I was recently in a conversation with someone who got really frustrated with WordPress and was ready to throw in the towel and try and find something else.
They weren’t a web or coding guru, and just wanted to get their site right. Haven’t we all been there at one time? But they were overlooking some essentials that any website owner is going to need so we’re going to address that here.
If you’re going to have a website you’re going to have to invest the time and energy to be able to make use of it. That means you need to have some baseline skills, or otherwise you’re going to end up frustrated and giving up on your goal and we can’t have that.
Actually, there is an alternative, but it’s out of the reach of a lot of people. And that would mean hiring a full-time webmaster to manage your site for you, but even then, you still need to have a basic understanding of how things work.
What Do You Need to Know?
If you’re going to be a webite owner, you need to have a couple things on straight. You need to know the basics regarding HTML, and have at least a basic idea about how CSS works if you’re going to want things customized. That’s just the honest truth. You do yourself an immense favor when you know how these things work for times when you want to want to make basic tweaks or changes.
There really is no such thing that’s just plug and play for a website that I’ve ever seen that is worth anything. Stuff like Godaddy’s website tonight, and other website builder programs produce amateurish, very low-quality, non-optimized, ugly websites that look as cheap as they are. They scream “I didn’t have the time, patience or budget to do something better.” Stuff like that takes you in the opposite direction of where you’re trying to go and causes more problems instead of solving them.
If you take the time to work through the different pieces in WordPress you’ll be astonished about what you can do. There are millions of small sites running WordPress. There are also universities and large public organizations that scale WordPress to do things that would make your head spin. In short, you’re not helping yourself by blaming the tool for not being easy to learn, or easy to work with.
So you need to get yourself up to speed on how to work with your WordPress site. There are several blogs that I would recommend to help you learn the ropes on the kind of website 101 stuff.
- WPbeginner.com – great resource for getting off the ground
- YouTube – Yep, that site where you’ve wasted way too many hours watching cat videos also has some great tutorials on all kinds of things you can do with WordPress.
- copyblogger.com – The copyblogger team has got tons of great resources to help you learn how to build your content, blog, etc. and they’re also the company behind the Studiopress theme which is among the best IMO.
- My blog – I’ll also humbly offer some of my content which is now here. I’ve done a lot of stuff on getting your website started, like how to choose a host, and how to pick a domain name, among other things.
Learning HTML & CSS
When I first learned HTML several years ago I spent a lot of time on the W3C site. That’s a great one and there are several more.
- W3C – World Wide Web Consortium – this is the source for everything web.
- W3 Schools – probably one of the best reference sites on web coding, if not the best. I use it as a reference all the time
- Codecademy – Outstanding, free tutorial-style site that walks you through learning how to code. It’s one of the sites I use all the time to keep my skills sharp
- CSS Tricks – You’ll learn a ton by spending some time here. Chris Coyier has created an amazing site with lots of great info.
- Code School – This one isn’t free, but there is a lot of great stuff here, and I’ve used it to learn some specific things I needed to get up to speed on.
I’ve worked with several of my clients to move away from site-builder type platforms and they’re always relieved to get away from those platforms, but it’s almost always a huge chunk of work to make that happen.
Having a website necessitates a certain skill set or the necessary budget to pay someone with that skill set to do it for you. Someone who doesn’t know how to drive a car, who gets in to one thinking driving is simple and then wrecks it, cannot legitimately blame the car. It’s really not too much different with a website.
It’s not easy to hear because large companies run commercials about “having a professional website in 10 minutes!” or “no coding or technical knowledge required” which just isn’t true and people end up disillusioned and frustrated when things don’t turn out the way the expected.
You also don’t need to be an expert. If you’ve got a decent understanding of the basics you should be good to go. Thanks to the awesomeness that is WordPress you should be able to build an awesome site if you have the basics grasped.
Do yourself a favor and stay the course and dig in and get up to speed on the basics. You’ll be glad you did.
image by Huasonic