stories about the haunting of historic places. Although I didn’t get to hear his presentation, I understand that it was outstanding. What he is doing with WordPress is very cool and worth learning about. John blogs at http://resplendentdev.com.

3. Christina Strommer

I met Christina through a number of Meetups, but it was only at WordCamp Philly that I got to spend real time with her. She’s a friendly and delightfully knowledgeable designer from greater Philadelphia. Hanging out with and chatting with her on the dev day was really fun. You can follow Christina at @jamminpsu.

4. Tracy Levesque

A designer and co-owner of Yikes, Inc., Tracy delivered a top notch presentation about WordPress’ Custom Post Types. Her presentational style was perfect: knowledgeable, laid-back, easy going. I learned a lot from Tracy at WordCamp Philly.

5. Tin Pham

Hitting WordCamp Philly to represent WP Engine, Tin Pham was yet another example of why WP Engine continues to get my vote for outstanding web host. Articulate and genuinely interested in learning my thoughts on what WP Engine could to do improve, Tin spoke with me at length about the company, its history and its plans for continued growth. His shared insight encouraged me to put even greater faith in WP Engine. Tin Pham blogs at http://www.hostblanket.com. He’s on Twitter at @tinner10tin.

6. Dre Armeda

The CEO and Co-Founder of Sucuri, Dre Armeda is nothing if not an expert in website security. His know-how for keeping WordPress websites, and other CMS-driven sites, safe and secure is second to none. On top of that, he is a very kind, gregarious and funny guy. I was glad to have had the chance to meet and get to know him a bit over the weekend. Check out Sucuri online at www.sucuri.net.

7. Krystal Knapp

When Krystal popped into the Happiness Bar at WordCamp Philly, I was lucky enough to be able to help her out. Then we spoke about her news site, Planet Princeton. It was really interesting to hear of an individual journalist working hard to progress a sustainable business model for covering local news, which in Krystal’s case is Princeton, NJ.

8. Clarissa Peterson

A gifted business card recycler, Clarissa was a real hoot. She’s intelligent, free-spirited, analytical and just good fun! I enjoyed hanging out with her at Dev Day. She really is everyone you ever need to know. Only the highway authorities might know where she is now, but you can find Clarissa online at clarissapeterson.com.

9. Justin Sternberg

I was lucky to grab a seat next to Justin on a bench in the beer garden outside Barcade. We got to talking about being designers who code. We had a great conversation about how we progressed from being just designers to being designers who code for WordPress. It was a short but wonderful exchange of creative philosophies. Learn more about Justin at http://about.me/jtsternberg.

10. Matt Mullenweg

When I arrived at the dev day session, I was delighted to hear the news that Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress, would join us for the session. He’s a real inspiration for me — hugely successful, but still so down-to-earth, so committed to giving to and supporting the community and so interested in the greater good. It was a real pleasure to meet him and to hear his thoughts on the future of WordPress and other web technologies. You can find Matt online practically everywhere, but he has a blog at ma.tt.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to Matt from Downingtown, PA, and his friend, Cameron. I bumped into these guys at Barcade and we got to talking about WordPress, design and all points web. They were great fun — and Matt had a great mustache in the making. (You can see Matt in the bottom right corner of this photo.)

Lastly, if you’re wondering about the photo at the top of this point, I delivered my own presentation in costume as directed by the organizers of WordCamp Philly. I was dressed as the impeccable Dr. Watson, Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation.

Speaking at WordCamp Philly 2012

A preview of my presentation for WordCamp Philly 2012, which runs on 20th-21st October 2012 … in Philadelphia (Duh!)

WordCamp Philly 2012

In a very exciting turn of events, I am going to be presenting at WordCamp Philly 2012 later this month. In a presentation entitled Designing for WordPress, I’ll be speaking about what designers need to know about how WordPress works as they encounter the content management system for the first time.

Here’s the presentation description, as listed on the WordCamp Philly 2012 website:

As web designers and print designers encounter WordPress for the first time, it can be a challenge to understand how WordPress works. Yet, it is so important for designers to know the system for which they are designing. This presentation will address key points for helping designers understand the basic functionality and structure of WordPress — so that they can design truly beautiful and functional sites that run well on WordPress. This presentation will aim to help designers understand what developers do to get their designs live on a WordPress site.

As I clicked the “publish” button for this post, there were still tickets available for Saturday’s sessions.