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Customizing Google Analytics Configuration in the Site Kit Plugin

The Site Kit plugin by Google makes it trivial to integrate your WordPress site with various publisher-facing Google services such as Google Analytics. In addition to exposing key insights from these services directly in your WordPress dashboard, it also automatically places the necessary code snippets on your page to ensure these metrics can be gathered properly.

In this post we will look at Google Analytics specifically and how you can customize its behavior in the Site Kit plugin. While the default configuration already gives you access to many valuable metrics, Google Analytics becomes really powerful when you have tailored it to your specific use-cases. With Site Kit currently still in Beta, the user-facing configuration options for Google Analytics are minimal. While we are exploring how we can expose more customization opportunities through the plugin’s settings UI, it may be a while until these improvements are included in a new plugin’s release. Since its beta 1.0.4 release though, the plugin includes filters to modify the Google Analytics configuration, so as a developer you can tweak it in almost any way you like already today.

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Exploring Sitewide Gutenberg Usage Today

Phase 2 of Gutenberg is all about taking the compelling capabilities of the block editor to the site level. WordPress 5.0 introduced it as the new editor for post content, but that was only the beginning. Blocks are a powerful tool and inspired by the learnings of various other formats of editing that WordPress and other platforms have been using over the years, so it makes sense for them to provide a unified approach to reusable content. The difference between shortcodes and widgets for example has pretty much been non-existent, and it felt weird to create a certain UI component only for one of the two, or having to write some duplicate code to address both layers. With Gutenberg being expanded to become the editor for your entire WordPress site, beyond the post content bubble, this problem will be solved. Furthermore, it will bring the new editor much closer to being able to fully compete with existing layout builders.

Each of the steps to get there (e.g. migrating widgets, menus, and possibly even other elements fully controlled by the theme today) poses several challenges, so it might still be some time until we get to experience all this functionality in its proper implementation. Therefore, inspired by a conversation with Morten at WordCamp Europe a few weeks ago, I wrote a tiny experimental plugin that allows you to use blocks on a sitewide level and explore what the theming of tomorrow could look like already today.

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Leveraging the Power of Custom Elements in Gutenberg

This is essentially a written version of the talk of the same name that I gave at WordCamp Europe 2019 (see the related slide deck).

As I’m sure we can all confirm, WordPress provides a strong toolset for creating awesome content. Particularly with the availability of the Gutenberg editor, publishers can now implement more interesting layouts and take their content quality to the next level. However, while the content itself is certainly the most important part of a website, there are a few other supporting pillars to ensure delightful content experiences for users consuming that content. Websites should be:

Performant
Secure

Integrated
Engaging

For more details on these four pillars, see the “Progressive WordPress Themes” talk by my colleagues Alberto Medina and Thierry Muller.

Unfortunately, satisfying each of these four requirements is anything but trivial. You might already know that just installing a performance or a security plugin is not actually going to magically solve these respective points.

Technologies and best practices on the web are constantly evolving: Regularly new APIs are introduced, new standards being established, former best practices being overruled. Add in all the popular frameworks that have come and gone over the years, and it becomes even more evident: Even the most senior rockstar full-stack developer cannot keep up with this technology complexity on their own.

In addition, even in the scope of a single website or application, maintaining a good overview of the different pieces can present a huge cognitive challenge. HTML, CSS, JavaScript, code for different areas shed across everywhere, with possible incompatibilities in functionality as well as in appearance with all thiese pieces being used in combination. This is what we can refer to as content complexity.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce and work around both of these complexities. In this post we will look at a component-based approach and a relatively new technology called “Custom Elements” and how they address the aforementioned problems.

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Vier

Last weekend I participated in WordCamp Europe 2019, my fifth one of these annual events for the European (and beyond!) WordPress communities to meet, exchange knowledge and celebrate themselves. This fifth WordCamp Europe also marks my fourth anniversary as part of the WordPress community, as the 2015 event in Sevilla was my very first interaction with the community. Hence, it is time for my annual personal recap of what has happened in the past 12 months.

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Introducing Feature Policy & Reporting API for WordPress

The web has been constantly evolving. Over the years we have seen milestones such as the introduction of responsive images, AJAX requests, or location access for some examples. More recently features like Add to Home Screen, which allows you to make websites easily accessible on your phone or desktop, or Web Payments, a standardized way of processing payments on the web, have been made available. Even lazy-loading media is likely to come natively to the web soon.

While all these features are very powerful, they also pose the challenge of using them responsibly, and making sure to not abuse them, which could harm user experience. For example, asking the user to grant location access to a website without making it obvious what this would be used for and without providing a clear user benefit, the resulting pop-up can be more of a distraction than the purpose would justify it. I’m sure you have seen websites where you had to go through way too many pop-ups and consent requests before getting to the content you actually intended to see.

Keeping track of all these web features can be a tedious task, especially in the context of a CMS like WordPress, where much of the codebase (probably even most of it) comes from third parties on many sites. Even if you yourself are a responsible citizen of the web, third-party plugins and themes might have flaws or might be misusing features in ways you aren’t  aware of.

This is where two new proposed web standards, Feature Policy and Reporting API, come into play.

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Types, Subtypes, Meta, Options – An Abstract View On Data Structures in WordPress

This weekend, I gave a talk at WordCamp Portland, looking into data structures in WordPress. While the session will soon be available on wordpress.tv, in this post I will provide a written version of it. I recommend you to read this alongside the original slides.

When referring to data structures here, it’s not data structures as in computer science. You won’t hear about arrays, doubly linked lists, binary trees. Instead we will look at object types, metadata and options, in other words, how data is organized in WordPress. We will do so from both the database and the code points of view. Knowing the ins and outs of this is crucial for both core contributors and plugin developers.

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I’m Joining Google

I am very excited to announce that I will be joining Google as a Developer Programs Engineer in the Web Content Ecosystems team, starting in November. As you may have heard, Google is building a team particularly focusing on the WordPress platform, and that very team I am going to be part of – so I am not leaving the WordPress space. Quite the contrary: Google is heavily invested in improving the open web, and the popularity of the WordPress platform allows for wide adaption of such improvements. I will continue to contribute to WordPress, even more so, my new position will be entirely dedicated to the open web. In this post I would like to share some background on this step and what it means to me personally.

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Using amp-timeago to display relative dates on your Native-AMP site

In my post about how I renewed my website with Gutenberg and native AMP support I mentioned that I’d be sharing some implementation details. A couple days ago I posted about how I built a reusable section block with Gutenberg. Today we’re going to look at an AMP-specific feature and how I made use of it for my site. While the AMP plugin for WordPress does a great job in ensuring your WordPress site becomes AMP-compatible, there are still tons of additional AMP features to explore, some of which are too specific to generally add support in the plugin. An example of this is the amp-timeago component, which allows displaying relative time periods, pretty much in realtime. In other words, instead of showing a concrete date and time, it will show a string such as “x seconds/minutes/hours/days/weeks/months/… ago” – you get the gist. You can see a live-example of this when looking at when this post was published, just above, below the headline. And this is precisely what we’re going to focus on in this post, how I implemented this feature and how you can implement it for your Native-AMP WordPress site.

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Building a Reusable Gutenberg Section Block

As I announced in my last post in which I explained how I updated my website using Gutenberg and AMP, I would like to share some more details on specific implementations for some of the block types and AMP support integrations. Let’s start today with looking into building a reusable Gutenberg section block type. What do I mean by this? It is common for websites to have their main content width limited to a maximum, to keep line lengths readable on larger screens. However, sometimes you still want certain components to break out of those limitations, or you might even want to break an entire page into different full-width sections which are differentiated by their visual appearance and allow to host content that itself is then again limited in its maximum width. The homepage of my website makes heavy use of this, if you prefer to see an example, or you can also look at the following example blocks embedded in this post. (Note that you will need a screen with a resolution of at least around 1200px width in order to see the width limits to take effect.)

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This Site is now AMPenberg

It’s been a while since I last updated my website. I haven’t blogged regularly at all, but also the content generally has gotten out of date and no longer reflected where I am at this point. Most of you probably know the problem, you work on open-source, client projects, and products so much that you forget to update your own hub that should probably, better than anything else, represent your skillset, focuses and achievements. As of now, this website finally is back there for me. Given the increasing amount of new major WordPress features and web technologies, I finally made myself make some time for implementing some of those as part of a refresh of my site. In this post I’d like to tell a bit more about what I focused on.

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