5 minutes with WordPress enthusiast and long serving WooThemes customer, Bob Dunn, talking about his latest online classroom helping people build better blogs.
I’m a WordPress trainer and coach. I ended up in my current field after years of running a marketing, graphic and web design business. For the last four years, I have spent my time doing one-on-one WordPress training and coaching online, teaching in-person workshops, speaking at WordCamps and other conferences, and, basically, live and breathing WordPress. After much trial and error, I finally found the sweet spot for the online Build Your WordPress Blog classes I had been planning.
The first time I used a WooTheme for a client was in 2009. It was love at first sight. Over the years, I have carefully chosen the top theme shops I use and recommend and Woo has always been one of them. I am not a coder. I want something out of the box that I can tweak and make work for me. Woo does that.
My New Site: BobWPonline.com – Definition + Sensei + WooCommerce + WooDoJo + WooSidebars = A Lot of Woo!
When I first started thinking my online classes through, I originally decided to put them on my current site, BobWP.com. But somewhere along the line, Sensei was released. Trusting Woo’s reputation, I didn’t second guess it and bought the plugin shortly after release. Exploring it more, I knew I wouldn’t use all the features initially—for example, the quizzes—but was intrigued by it. Once I played around with it, I discovered that this plugin was the right one for my classes.
Then came the other pieces. How would this work with my current theme, which was not a Woo? And how would I protect class access? Would I use a membership plugin? I spent several hours sweating over the details, and came to this conclusion: Why worry about all this integration? The Definition theme was recommended with Sensei, and WooCommerce worked with it. I decided that it would make more sense to have my online classes as a separate site—both for marketing reasons and user accessibility. And so I went with the Definition theme.
The other big piece that was still missing was the class forum. I had experience with the WordPress forum plugins in the past and knew I didn’t want something bloated. Simple and clean was my goal, so bbpress seemed obvious. But after some research I found that there had been some issues with bbpress and some of the Woothemes. Oh well, it wouldn’t hurt to test it. It was a huge relief when I added it to the mix and it worked seamlessly.
It All Comes Together
When I grabbed all the pieces and put them together, it worked. With WooCommerce, I could easily limit access to the lessons and courses I created in Sensei. The Definition theme gave me everything I needed on the homepage for a clean, professional presentation. WooSidebars allowed me to create custom sidebars for different classes. And the other third party plugins I wanted to use behaved with all my Woo pieces. I only had to do some minor CSS customizations to get what I wanted. And I really did love how the lessons were presented and how I was able to organize them in courses. Great presentation.
But There Were a Few Challenges
- First I had to get used to how Sensei organizes the lessons. They are done just as a post would be, by date. So when I needed to add a new lesson somewhere in the mix, I had to look at the date and time of surrounding lessons. It was a little cumbersome, but not a hard workaround.
- Since all my lessons were protected through a purchase via WooCommerce, as an admin, I didn’t have front-end access to view my lessons. So I ordered the course and promised to send myself a check. Another fairly easy workaround.
- I did have initial problems as I couldn’t choose lessons via Woosidebars for a custom sidebar I had created. But the Woo Ninjas solved my problem by giving me some custom code to drop in.
- One big workaround I needed to do, that I would like to see a fix for, is that lessons are not available to add in the WordPress menus. I had to create some links manually for them all and that was a bit time consuming. Another workaround, but it would have been nice to have an easier option.
Feedback From the Community and Students
The feedback on the site design, user experience and UI has been nothing but positive. No need to say more.
I currently have one online class available: Build Your WordPress Blog. I will be adding at least two more in the near future and others down the road. Even though I am not using all the features of Sensei or WooCommerce, they were a perfect choice to accommodate any growth this site will see over the next several months. In fact, one of the upcoming Build Your WordPress Website classes will feature some WooThemes.
In the end, all I can say is this is a lot of Woo for one site. WOOT, WOO!