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In 11 short weeks, graphic designer develops skills and confidence in WordPress Development

Josh Collinsworth

 

Hi! I’m Josh Collinsworth, and I recently completed the Interface + Flywheel WordPress, PHP and MySQL Course.

My background is in graphic design, and truthfully, I was initially reluctant to get into web design or development. Coding was never something I wanted to do per se; it was just something that, as a graphic designer, people told me I should learn to do because it would increase my employability in an already crowded job market.

So I did. I borrowed a book on HTML and CSS from a friend and set about learning my tags and stylesheets. And admittedly, I enjoyed it much more than I thought I might.

Eventually, I got decent enough at the basic front-end languages that I was doing WordPress design and development professionally, customizing themes with CSS, plugins and whatever else I could hack. Most of the time it went well, but soon I began to realize something:

Simply put, there was a vast imbalance between the amount of time it should have been taking me to solve my WordPress problems, and the inordinate amount of time it actually was taking.

Fortunately for me (and my future clients), that’s where Interface came in.

Sooner or later, every client would point to a part of their site that I didn’t really fully understand—some button or menu or something that just came out of the proverbial box that way—and ask, “Can you change that?” And I would suck in my breath, brace myself for the worst and tell them that I would try.

This would be my response because my only resource for making that change was either to a) manipulate the HTML and CSS to the extent that I could; or b) find a plugin that did exactly what I wanted. My limited understanding meant that if both of those failed, my only other option was a long and arduous session of trial-and-error. Maybe if I copy this snippet here? Maybe if I move this tag? Maybe if I paste this in above that other thing or below this thing?

Without ever really understanding how WordPress actually worked, I never even knew how to estimate my time. Maybe I could fix that thing they wanted fixed in five minutes. But then again, maybe it would take me eight full hours. (I can only be grateful that I never encountered an actual database issue.)

Simply put, there was a vast imbalance between the amount of time it should have been taking me to solve my WordPress problems, and the inordinate amount of time it actually was taking.

Fortunately for me (and my future clients), that’s where Interface came in.

I was browsing Twitter one morning when Interface’s Flywheel-sponsored WordPress, PHP and MySQL course caught my eye. I went to my employer immediately and said, “You need to send me to this.”

It didn’t take much convincing. They were sold, and so I committed to spending eleven weeks learning to master WordPress and the technologies that make it possible.

The class, comprised of eleven students (over half female, which is great to see in a field where women are often vastly underrepresented), ran the full gamut of experience levels. Some had been making websites and working with WordPress already for years (in fact, one of my classmates revealed that she had coded one of the first thousand sites on the internet); others had never written a line of code in their lives. Given that I had a little professional experience already under my belt, I expected the first two or three weeks of the course to be mostly review. To my pleasant surprise, however, even before we’d delved in that deep, the value of the course was already impressively high. Concepts in languages I thought I understood well suddenly became clearer, and things that had been vague revealed themselves almost obviously.

Now I’m back at work building sites that are many times as high-quality, user-friendly, customized and flexible as those I was putting together before—and truly enjoying it.

In fact, this course was packed with great information—even the parts not specifically related to coding. I was introduced to and began utilizing numerous programs and pieces of software as the class progressed. Lots of things I use every day now—both specific to web development and otherwise—were first introduced to me in class.

As an added bonus experience, we got to work in small teams on an actual website for a nonprofit organization during the course. My team (below) worked together to completely revamp Banister’s Leadership Academy‘s existing site with a new look and feel, and added in lots of new functionality to help the client interact with and receive information from their audience.

Team TBA

Team TBA, courtesy a selfie stick.

Now I’m back at work building sites that are many times as high-quality, user-friendly, customized and flexible as those I was putting together before—and truly enjoying it. I’m also bringing my knowledge back to the workplace, teaching my coworkers who are also involved with WordPress sites and helping them through the same issues I used to be facing.

In fact, a few weeks ago, an intern asked me to take a look at a complex issue she was having with a WordPress site, and I was able to make an accurate diagnosis within minutes. A few months prior, those few minutes could have easily been hours stumbling through the dark with no idea what I was even looking for.

Interface was a fantastic experience for me. I had a great time in the course, I gained an amazing amount of knowledge, and I now have the skills and confidence to provide anything a client wants in WordPress development. It was exactly the right thing for me and at the perfect time.