Technology vs. Content, or Why Teaching WordPress Is Frustrating

Over the past several years, I’ve trained a lot of people on WordPress, through individual one-on-one training, seminars, workshops, and conference events.

Most of the people who want to learn WordPress have plans for blogging. They think blogging requires you to understand the technology before they can jump in. But the technology is easy — learning how to navigate and publish content with WordPress is a no-brainer. The hard part is creating regular, interesting content. I’m not sure how to teach content creation. Here’s a graphic comparing the two processes.

Managing the technology is easy; creating the content is much more complicated.

Managing the technology is easy; creating the content is hard.

While managing the technical aspects doesn’t have to involve more than a five-minute registration process at wordpress.com for a new blog, creating post after post involves much more skill.

For example, if teaching someone how to blog, here is some advice I would give: Focus on story. Don’t shy away from transparency. Avoid posts that are too long. Stick with a consistent focus. Give your opinion, not just the facts. Incorporate voices from various sources. Publish during the work week. Respond to comments. Reinforce your main ideas through visual graphics. Write for yourself. Find a higher purpose in your activity. Choose a topic you’re passionate about, but also something you regularly do. Don’t expect a lot of visibility early. Read a lot. Ask questions to brainstorm ideas. Follow your gut feeling. Keep the ideas simple and straightforward. Find a financial ROI. Write everyday, but don’t necessarily publish every day. Explore alternative points of view. Let posts mature a few days before publishing. Structure text with subheadings and lists. Use catchy but descriptive titles. Push boundaries but don’t violate confidentiality. Be consistent in publishing. Somehow find time for it all.

I could go on and on. Blogging is all about the content, not the technology. That’s why my workshops on WordPress are frustrating. I know that what I’m teaching isn’t the hard part. The technology is easy. It’s the content creation and production that’s tough. But I can’t really teach that. I can share my writing techniques, but my techniques may work only for me.

I’ll grant that creating a blog theme from scratch, or making heavy customizations to the layout and style of a theme, is more difficult. But in my experience, people care much more about the content than the design.

Madcap Flare Adobe Robohelp

This entry was posted in blogging, general, WordPress on by .

By Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer working for the 41st Parameter in San Jose, California. I'm interested in topics related to technical writing, such as visual communication, API documentation, information architecture, web publishing, DITA, and more. If you're trying to keep up to date about the field of technical communication, subscribe to my blog. Email

8 thoughts on “Technology vs. Content, or Why Teaching WordPress Is Frustrating

  1. comma hater

    15 years ago when I subscribed to techwr-l at my first job, out of college, I wondered why oh why did they talk about Framemaker ad nauseum. Framemaker was just a piece of software, and while it had its quirks, exactly as you said – the technology is easy. Same as all types of markup languages gained prominence in the content management sphere.

    Blogging apps probably fall under content management. Maybe it’s a failing by software developers that the content management tools aren’t easy-as-your-right-hand to most people.

    The most important thing we can do is take the time before jumping into any of this to explain the difference between:

    -content management applications, be they Frame, wordpress, CMS application, or twitter.

    -the art and craft of creating content, whether its blog content or technical documentation.

    Knowing where one stops and the other begins can help people focus on where to get help, what to specialize in, and perhaps what to pay for.

    Reply
  2. robert levy

    There are probably hundreds of articles on the Net about starting and maintaining a blog, from the content point of view.

    Yes, the tech is easy and the content is hard. I totally agree. But you’re helping them with one aspect, and then they’ll also need help with other aspects. Maybe you could find a good resource and point them to it.

    Reply
  3. MaAnna Stephenson

    I teach WordPress classes too and how to use it takes just the first half of the first class. The next two classes are on content and how to present it on the site. Only then do we start looking at designs. Content drives design, not the other way around. Creating it is the number one delay in getting a site published and making it successful.

    Thanks so much for your post and I couldn’t agree more with you.

    Reply
    1. Tom Johnson

      MaAnna, thanks for the comment. I’m glad to connect with another person who teaches WordPress. Tell me, where do you teach your courses? Do you advertise them somewhere? How do you compete against more polished courses in Lynda.com?

      Reply
  4. relax tone

    I teach WordPress classes too and how to use it takes just the first half of the first class. The next two classes are on content and how to present it on the site. Only then do we start looking at designs. Content drives design, not the other way around. Creating it is the number one delay in getting a site published and making it successful.

    Reply

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