You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Your Website is Work

I spend a lot of time teaching people, and also giving directions (which I seem to have to send out repeatedly) only to be faced with a remark that doing all these things to manage a website is hard and time consuming and complicated and painful. It takes a lot of effort for me not to reply like this:

Life IS pain, highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something

Of course it’s hard. Malcom Gladwell, in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success,” posits that it takes 10,000 hours of work to become an expert at something. Anything. Now, believe that or not (and yes, some people are naturally gifted so maybe they can do these things faster or achieve an even better expert level than you), the fact remains that we all had to learn skills.

What’s interesting is this is nothing new. We know this. We’ve known it for years that we have to put in the sweat equity. But people look at a website as being “easier” and think it’s really all a ‘set it and forget it.’ But it’s not. It’s never been that way. Making a website and walking away is dangerous not because you might get hacked (which you might), but because people will walk away when there’s nothing new.

At WordCamp Chicago, I talked about this. There’s a difference between how someone like Ron Popeil sells things and how Julia Child did. No one can argue she wasn’t successful, but she, like Chris Lema sell you on yourself, rather than ‘You need this one thing to be a success.’ If I stick to my food analogy, Emeril sells things but Alton Brown sells you skills.

This just comes back to the basic understanding of needing skills, some skills, to keep your website up and running. We’re not all going to be hard core coders, nor should we be, but we do need a modicum of technical savvy to use the tools. Our technology gets more complicated, and while I know WordPress is concerned with that, even plain HTML is complicated to figure out that first time. The bar is there, and you have to master jumping it, or even peeking over it, to get through your day.

A website is work. The health of your website is directly proportional to the work you put in, and as we all know…

If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything.
“If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.”

I would like to propose we all, for 2014, be shamelessly honest (to steal a phrase from my company). Be upfront, direct, and truthful. When people say “Is WordPress easy?” we say “It can be, but remember, no matter how easy a tool is, your website is still going to be work.” I would like us to stop selling our tools because they’re so easy a caveman can do it, and start selling truth about how it’s being used. “Everything gets easier the more you use it.” and “The more familiar you get with this, the easier everything becomes.”

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.This is not to say that our tools can’t be easy and shouldn’t be easier, but we have to face the facts that no matter how easy we make WordPress, or Drupal, or any tool, our presence on the Internet will remain work. And work means that sometimes you’re going to have to learn new, harder-for-you, skills to keep up with everything, or spend money to hire someone to do things.

No one can tell you how easy something will be for you, and I think we need to stop telling people “Don’t worry, it’ll be easy.” When I tell someone they can fix a hacked site, I tell them they can without losing their content, and while it can be overwhelming and scary, if they can copy files between folders, they can do this. By being honest about the work that goes into your website, the more prepared they will be for the inevitable moments of pain and difficulty, and the easier it will be for them to solve those problems.


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comment 9 comments
  • Amanda

    Yay, I get to be first to comment. This is a great article, and I’m all for taking your suggestion that we stop telling people “it’s easy”. What’s easy for us is not necessarily easy for someone else, it’s all about perspective. I like to tell people that something may or may not be easy for them, but either way, they’ll be able to learn the ropes and complete whatever web task they’re trying for.

    • Ipstenu (Mika Epstein)

      @Amanda: You get internet points πŸ˜€

      And yes, that’s exactly it! If it was easy for everyone, we wouldn’t have jobs.

  • Makis

    This last few yrs I m trying to simplify things, for me and my clients, that way we both save time and get more efficient.
    So under that same thought I say that WordPress is easy, but you need hard work in order to make it successful.

    That work should come from people and not machines, bots or crawlers.

    Aftermath: WP would be empty without its community(users, developers and volunteers), THEY make WP a great tool to save time where money equals time and not the other way around.

    Have a great 2014 all of you!

  • Glenn Cogar

    te he he @Mika thats for an entertaining and educational start to 2014 πŸ™‚ I think I might have watched the Princess Bride for 10,000 … I just wish this gave me credit on other things like WordPress MU πŸ˜‰

    My family think that just because I work in IT that everything to do with IT is *easy* and I know I have to work at it to learn stuff. If it was a one time 10,000 hrs I think I’d be there but there are just so many things to learn.

    I know I don’t have to spend 10,000 on each, just enough to do what I need to do, but it does all take time. The hard part is deciding what to spend time on – its like that Blog on SASS you wrote, its a very interesting and good technology but do I really need it? and how much time do I need to spend on it?

    Unfortunately the answer (for me) is usually – yes, its interesting, I need to spend time on it!

    No wonder I never get anything done, but I’m always learning new stuff πŸ˜€

    • Ipstenu (Mika Epstein)

      @Glenn Cogar: GLENN! Now I know who to thank for the Amazon present! πŸ˜†

      My aunt recently emailed me the link to XKCD’s Tech Support Cheat Sheet and said it sounded like what I did.

      By now, I think I’ve spend about 9,000 hours on WordPress, give or take, so I’m nearing expert levels by the math (five hours a day, every day, for 5 years… which is wrong since now at work I spend more …) and that’s a little scary. But it explains why I feel so confident in writing about it!

  • Bob Dunn

    Amen sister! I cannot tell you how many workshops I have started with words reflecting what you said in this post. Cheers as you took the words right out of my mouth my friend πŸ™‚

  • Andy Christian

    Funny, this is the second blog post I’ve read recently that says we need to stop saying WordPress is easy. It’s something I think we need to think about more when working with clients who aren’t WP-saavy. WordPress isn’t easy. But learning WordPress can be.

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