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WordPress School

Badge - Learn WordPress with Lorelle VanFossen at WordPress School.Are you ready to join Lorelle’s WordPress School? Let’s get going. Here is what you need to know.

To participate, you need the following:

  1. A free site or other test site for experimentation
  2. Join and participate in the WordPress School Google+ Community
  3. Do the assignments and tasks associated with each lesson
  4. Comment on the posts in this series with feedback, questions, answers, suggestions, ideas, experiences
  5. Firefox web browser or Chrome
  6. A graphics program for editing and preparing images for uploading to your site
  7. A text editor for writing and editing content and code
  8. A 8+ gig HIGH SPEED thumb drive or flash drive
  9. Course Documents and Materials:

Lorelle’s WordPress School is for you. You participate at your own pace and skill set.

Each weekday, I will publish a tutorial on some aspect of WordPress, beginning with simple tips and techniques. As you develop your WordPress skills, the lessons and assignments will become more challenging.

Each week there will be a mix of tutorials and reading assignments. One or more will include assignments to be completed on your experimental site. Comment on the posts and lessons in this series to include your input and offer suggestions and tips based upon your own experiences, helping others learn from your interaction.

Participate in the WordPress School Google+ Community to share, get feedback from others, ask questions, offer suggestions and ideas, and learn from each other. There will be collaborative exercises and discussions in the Community as well.

Know that there will be writing involved in this program. Writing is essential to today’s web from blog posts to social media to writing tutorials and inline documentation…the major way we communicate is through writing, and WordPress is about writing. You will be writing. Be ready.

There are no deadlines or due dates for this online version of my WordPress college course, but there is if you take my classes in person. This entire year’s worth of material is jammed into 10-12 weeks of on-campus training and work. According to my past students:

Take a single breath, slack off a single second, and you are going to find yourself far behind.

However, that does not mean you should not take the class. There is so much information that you can learn from being in this class, that it is well worth taking. Lorelle is a fabulous (and fun) teacher, who has found a way to teach you as much as you could possibly know not only about WordPress, but simply about the Internet. I learned things in this class that I have not learned in all the years I have used the Internet, such as information on Web Accessibility and how to work with HTML and Code!

This class should be a required course, no matter what major you are trying to receive. Because the information you will take out of this class, you will use for the rest of your life.

Now let’s get to the specific things you need to know and the tools you will need for this online WordPress school. Consider the following a syllabus for the course.

Free Site and Test Site

During the course, you will need a test site, one that you can rip and tear to shreds as you learn. It is highly recommended that you begin your WordPress School education on Later we will experiment with a self-hosted version of WordPress.

Simply go to and sign up for a free WordPress site. If you are already a member, go to Manage My Blogs and add a new site.

If you have an exiting “junk” site on or self-hosted version of WordPress, you may use that. For instructions on how to clean out an existing site, see the tutorial on how to use an existing site for your test site.

DO NOT USE A LIVE PUBLIC SITE. You will be breaking things, so don’t harm your community’s experiences. Once you get the hang of your new abilities and skills, you may try it on your own public site.

This will be your experimental, test site. This is where you will learn to break WordPress as well as make it beautiful. All of the features of serve us well during the first few months of this course, and the additional features we will use are found in the Jetpack WordPress Plugin for self-hosted sites, allowing you to transition fairly easily between the two.

The benefit of using for your first test site is that you can close it off from search engines while allowing it to be visible to the public. While you can do this with a self-hosted version of WordPress, why add to your expenses as you are learning. Unless you provide a link or someone randomly finds the site, it is hidden from the general public. It allows those participating in this course to visit your site, see how you are doing, and review your assignments and provide feedback.

If you wish to experiment in a closed environment, you may set up a portable or cloud-based WordPress installation. Please note that you will be doing this later in the course, and these sites are not accessible to the public or participants in this course.

By the end of this year-long program, you will have worked on a minimum of three WordPress sites, possibly four, including and the self-hosted version of WordPress and maybe a multiple contributor site, giving you a fully rounded walk around the possible with WordPress.

You Will Be Writing and Publishing – Make It Fun

Even though your site will not be indexed by search engines, if you wish to participate actively with feedback and cheers of support from fellow participants and the instructor, the site must be public and viewable. This means your site is technically live thus must be treated as live.

Over the years I’ve found the least learning occurs when the student doesn’t take what they are doing seriously. When they fake the content or create a test site with no original content, no thought behind the decision making of what goes where and the use of specific features and functionality, they aren’t really learning how to use WordPress. They are faking it. It shows when they move onto their own site and other WordPress sites.

Make your test site a real site for all intents and purposes. This is your chance to experiment with a topic, subject matter of interest, share a hobby or obsession, talk about anything you wish with little chance of anyone finding the site except those participating.

Recent studies state that learning happens at a deeper level when the work is meaningful and interesting, and in alignment with the student’s passions.

In my classes and workshops, participants explore a hidden talent or skill they hide from the world like drying meats for jerky, sewing, knitting, fiction writing, movie watching, cartoon and art drawing, artwork, storytelling, video, auto repair, auto restoration, scrapbooking, gardening, cooking…the list is long. What was just a lark often turned into a new career as I watched students take particular interest in their test sites, exploring all the ways they can talk about a subject, show graphics, photographs, videos, write tutorials, display galleries, and dig deeper into something they often thought was a waste of their time. It’s so exciting.

I challenge you to do the same with your test site. You will have fellow participants visiting your site if you share it online, so give them something entertaining to read. Teach them something new, share a passion, share a recipe, introduce us to something you love.

Not only will the process be more enjoyable, but you will learn more about how WordPress manages content. A site with a particular goal or subject aligns itself differently than one without. You will be able to make faster and stronger decisions about site organization, customization, and design.

Print out the WordPress Publishing Checklist article or PDFs and keep them near you as you work on these lessons. It will help remind you of all the steps you need to remember before hitting publish.

WordPress School Google+ Community

Everyone participating in this year’s WordPress School is encouraged to share their efforts with our WordPress School Community, and help each other through the process in the comments, but also on our WordPress School Google+ Community.

Google+ 9 Block Quilt for accessing Google Apps and Features.If you have a Gmail account, you have a Google+ profile and account. In the upper right corner of Google search, Gmail, and any Google product, look for a nine square black quilt graphic. Click it to access Google products and services. Google+ is there as well.

Visit the community and ask to join.

Our WordPress School Google+ Community will feature announcements, tips, tutorials, discussions, and additional homework to improve your WordPress skills.

You will be responding to discussions and posts in the Google+ Community and offering your assignments for review if you wish.

NOTE: No soliciting or unwanted and unacceptable behavior will be tolerated in the community. You all know the rules of online social interaction. Respect them and each other.

Social Media

While it is not required, when we discuss your About and Contact web pages and social media integration, it is highly recommended that you have two or more social media accounts set up. These may include Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Path, and LinkedIn.

You do not have to tweet, Facebook, or publish anything on your social media channels, and you may create fake ones to test things out if you wish. That’s up to you.

Once we complete the social media integration section, you are free to remove and delete all posts and the social media accounts, save for Google+ if you wish to continue participating in our discussion forum.

Tutorials, Studying, Reading, and Homework Assignments

Each weekday, a tutorial will be published on a WordPress skill, functionality, or technique. The tutorial may feature activities and tasks, as well as homework, or may just offer you reading material to study to prepare you for what is coming or hone your skills on what was just presented.

Each tutorial features an assignment. There are no deadlines in this informal online class but the expectation is that you will complete the assignment within 48 hours, though some tasks require longer, typically 7 days.

If you would like the other participating student to review and offer feedback on your homework, post a properly formed HTML link in the comments of the tutorial or in a link in the assignment post on Google+.

All published assignments must comply with:

  • Web standards
  • Web standards for accessibility
  • US and International web laws and guidelines
  • Assignment specifications
  • The WordPress Publishing Checklist

Emails, Usernames, Passwords

You are required to have a web-based email account in this course. It is recommended that you use a Gmail account to expedite access to Google+ and Google Drive.

As we go through the course, you maybe creating several accounts and logins. Choose a login that is easy to remember but not a common phrase or term. Use strong enough to avoid hacking.

WRITE DOWN all site addresses, usernames, and passwords. This is essential.

While there are ways of storing this information digitally, write it down as a backup. There are many lovely small password books you may purpose, or a small notebook you keep in a safe place works as well. Scraps of paper and sticky-notes tend to get lost. Use something you can keep handy, safe, and is easy to use.

Examples of books and notebooks used for saving passwords.In general, it is recommended you use a 3-4 word combination of unrelated words, and either replacing letters with numbers and symbols or adding them to the combination. Preshing on Programming offers information on the random word technique and LifeHacker offers more tips to ensure you have a strong password for each site. WordPress now includes a password strength indicator to help you generate a strong password.

In the section on managing multiple contributors, you maybe asked by a participant to guest blog on their test site to learn that aspect of WordPress user roles and interactivity.

NOTE: Lorelle has no access to your WordPress sites, self-hosted or on If you lose or forget your password and username, please use the “Forgot Password” link on your site’s login.

Graphics Program

You do not have to be a graphic designer or artist, or pay for the most expensive graphics software packages to participate in this course, but you will need to create and edit graphic images to prepare them for WordPress.

You will need to convert raw digital photography into uploadable images as JPG, PNG, or GIF files typically sized at no wider than 1000K and a file size below 100K, smaller is better. This requires a program that will allow you to convert/export images and resize them. There is more specific information in the images section below.

You may also wish to create images with text on them for the header art or calls-to-action images used in the course.

Corel offers PaintShop Pro for a fairly affordable price with frequent sales, as does with an easy download. It is a powerful graphic and photography editor that competes with the more expensive Adobe Photoshop.

Free online image editors include:


During the course, you will need the following images:

  • Portrait image sized a minimum of 400 pixels width with a file size below 100K
  • Square avatar image visible when resized from 16 to 350 pixels (typically 148px square) (may be the same as your portrait)
  • 2-3 different header art images typically 1400(width) x 300 pixels with a file size no larger than 200K
  • 6-15 graphic or photographic images range in width from 400px to 1500px, recommended not to exceed 150K file size, smaller is better

Additional images maybe needed for specific assignments.

All images are required to be original or copyright free (public domain or used with the express permission of the photographer or artist). There are many resources on the web for copyright free images, and here is a short list to get you started.

Text Editor

Writing your posts in Word is a standard practice, and the bane of web publishers, so it is not recommended in this class. We’ll go into the whys later. It is highly recommended that you craft your posts either on WordPress (with frequent clicks of Save as Draft) or in a text editor. Later in the course you will need a text editor and Windows Notepad or Write won’t work.

The WordPress Codex offers a list of free Text Editors, and here is a brief list for Mac and Windows of the most simple and easy-to-use.

It is strongly recommended that you do not write or edit content in Dreamweaver or another HTML WYSIWYMG editor.

Web Standards and WordPress Standards and Practices

This online class emphasizes web standards as set by law and guidelines in the United States and does its best to subscribe to international web standards.

As of 2012, all websites published in the United States are required to comply with web accessibility standards and guidelines. We will explore these throughout the class where the law is applicable.

The class also emphasizes and supports WordPress Standards and Practices for coding, especially with WordPress Themes and Plugins. We will cover the specifics of these in the course.

Rules and Guidelines

No Excuses. I like action responses, how are you going to solve this problem, rather than whines. We all lead busy lives, and sometimes missing a class is unavoidable. However, since the majority of the learning happens in class, make this class a priority on your schedule.

If you miss a step, life gets in the way, just keep going. I just don’t want to hear about it. We want to hear about your successes, your challenges conquered, battles won.

Copyright infringement and plagiarism will not be tolerated.

There are thousands of images in the public domain and free to use without royalties, and everyone has a camera in their pocket today, so no excuses for ripping off images or graphics from the web, nor content. Keep your test site’s content original.

While it is acceptable to use Lorem Ipsum dummy content on your test site, it is not acceptable to use it on a live site. You may wish for feedback and support of your fellow participants, and Lorem Ipsum doesn’t leave much room for comment.

WordPress Community Involvement

There are WordPress Meetups around the world in large and small communities. We have five right now in the Portland, Oregon, area with more starting up.

WordPress Meetups are typically free meetings where people come together regularly, typically monthly, to meet and share their expertise in WordPress.

WordCamp Central is the calendar for WordCamps, annual regional events and conferences where people gather for a day or two to learn more about WordPress.

Check out both of those lists for a WordPress meetup or WordCamp in your area. If there isn’t one, start one.

Attention to Details

One of the key characteristics necessary for web design and development is attention to details. It is the details that will always bite you in the end.

If you have ever lifted the web’s hood up and inspected the innards attempting to tweak a little this or that on a website, you have probably experienced the agony of 2 hours to 2 weeks spent hunting for broken code only to find out it was just a forgotten semi-colon or quote mark.

Welcome to web design and development.

It’s not just hours spent looking for punctuation in code. Readers are notorious for finding flaws. Misspellings, bad grammar, lists out of order, bad or broken links…the list is long. It’s like they have a magnifying glass between their eyes and the web.

The next key hiring characteristic necessary for web design and development employees, contractors, and freelancers is their ability to follow instructions. In this era of free access to all the information in the world through a search bar, it still stuns me when instructions are given and the end result doesn’t match the step-by-step, easy-to-use, clearly written instructions.

I’ve had this conversation repeatedly in my classes.

“Did you read the instructions?”

“I don’t need instructions. I know how to do this.”

“Clearly you didn’t read the instructions because you don’t know how to do this.”

“Okay, I didn’t read the instructions. Should I?”

It is critical that the web designer and developer listen to their clients and follow their instructions and needs. It doesn’t matter if you agree or don’t agree with their wants and needs. If you don’t have a clear justification as to why they shouldn’t put that picture of their grandchild smeared with jello as their header art, it is their site, their needs, their desires you are there to serve. Listen and obey, and fix what you can.

It is critical for anyone touching the programming of the web to read ALL the instructions because one missed step could make a site vulnerable to a security hack at the worse, breakage at the least.

Attention to detail and ability to follow instructions is not just critical to this process, it will hurt you in other ways.

The WordPress Community will not tolerate the misspelling of WordPress with a lower case P. It is seen as disrespectful, unprofessional, and not paying attention to details. Articles and sites promoting WordРress are typically dismissed. This does not mean that the WordPress Community is a bunch of judgmental and arrogant people. It means that attention to detail and ability to follow instructions is that important to them. Their thinking is “if they misspelled WordPress, what else have they messed up?”

With this in mind, here are the instructions on how to participate and use these WordPress Lessons.

Read the Tutorials: Each tutorial and article in this year-long series has been carefully crafted and honed over many years of teaching WordPress, web publishing, blogging, social media, online community building, web browser skills, Internet usage, email, online interactivity, and all the aspects of web publishing and online communication.

Watch for Tips: Throughout this series, black bordered boxes featuring tips and additional information and resources will be available to help you learn more and go further with your WordPress studies. Join our WordPress School Google+ Community for more tips and techniques.

Read and Re-Reach and Fact Check: Take your time and read through the tutorials and each link within them for more information and guidance. Make a checklist of the steps in the process and triple check them all before implementation. Know don’t assume. You will learn better, faster, and get it right sooner.

Mistakes Are How We Learn: I didn’t start out using WordPress perfectly, nor does anyone else. The best learning device is making mistakes, so make many and learn better. Mistakes draw us deeper into the truth of how things work. Go willingly.

Site Reviews

Fellow participants may review an assignment or your site and offer feedback. While there are guidelines for such feedback within Lorelle’s WordPress School, be kind and supportive to each other. We are all here to learn from each other, and we will all make mistakes.

A past student visited my class and advised them, “If you ever want to know what is wrong with your site, Lorelle will tell you.” While this is true, we need to remember to be positive and encouraging and allow those learning the room to breath, experiment, and make mistakes and learn from them.

If you are ready to have your site fully reviewed, I’m offering paid review services at a discount this year to WordPress School participants.

I’m offering this entire year’s series, and all the information on my sites, to you for free. No membership fees, no registration fees, no class fees. However, this is also my job. While donations and Amazon Wish List items are always welcome, site reviews are available for a fee, ranging from USD $100-$500 each if you mention Lorelle’s WordPress School and only within 2015. This is a 50% reduction in my fees. Please complete the Site Review form for specifics and pricing if you are interested.

There Are No Stupid Questions

This is my teaching motto. Remember it well.

Remember, there are no stupid questions just stupid people who fail to ask stupid questions.

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