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I'm Bob Dunn, aka BobWP, WordPress Trainer and coach, ask me anything

Sep. 23, 2015

Hey, looking forward to this today. If you are wondering a bit about me... well, I train and coach beginners and users on WordPress through one-on-one, group training, online courses and local workshops in Seattle WA.

My wife and I ran and operated a marketing/design/copywriting business for 20+ years. I first discovered WordPress in 2007, started doing some design with it, found my love—teaching— and the rest is history.

I've been involved with local WP meetups, organized and attended WordCamps, and as long as I have been in business, it's been all about people.

Judy and I live on a small island in Puget Sound, Washington with our rescue cat Rochester. When I'm not WordPressing, I love mystery and horror novels, and am an old movie fanatic.

At the age of 57, I have lived a lot and loved a lot.

So heck. ASK ME ANYTHING!

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19 votes   Flag
Nemanja Aleksic

What was your biggest fear back in 2007 when you decided to pick up WordPress as your weapon of choice?

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BobWP

Great question. In 2007 I was not happy doing the old HTML site design for my clients. I had been doing it since late 90's but really didn't like it. Print design was my strong point. When I found WP in '07 I just started dabbling with it. And dare I say it was love at first site. So by 2008 I was doing more sites for clients in WP.. I loved the fact I could give my clients more control with a CMS.

Probably the tentative fear was in 2010. Economy tanked and print work was drying up. At that point I said, heck with it all, I'm just doing web design with WordPress now. I dropped all print clients and went for it. Very scary. But it all worked out in the end.

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Michael Terndrup

Did you get any pushback from people in the WordPress community for not designing or making themes like I have?

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BobWP

Hey Michael, I think I know what you are asking. Did I get crap for only using out-of-the-box themes. Fortunately no. But I also came into WordPress at a time that was a lot different than now. I branded myself as doing simple sites using pre-built themes. Now with the glutton of themes, everyone is saying customize your own. Well, if I was still doing design, I would do the same thing. That's how I work, and what my clients expect. If they want something custom, I send them elsewhere. Do what your strength is and the heck with them :)

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Michael Terndrup

So I am good at making sure website are up to date in the backend and front with content and security. keeping it fresh and yet fun any adivce on how I can write my blogs to represent that?

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Ryan Love

Hey Bob, thanks so much for doing this!

As someone who trains a lot of beginners, what do you think are some of the biggest hurdles newbies face? And how can the WordPress community as a whole do a better job of "onboarding" them?

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BobWP

Hey Ryan, thanks for the loaded question... got a few hours (Just kidding).

The hurdles are all over the place actually. But so many just freeze up when they drop into their dashboard for the first time. They just don't know where to start. I recently did a post of 16 simple tips for users and those came from the small details that I hear over and over. Some of those little buggers can just drive new users nuts. It really boils down to changing the order of things from "I'm going to start a WordPress site" to their first step "I'm going to learn how to use WordPress." In whatever form they learn best.

Another big part of that addresses your second question. And I feel the community is getting better at that. What we need to do is stop preaching, "WordPress is easy". We give a lot of non-tech people too high of an expectation. And because they were told that, when they find out differently, the are frustrated. Sure for some people it is easy to catch on to WP, but for others it really is a struggle and commitment.

I have always said, "WordPress is not easy, but once you learn it, and use it, it will become easier and you will be a happy camper".

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Ryan Love

Do you think WordPress would benefit for some kind of training within the admin?

Something that would walk people through step by step, how to get started.

Like a tour feature which would show, how to create a new post, how to go through the settings, how to find a theme, etc.

Perhaps something that uses gamification, i.e. something where new users would see that their site is 40% setup for the basics, or where they could collect badges, earn points, etc, until they reached a site setup.

Or is that just to complex based on the fact that what everyone want's to create from WordPress is too unique from user to user?

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Matt Cromwell

Bob, one of the things I appreciate about you a lot is you really have a LONG view of WordPress. You've been an expert user for a long time and you always bring a fresh perspective. With that in mind, are there trends or developments in WordPress currently that you're really excited about or concerned about?

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BobWP

Hey Matt, thanks so much for the kind words.. appreciate it coming from you :)

And that is an interesting question. One I have been asked a few times before and I'm sure I always have a different answer. I do try to keep my eyes on this, and it comes from all directions... designers, developers, users and of course, other trainers.

Sometimes I see things that are positive, other times they are small but useful. And even other times they end up more in the arena of WPDrama.

The UI of course if huge for me as I hear the challenges all the time. And I like to see changes there. Even though I may do a double-take, like a lot that is going on with the customizer, I have to step back and think of the millions of users out there. And is this good for them. In the end I think both them and myself will benefit from the changes coming that way.

I do see a lot more training cropping up over the years that I have been doing it myself. And that's good and I hope it continues. We all have our unique way of training, our own voice, and people need to have that choice. They need to find what works for them and what is comfortable for them.

But I do always expect change, and in fact anticipate it.

So I will always watch, listen and contribute when appropriate. And even sometimes add my .02. I love the fact that I can leave the tech part in capable hands of people like you, and in the end, am just glad of everyone that contributes and adds to the value of WordPress.

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Ahmad Awais

I actually had a similar question. Thanks for asking this Matt, and for your answer Bob!

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Vladimir Prelovac

Hey Bob and welcome!

I am curious about these two things

1) What advice would you give to someone just starting a WordPress based business?

2) One thing that you miss in WordPress that would make life working with clients easier?

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BobWP

Thanks Vladimir!

1. First, find your niche. Provide what you do best and don't pretend to be someone you aren't. I see this a lot with developers. Be honest and straight with your clients, and prepare for the long haul. WordPress is very popular, yes, but as with starting any business, it's going to take time, hard work and determination.

2. What I really wish, and don't know anything that can help besides what we are already doing, but some magic little gremlin that when the moment of starting a WordPress site pops into your head, that you get immediate clarification between WordPress.com, WordPress.org and what it means to have a self-hosted site :)

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Zion Kim

Hi Bob, what are some newsletters/roundups that you follow regularly on WordPress and marketing topics?

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BobWP

I actually have quite a list ;)I know that here and WPTavern are my main two sites to keep updated on WordPress, besides the WordPress.org blog. There are a few others that I visit regularly that I have on my list here: list.ly/list/EcK-where-i-get-my-wordpress-news

As far as other WP peeps, marketers, etc. I subscribe to about 65 blogs. Wish I could pull out the best, but I just know I would overlook someone and they would sneer at me ;) It's the same thing with marketing... although I don't follow those as much as I use to.

Oh, just one to add... for a good weekly roundup on Friday's if you are into eCommerce, check out SellWithWP.com

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Tom Harrigan

What has your most rewarding experience been? You've had a chance to touch countless peoples lives over the years, I'm sure there are some great stories! Thanks.

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BobWP

Hey Tom, yeah, I have a lot of stories for sure... and sometimes I wonder if I have forgotten some of those special moments.

Inside the WP realm I think it's the broad satisfaction when I know someone finally gets it. Knowing they are empowered. I remember one client that I have had for a few years. Actually helped her build 3 sites via online. A lot of patience and time. But every single session we had, before I could hang, and without her realizing I could hear her, she would let out loud woohoo and excitedly start sharing what she learned with her husband. It was those little things :)

Outside of my WP work we have, through our business, worked with tons of nonprofits and a lot of pro bono work. A big part of that has been education, and each time, no matter what was involved, was rewarding. In particular, there were a few years where I mentored kids. It was amazing and what you got out of it was priceless. Just hanging with them, talking, playing games. Kids that needed another adult to care about them and pay attention to them. I can only imagine that I got as much, if not more out of those relationships that always helped me put a perspective on life and business. Very cool stuff.

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Donna Cavalier

Hi Bob. You mentioned you love mystery and horror novels. Have you read my novel, The Grave Blogger? LOL, I never would have expected to pitch my novel here, so I just had to now that the opportunity arose. Anyway, a better question is probably this: If I remember correctly, you prefer live teaching opportunities rather than online teaching. If my memory is correct (and frankly, that would be a surprise), could you discuss why that is the case? And do you handle pricing differently? So, a course in a classroom would cost more (or less?) than a course online, I assume. Do the numbers work out in that case? Obviously, online is more easily scalable so you could teach more without using more of your time, but maybe it's a harder sell. I don't know. I've always thought it would be fun to operate a real-life course, but wasn't sure the numbers would work out. What say you?

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BobWP

Hey Donna, wow, I love that title.. and I had to actually look it up... Very cool. May have to give it a try :)

And yes, you have brought up some really good questions, and I probably could write a book on that :) By I will try to synopsize. ;)

For several years I did free presentations and workshops in our area. There was probably a span of 150 or more over 3 years. Some free, some paid. And I learned a lot. Then I took a break from the in-person stuff and focused more online, merely for the two reasons of a larger audience and of course, less time consuming. I enjoyed it and still do some, but I found that even though everyone is really pushing online teaching, it's a challenge and I believe over-saturated in certain aspects. Competition is tough.

On the other hand everything you said about it is true, scalability, etc. And I'm always looking at new ways to take advantage of it. My online courses is an example of that.

But I also really missed the human interaction... I found that is what I love most about teaching. But to be honest, the workshops can even be tougher, as you mentioned There is a lot more marketing involved and time of course. And marketing is tough... there are just not as many avenues to promote classes and workshop. You typically charge more and you probably have more expenses yourself. Space is always a challenge to find at an affordable rate.

That is why I have gone in the direction I have... finding sponsors to cover my expense, part of my cost, and finding other creative ways to make up for the rest of the time. I just started doing this recently, and so far, so good. But I'm always thinking of how to make it work better. There are dangers of doing free workshops, attrition, etc. but I have learned tricks to managing that.

Right now the in-person is what I love doing, so I'm working hard to make that happen and become a reality. Sure, a bit of obstacles and challenges, but I've had my share of them in the past and figure I still have time for a few more :)

As you can see I could go on and on and on about this. But hopefully this gave you a bit of insight.

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Neil Murray

Hi Bob - I'd by interested to get your perspective on the growth of Drag & Drop themes.

I suspect they have a significant place amongst new WordPress users and WordPress DIYers but only limited relevance for many experienced WordPress Designers/Developers.

Do you get feedback from people you are training on this issue?

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BobWP

Hey Neil, that is a great question. Stepping back, when I was doing design a few years back, Headway came out. I loved it. And used of for about a couple of years.

Of course since then, as you have mentioned, a lot of more have come out. And here's what I have learned.

Most casual users get taken in by the ease of drag and drop. But when they really dive into these, it's overwhelming. I cannot tell you how many times I have had someone come to me and vent frustration... they said it was proposed as so easy, but the learning curve beyond the WP basics, well, was a bit too much. Expectations are high.

More advanced casual users might bite the dust and learn it because they want the ease of a customized site without knowing code. But again, I still feel how featured-filled they are, the learning curve is larger.

Now when I talk about drag and drop, I actually see a piece of designers who do want the ability to do a custom layout without having to mess with code. And in a way, drag and drop does that for them. So they make it their framework when they do sites.

The only problem here is handing them off to the owner. If a designer takes the time to show and train the customer how to use them, and also prepares them for this at the beginning, that is great. But going back to my experiences. I cannot tell you how many times I have had someone come to be for help and training, because the dev or designer used a page builder/drag and drop. And never gave them any warning. So they go into their page to edit it, based on what they may have researched on how to edit a page, and instead see a bunch of boxes in the editor window, and basically freak out. They are lost, don't know what to do, and they end up coming to me.

So in a nutshell, no I don't think drag and drop/page or site builders are appropriate for the casual user. If you want to take the time to learn it, understand it, and know that you are locked into it, that is fine. I do think there is a place for them in the designer realm, although they need to remember educating their clients is a priority. Don't take the money and run. :)

Thanks for the question!

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BobWP

Questions have been great today, thanks for dropping in. If you still have one feel free to leave it and I will check back from time to time. Crazy me, huh?

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