WordPress has a secret learning curve. Despite its dedication to user-friendly interface elements, new users and non-geeks see a lot to learn. I see this every time I present a training session. It’s all exciting and easy until we hit Add New Post.
Something about that moment spikes the learning curve right off the carts, if only for a moment. But with truth, training, practice and friendship (it’s magic), you can level that spike and leap the curve. If WordPress is intimidating, start by realizing it’s not WordPress you’re scared of.
The peculiar paralysis encountered on the Edit Post screen isn’t about the technology. It’s the tyranny of the blank page (or screen). Like walking into a garage full of meticulously arranged tools, the options can be overwhelming. What the flip are we supposed to do with this stuff?
Luckily, good training involves hands-on practice. When I work with I clients, we use sample material to copy and paste into the editor. Once the white screen starts to fill, you can feel the ice melting and it’s easier to focus on learning. Adding media, inserting links, basic SEO, all of that gets better once there’s raw material to work with.
A complete basic WordPress training session should include logging into a self-hosted WordPress site, adding a new blog post, using the Visual editor to compose posts and pages, adding media and links, and using the drafts and revisions tools. Of course, that’s not even half the skills needed, but that’s at least one hour of material. A good second hour training could include installing updates, managing user accounts, using the Text editor to add embed codes and custom HTML, even basic SEO practices. That doesn’t even include training on themes and plugins specific to your website. There’s a lot to learn.
Hopefully, your website developer included WordPress training in your design package. Ask for a one-on-one session with a WordPress expert or look for public classes and Meetups in your area. Be willing to spend on training, it’s worth your investment to pay someone to engage you with their expertise.
If you can’t find a local WordPress expert, there are plenty of friendly folks online. And they’re making videos. You can watch a trainer online while you’re logged into your own site, studying hands-on as you go. Video training is convenient too, letting you pause, play and work on your own time. Here’s a few beginner video resources to try, both paid and free.
Lynda – There’s nothing you can’t learn on this site. Well, maybe best practices for grooming Norwegian Forest Cats. But these professionally produced video are organized into a learning tracks to lead you through learning. For most WordPress users, the WordPress Essentials course is all you need. Lynda is a paid membership site with topics beyond WordPress.
WP101 – This WordPress-only training site has a WordPress 101 course to lead you through essential skills. I really like the 101 course, this is exactly the order I like to use, with a few extras. WP101 is a paid membership site with exclusively WordPress training content.
Blog Aid – Looking for a little extra charm in your training? Nashville’s WordPress authority MaAnna offers access to her library of training videos for $1. For just a buck, you’ll get WordPress training designed specifically for non-geeks. MaAnna goes slowly and carefully through each topic, perfect for beginners. And she’s just so friendly.
WP Apprentice – Blog Aid’s WordPress material’s a steal at $1, but you can’t get better than free. Try WP Apprentice’s WordPress Quick Start course for a crash course in WordPress. It’s got a few extras in there most users won’t need if they already have WordPress, but it just costs your email address to watch eight videos.
WPBeginner – This is one of the most popular sites for WordPress help in general, even on advanced topics. They’ve made a number of free WordPress training videos, covering much of the same material as WP101 and other beginner courses. Just make a free user account to get access.
Thanks to Elegant Themes for their great post on 11 Online Places To Learn WordPress Inside And Out (Paid And Free Options).
WordPress and most quality themes and plugins have extensive support documentation as well, so don’t be afraid to Google for help. You’ll find a plethora of videos on YouTube, though I can’t speak for their quality, as well as posts and ideas from people across the globe.
Watching other people work is a fantastic way to learn, but there’s only one way to retain all that knowledge.
Write. Keep Writing.
Making cool, useful things for your customers is the best thing you can do with your website.
It’s also the best thing you can do for yourself to learn WordPress. A regular writing schedule keeps your business blog on track and forces you to practice and expand your skills. In fact, not writing will cause you to lose it all. Your investment in training depends is only worth it when you commit to use what you learn. When you know what to do, WordPress becomes one of the easiest, yet most robust, publishing tools for your business.
Use an editorial calendar to plan and schedule your posts. And don’t forget to promote them! Write, publish, promote, write. It’s a vicious cycle, but it’s a way of living and doing business you can’t do without. Your social media activity and online advertising must lead back to your business website, but without useful words on your site, there’s nothing to promote or share. Learning your content management system is the key to effective writing and writing is the key to learning the CMS. But the post editor isn’t all there is to WordPress. In fact, your writing workflow and your customers’ experience on the site are dependent on features outside the scope of training videos and webinars.
Befriend a Geek
If you have a WordPress site, or you’re about to launch one, be sure to have friends who code. All the videos and walk-throughs in the world won’t matter when it’s 2 am and registration doesn’t work the day before your big event. Or you’ve published an awesome blog post, but it’s not showing up on your blog, no matter what you try.
In these times, geeks are your best friends. Your local WordPress experts and IT professionals love saving the day. Especially when you pay them. Find a geek to be your webmaster, someone to take responsibility for your website so you can be responsible for your business. Call around and ask others in your industry who they use. Or attend a WordCamp, where WordPress developers, experts and beginners come together. You’re sure to meet someone who wants to help.
WordPress is done together. Whether you’re in a class, watching videos, writing, or calling a geek, friends are the only way you’re going to jump the curve and fulfill your website’s potential.
Looking for even more informational resources to up your WordPress game? Read through our WordPress 201 guide to make your next leap: