Ramping up on WordPress: A quick how-to for Project Managers, Product Owners, and Quality Assurance Analysts

In 2017 “WordPress” can be considered a household name. Everyone from my hairstylist to my grandmother (she’s 94) has heard of it. Spending the better half of a decade working as a Project Manager, Business Analyst, Information Architect and Quality Assurance Analyst for software projects you would think I would have come across a project that was based in WordPress. However, this never happened, which is quite odd if you think about it. After all, WordPress-powered sites make up over 27% of all of the sites on the internet.

Making a shift in career focus, I found myself working for a company whose software projects are solely based on WordPress. So that left me with the question… “What do I need to learn about WordPress in order to succeed in my new role being a trusted leader and valuable teammate on our journey to produce the best work possible?”.

 

Is This Article For You?

There are many resources available for the newbie blogger, WordPress novice, and weekend website warrior. Those books, online tutorials, community classes, etc. are all great; but, where does one, who has a technical background but lacks the specific WordPress experience she needs, go to self-educate? If that is a question you have asked yourself, then this is the place for you. In the subsequent paragraphs I will highlight resources that I found beneficial in getting ramped up on WordPress.

These are by no means all of the resources I used to educate myself, but going through these few sites, lessons, blogs, and books helped me reach the point of being comfortable in the WordPress space and  knowledge-equipped to effectively tackle WordPress-based projects.

 

Beginning at the Source

To begin, if you are new to WordPress the best place to start is at the source. I always find that understanding the language prior to beginning any reading is always helpful. WordPress has a great, and very comprehensive glossary available online.

Sticking with the source, WordPress.org has a WordPress Lessons section that covers everything from getting started with WordPress to full development tasks. The specific lessons I found most useful in my “getting up to speed” journey were:

  • First Steps with WordPress: This is a great lesson to get an overview of WordPress as a whole. It’s extremely comprehensive and links out to tons of supplemental information to allow you to explore to the depth you want.
  • WordPress Features: I have this listed second because I feel as though it follows the “First Steps with WordPress” lesson very nicely. It is more detailed and focused than First Steps, and by the end of this read I had a great understanding of WordPress in general.
  • WordPress Semantics: This is a wonderful overview of the terminology you have learned thus far, and how it all fits together within WordPress (highly recommend this lesson).

 

Familiarizing Yourself With Plugins

Equally as important as understanding WordPress as a whole, is understanding the concept of plugins within WordPress. Within WordPress.org there is a great short write up regarding plugins. Additionally, you can look through the WordPress plugin repository (note: this is handy if you have a project or client in mind and can search key topics that pertain to the goal of the work. The repository is large, with over 48,000 plugins available, so just glancing through is most likely not the best allocation of your educational time). The WordPress plugin repository is a great place to learn the capabilities of WordPress, and the plugins that exist. However, tread lightly when implementing any of them as their code may not always meet necessary coding standards, and could potentially pose security vulnerability on a project’s site. It’s always in your and your client’s best interest when considering a plugin to first look at the author’s reputation, as well as the popularity of the plugin and who is using it. If a plugin is relatively obscure looking at the code and comparing it to best practices and reviewing it for security vulnerability is always a good idea. It’s also best to be wary of any plugins that haven’t been updated in the past year (and frankly last 90 days even) as the plugin author may not be keeping it current with the latest WordPress releases. Outside of WordPress.org references, there is a great blog regarding WordPress plugins (WPeka.com), sited below.

 

A Deeper Dive into WordPress Themes

The next important topic I strove to understand deeper was WordPress themes. The concept of themes is fairly simple, however, if you want a high-level overview regarding WordPress themes there is an informative 4 ½ minute video available online. I wanted a deeper understanding, and thus turned to a book intended for the developer-minded reader: Building WordPress Themes from Scratch. This book is based on the reader having a technical understanding, so if the code-side of a development project is not your forte, you many want to skip this book and check out the Theme Handbook instead.

 

Beneficial Blogs

In addition to online lessons, glossaries, handbooks, videos, and instructions you can also reference blogs. WordPress is a community, and the community has many bloggers with information that is beneficial in learning, and staying up to speed on, all things WordPress. Blogs I find most useful are:

  • WPeka.com: the plugins section of this blog is very helpful. They tend to formulate their plugin articles the same way BuzzFeed sets up their content (top 10, best 8, etc.), which keeps the magnitude of the information being read very digestible.
  • WPtavern.com: great for staying informed. This blog posts WordPress info very frequently (sometimes multiple times per day), and is laid out very intuitively and categorized to help the reader find the information most relevant to them.
  • WPsquared.com: definitely check out the “guides” section of this blog. It is fabulous for learning, and written in an easy to understand format, as well as has a wide variety of topics.
  • PostStatus.com: advanced site for WordPress professionals to stay informed (Paid site, $99 (US)/year for membership).

 

Remaining In-The-Know

Lastly, staying up to speed on WordPress releases is crucial in maintaining a relevant understanding. At the time this article was written WordPress 4.7.2 was just released. However, I encourage you to at least watch and at best attend WordCamps, as they have them, and stay informed during each release.

Best of luck on all of your current and future WordPress projects, and please comment on additional resources you found helpful while getting up to speed on WordPress!

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