LearnWordPress for Project Managers


Zac Gordon
writes on September 11, 2014

In my years working with WordPress I have found that for every WordPress site that gets built there is often a progressive decrease in understanding how WordPress works for project and account managers.  This is a natural progression, however, the degree of drop off at the level of an account or project manager can often greatly affect the success of any given WordPress project.

Account and Project managers by no means need to know as much as developers, but they should at least be competent at the level of a WordPress power user: one who knows the ins and outs of how to manage content, control settings, and work with plugins and themes.  The combined knowledge of these skills also gives them an increased ability to assess the feasibility of using WordPress for any given project.

More and more we see account and project managers attending WordCamps, local WordPress meetups, because they know that learning more about WordPress directly helps them sound more professional when talking to clients and developers and it helps them do more high-level work with confidence, like assessing the scope of a project and knowing what WordPress can and cannot do.

While this article applies mostly to people with job descriptions like Account or Project Manager, it also applies to one-person development shops with owners who wear multiple hats.

Account and Project Manager Job Responsibilities That Relate to WordPress

If account or project managers work for companies that build WordPress sites, they will likely have to perform several or many of the following roles:

  1. Assess if WordPress is a good fit for a project – WordPress can power a huge range of websites and often works as a good solution.  However, it is important to know when to use a static site, a more niche piece of software, or even a custom application instead of WordPress
  2. Determine if WordPress can provide X functionality – A developer is often not present in initial client meetings where functionality is written into the scope of a project.  If this is the case, involved parties should at least know the basics of how to search for WordPress plugins and to access the rough feasibility of functionality.  Remember though, just because a plugin exists, doesn’t mean that it will be a simple process to setup or that it will even actually work as needed.
  3. Support a Frustrated and Knowledgeable Developer – If your job includes interacting with a developer you should have an understanding and respect for where your knowledge and understanding intersects and where theirs may supersede.  Work to make your internal WordPress team as happy and harmonious.  Sometimes you may be able to successfully stand up for what the position of the developers and other times you may have to successfully empathize with and console them when it is not possible.
  4. Prepare User Guides and Documentation – It often falls to project managers to prepare instructions for how to manage client WordPress sites. If people in this position understand the ins and outs of WordPress at a big level as well as what specifics are unique to that project, preparing such material is much simpler. Ideally this would build into reusable templates that a company can easily repurpose for other projects.
  5. Answer Ongoing Support Questions – When a client has a problem with their WordPress site, an account or project manage is usually the first point of contact (often even before the instruction mentioned above are consulted).  These problems often have to do with simple things like how to edit content, however, they can also relate to issues involving WordPress updates that, which is something a power user should be familiar with.  For example, updates can cause compatibility issues with plugins and themes.  The more of an understanding one has about WordPress, the easier it is to build up a knowledge base that one can easily reference for common support questions.

When a project or account manager successfully diffuses a situation or answers a question without having to pull some else who knows more about WordPress, it feels good.  It also keeps a project flowing smoothly and allows one to focus more time on other important tasks.

How to Become a WordPress Power User

A Power User is one who knows the ins and outs of working with WordPress sites.  To become a Power User its important that you have some sites to login and look through.  You don’t necessarily have to be able to edit or make changes, but simply being able to login and look around different sites helps give you a bigger picture views of the similarities and differences of WordPress setups.

If you have your own site, professional or personal, that you can play around with editing and customizing, this will let you play around with all of the features and customizations you likely couldn’t make on the live sites you have access to at work.  Simply clicking through and testing out the different admin area pages and settings can teach you a lot.

Of course, a time will come when you will want to download more information on WordPress, get answers to questions you have developed, and possibly even make some connections with people who you can go to when you have a question.  Developing a network of other people who know WordPress at the level you would like to know is so valuable, especially when you have don’t even know enough to form the question you want to ask.

Attending WordCamps, local annual WordPress events, is a fun and easy way to learn a lot about WordPress in just a day or too as well as meet hundreds of friendly and knowledgeable WordPressers who love to share what they know.  You can go to the WordCamp Central site to lookup an upcoming event in your area.

At Treehouse we also have a special track designed specifically for account and project managers who work with WordPress.  In our Learn WordPress track we talk about everything we have covered here, plus a lot more!  Check out the trailer!

When you signup at Treehouse and enroll in the Learn WordPress track, you also get access to the amazing community of WordPress students currently on Treehouse who are there to answer your questions and begin helping you expand your WordPress knowledge base.

Influencing the Industry

If you are an informed WordPress account or project manager reading this article and thank you and applaud your path for getting there, I’m sure it has had some tough spots.  Please work to share what you know with other project and account managers, both those you work with and those you don’t.  There are likely annual and monthly WordPress meetups in your area, and believe it or not, people could probably learn a lot from your experience.  As you reach out in your local WordPress community, I invite you to reach out and speak about your experience and what you have learned in your unique position within the WordPress ecosystem.

For experienced and knowledgeable developers who work with people who they wish knew more about WordPress, take a stand of working to covertly educate your colleagues rather than complaining.  I say covertly because environments that lack understanding can often be hostile, and it’s often in how we respond to questions and problems that can either result in seeding learning or causing more conflict.  If we develop the mindset that we are there not just at work to build sites, but to educate others about WordPress, then even when others don’t listen to the advice we give, we can continue to provide it in a calm, confident and informed, matter-of-fact manner.

If you are in a position to, I encourage you to invite some project or account managers, along with any developers or designers to the next local WordCamp. You will all learn a lot, meet others in your field, and return to work more knowledgeable and energized to take your company to the next level.  Plus, companies who send varied levels of representatives from their company to these types of events, both as attendees and sponsors, often gain considerable recognition from other potential partners and clients in the WordPress world.



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8 Responses to “WordPress for Project Managers”

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  2. Great article Zac! As a project manager for a company that develops strictly in WordPress, step 1 can sometimes be tricky when trying to capture that next large client. However with the increasing amount of premium plugins and awareness to WordPress as a platform, we VERY rarely find a situation where WordPress is not the best option.

    With SEO and good content, it is rare that we find clients who are not willing to generate some blog content.

    Also, as you said, training yourself as well as your clients is vital! You want to avoid having to go to developers as well as clients and also don’t want your customers writing in to ask how to add a picture to a blog post, and spending a day or two creating a “badass” training document that can be updated on Google Drive can work wonders in the future.

  3. Well I would be very interested in the solution of your advice nr 1: “Assess if WordPress is a good fit for a project”.
    In my specific situation I need a websites that contain only static sites (around 50 content pages), without any posts, comments or interaction needed. Is WordPress good fit for this need? Or would you say a site with only static pages is so simple, that wordpress is too sophisticated / slow for it?
    Could you give some more information about when WordPress is a good fit, and when not?

    • WordPress would still work great for static sites. The advantage being how easy it is to edit content should the need arise. If you’re worried about performance, caching and a well made theme will make that a non issue. If you use a managed wordpress host, they take care of the caching so that’s one less thing you have to worry about.

      • Sound good! So when exactly would you consider to use something else than WordPress?

        • Jake Jackson on September 17, 2014 at 3:30 am said:

          If you wanted to focus on a specific area you might use more specific tools.

          For example, if I only wanted to blog I might look into using Ghost. Or if I wanted a small low cost e-commerce solution I might consider Shopify.

          WordPress is a good platform for a lot of things, but when you want to do very specific tasks it can require a lot of custom development to achieve.

  4. very great information. thanks for sharing. i have bookmark your blog for future updates.

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