For quite some time, I have been telling myself that I need to get out there and do volunteering in the (minimal) free time that I have. And this past Friday I found a way to do that in such a way that it coincided with my workday and allowed me to not only use my techinical skills to help those in need to…help others in need–but also it served as a professional development tool for myself. I’ve posted on my company’s Full Spectrum Blog but wanted to cross-post here as well:
If you know a thing or two about the Internet, chances are you’ve heard of WordPress. As of August 2011, it was estimated that 22 percent of all new websites in the world were powered by WordPress. It continues to win awards for being the best open source CMS (content management system) out there. I’m blogging on a WordPress-powered blog right now, hosted on a WordPress site. You could even call us WordPress super fans here at Spectrum. Put simply, I often feel that within this scary tangled web we weave, there is true solace to be found in WordPress…
Anyhow–last Friday I had the pleasure of working alongside Anthony Braddy to lead a group of small nonprofits through some of the in’s and out’s of building a WordPress website. The workshop was just one session within a larger Pro Bono Consulting Lounge held at Artisphere, hosted and made possible by DC Week.
In my opinion, this event is a highlight of DC Week, because it allows local organizations to get their hands dirty learning these practical skills, and provides them with free consulting, which they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Sitting through a panel or a keynote speech can be inspirational, but it can also be overwhelming and may not get into the step-by-step people need to make things happen. When building a website, the problem isn’t just that a professional site can cost anywhere from $500 to $10,ooo to build out–it’s that once it is built, it’s left in the hands of an organization that may not know how to update it. This consulting lounge was built to empower these groups on a personal level.
I was able to work one-on-one with the D.C. Jobs Council to begin transitioning them to a WordPress-based site within the next few months. They’re starting from square one, so we spent a good deal of time talking about what the purpose(s) of the site would be and what the priorities were in terms of content on the site, and then explored theme options that would best work within this and began working through how to customize them.
One of the best parts about teaching others about the kind of thing you work with on a daily basis is that you begin to learn exactly what you don’t know yourself. I’m admittedly not a web developer in the vaguest sense of the word. But given the task of thinking like one, I made connections about how things work that I hadn’t made before; reverse-engineering your thinking really helps you become a better teacher. I also realized I might need to pick up this bad boy, the WordPress Bible (I suggest this as a great resource for anyone interested, beginner or otherwise) for more complicated projects.
While it’s arguably the simplest CMS out there to work with, you can never really stop learning new ways to use WordPress. Which is good, because then you can always pay it forward to the next guy who needs help.
I’ll check back in soon with my version of a “handy guide” you might find helpful for getting on your feet with WordPress.