Bob Dunn is a WordPress teacher and trainer based out of Seattle, WA. His primary teaching methods are through his website offering hourly training, Wordcamps, and the newly founded WooCommerce Conference. He also spends a majority of his time giving back to the community by offering free workshops in the Puget Sound area.
He dedicated his time to answer the following questions via email about WordPress.
After 20 years of marketing and graphic design background, what inspired you to become a WordPress teacher?
I had been doing print design for so long, and around the late 90’s felt I needed to get into web design. I was doing static HTML sites for clients and did not really enjoy them at all. So when I discovered WordPress first, in 2007, I knew that I had found a solution. I could design sites more easily using the platform and also give the client more control over their site.
By 2008, as I got more involved with it, around that time, I started thinking about doing some local free workshops for exposure. The more of these I did, I discovered that I enjoyed teaching people and had a natural talent for it. So as I did more and more, moved away from print design, and focused on WordPress sites, the workshops became a bigger part of my business and my brand. When I added online training, it continued to become a bigger part of my life. In the end, I was getting a bit tired of design, having done it for so long, and made the decision to focus totally on training, with a few side design jobs on the side. The rest is history.
What challenges do you face as a teacher? How is it different from building a site for a client?
Very interesting question.
I think the biggest difference is being able to empower people to build and manage their own sites. Seeing that they are able to do something that they never thought they could, is a different feeling then handing over a complete site to them.
A few of the challenges.
- Be honest with your students. I don’t shout out that WordPress is easy. It does have a learning curve and you don’t want to make your students think otherwise. For some it’s easier to grasp, for others, not so much.
- Asking enough questions to know that training is right for them. So many come to me with high expectations and the challenge is to bring them down to reality and get them to admit that yes, they can do this, or maybe I need someone to build it for me. There are quite a few of my clients where I do some initial work to get them started and then the training begins.
- Understanding the frustrations of your students. A lot of my clients are learning WordPress to build and manage their own site. They, unlike us, aren’t working on their site day in and day out. So when they go back to it, they forget things. It can be frustrating to the teacher to hear the same questions come back from a student over and over, but you have to understand where they are coming from.
- Lastly, as a teacher, with anything in technology, you have to have incredible patience and empathy. If you get frustrated with someone not getting it right away, then it’s not for you. Also, you always need to remember what it was like when you first started using WordPress. So many people who go into training find these two areas the toughest.
What is your favorite WordPress site to build for a client and why? E-commerce? Personal?
I don’t think I really have a favorite kind of site to build, as it all depends on the client, and what their service, talent or site is about. I’m not big on huge eCommerce sites, but like the smaller shops. Since I am not a developer or a coder, I do like a site where the client is happy to use the theme out-of-the-box and what customizations are needed can typically be done using plugins.
What can you tell me about a Genesis Theme and a WooTheme? How are these different than a Child Theme?
Okay, first Genesis. Genesis is the framework and typically most people will use a child theme to build their site. The main reason you do this is that the framework is the engine that runs it, and the child theme is the style or body of the site. So if you do want someone to do code customization’s to your theme, they can do that safely with a child theme and when the theme needs to be updated, generally it’s the framework, or in this case, Genesis that gets updated. Otherwise, if you did not have a child theme, and you customized the code, all of that would be overwritten when updating. Also, there is such a variety of child themes to suit almost anyone’s needs.
Now WooThemes is a bit different. Each WooTheme is run on the framework of Woo, but they are not separate themes. So you have to be aware that if you do custom coding on the WooTheme, when it is updated, those will get overwritten. So if you need to go that route, a good developer can create a child theme for you. The good news is if you do custom CSS in a WooTheme, they do have a specific spot for that and it doesn’t get overwritten.
It can be somewhat complicated. I typically go through this with students and clients so they have a good understanding when they go to choose their theme.
What is your favorite WordPress plugin and why?
That’s a tough one. I would have to say Gravity Forms. It’s a premium plugin, but it can do so much for you. Not your typical form plugin. It has so many features and is a solid and reliable plugin that has been around for sometime. Tough to give every reason why, but I find that clients and students who use it find creative ways to make it even more useful, which is what is so cool about it.
Finally, what do you love most about being a WordPress trainer/teacher?
- When a student finally has that ah-ha moment. They have struggled with some small issue and when they learn it’s not rocket science, they are tickled to death.
- Seeing people who never thought they could never build and manage their own site and discover they can with some learning, time and patience. I had one client who wanted 3 sites done. We built them together online. And what was the most fun, is that every time we ended a session, before I signed off, I would always hear a loud “whoopee” from her as she told her husband about what she just did. Like Mastercard, those moments are priceless.