TL; DR: Droves of aspiring entrepreneurs launched small online businesses in 2020 as they capitalized on new economic possibilities arising from the pandemic. And many of them chose WordPress to build an online presence. To reduce the cost, time, and frustration that arises from a fragmented WordPress training ecosystem, WP101 developed a series of educational videos that demonstrate WordPress best practices. The company has even white-labeled these videos into a WP101 plugin, empowering developers and agencies to train WordPress administrators from the comfort of their own control panel.
WordPress now powers 42% of the open web. But as the robust content management system (CMS) has matured, it’s grown far beyond its roots as a humble blogger’s tool. Today, coming to grips with WordPress administration — particularly as a newbie — can prove daunting.
“With the explosion in growth we’ve seen in online learning, the challenge is increasingly one of discoverability,” said Shawn Hesketh, Founder of WP101. “Without wasting hours scouring videos, there’s no easy way to tell whether they were created by reputable WordPress educators or clever video marketers looking to game YouTube algorithms to generate revenue.”
Automattic — the software company behind WordPress, offers free learning management system tutorials on WPCourses.com. But content that can help you make money, such as ecommerce integration and other topics, is behind a paywall. Beyond this official content, a huge ecosystem of vendors offers one-off training, although most of those vendors specialize in niche categories.
WP101 stepped into the market to offer comprehensive, curated instructional videos intended to help novice WordPress users succeed with the often-complex platform. The company has fine-tuned its elearning strategies over 13 years, and it has developed a step-by-step roadmap for getting started.
Shawn said that WP101’s engagement drives the company’s success.
“We continue to build relationships within the WordPress community as we’ve done for the past 13 years, earning trust one person at a time while also nurturing our long-standing partnerships with the top WordPress agencies and hosting companies around the world,” he said.
The Pandemic That Fueled a WordPress Boom
Economists and survey researchers both agree that one unintended byproduct of the coronavirus pandemic is a significant reconsideration of career goals. A survey conducted by Prudential found that more than 70% of people plan to upgrade their skill sets while 26% plan to leave their employers after pandemic restrictions are lifted. One obvious channel for these new outlooks is entrepreneurship, either as a full-time or a part-time venture.
“We saw a tremendous increase in signups throughout 2020, resulting in our best year so far, with a 25% increase in revenue compared to the previous year,” Shawn said. “When you look at that alongside the growth of WordPress itself, it suggests that many people were building WordPress-powered websites during the pandemic.”
Shawn told us he’s excited to see so many people learning new skills and launching everything from hobby blogs to online shops. “We’re thrilled to be part of that journey for so many people,” he said.
The debate continues over whether enhanced federal unemployment benefits have contributed to softer-than-expected job growth numbers. But some economists note that most labor-market constraints occurred on the bottom end of the wage scale.
Many people who formerly worked in restaurants or retail for meager wages have branched into running their own small businesses. For an online business, WordPress is a popular platform on which to get started — and given that new-business startups nearly doubled in 2020 compared with 2019, it’s not hard to see the correlation with WP101’s business statistics.
This new vigor in the startup space is driving adoption of tools like WordPress. And as more inexperienced entrepreneurs settle upon WordPress as their platform of choice, their need for quality education correspondingly increases.
“Our goal is to provide courses for the most popular next steps a site owner may need in order to build the site they want and accomplish their goals,” Shawn said.
Old Materials Can’t Keep Pace with an Evolving Platform
Because Automattic has been late to the education party, WordPress education has been a free-for-all. Much of the content is simply stale; it gets pushed to YouTube or blog tutorials without updates as WordPress functionality changes.
Other educational resources prove to be content marketing masquerading as a help document, with the “solution” to a problem inevitably tied to the creator’s own paid product or service. In this environment, people eager for WordPress education are not well-served by relying on search engine results.
WP101 continuously curates its catalog to ensure accuracy. If WordPress Core changes a procedure, the WP101 team recreates the training, so there’s little risk of encountering outdated procedural information. In addition, the company highlights training related to a handful of best-of-breed plugins that are essential for blogging or ecommerce. These plugins include WooCommerce, JetPack, Yoast SEO, Beaver Builder, NinjaForms, and WP Rocket.
WP101 delivers its training videos — professionally prepared in line with how adult learners process information — on its website as well as through the WP101 plugin. Each video is designed for beginners, closed-captioned for accessibility, and updated with each major release of WordPress.
“Beyond our courses, my favorite feature — and the one many people rave about — is our help forum, where members can ask WordPress questions and get personalized answers from me and the other WordPress educators on our site,” Shawn said. “We might not have a full-blown course to cover every WordPress plugin or feature, but via the forum, our members can ask for recommendations or one-on-one advice for how to solve problems with their WordPress site.”
That forum highlights a core part of WP101’s roadmap: continuous market surveillance. The company also watches Facebook groups, Slack channels, member questions, and the Make WordPress developer portal to identify common pain points.
Updated Guidance to Get Started
Entrepreneurs who capitalized on the coronavirus pandemic to start a new small business, or even an online side gig, likely rely on WordPress. This free and open-source platform is a powerful CMS that can handle blogs, ecommerce sites, and business management. Although WordPress is marketed as easy-to-use, the platform’s architecture isn’t necessarily intuitive for beginners.
Trying to plug the knowledge gap is made more difficult by the sheer volume of misinformation that manipulates SEO algorithms. Common search terms about WordPress education uncover a large volume of outdated content, videos that aren’t well-optimized for adult learning, and poorly veiled attempts to sell WordPress-related products or services. WP101 turns this model on its head by maintaining a large library of training videos that are always current with the major release of WordPress.
For WP101, the next major road map goal is to fine-tune the WP101 plugin. This tool provides an alternative way to deliver educational videos to customers. It has also proven to be an effective white-label tool for agencies and WordPress professionals to onboard new administrators from within their own platform installations.
WP101 helps entrepreneurs new to WordPress get started quickly through well-developed educational videos of the most recent major releases of the platform. The savings in cost, time, and frustration is well worth the annual subscription price — and that’s before tools like the company’s subscriber forums are accounted for.
“Knowing that I’ve played a small part in helping so many people learn how to use WordPress to build their own website is incredibly gratifying,” Shawn said. “I’m proud of that but equally humbled. I hope to continue helping people around the world learn how to use WordPress for many years to come!”