Recent statistics estimate that WordPress is used by a whopping 23.1% of the internet.
Given the ubiquity of WordPress, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s a growing demand for WordPress education. Whether you’re just starting out with WordPress and need to learn the basics, or if you’re an intermediate developer looking to hone your skills, WordPress users of all skill levels are seeking out new ways to learn.
The increasing popularity of WordPress is likely accredited to the advantageous model it was founded on — open source — which allows anyone to make improvements to the software. The open-source model also brings with it something else, community. A community filled with members eager to innovate, learn, contribute, and yes, educate.
In fact, over the past few years, the niche of WordPress education has become rather dynamic — offering a variety of tutorials, personal coaching and training, and other educational resources.
To better understand the current state of WordPress education, I reached out to Bob Dunn — WordPress trainer, blogger, and coach — to share his insight.
Here’s what he had to say:
Q: Can you talk a little about your training style, and what makes it so successful?
A: Clients and members consistently say three things about what I bring to the table.
One is patience. My training style is laid back and I don’t use rigid scripts. I like to make sure they understand what they are doing and what they’ve already done. If it needs to be repeated, so be it. And I constantly remind myself how I felt when I first started learning WordPress. I believe that the empathy part is key.
The second one is talking non-geek. It’s so easy as a trainer to throw out terms that a large percentage of people don’t get. It may take longer to explain, but that’s important for a lot of people.
And lastly, I have been told that I don’t just teach the how, but also the why. This is big in any training. The how is the simplest thing to teach. But if you can take it a step further and tell them why they are doing what they are doing, or why it’s not good to do something a certain way, then the how because so much clearer.
Q: You provide training in a range of different areas, what is the most popular?
A: The basics are always popular as more and more people are wanting to learn how to manage their own WordPress sites.
But helping people choose a theme and then teaching them how to build or manage their site, is the hole that was not being addressed. My clients come to me with frustrations because they have watched the theme shops’ demos but, once they had the theme in hand, it didn’t do what they thought it would do.
So when I show someone a theme, I first ask them to tell me everything they like about it and everything they don’t like. Then I tell them what they will be able to easily do, such as change the layout or customize using a plugin — without having to know code. Most of my clients and members are deathly afraid of code and have no desire to touch it.
I show them how to set it up as a demo, but at the same time show them any other flexibility the theme might have that you could never tell by just looking at the demo.
Q: You’ve been using WordPress for a while now, how have you seen the education niche change over the years?
A: It’s grown a lot, especially in the last year and a half.
I see a lot of people looking at going into the training field. Some survive, others move on. I also see more and more designers and developers wanting to find resources for their clients, rather than doing the teaching themselves.
They like to stick to what they know and enjoy, which makes total sense. Even though some may say that the training market has become saturated lately, I think as long as you have your own teaching style, and work hard at branding yourself, you can make it happen.
Q: In its current state, what skill level resources do you think are in the highest demand — beginners, intermediate users, etc? Do you believe these demands are being met?
A: I think we have the beginner level covered. What I think is tough is the intermediate level, because there are so many gray areas there.
Even at our local WordPress meetup, it’s been a challenge to find the sweet spots for that level. I think you have to niche it down more to focus on a specific skill or area of WordPress. When I started training, the other area that lacked was training for the designer and developer, or what you mightcall advanced.
I was asked all the time for this. I could do design training because I have 20+ years in design, but I didn’t want to. And I’m not a developer. But lately more options are popping up out there for this kind of training and I love seeing that happen. With both intermediate and advanced, I see room for more.
Q: Do you think people are reluctant to try WordPress because they’re intimidated — most likely because they don’t understand how user- friendly it actually is?
A: There are a lot of variables at play here. But with most people that I deal with, yes, they are either intimidated or frustrated, or both.
I think the community has made the mistake of saying WordPress is so easy. It’s not. There is a learning curve for most people. Unlike some of us, most people don’t live and breathe WordPress. If you are tech-savvy, you will catch on easier. But for a lot of people, their skills don’t lie in tech, and it can be a challenge.
The beauty of WordPress is that once you learn it, yes, it’s easy. But unless you stay connected with that dashboard, things can be forgotten.
Q: For people trying learn WordPress for free, do you have any advice? Can you recommend any resources to help them get started?
A: There are a lot of free resources out there. It just takes time and a little knowledge to sort the good from the crappy.
One thing I would not recommend is doing a Google search because that will send you down a huge rabbit hole. You also need to be careful about the free tutorial lessons offered on various sites. Some are outdated and others just use the same tutorials over and over again.
WPBeginner.com has loads of tips and tutorials, and I have high respect for the people behind that site. There are many, many blogs that focus on tips as well, too many to list here. On my own blog, I have 450 posts with free tutorials.
And if you find that free doesn’t quite provide the level of training you need, you can join my very affordable membership site, bobWP.com, where you get training that is more detailed—and makes more sense in a sequential way than just reading a bunch of disconnected blog posts.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is one-on-one coaching, which is more expensive but much more personalized.
So there you have it, the full gamut. It’s all about your goals, what you are willing (or able) to invest—in both time and money—and what works for you.If you are not getting anywhere with the path you have chosen, don’t beat your head against your keyboard. Move on and find the right fit for you. And don’t be afraid to ask others for recommendations. There are a lot of us out there.
What’s your favorite WordPress education resource?
Marie Dodson is an editor at Torque. She enjoys writing, reading good books, and travel.