In addition to breaking new ground for myself by presenting my class slides from my iPad, in my Building Websites with WordPress class on Saturday (there might still be space available) I’m also trying something pretty new (for me) in teaching how to use WordPress—I’m going to focus 90% of the class using just WordPress.com.
This is a huge change for me in how I teach my class. When I first taught the class over two years ago, WordPress.com was a poor second cousin to installing WordPress on your own server. I still thought WP.com was an awesome service, but it lacked a lot of the features and tools that people wanted out of the box. So I had to teach people how to install and setup WordPress on their own servers.
My challenge was (and still is) that while setting up WP is pretty painless, in a classroom where people expect to follow along and do it, the experience was anything but painless.
I first tried teaching with XAMP on local machines, trying to explain that when they had their own domain and host the process would be similar, but not exactly the same. I think this was okay, but not great.
Next go-round I encouraged people to use their own hosting accounts and if they didn’t have one, get one from Dreamhost (I offered a nice coupon code in the class as well). This went okay but not awesome because there were inevitable issues with buying domains, DNS settings, hosts—you name it, I saw it.
So after the last class in January I knew I needed to take a long, hard look at how I was teaching the class and the assumptions I was making in which solution was best for most students. After a reflecting on the challenges I had been facing and then spending a goodly amount of time checking out all the new features at WordPress.com, it struck me that, really, WP.com was going to be the way to go.
Pretty much the ease of use, ease of teaching, and the rich (and getting richer) feature set that students could tap into. All the things I used on a day-to-day basis were there. Social sharing, polls, contact forms, media embedding, domain mapping; it’s all there. True, you’re limited to the 120+ themes offered and you can’t install your own plugins, however thinking about what most people need in a basic website (and even the ones I’ve set up recently for clients), I think most folks will be okay with WP.com. At least to start with.
Yes, if someone wants a completely custom theme, membership management, eCommerce, or uploading large media files (though there are alternative there), self-hosting is going to be the best route. Which is why I’m not ignoring self-installed WP, I’m just saving it for last and I’m going to challenge people’s assumptions on whether they really need to pay for hosting. If you can have a site you’re happy with, that looks great, and you can customize to (nearly) your heart’s content and only have to pay $12 a year for domain mapping, it’s that better than $10 a month for a host and still have to keep WP updated and such.
If it weren’t for the fact that I need to write and teach about all facets of WP, I’d consider switching my blog to WP.com just for the convenience aspect of it.
So, do you think I’m nuts?