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Our 25 best WordPress and design articles from 2015

Morgan Smith's Layout avatar

2015 was a pretty amazing year. On The Layout, we talked about the latest design trends, how to start your own business, WordPress themes and plugins, and much, much more.

We know you may have missed an article here or there, so we rounded up the greatest stories from the year so you can read the best of the best before 2016 begins.

So without further ado, here were our 25 best WordPress and design articles from 2015.

25. Your homepage is not your site’s lobby

How did you find your current favorite site? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you clicked through on a link from a friend’s social media update. Or maybe it was a link from an industry blog that you follow?

However you discovered that hot new site you’re telling everyone about right now, I’m just about certain you didn’t get there via the site’s homepage. Read more.top-articles-2015-lobby

24. What that font says about your project

It’s time: You have to choose a typeface. With so many options available, you can quickly get washed away in a sea of serifs, scripts, and loops. But not all fonts were created equally. Each typeface has a different personality and does best in different situations. So let’s match your project’s personality to the perfect typeface. Read more.top-articles-2015-fonts

23. The pros and cons of pitching WordPress (and how to overcome the cons)

Let’s say you’ve got a client who needs a website, and you’re putting together the pitch. You’ve listened to their needs, and you’ve got a great solution that involves building a site on WordPress.

Pitching WordPress can be tricky. Folks have their preconceptions, whether they’re based on current information or not. Here are some of the pros and cons to pitching WordPress, as well as how to overcome those pesky cons. Read more.top-articles-2015-pitching

22. How to set your rate as a designer: Your price. Your fee. Whatever you call it, it’s time to figure it out.

Here’s to a new year in the wonderful world of design! To start it off right, maybe now’s the time to figure out one question once and for all: How the heck do you charge for your work? Read more.top-articles-2015-rate

21. Make your site blazing fast: Focus on front-end performance

It’s no secret: today’s web users have the need for speed. With internet and cellular connections getting faster and faster, users expect sites to load quickly, and it’s a developer’s job to do what they can to serve those pages quickly. So how do you make your site blazing fast? Here’s what you should be doing specifically when building with WordPress. Read more.top-articles-2015-fast

20. Yes, you should create a web style guide (and here’s what you should put in it)

Style guides, also know as pattern libraries, are a great way to ensure that your design carries on as intended as your website grows or as new team members work on a web project. Each style, or pattern, is a grouping of markups and styles for your website’s design elements.

Modern style guides are usually displayed as an actual webpage, which shows the different elements in a website or application design. When multiple people or even multiple teams are working on a web project, a style guide takes the guess work out of what visual elements should look like. It’s a great way to keep everyone on the same page for project consistency. Read more.top-articles-2015-style

19. Be a hybrid designer developer: Three reasons why it’s a smart move

When it’s time for an agency to open a new position, the discussion often boils down to whether a designer or a developer would be a better next-hire. Often budgets play a large role, sometimes limiting the ability to hire to just one person. What if the company really needs more design help, but occasionally extra development skills would come in handy?

Should they hire a designer? Should they hire a developer? Read more.top-articles-2015-hybrid

18. Why do WordPress websites get hacked?

You’ve all heard a horror story of sites being hacked. I read on Forbes that something like 30,000 sites a day show up distributing malicious code. And WordPress is always at a hot center of this debate.

But why? Why do you have to install several different systems to keep hackers out? Why do you have to know how to configure your installation for security? Why do hackers target WordPress more than other websites?

This question actually can mean one of two things, and I’m going to answer them both. Read more.top-articles-2015-hacked

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17. Six day planners for the busy creative pro

Creatives aren’t traditionally known for their talent of time management, and I understand why. Somewhere between the brainstorming sessions, client meetings, projects, and networking events, we lose track of the day-to-day details. We spend so much effort trying to manage our brands, our portfolios, our income and our skill sets that we forget about the most valuable resource we have: time.

In this day and age, we’re lucky to have access to hundreds of solutions that can help solve the classic problem of managing a busy schedule. And there are plenty of options, whether you’re looking for traditional pen and paper planning or an app on your desktop or phone. Here, we’ve compiled six tried-and-true solutions for keeping on top of your daily tasks,  events, and to-do lists. Read more.top-articles-2015-planners

16. How to integrate WordPress and MailChimp

Email newsletters can be really swanky, especially if you get to use awesome tools to make them. In this post, we’re going to integrate a WordPress site with MailChimp. Read more.top-articles-2015-mailchimp

15. How to create custom shapes in Illustrator

If you’ve used Adobe Illustrator before, you’re no stranger to the five available shapes you can use to create artwork. And you’re also probably familiar with the situation where you start stacking different shapes on top of each other to create a custom shape.

Sometimes that works out just fine. But other times, for instance, when you’re trying to add an outline to your object, having multiple shapes stacked on top of one another causes problems. Read more.top-articles-2015-shapes

14. How to create shapes with CSS3

What can you create with CSS shapes? After all, you can add a variety of basic shapes to your CSS style sheet by simply by using a bit of CSS3 coding. Why not see how you can use them on your site?

CSS shapes add interest to web pages. With browsers becoming increasingly more compatible, they can cut down on large, unnecessary images taking up space on your website. Changing colors and adjusting shapes could not be easier: Adjust a little CSS and watch your design take shape. Read more.top-articles-2015-css

13. What to do when your client disappears

Crickets…

Not what you want in your inbox when you’re waiting to hear from a client. One minute, you were trucking productively along, the next, you’re at a critical juncture with deafening silence from the other end.

So what do you do when you’re chasing a client who seems to be disappearing? Read more.top-articles-2015-clients

12. How to animate with CSS

We’ve gotten pretty used to seeing animations on websites and enjoying the energy and variety they bring to web design. They’re eye catching, a great way to add some visual interest to a site, and generally make the experience more exciting for your users.

Today I’ll walk you through the basics of creating a CSS animation with a step-by-step demo. Stick around after that and check out five examples of animations. You’ll be able to use all these ideas to create animations for your own projects! Read more.top-articles-2015-animate

11. 14 awesome designer workspaces

We took to Dribbble to find some awesome designer workspaces. From cluttered and colorful, to chic and simple, here are 14 workspaces we found that we think look damn good. Read more.top-articles-2015-workspaces

10. Use CSS Sprites to make your logo responsive

Remember CSS sprites? They’re a group of different graphics combined into one file, and we’ll be using them to create a responsive logo.

It’s a technique used to optimize browser performance because it requires only one image to be downloaded from the server. It’s just a matter of specifying which specific smaller piece of the larger image will show. Read more.top-articles-2015-sprites

9. How to create gifs using Photoshop CC

Have you ever found yourself wanting to try your hand at animation? Nothing too advanced, just a simple moving graphic. Believe it or not, creating a simple gif using Photoshop might be just the ticket. Read more.top-articles-2015-gifs

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8. How to customize your Genesis child theme

As web designers, we are always looking forward to working more efficiently. As I started on a long overdue task of redesigning my portfolio, I was reminded of how much I love WordPress and how fast I was up and running when using the Genesis framework.

A framework is essentially a WordPress theme structure that is put in place to be built upon. The Genesis framework by StudioPress is comparable to a block of Legos. It makes the different components of the theme easy to work on and easy to move around. Genesis is a very popular framework because it’s well supported and there are many tutorials that exist if you get stuck during the process. Read more.top-articles-2015-genesis

7. How to make your WordPress site mobile friendly

Earlier this year, Google began implementing a major overhaul of its mobile search algorithm to reward sites that are deemed “mobile-friendly.” The change was pretty massive, outranking the previous two updates, Panda and Penguin, which affected 12% and 3% of search results, respectively. The change comes down to one crucial data point: whether or not your website is mobile friendly. Read more.top-articles-2015-mobile

6. Why you’ve got to start practicing mobile-first development

If you’ve tried your hand at coding a responsive website, you’ve run into this issue: You change one tiny, simple CSS property, and it alters the layout on different screen sizes.

This forces you to check and double-check that the newest margin value hasn’t wrecked the site for tablets or phones. It gets complicated quickly, and you end up fighting your own code, consuming a lot of project hours, and slowly losing your sanity.

But fear not! Mobile first development is here to save you from headaches, exceptions’ exceptions, and slow page loads. Read more.top-articles-2015-mobile-first

5. How to develop WordPress locally with Vagrant and OS X

WordPress is super flexible when it comes to development. It’s often easy to just hack up some theme files or plugin code, upload it to a server with a WordPress installation, and see how it performs live.

Unfortunately, doing all that is not only cumbersome and frustrating, it’s a great way to make sure that your WordPress install gets filled with unorganized clutter. Developing WordPress directly on your Mac is not only easier, it lends itself to a more organized environment, especially when tools such as revision control are used. Read more.top-articles-2015-locally

4. Email newsletters every web designer should follow

A professional designer like yourself probably likes to keep up with the latest news in the industry, right? But when you’re stuck on a tight deadline or you’re onboarding lots of new clients, it can be hard to find the time to go read your favorite blogs and find the articles you care about.

To save yourself some time, you should subscribe to their newsletters. Then you’ll get the best content straight to your inbox where you can quickly access it or save it for later. You’ll continue to be super productive with work, but you’ll never miss the latest and greatest news from the industry, either.

To keep up with the best articles from around the web, subscribe to these newsletters for web designers. Read more.top-articles-2015-newsletters

3. 15 awesome agency websites

Looking for a little inspiration for your next site? Check out these awesome agency websites that we just can’t get enough of. Read more.top-articles-2015-websites

2. 20 badass sites built on WordPress

We (obviously) love WordPress, and we really love finding sites built with WordPress that are absolutely beautiful and powerful. We made a list of 20 sites–ranging from portfolio sites to blogs to agencies to photographers–that are perfect examples of how beautiful WordPress sites can be. Check them out below. Read more.top-articles-2015-badass

1. How to add a sticky back-to-top button on your website

In the last year or so, back-to-top buttons have increased in popularity. When a user scrolls past a certain point on the website, this helpful button appears, enabling users to easily return to the top of a page. It’s an especially useful feature given how much content is shared on a variety of devices with smaller screens. Read more.top-articles-2015-sticky

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And that’s it for the top 25 articles for 2015. What were some of your favorites?

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