WordPress Training Offers an Easy Entrée to Valuable Web Skills
For many professionals eager to enhance their value in the workplace – either in their current job or during a job search – having some skills in posting material on the Internet can be essential.
With a little training, it’s fairly easy these days to build and maintain a basic website using a “content management system” – a computer program that contains, displays and organizes all the words, pictures and other items that make up a website. A good dose of patience helps as well, but you don’t need much technical knowledge – so Web skills are now well within reach for most professionals.
WordPress started out as blogging software, but has morphed beyond that to become the most popular CMS today. According to August 2016 figures from W3Techs.com, which monitors the technologies used by the top 10 million websites, WordPress is the CMS of choice on 26.6 percent of all websites and has a market share of 59.3 percent among those that use a CMS. On the same survey, Drupal and Joomla! – which are similarly open-sourced, free, modular and based on computer languages PHP and SQL – come in a distant second and third.
Robin Friedman is a graphic designer who turned Web developer 15 years ago. Through her company, Visual Velocity in Brookline, she designs and develops websites for small businesses and nonprofits that want more customization. She talks here about what makes WordPress so valuable to commercial websites and about her class at PDC.
Q: What is WordPress, and why should businesses and professionals consider learning more about this software?
Robin Friedman: Every business needs a Web presence, but building and maintaining a website requires sophisticated design and development skills that are often not accessible to individuals or small businesses. Building a WordPress website is a good solution. It allows you to publish content without knowing any code. It does this through a user-friendly interface that makes editing a website as simple as working with your word processor. When it comes to the design and structure of your website, you have hundreds of templates to choose from. Many templates are free, others are [available] for a small fee, so with a little patience you can find just the right one that fits your professional needs.
Q: Some people think of WordPress primarily as a tool for amateur bloggers. How has it evolved from that use?
Friedman: WordPress started as a blogging tool, but over the years it has matured into a robust content management system (CMS). What makes WordPress so powerful is that you can add “plug-ins.” A plug-in is a small software package that literally plugs in to the core software and provides additional features and functionality. For example, if you want to sell items, you would look for a commerce plug-in. Or maybe you want to add a contact form, photo gallery or social icons. There are so many plug-ins to choose from that will enhance and customize your website, that without exaggeration, you can do almost anything you want.
Q: Why do you think WordPress is growing in popularity?
Friedman: All CMS products are easy to use, but what makes WordPress a good choice is the WordPress community. There are so many talented and smart people dedicated to WordPress. Google the Web for any “how-to” question, and hundreds of articles appear all providing free information. You can honestly find the answer to any question you may have. And then there are the Web designers creating all kinds of templates for you to use as well as the developers writing plug-ins that solve nearly every possible problem you can encounter. If you run into a snag, there are so many technical people out there who know the backend of WordPress that for a reasonable rate, you can easily find someone to help you.
Q: What will people get from your course at PDC?
Friedman: This class is for people who have little or no Web experience. Not only do we cover the very basics of WordPress – how to edit content, choose a template and find plug-ins – but we also discuss best practices in building and maintaining websites. We discuss topics such as how to prepare images for a website, how to back up and keep your website safe, as well as how to set up a test site on your home computer.
Q: Who would benefit most from knowing how to use WordPress?
Friedman: There are two kinds of people who benefit from learning how to use WordPress. One is the individual who is establishing a small business and wants to set up an inexpensive and simple website. The other is a person who is looking for a job and WordPress experience is a requirement for the position. This is a great way to gain practice and understanding about how WordPress works.
“WordPress 101” will be taught on Tuesday, Sept. 27, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the PDC Training Center, Trinity Church, 2nd floor hall, 1 Blue Hill River Road, Canton. Cost is $105 ($97 through Sept. 20). Limited to 12. For information or to register, visit www.pdcboston.org.
Stephen H. Morgan, a freelance journalist and former Boston Globe editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.