A Tangled Web

WordPress SOS rescues a website hostage

Running a website is not fun. Rewarding? Perhaps. And for entrepreneurs and small business owners it’s absolutely necessary. But is it fun? Oh no: no it is not. And this, dear readers, your writer can say from bitter experience.

For over six months I have been managing a well-established UK blog that runs on WordPress, during which time I have had to learn on my feet while being roundly ignored by our developer—something I have since discovered is almost par for the course for small business owners.

Imagine my joy, then, to discover a workshop dedicated to WordPress right here in Saigon. Founded by Germanborn designer Anita M, the workshops happen from all-female co-working venue Co-Space in Thao Dien and cover almost anything anyone needs to know about WordPress.

Anita has a colorful career history: having trained and worked as a designer in her early career, she later managed private fine art collections in New York. This she did for more than ten years before recently moving with her husband to Ho Chi Minh City. Here, with the art scene still in its infancy, Anita has rediscovered her joy for designing websites.

She explains: “These days, I think everyone should be familiar with how a website works. Especially small business owners—many people run their businesses from Facebook here in Vietnam, which is ok, but what if Facebook stops operating? It’s important to have your own website. And with WordPress the most widely used publishing platform, it’s a good place to start.”

The joy Anita takes from sharing her skills with Saigoners means she is planning to expand, and will soon be launching a new class, Turn Your Passion into Profit, later in the summer. With it she plans to show people how they too can set up courses—both face to face and online—through which they can share and cash-in on their own skills and hobbies.

Cradle to Code

For now, though, Anita runs three WordPress courses. The first course is her WordPress Web Design workshop, which takes participants through how to start a website from scratch. Taken in three sessions over three weeks, the course covers finding a domain name, a host and then the WordPress design process, making it perfect for those with little to no experience.

The second course—Share Your Adventures with WordPress—is aimed more at those looking to develop public or private sites to share pictures or stories with friends and family. This, says Anita, is perfect for travel or food bloggers, or parents with family members living abroad that would still like to share in the day-to-day lives of grandchildren, nieces or nephews.

Finally, and the newest addition to the stable, Anita offers WordPress SOS, a course designed for struggling business owners who may have already designed—or paid someone to design—their website, but have now lost their bearings. As highlighted above, this described me perfectly and so was the course I opted for.

Back Up To Basics

Filled with the usual dread that consumes me upon even thinking about making long-needed changes to this website, I was instantly put at ease upon meeting Anita: her bright and breezy manner is a world away from the pale, hunched-over grumpy male developers I have so far encountered.

First and foremost Anita reassured me that mine is—as I have mentioned before—not a unique situation and that, in fact, she had had seen a client just before me that is in the exact same online ‘hostage situation.’

“It’s very common—developers create a website and then disappear, and people are left with out-dated sites they can’t manage as they don’t have the access that they need, which also means they can’t leave. This is one of the main reasons I decided to start this course—so I can show people that it’s really not so scary to click a few buttons and take back control.”

As a first step, Anita showed me how to back up my site, which means that—worst-case scenario, any changes can be reversed while I can also rest assured I have a copy should my developer refuse to co-operate. In the latter case—a nightmare for a business owner— Anita assured me that the site could be started afresh with the same web address on a new server without disrupting the business.

Secondly, we went through some basic housekeeping, looking at where storage can be optimised to ensure the site is running as fast as it can, which includes getting rid of unwanted images and plug-ins, while we also covered some basic SEO tips that can be easily integrated into day-to-day operations. Anita even offered some suggestions on layout and design, advising on what might make a better user experience.

She says: “Ultimately, the aim of these classes is to show people that they needn’t be afraid of either creating or running a website: it’s honestly not as complicated as some people think. It’s always really pleasing to see people’s faces light up in our
sessions when we are able to solve a problem they have been struggling with for so long. This is why I do it.”

After our two-hour session there were certainly one or two such moments for me, and I left with a glow of empowerment the likes of which I haven’t felt in months. That afternoon, as if by divine providence, my developer also answered an email—a rarity. However it doesn’t matter now—thanks to Anita and WordPress SOS, I am no longer an online hostage.

WordPress Courses at Co-Space:
– WordPress Web Design Workshop
– Share Your Adventures With WordPress
– WordPress SOS – Troubleshoot Your Website
Co-Space members receive discounted prices
To keep up-to-date with Anita’s new courses, including the upcoming Turn Your Passion Into Profit, visit www.anitam.com or www.facebook.com/anitamcom

Image by Vy Lam

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