No matter where you are on the WordPress learning curve, from absolute WordPress beginner to budding developer, there's always something else to discover. And these days, it can be a challenge to figure out what resources are your best bets when you want to learn more about WordPress.
Sure, there are plenty of results when you search for how to perform specific tasks – how to add a new page, for instance, or a tutorial on configuring your preferred backup plugin. But learn more about WordPress? The results are overwhelming – where do you even begin?
One way to approach this problem is by concentrating on where you are currently on that learning curve, and then defining what exactly the next level involves. So … ready, player one? It's time to level up your WordPress game. We'll start with the rank novice who wants to become an educated WordPress beginner, covering several steps until becoming an advanced WordPress user.
From WordPress novice to beginner
The novice stage is defined by what it lacks: Experience with WordPress. You may have poked around your dashboard a bit, and perhaps you've even figured out some very basic tasks, such as adding a new blog post. Now you want to move up to understanding all the basic core WordPress tasks – adding pages; formatting text; adding and deactivating plugins; updating files.
The very best way to move from novice to beginner WordPress user is quite simple, and free: Practice. Familiarizing yourself with the dashboard, the various menus, and the most common WordPress tasks is the epitome of learn by doing. No print or video tutorial can come close to the education you'll get by actually banging around in your own WordPress site's backend.
But trial and error on a live site can be very costly for a novice. (Yes, you can indeed break your site, though usually not permanently.) So what's the solution? Simple; Create a duplicate WordPress installation on your own computer. Safely removed from the internet, your cloned site serves as your infinitely valuable test lab, playground, and classroom, all rolled into one.
Local copies of a live site also help you make changes to layout and design. See what new content looks like without actually rolling it out before it's ready for public consumption, and helps keep your site safe by testing out plugins or other code before making those changes to your public site.
Creating a local cloned version of your WordPress website is really two separate projects:
- Creating a local installation of WordPress on your computer; and
- Cloning and duplicating your existing site onto that local WordPress installation.
To create a local installation of WordPress on your laptop or desktop computer, you can follow these instructions from WordPress.org. However, many beginning users find the Codex intimidating, so you may prefer other walkthrough tutorials to install WordPress locally. In addition, many plugins can help you with the cloning/duplicating process, including UpdraftPlus.
From WordPress beginner to intermediate
After you've learned the basics, it's time to learn how to make adjustments to your site's underlying code. This means learning the basics of HTML and CSS. Like all websites, WordPress websites are built using HTML, which forms the content and structure of each page, and CSS, which creates the style or appearance of the structural components on those pages.
Fortunately, the internet offers a number of resources to learn the fundamentals of the web's most basic building blocks. Khan Academy offers an introductory HTML/CSS course that’s free, as does Codecademy. Shaye Howe also offers both beginning and advanced HTML/CSS courses. You can also explore the Head First books from O'Reilly Media. The HTML and CSS title introduces these languages by walking readers through the process of actually building and styling several sites.
Finally, at this level you'll want to begin cultivating the habit of looking at WordPress websites more deeply, by using extensions and tools such as Firebug to inspect the underlying code of the websites you browse. This will strengthen your skills and illustrate how the concepts you're learning get utilized in the real world to develop websites.
From WordPress intermediate to advanced
The last big level-up leap comes from intermediate to advanced, and it's probably the biggest challenge. It requires looking at WordPress at a much finer degree of granularity and detail, and it means learning more code – namely, PHP and SQL. Codecademy offers introductory classes in PHP and in SQL, while Khan Academy offers a course on SQL here but (so far) no PHP.
If you're willing to pay for training, you may find more in-depth and extensive training materials at sites such as Treehouse. And here you can find more popular online resources to learn WordPress and WordPress programming. You'll also want to start exploring how to put your new coding skills to more complex use by creating or modifying WordPress themes and plugins of your own.
Other resources to help you level up with ease
In addition to the resources we've mentioned above, you may also want to bookmark and explore the following sites and blogs to educate yourself and reach the next WordPress level:
- Udemy has a number of WordPress-related course offerings ranging in cost from free to a few hundred dollars. Udemy offers courses at almost all levels – from beginner to advanced.
- Lynda.com is another popular online learing platform that offers a number of WordPress training courses. Lynda's price structure is a bit different – instead of paying a per-course fee, you pay a subscription fee that entitles you to access to any of the site's classes.
- WordPress.tv is run by Automattic, the same folks behind WordPress itself. This platform hosts a plethora of informative videos – many of which are taken from presentations at WordCamps around the world. You can use the site search bar at the top of every page to find specific content and topics you would like to learn about or start at the site's ‘How to' page.
- For novices and beginners, WP101 offers numerous tutorial videos and a message board for members. Users at all levels will find helpful how-to's at Envato's Code tutorials.
- Learn the lingo with WP Beginners' glossary which explains WordPress terms in plain english.
- You can also find WordPress tutorials for any level within our Support Center or blog as well.
- Smashing Magazine has a rich archive of WordPress-related articles, and publishes new pieces on a regular basis which educate you on several different WordPress topics.
- Advanced WordPress users and developers should definitely bookmark Tom McFarlin's blog and read it regularly to educate themselves on advanced WordPress topics.
Conclusion: How to educate yourself in WordPress
The key to success in educating yourself and in learning how to code – just as with learning any new spoken or written human language – is consistency. Acquiring any new language is much easier with daily 20-minute work or study sessions as opposed to a single three-hour chunk on the weekend.
It won't be easy, and it certainly won't happen overnight. However, if you're able to keep yourself motivated and put some consistent daily effort into it, you'll find yourself reaching that next WordPress level fairly quickly. Did we mention your favorite resource for learning a new WordPress-related technical skill? Do you have more valuable tips? Tell us in the comments section below.