Thursday, June 1, 2017

WordPress Assembler: A New Title

Kudos to Tony Zeoli for his article "The New WordPress NINJA: WordPress Assembler." This gave me an whole new perspective on providing support for WordPress web pages.

The running joke about asking an engineer the time of day is that after answering the question he then wants to explain how a clock works. I'm guilty of that. When I'm asked to create a web site, I tend to go into excruciating detail.

The phrase "WordPress Assembler" is a really simple title: it defines a complete skill set!

WordPress Assembler

Zeoli wrote "Web Developers in the true sense of the word use their coding abilities to create custom layouts and advanced functionality ... they spent time learning to code..." And yes, developers like to talk about it, too!

He also wrote, "The introduction of theme frameworks with page builders hasn’t necessarily eliminated the need for custom development, but it’s placed tools in the hands of non-developers to accomplish so much of what used to be contracted in paid development work."

Wow! That's a powerful viewpoint.

As a systems engineer, I see the following steps to get there:
  1. Register a domain name... (GoDaddy, eNom, etc)
  2. Arrange for web hosting.. (Choose from thousands of providers)
  3. Install WordPress... (Provider will assist)
  4. Select and install a WordPress theme - many are free
  5. Select and install WordPress plug-ins - many are free
  6. Add content...
    (I found this link after I wrote this, and it lists these same steps! 😁)

Logins and Dashboards

A dashboard is a control panel, of sorts. There are three separate dashboards in the first three steps, and each has its own login and password.

Domain Registration Login

This, obviously, is where it all begins. There's lots of information collected to create the account and set up the domains.

This is where the owner of the domain name is listed, the tech support and who pays the bills. The most important information is the name servers, which point to where the website can be found. Your web hosting provider will provide that information.

However, once it's set up, the WordPress Assembler only logs back it to pay for additional years of registration. If the user pays for 2 years a time, then they may only need to log in every other year!

Web Hosting Login

This one is a little more complex. In most cases, it is a piece software named cPanel. There are several things that are done here, but here are the two primary actions:
  1. Manage email. This subject will fill up another entire article. For the fastest, simplest way to get through this is to set up these forwarders:
    1. your name @
    2. info @
    3. postmaster @
  2. Install WordPress - and whomever provides cPanel will be happy to help users through this process, too.
Once cPanel is set up, the WordPress Assembler really only needs to revisit the cPanel dashboard to add/remove email accounts and email forwarders.

WordPress Login

This is where the WordPress Assembler will log in, probably every day for a while, because this is where all the magic happens. 

A WordPress theme is the presentation layer. It sets the color scheme and the basic design and location of the parts of the website (example: menus).

The WordPress Assembler selects a theme. This decision is not set in concrete. It can be changed (and then changed back) in just a few clicks of the mouse! There are 3 sources for themes:
  • WordPress provides several basic, default themes.
    As I write this, the newest theme is named "twentyseventeen." (Yes, the other themes are named twentysixteen, twentyfifteen, etc.)
  • WordPress provides access to several thousand free themes in the theme repository. (Over 5,000)
  • Developers write and sell themes though independent web sites.
    I've found that if they require payment up front then they usually offer a refund period of 30 days.
A plugin is a snippet of code that adds additional functions to a website. For example, themes do not have a contact form; this is accomplished with a plugin. Plugins are available from the repository and through 3rd party developers. [Important vocabulary note: Plugins become widgets when they're added to a WordPress site. So, you download a contact form plugin, but you place the contact form widget in your theme.]

The WordPress Assembler selects plugins as needed. There's a whole set of best practices surrounding plugins: install only the ones that are needed and activate only the ones that are in use, etc.

Getting Help

Domain registration and WordPress installation help is readily available from the provider of those services because [1] revenue is immediate and measurable and [2] once done, these tasks do not have to be revisited.

If you plan to assemble your own website, then there are lots of free resources to help you learn. One such resource are YouTube videos. In the search block, type "WordPress (something) tutorial" and start scanning the results. Examples:

Sheila Eugenio wrote for the website: "[Building your own website] is an 'iceberg issue.' Initially, you only see a few basic issues, but once you’ve started you realize all the complexities beneath the surface that ultimately take up most of your time, decreasing overall productivity."

Sometimes it's easier and faster to just buy support. The free themes and plugins from the repository usually include an option to add (for a fee) additional features and email support. The premium themes with an up-front payment also include a period of support of 3-6 months with the option to buy additional support beyond the initial term. Because you're assembling your own website, they'll tell you how to do it, but leave the actual doing to you.

Good Luck and Have Fun!!! 😎😎 

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