Dear reader, I believe that everything we do in some ways connects to other aspects of who we are. We show our true selves in our everyday actions. Things that seem unrelated are often related if you look closely enough.
In this post, I explore how the process of building web pages has also taught me about how I relate to people. This is less of a stretch than you may think. Let’s start…
My adventure in creating websites started around 15 years ago and was directed more by need than want. In those days I was a partner/owner of a medium sized psychiatric practice. With my two partners, I had built the practice into a thriving enterprise.
Most of our business was generated from former clients and referring professionals. However, we knew that we needed a website, as it was becoming a common instrument that new clients used to find their next care provider.
I come from a blue-collar background, which inherently makes me a do-it-yourselfer and cost-conscious. I was already heavily invested in creating marketing and advertising materials for the practice and had been doing everything from brochure design (remember paper?) to head shots of the staff.
It was only logical that I build the website. To hire someone to design even a simple one would have cost thousands of dollars, as well as countless hours of committee work to write copy, and approve design concepts. I felt that I had the potential to do the necessary tasks: photography, copy creation, design, deployment. However, there was a problem, I had never designed a webpage, I had never taken a computer course, and I had never written a single line of HTML. In hindsight building a complex website was an insane thought. People spend years learning this stuff. What was I thinking?
Naturally, it was a massive project that was complicated by the fact that I had to learn everything on the fly. Initially, I tried to go the easy route by using the hosting company’s template-based web designer. I wrote two entire versions of the clinic website with that program, but it just couldn’t handle a site as complex as the one the I envisioned. I recall spending an entire Saturday trying to upload a few more pages to the site, only to have it repeatedly crash. Finally, I realized that I would have to go beyond the limitations of this easy software and use something more sophisticated. That moment was sickening to me, as it meant that not only would I have to learn an entirely new software package, but I would have to recreate every single page of the website again.
This process was occuring in my almost non-existent “spare time.” I created extra working time by removing needed sleeping time. I know my partners had no idea of the hours that I put in. They assumed that I was able to build a site during my lunch break. For months most of my evenings and weekends were spent staring at a computer screen. Sure, my lack of knowledge made easy things more difficult, but there was also the reality that I was wearing all of the creative hats. It was overwhelming.
The more sophisticated software that I settled on was from a British company called Serif. It was graphically based and similar to the page layout programs that I had used for paper publications. The familiarity offered me a small degree of confidence. However, building an interactive multimedia website is very different from placing photos and print on a physical page.
Eventually, I got the hang of it and created seven redesigns of the clinic site over ten years. It wasn’t too long before friends started to ask me if I could help their small businesses and build a website for them. This is how I became a web designer/content creator.
In 2015 my friend, Tom, asked me if I would write some copy for his small business website. He had paid someone to do the total creation of the site, and he wasn’t pleased with it. “I don’t think that the website represents me very well.” He told me. “Sure,” I said. I was eager to repay a favor that he had recently done for me.
Tom is a smart and creative guy who has a sense of style. Initially, I thought that he was overly critical of his site. I assumed that a professional would know all of the tricks to creating a visually appealing and engaging experience. It was then that I looked at the web pages. His site was an example of “you don’t always get when you pay for.” Cluttered, poorly written, lousy clipart, encyclopedia length boring content that was likely copied from elsewhere. It was not good.
“Tom, why don’t you let me build a new site for you?” The words came out of my mouth without thought. “I can’t let you do that, I don’t want to take advantage of you,” Tom replied. Suddenly, I found myself convincing him that it was OK, and a good idea.
Like most projects, it was much more complicated and time-consuming than I initially thought. Despite being a lot of work, it was fun and I felt good helping my friend. I was proud of the way the new website turned out. Simple, clean, beautiful!
Fast forward to 2018. Tom had been doing some marketing research and decided that his site would be more searchable if it was created using the WordPress PHP format instead of the simple HTML of the site that I wrote. He even found someone willing to port my created content to a shiny new WordPress site. So, what did I do? I took a look at the prototype site and saw a different vision. Once again I was asking my friend if he would mind if I would make some “adjustments.” Some of this may be grandiosity, some reality. I know Tom very well, and I have some understanding of his business. Two pieces of knowledge that his WordPress colleague didn’t possess.
Dear reader, you are reading this post on my WordPress blog site that I created several years ago. It was a straightforward creation that involved a few mouse clicks. I set it up with no knowledge of WordPress in about 30 minutes. On the other hand, Tom’s site is a very complicated bonafide website that is loaded with all sorts of content. I was telling him that I could improve his site and I didn’t even know how to modify a single page in WordPress. Why do I do such crazy things?
As you know by now when I don’t understand my behavior I ponder and try to figure it out. This is what I came up with:
I love learning new things, and I love intellectual challenges. Despite being slow going, there is a genuine thrill when I figure out even a small aspect of a new puzzle. Knowledge is my cocaine.
I have pride issues. I put a lot of energy and effort creating content for his original website. I want my work in a setting that adds to it and doesn’t detract from it.
I show that I care about someone by doing things for them. Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words.
I want to justify Tom’s friendship with me. I want to give him a good “return” on his investment in our connection. This realization was a surprise. In reality, I know that Tom connects with me as much for my imperfections as my strengths. I don’t need to prove my value to him, and I honestly feel that he would like me just as much if all we did was to hang out with each other. In fact, Tom is also a helper who is more comfortable taking care of, rather than being taken care of.
This need to be valuable to my friend stems back to a time in my life when I felt that I had little value. The, “I am not worth anything,” part of my life. This likely is also a reason why I did all of the extra work for my former clinic. It was a way to prove that I was worthy of my fellow doctor’s time and attention.
I am a protector. I have a strong maternal side to my personality. When I feel close to someone, I am constantly trying to make sure that they are safe and that their needs are met. I can guarantee that my friend does not need my protection. He is physically stronger than I am and has survived most of his life without my sage interventions. Luckily, Tom seems to understand my motives and tolerates my actions. He is happiest when his business is thriving. I want to make sure that his website does as much as it can do to help his business thrive. For whatever reason, I think I hold the key to making his website the best that it can be.
Conversely, my protective trait drives an immediate family member crazy. They view it as me trying to control them. In reality, I’m just trying to make sure that they have everything that they need. However, I do understand their annoyance, and I have tried to modify my behavior.
These are some of the reasons that I came up with, but that is enough writing for today. Hopefully, this post will get you thinking about how the unrelated parts of your life that are actually related to each other. Connect the dots and learn just a little bit more about yourself! Have a great day.
7 thoughts on “How WordPress Taught Me About Myself”
As I have looked back on my life, I clearly recognize how each segment was necessary to prepare me for the next. None were particularly pleasant, but without each phase & the eventual insight it brought, I would not be as grateful as I am in my old age.
I agree, Linda.
I really like WordPress.
It can be a very empowering tool so long as it’s used with care. I tell my friends and business associates “Don’t break it, it’s a bugger to fix.” WordPress installations mean site owners can add their own content, without having to pay some guru at a design agency in Manchester 800 pounds a day to do it for them. There’s the obvious caveats, though. The best way of fubarring the installation is by changing the site URL. I’ve seen one business friend do this, making it so they couldn’t even log back in to undo what they had done.
By the way, my early website creation was done with the help of FrontPage. I wouldn’t dream of using that now. WordPress sites are much more accessible and scaleable. The themes that are ‘responsive’ are great too, now that a smaller proportion of viewers use desktop monitors to view content. I also like WordPress for what I suppose are political or social reasons. It can foster a more communitarian way of working that is more to do with collaborative effort than competition.
Last night, I was listening to a Radio Four programme about human-digital interactions. It mentioned the concept of ‘affordances’, and (if I have understood it right), you could say WordPress offers ‘good affordances’. Using it to make analogies about some life lessons likely wasn’t in the creators minds when they created it, but why not use it that way? Human imagination is a wonderful thing.
John, it has been a challenge to learn WordPress, but I have been plugging along. I’m using a theme called Divi, it is pretty flexible. The site will have to be transferred from its current directory to the directory where the original site that I built is currently residing. I’ll use the expertise of the WordPress guy for that, but I’m hoping he will teach me how he does it.
I love doing this stuff. I guess that I’m a lifelong learner.
The problem is if the entries in your WP database end up pointing to invalid addresses. There is a plug-in that can make the process easier and safer. Still would exercise extreme caution though. Never practice on a live site!
The best way to hone some WP skills (in my humble opinion) is to set up a machine at home with LAMP or WAMP or MAMP on it, and publish to a private home server. Then you can experiment to your heart’s content.
Doing this can be a bit of a thief of time. 🙂
PS IANAWPE (I am not a WP expert)
I don’t even what LAMP, WAMP or MAMP is. I’m guessing that they are virtual server programs. Too bad that you are not a WP expert, I could have tapped your knowledge! Sort of an overseas tutor. I understand the “pointing” issue and I know links get broken. This is where my friend’s WP “expert” will come in. However, I’m itching to see how he does it.
Linux, Windows or Mac with Apache (web server), MySQL database program, and PHP scripting language. It was hard to set up, but first time I did, the joy was on a par with developing my first photograph. 🙂
I’m happy to share WP tips with anyone, but only on the understanding that I can’t rescue them should it all go wrong.
There are some great WP books. I bought my friend (the one who foobarred her site) the ‘for Dummies’ one. Her site was recovered by restoring an earlier backup.
It’s a pity that it’s possible to mess up a site from within the dashboard. I suppose one way round that would be to give users with limited experience fewer privileges, so they can add or change content, but not mess things up.
One good tip is to periodically export your WP content and download it, so it can be re-imported at a later date – even to a different domain. There are videos on Youtube on how to use the WordPress Export Tool. This can be good insurance, especially once your blog has thousands of entries.
Comments are closed.