WordPress for Expression

Modern platform of expression

It’s been a pleasure to dip into WordPress again by moving this blog back onto it.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Theodore Roosevelt

WordPress has always been a blogging platform. Its weak point always was that you’d build web pages that looked more like blog posts than pages. Just think about an About page, Contact page, or indeed product landing page.

Page Builders

I think the corner WordPress has turned is a subtle one: page builders.

Probably inspired by Wix, Squarespace, and such out-of-the-box web site builders.

A page builder in WordPress is essentially the idea of visually building up your page out of blocks (and this has been basically made possible with modern CSS models including flexbox and grid layouts).

Page BuilderProsConsConclusion
WordPress’s GutenbergGreat for building up a blog post.Doesn’t seem to have the bells and whistles you’d need to build a landing page.With its “blocks” there’s a good chance that the Gutenberg ecosystem will strive. It’s a huge change to WordPress. At the time of writing, use to build good blog posts.
Divi Page BuilderYou visually build a page from scratch.It uses shortcodes, so if you want to delete the plugin your site will break!!To the best of my understanding, don’t use.
Elementor Page BuilderYou visually build a page from scratch. It outputs HTML, so is future-compatible. It has complete page templates, but better yet, blocks that you can use to build up your own custom page.I have used this, not Divi. Elementor has “blocks” like template hero sections, and an ecosystem of plugins for more blocks. Use for marketing pages.

After years of WordPress relying on themes that have developer-coded pages layouts (e.g. “Contact Us” page layout), the page builders have git home. You can build a snazzy site quickly enough, and more importantly not rely on a develop to fix your marketing copy.

Page builders in WordPress have to play along with a base theme all the same. I’ve gone for the Astra theme for Bitesize Irish. Astra plays well with page builders, including Divi and Elementor.

Now go forth and spread your word, whatever that is, page by page and post by post.

All you have to decide now is what to share with the world.

Online community, not forum

IrishGaelicTranslator.com was a successful community

In the 1990s, I had a homepage, and was getting Irish language translation requests a lot. It must have been enough times anyway, because I decided at some point to host a forum where people could ask for translations.

The forum changed URLs several times, and I settled on the name of IrishGaelicTranslator.com because that’s what Google said people were searching for.

From then on, I was the enabler of what was quite a successful community. The site hit 400,000 page views a month when I sold it. There were probably a dozen new topics a day, with moderators and “mini-moderators” in place to keep the community healthy.  It had a single community page, which worked well (rather than many quiet sub-forums).

I was having trouble keeping the server going because of the traffic. I’d be in the code of the forum software, trying to optimise results. Surely it would have been possible to keep going, because other forum sites much busier managed to do so. I should have employed help perhaps, but cashing out was a good decision.

I tried more forums since

I set up a forum for people moving to Slovenia, because at the time we were strongly considering that move. I wanted to connect with others in the same boat. I get one “interview topic” up, interviewing an ex-pat I knew who was living there. But I didn’t get any other traffic sources in, the place just died.

I set up TWO forums for Bitesize Irish Gaelic. Both failed! The failed in terms of hardly anyone seeming to post there. The second attempt certainly had some people posting, but it must have been too quiet. I honestly don’t remember very well. But I was treating them as “forums”, just places where you post questions. I wanted people to “connect” with each other but didn’t really have a goal for the community!

Community, not forum

Well, third time lucky, I hope. We’re setting up a new in-house community for Bitesize members. This time, I’m finding it much more interesting to think about how to do community building.

I believe my interest in establishing a community was sparked by us planning our “Client Fulfilment System” for Bitesize (from E-Myth Mastery book). There was a customer advocacy paper which emphasised helping customers reach each other, reach the business, and help them advocate for a cause externally. I soon found lots of interesting topics including:

You instantly hit topics like a community needs a place, it needs to find a common purpose, and it can be built by achieving things together.

You soon hit related topics like setting up communities for social change, and community building in urban design. It’s a question of helping the community help each other.

It’s a fascinating area. Third time lucky for Bitesize’s community? Let’s try!

Steven Pressfield Is Getting Soft

Author Steven Pressfield wrote a classic about creating the work you’re meant to create: The War of Art. In it, he names the Resistance. That’s the negative energy that’s within us and will always be within us, holding us back from creating.

He followed it up with a tactical hard-hitting book called Turning Pro. He says that the life of the Amateur is driven by addiction and self-limiting behaviours. When you turn Pro, you’ll know it. You’ll remember where you were when you turned Pro. As a Pro, you’ll have a Practice of creating your creations. You’ll live the life you’re meant to lead.

Soon after reading the book, I was primed for looking for “I’ve had it” moments where I was turning Pro, once and for all. It was in March 2017 that I lost it with my five year old son. I was shaken by the experience. I used this to mark a line in the sand, telling myself this was the time I had finally turned Pro.

The trouble with the binary classification of being a Pro is that it doesn’t give wiggle room. It doesn’t let you succumb to your harmful daily habits. It means that if you have self-limiting behaviours then you haven’t turned Pro. Or at least that’s how I had interpreted. In summary, it feels like I’ve been failing at turning Pro, even though I’m aware of it.

Pressfield published another book called The Artist’s Journey. In it, he emphasises that the journey chooses you (so you should listen to it and accept it if you know what’s good for you!). The Artist’s Journey’s perspective is much softer and more forgiving, yet it’s still a motivating call for doing the work you were born to do. It gives you the permission to see your progress as a journey, as a story, as something that emerges over time.

P.S. Who are I to seek permission for anything from Steven Pressfield? Indeed, I have no permission to ask him. But his non-fiction work has been a call-to-arms for me. It’s been an inspiration for several years, and long may that last.