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Several Months Have Passed…

Well, it’s been several months since I’ve devoted any attention to my page. This is shameful considering I co-host Homebrew Website Club Baltimore with Marty, but one positive thing is that I should have lots of updates.

There are many topics I want to write about, but I’m going to (try) to focus on documenting some thoughts around reformatting and reimagining our HWC Baltimore meetup.

Reformatting HWC

Marty and I spent most of the last HWC meetup discussing possible changes to the HWC Baltimore format. Much of this stemmed from conversations that Marty had at IndieWebCamp NYC. One topic that we talked about at length was how to best structure the format and content of our meetup to encourage more people to come. We did a bit of brainstorming about some core concepts:

  • How to encourage and attract newcomers
  • Focus on content that is enticing for newcomers, and can help them get on the web and feel productive
  • Considering that many of our attendees are WordPress users, how can we better help them
  • Provide some structure by defining clear paths and outcomes

Since many of our attendees are interested in developing a web presence, we determined that it may be helpful to build in more defined WordPress support into our meetup. One initial step for this is to put together resources that walk through the process of getting up and running with a WordPress site. We’ve worked through this process with several attendees here and there, but I think that we’d be much more successful if we put together a consistent beginner-friendly guide/steps for this phase.

Sidenote: Jonathan’s Rant About ‘Fast Installs’

In the previous paragraph, I emphasized the phrase beginner-friendly. One point I brought up during our last discussion is that WordPress is one of the most impactful and revolutionary web tools because it is so accessible and powerful. Much of WordPress’s messaging is built around the Famous 5 Minute Installation. I think that this is somewhat misleading. While it’s true that WordPress is beginner friendly compared to other options, there are still several considerations and pain points that can occur during this process. When a new learner (or someone new to web technology) begins to work through this installation and then experiences difficulties preventing them from moving forward the result is often a questioning of whether they’re “smart” or “capable” enough to have a website. I’ve witnessed this many, many times in new learners attempting to work through this process. If we work to streamline this process there would be much benefit and we’d likely see much more “stick-with-it-ness” from some attendees new to web technology.

Initial Starting Steps

There are several other aspects beyond the setup. We want to put together a clearcut pathway walking people through the process of starting a WordPress site from scratch. We identified some of the following steps:

  1. Navigate the process of registering a domain
  2. Identify an easy to use hosting service with the least amount of monthly fees
  3. Get WordPress installed on the hosting service
  4. Navigate the basics of WordPress security for their site
  5. Show how to select a theme (with some IndieWeb recommendations)
  6. Get them writing some content!

Beyond the Basic Setup

After those initial steps are complete and they’ve experienced some initial success, we would then start branching out by integrating the IndieWeb experience. This could include the following:

One recurring theme is that people simply want to have a web presence on a platform where they’re able to integrate many things. We determined that WordPress, while not perfect, is a solid medium for this.

Why WordPress?

One of the most appealing aspects of WordPress is that it scales with one’s knowledge. There is a low enough barrier to entry that new learners can customize their site and publish content. Conversely, there is a relatively high skill ceiling. WordPress allows someone to have a web presence with a flexible tool offering lots of premade solutions while also being a great way to hone core web tech skills such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP. Another side note, I think that WordPress is a great way to build skills in content management, web writing, and basic design. There are many visual builders for WordPress such as Elementor, Thrive Architect, Beaver Builder, and some others. Given that these tools continue to evolve, WordPress is becoming an even better place to hone your web design/content design skills.

IndieWeb and WordPress

Due to WordPress’s community and plugin ecosystem, there are a wealth of IndieWeb themes and plugins designed to help get people started “IndieWebifying” their sites. One aspect that Marty and I discussed is that we could help people navigate some of their initial goals and guide them through the plugin setup process.

Ideally, the end result of a first meetup “session” would be that someone gets a WordPress site configured so that they can immediately add content. Perhaps the first post that they do could be a reflection on the process!

To be continued…

Let me know what you think

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