We dive into online course website design, event management, and questioning client decisions with WordPress consultant Sallie Goetsch in this episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS. Sallie shares tips and strategies for designing online course sites and acting as a consultant in the web development space.
Course building is not easy, so you need to be very clear about what you are trying to achieve for your students, how you are going to make it happen, and how you are going to measure it. Sallie talks about how everything you create in your course needs to relate to those metrics.
Sallie coordinates monthly meetups for WordPress entrepreneurs in her area. She is really interested in the research aspect of course building, and she shares how she became interested in WordPress and online blogging while working in classical studies.
Course builders have a choice between what platforms they want to use for building courses. Large platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and Teachable give you an easier way to market to some people who are searching the platform and might not have ever seen your course. A self-hosted platform like LifterLMS gives you much more customizability and flexibility, but you have to create the content, market it, and revise it.
As a consultant, Sallie has learned a lot about what it means for a website to be successful at achieving the desired goal. Challenging your clients choices is an important thing to do, and it can be intimidating for consultants, but it is better to have that discussion now than have a client end up with a product that doesn’t deliver the desired results. Asking your clients why they are making the decisions they are is key to getting clear on what their goals are.
There is a great opportunity for consultants to use online courses to generate leads and educate their potential clients on what type of services they offer. A lot of the insights on what a client needs comes from gaining clarity into what their goals are and what their metrics for success are.
To learn more about Sallie Goetsch go to WPFanGirl.com. Also head over to LifterLMS.com and check out all of the things we have going on, and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Thank you for joining us!
Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and I’m joined by a special guest, Sallie Goetsch, from WP Fangirl, that’s at wpfangirl.com. Sallie and I have a lot in common in terms of kind of a liberal arts academic background, a passion for WordPress and community, a commitment to teaching, a history of working with clients. There’s a lot of fun topics we can get into on the show, and I’m excited to have a great conversation with you Sallie. Thanks for coming on the show.
Sallie Goetsch: Thanks for inviting me. I’m really looking forward to it.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, there’s a tribe of course creators, membership site builders out there, people who want to hire people to do those things, and this show is designed to help them shortcut that process and just understand our industry better especially if they’re doing the self-hosted route building on top of WordPress.
I know I first came across you when we were just initially launching. You were running some kind of Meetup comparing WordPress LMS options, and at your Meetup, and I forget how we even found out about it or maybe you found us, and I remember at that moment in time many years ago being like, “We got to get this person, Sallie, a copy of what we do ’cause we need people like comparing stuff and checking out all the different tools out there.” [crosstalk 00:01:34]. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into WordPress? And, what’s this whole meetup thing you had going on?
Sallie Goetsch: Okay. I got into WordPress, I’d discovered blogging in 2005 on a teleseminar, remember those? And I looked on my website for their installing tool, whatever it was back in the day, and they’re [inaudible 00:02:01], they actually had b2 on there, and that was a little confusing for me. I started my first blog on Blogger, but I discovered WordPress later that same year ’cause I was listening to a bunch of podcasts, which I learned about on another teleseminar, and the podcasters all used WordPress because of the PowerPress plugin that set up enclosures in your podcast feed. This was so long ago that iTunes didn’t even do podcasts. It was a very huge deal for all the podcasters when iTunes started to do podcasts. And so, I started working with WordPress some, and then more over time, and once they created the ability to add pages, just the fact that whenever you added a page it appeared on your menu, and you didn’t have to go in, and edit every single page so that the menu was updated was like, “Yeah, we want more of this.”
In 2009, it was February, it was probably January, I went to a WordPress Meetup in San Francisco, which was where Automatic was located, and they mentioned that there was an East Bay WordPress Meetup, and so I went to that ’cause it was closer to where I lived, and ended up becoming be co-organizer. My husband talks about my tendency to take over anything I get involved with, but I had experience in running networking groups, so I had a lot of ideas about things. The original organizer absconded to Los Angeles where he was from, and left me in charge, and that’s pretty much the point at which WordPress started to eat my life, and my business because I learned more about it through the meetup. If I was leading the meetup, which I sometimes was, then I had to learn stuff in order to teach it, and anybody who has a background in teaching knows that you really learn things best when you have to teach them because you have to not only be able to do them, but understand how to do them.
And so, we meet every month on usually the third Sunday, and try to cover a wide range of topics having to do with WordPress and-
Chris Badgett: How many people come to the meetup on average?
Sallie Goetsch: It varies a lot depending on the topic. So it might be 10 or 15, it might be 30. I think the most we had was maybe about 50. There are more than 1,000 people registered as Meetup members, so you can see, and we have a pretty high no-show rate of people who sign up, and that don’t change their RSVPs, but they don’t come because it’s raining, or because it’s sunny, or because something came up with their family, or whatever. I mean there was a period before we were being sponsored by the WordPress Community Foundation that we were charging for the meetup to pay for the space we were using, and I did notice that when we started charging in advance even though it was only five dollars many more people would show up out of those who registered.
So yeah, learning management systems was a thing that I decided to cover at the meetup because I needed to do a bunch of research on them for a client project, so I had put together this kind of comparison of the different things I’d tested, which I remember was LearnDash, and Sensei from Woo, and whatever that thing is that the WPMU DEV people make that has sort of like it had an easy to use interface except actually ever retrieving the content from anywhere was pretty much impossible because of how it was set up. So it’s like, “Nope, that’s out because I need my courses, and my individual lessons within the course, and all of that stuff, I need to be able to retrieve that, and display it in custom loops, or in widgets, or elsewhere on the site.”
We ended up going with Sensei for that, and it had kind of the various issues that a lot of the Woo products have where they don’t necessarily integrate beautifully with your theme unless you do something to tell it to take those wrappers off, so like suddenly your side bar is on the bottom. I know Woo has attempted to address that in their latest version, but this was still 2012 maybe, 2013, something like that, so that was definitely an issue.
And like right after that meetup had been scheduled or right after we’d had it or something like that I heard from you about this new, or maybe from one your friends, but somebody put me in touch with you about LifterLMS, and it sounded really good, and it was just too late, but you kindly gave me a copy. I downloaded it. I installed it on a test site, and took a look at how it worked, and did not actually get a chance to use it on a client product until 2017 when I had client who asked me to build a course.
I build a pretty wide range of websites with different kinds of additional functionality, so I know something about a lot of things, something about ecommerce, something about event management, something about learning management systems, something about membership, and perhaps one of these days I will actually settle into a niche, but I have an issue with I don’t want to do exactly the same thing every time. I really would get bored. I know you can increase your efficiency, and therefore your profit margin by turning out a whole bunch of things that are basically the same every time, and I would just die of boredom.
Chris Badgett: Well, it sounds like you enjoy the research part ’cause like to do a meetup and like, “Okay, you’re going to research and present on different tools is really cool.” I notice this in the LMS industry, membership site, online course world, people who are looking to build out that project, and they’re going into the tool selection phase, they do a ton of research. The fact that you would have a local meetup, I mean I think that’s really cool ’cause it shortcuts the learning curve for other people who are interested, and you needed to do the research yourself, so why not be dual purpose and teach [crosstalk 00:09:09].
Sallie Goetsch: Right. I mean the thing is if I’ve done this work anyway, then it’s good to be able to share it with people, and the meetups have been going pretty much every month since 2009. That’s a lot of topics to come up with and cover, and we repeat some of them frequently topics like security or-
Chris Badgett: I’m curious you said sometimes you get 50 people, what are the big crowds coming for?
Sallie Goetsch: The bigger drawers are usually anything related to earning money although I have this vivid mental picture of all these people sitting on the floor at Tech Liminal 1.0, and I can’t remember which meetup it was. I may have some photos or something that would help remind me. It was some fairly large number or years ago though ’cause I think they moved to Tech Liminal 2.0 in like the beginning of 2012, so certain topics really draw people others are not as much, they’re a little more specialized I would say. Sometimes it’s the more intro level stuff or the new stuff.
I mean back when WordPress had fewer releases with more stuff in each release we would have a meetup about the latest version of WordPress, and what’s in it, and how to use it, and we haven’t so much the last few years since they started that absolutely punishing three or four times a year release schedule because there’s usually less to talk about, but we’re having a meetup next month about Gutenberg, which already was the focus of our contributor day in August where we all got together, and tested it, and submitted comments, and found bugs, and so on.
We try to stay on top of things. A lot of the people in the group are professional developers, or designers, or site implementers, or whatever you want to call it that building stuff for other people with WordPress is part of their job. There’s a fair number of people who come who are also maybe they’re the one in their company who works on the website, or even they volunteer for a nonprofit, and they got asked to do the website, and so their focus is a little bit different in terms of their interest, and they often want to find out what they can do without writing code. I try to kind of mix up the topics between what is going to appeal to the people who have a high skill level, and what is going to appeal to people who don’t have a high skill level, but hopefully not actually bore the people with the higher skill level.
So there are some people who show up almost every time I think partly because it’s also a social event. We have A2 Hosting buying us pizza, and so on, and some people who just show up based on interest.
Chris Badgett: That’s cool. Well, how as a teacher and PhD or almost PhD in classical studies did you end up in technology? I’m also very interested ’cause I came from anthropology and ended up in technology. What happened in your case?
Sallie Goetsch: Okay. I was always kind of a geek from the time I was in seventh grade math class, and the teacher showed us the TRS-80, and I was geeky about other things before then, astronomy, geology, so I’ve always been kind of interested. But my specialty as a classicist was ancient theater, and particularly ancient theater in modern performance. As you can imagine, this is a visual sort of medium.
I got online in 1985 when I was in college, sitting in the basement of the Computer Center at Brown University using the mainframe on BITNET Relay because some friend of mine mentioned this and, “My God, you could talk to people who were like all around the world.” That they were all, practically everybody else there was at a computer school at the time, and I was super popular simply for being female. It’s not like you could transmit any images, right? They had no idea what I looked like, but I was a girl.
I was interested in that kind of thing. I had some colleagues down in Australia who started a publication called Electronic Antiquity, and it was being published by FTP and Gopher. One of my more senior colleagues had suggested that somebody really needed to start a publication that listed all of these performances of ancient theater around the world, so people … and that kind of thing. One of my other colleagues nominated me ’cause she knew I was geeky, and I talked to the guys at Electronic Antiquity, and so in 2003 we launched this journal by FTP and Gopher, and it contained listings, and book reviews, and theater reviews. We were so ignorant and new to this stuff that we’re like, “Well, it’s online. It’s free to build this, right?”
I mean there are a number of people who joke that as an academic you take a vow of poverty, and it is kind of how it goes. You don’t seem to think about your own time as something that is a cost or is worth money. Eventually people realized that it’s true, you don’t have to pay for printing and shipping the way you would do if you were publishing a print journal, but that doesn’t mean there are actually no costs involved. Even though that the University was providing all the servers and the infrastructure [inaudible 00:15:24], people have to put work in.
Chris Badgett: So you were like blogging before blogging was a thing?
Sallie Goetsch: Sort of. I mean was publishing online. It was not a … The first people who did like these handmade text blogs really were kind of writing journals, and that wasn’t the kind of thing I did. We released it on a schedule, and it had certain sections, and I even found somebody who got us an ISSN.
Toward the end of 1994, right before I left Michigan somebody showed me the web, and that was just like the universe opened up because you could send pictures. Even on the grayscale not terribly high resolution screens that we had in the department ’cause color screens were just barely becoming a thing, and they were very expensive, and they didn’t have very many colors either. It was like, “Yeah, the possibilities of that because doing a theater performance review with pictures is much more compelling than doing one without.” So I took it on myself to learn something about that.
The end of 1994, I moved to England. I spent four years at the University of Warwick, and pretty much as soon as I got there it was like, “We need to meet the people in Computer Services, and find out about this stuff, and how to publish things.” And moved the FTP stuff over to Warwick, and bought a teach yourself HTML book, and figured out how to do that. It was like, “Yeah, transmitting a text file with HTML in it up onto the Unix server, and using the command line here and there.”
It was very … These were really the uphill both ways barefoot in the snow, days of building websites, but I never regretted doing that. So I had first gotten onto the web really because I was an academic, and when I had to-
Chris Badgett: Which was the original purpose of the web outside of the military was to connect research [inaudible 00:18:03].
Sallie Goetsch: Right. I mean universities were all hooked up long before commercial businesses of any kind were. The kind of consumer type online experiences, things like CompuServe and AOL started off walled off from the actual internet, so this was … But yeah, I mean our hypertext was kind of invented for footnotes, and it’s really great for that. And if you’ve ever looked up a note on your Kindle that’s what’s happening. But yeah, linking to other places, and so on. So yeah, that was how I got into building websites.
Chris Badgett: I got to tell just a small story here. I was not as forward thinking than you. In my senior anthropology thesis class, this is in 2001, we were presenting on different topics, and one of the people in my group was presenting on the whole, how these cultures were emerging online, and I was like, in my head I’m like, “This is not going to happen. People aren’t going to build communities on the internet.” I just like didn’t really understand it. It just didn’t click for me. Boy, was I wrong.
Sallie Goetsch: Surprise.
Chris Badgett: Boy, was I wrong. I just want to share that fun fact.
Sallie Goetsch: Oh, yeah. [inaudible 00:19:30] I actually met my husband on a … It was simultaneously published as a list serve and as a use net news group, and I can’t remember precisely which one, but it was for people who did theater, stage craft kinds of things. My husband was building 3D animation software plugins for 3D Studio, which eventually became 3D Studio Max. I don’t know if it has the same name, but it’s Autodesk’s kind of animation product or one of them. Autodesk bought everybody. Autodesk ate the entire industry pretty much, and that has led to certain areas of stagnation.
But anyway, he posted something asking whether people would be interested in a stage and lighting design, basically a mock up tool where you would create that you would could position things, and see what your stage would look like. I emailed him and said, “Could you use something like that to reconstruct a theater building that doesn’t exist anymore?” We got to talking, and we got to talking some more, and about six months, by talking I mean sending email back and forth, and six months later we met in person, fell in love, got engaged, and it only took us 16 years after that to get married. But that’s an entirely different story.
So yeah, there were definitely communities online starting very early. But they have evolved, and there have also been some really interesting things like meetup.com is an online tool for arranging offline get-togethers, and it’s actually a really good thing because it makes it easy to find stuff that’s happening near you where you can go out and meet people.
Chris Badgett: I have a question about that, an online tool for offline things. I know one of the things in your history is dealing with events on websites, and I know you have experience with like Events Calendar, and other ways of dealing with events. [inaudible 00:21:54] people. Sometimes it’s about the stack like you might have a course, you might have consulting, you might have an event that you run. If people are going to get into events as someone’s who’s gotten into the nuances of events, what are some best practices? And before you go, I just want to kind of frame it in like there may be consultant who’s like, “Oh, I want to do an online course too. I should get a course plugin.” But then, there’s all these details that need to be considered with courses, and it just [inaudible 00:22:28] out into some decisions that need to be made. If somebody’s thinking like, “Yeah, I want to do the event through my website,” what should they be thinking about?
Sallie Goetsch: Well if you’re thinking about doing something like starting a meetup, or having a conference, or even teaching a one-off class somewhere, yeah, there’s a lot of background stuff that there are different bits of the technology that you have to put together, but there is also just needing to know something about what goes into creating a course, and there are some of these coaches, and so on who are just like, “Make money in your sleep with your online courses.” They make it sound so easy, and it isn’t anymore than writing a book is an easy process. That you have to do a lot of planning, and you may have to do, go through various phases of trial and error in terms of what works.
As a graduate student, and afterwards I taught in the classroom, and sometimes I had the opportunity to teach the same class more than once, and it was like, “Okay. This really didn’t work very well last year, so I got to do something different about it this year so that the students are happier, and they learn more, and we have an overall better outcome.”
You’re probably not going to get it perfect the first time around, and with any kind of event you have to figure out how you’re going to get people to show up. The publishing world talks about having a platform. Which means, is there an easy way for you to get people to know about your product, or service, or event, or whatever it is? So using things like meetup.com can help, and sometimes using the sorts of services for courses where there’s a marketplace, and they get a share of the money in exchange for hosting you there. Sometimes those things can be good in terms of people finding out about you who are not searching specifically for your course, or event, but are searching for that type of event, or searching, and Meetup will say, “Well, here are the meetups happening within 50 miles of you, or here are all the meetups on this particular topic.”
You have to think about the value of things like that. And even if you want to host your course or event by yourself, you’re probably going to want to publish stuff about it in another place, and so you have to find out, “Well, who do I want to have take this class, or attend this event? And, where do they hang out? And, how do I reach them there so that they know about this?”
It’s teaching through Media Bistro, they already had people who were accustomed to going there, and taking classes, and they had some information about what classes people wanted, and so I just had to create the class, which was enough work. Not to do so much marketing for it, but if you’re doing it yourself on your own website you have to create the content, you have to market it, you have to revise it, you have to either hire somebody to build out the technology for you, or take the time to do that, and the students, for those not familiar with Media Bistro, it’s basically for journalists and writers, and they have various kinds of information, and courses, and job search, and that kind of thing for people in that kind of a field.
So my students there were frequently journalists, or aspiring journalists, or professional writers of some kind, and I would say to them, and they were mostly completely new to WordPress, I would say to them, “The hard part about building your website is creating the content.” And they would say things like, “How can that be? I’m a writer, it’s easy.”
“Yeah. Well, it’s probably a little easier for you if you’re a professional writer, and if you’ve done copywriting, and if you’ve done website copywriting for other people you probably have a better sense of what’s needed.” But as somebody who has built quite a few websites now, the bottleneck is almost always in getting the content from the client, and especially if it’s a new site. And so, you’re creating your course, and you haven’t had this course before. And so, you need to plan out your … You write up your lesson plan, and then you need to plan out what’s in each lesson. Do you need to provide a handout for that lesson? Or are there going to be assignments? Or are there going to be quizzes? And if so, what types of quizzes? What types of assignments? How are you …? And those things to some degree dictate what kind of product you use to offer your course.
Chris Badgett: Exactly. I just want to jump in, and say unfortunately a lot of people get the tool, and they’re like, “Okay. Now, I just need to go get some content, and then I need to go get some people.” But it’s really the other way around that works so much easier. You have a community, you put your content together, you get results for people with your methodology, and then you wrap it on technology. That’s so much easier.
Sallie Goetsch: Right. It’s like first you need to, you might not have to create every bit of your course, but you need to have a really clear idea of, what’s going to be in it? I used to do ghost writing work for people who were publishing books, and when you’re writing a nonfiction book, which is most of my clients because let’s face it, nobody, a novelist cannot afford to hire ghost writers, but you never write the book first if it’s a nonfiction book. You write a proposal, and your proposal needs to include your outline, some sample chapters, explanations about who your … Going to mute here ’cause train.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, I’m just going to, while Sallie’s muted there, curriculum like designing that, doing the outline, pitching the concept, I mean the work of actually creating the content gets a lot easier when there’s a strategy in place, when there’s a path to follow, and you can always rearrange it later. In the book writing world, there’s a tool like Scrivener that people use for organizing content, or at least the big picture, and then you get into research phase, and all this.
Sallie Goetsch: Yeah. Well, I see that behind you have all these beautiful mind maps.
Chris Badgett: This is the brainstorm phase.
Sallie Goetsch: Right. What I have used for planning information architecture both for websites and for books is MindManagers mind mapping tool because then you can rearrange stuff really easily, and you can group it in different ways, and see here is if we break it down by topic this is what it looks like, and if we break it down by whatever else, and you can see it all at once, and I have found that really helpful, and you can do stuff. You can do it with software, you can do with sticky notes.
I was on the board of the Bay Area Consultants Network for a long time, and whenever we had a strategic planning meeting basically there would be a phase where everybody wrote down stuff on sticky notes, we’d put the sticky notes on the wall in different sections, and then we moved them around until we had a result. It’s a quick-and-dirty way to do stuff with a group. To organize it by yourself you have more options. But yeah, you have to plan what you’re doing, and you have to think about, what do I want to achieve with this? Because creating a course is work. It is a huge metric [inaudible 00:31:05] of work, and you’re not going to be paid for it until after you are done with most of it.
So you have to think about, “Okay. What am I getting out of this? Is it going to bring me enough in money? How can I ensure that it will bring me enough in either direct income, indirect income because people take the course, and then hire me?” Promotional value or whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve you need to be clear about, what you’re trying to achieve? And, how you are going to make it happen? How you are going to measure it? And then, everything you create needs to relate to that.
Chris Badgett: There you go as a consultant. For those of you listening check out Sallie’s website at wpfangirl.com. I was noticing on your how I work page there’s a comment, “I am going to question your decisions.” I always appreciate that when I’m talking to somebody when they start asking questions that are designed to uncover gaps of strategy or assumptions that I may be making that this person who has a lot more experience in whatever than me is going to help reveal, so I love it when someone’s going to question, somebody questions me, especially when they’re in a consulting role because that’s the whole point. How do you work with clients? Can you elaborate on that piece right there?
Sallie Goetsch: Sure. I learned the hard way, which is pretty much the only way I learn anything, that sometimes what a client asks you to build is not what they really need. It’s not necessarily even what they thought they were asking you for. We do not speak the same language as our clients. I’ve lost track of the number of people who refer to your menu items as tabs. It’s like first you have to understand what they’re saying, and help them understand what you’re saying. And if you can meet them on the side of how they phrase it, it really, it will go better for you. It is more work. But somebody will say, “Oh, I want a slider, or I want this, or I want that.”
If you are a developer, and you actually want a good outcome, you have to ask them, “Why? Why do you want this? What is it going to achieve for your business?” Because, “I saw it on X website and it was cool,” is not a good reason.
Chris Badgett: Could you speak to that a little bit? I’ve just noticed a lot of people get distracted by design, and/or flashy things, and forget that the function of the website is usually to get new leads, close sales, connect people with your service, or sell existing customers more things, or whatever. Why do people get so focused on design?
Sallie Goetsch: I suppose it’s partly because humans have such an enormous part of their brains dedicated to vision. So we notice what we see, we pay attention to it. I like looking at things that are cool and pretty as much as anybody does, but it is my job to make the website achieve something for my client. I am not like a $20 an hour developer on Upwork, so I need to be giving you something of actual value for what you’re paying me. And that means coming back to the question of, what is your goal for your business? And, how can your website help you achieve that goal, or those goals if there are multiple goals? And, what’s your priority on this? And, how will you know if it’s successful?
When somebody wants something that’s … We can make your website look good, but if the only purpose of this thing is you want is bling, and it’s actually going to detract from achieving your goals, then I’m going to fight back with you on it, or we’re going to talk about, “Okay. What can we do that’s also going to be visually interesting that will actually be more useful for you?” I have lost track of the amount of studies that have demonstrated that sliders are crappy for conversion. Now, there are places you’ll still want sliders.
You may, and like, “I want to show people a slideshow of images.” Yeah, people may sit there, and people may look at your images especially if you’ve clearly said like this is a portfolio or this is a slideshow, and people have gone there to see that. But if you want somebody to click something, then you’re probably going to want a different sort of arrangement, and you also have to understand that our eyes follow movement. I’m not quite as bad about that as the cat where something moves and suddenly [inaudible 00:36:32]. They’re absolutely riveted. But if you’ve got a bunch of different stuff moving on a website I don’t know where to look. And if you even have one thing moving on the website that’s going to pull my eyes to it. So if that thing is not the most important thing I should be looking at, and the thing I should be looking at is probably the button that takes me to a place I can give you money, or an email sign up form, or however we start that process, that’s a design fail.
We need to think about this, [inaudible 00:37:12] saying, “Well, I want my website to look like Apple.” “Oh, and do you have the marketing budget to put billboards up, and all this kind of stuff so that everybody knows a lot about your product before they ever get to your website?” No, you probably don’t. So maybe you need a slightly different website, or maybe you’re selling something that’s completely different from these very hot consumer products, and you need a different type of sale. Maybe you’re selling to a different type of audience.
I’ve worked a couple of times with people who are engineers, and not only could they care less what their website looks like, if it has the right information on it, but a lot of the people they work with are not interested. They become suspicious when something is too glossy. This would happen in academia sometimes. If you dressed too well, they might think you weren’t a serious scholar. So you have to know something about the target market. Who are you designing this for? And you are not your customer. I mean sometimes you do sell to people in your own field, and then you have a better idea innately of what your [crosstalk 00:38:30].
Chris Badgett: Then, what you like is possibly relevant.
Sallie Goetsch: Then, yes.
Chris Badgett: That your preferences are possibly relevant [inaudible 00:38:37].
Sallie Goetsch: Right, but most of the time your preferences are not all that relevant. I mean you have a brand identity, and you want your website to reflect that. But you need to always keep coming back to, what are we going to achieve? I saw this, and it was pretty … The response is first, why? And then, why? And then, why? And if they can justify all that then it’s, “Okay. It will cost this much money and add this much time to your launch date. Is that still worth it to you?”
Sometimes it is. Very often it will cause people to think, and I would rather have that argument than build the thing they ask me for, and have them be annoyed about it afterwards, and feel resentful that they paid me for something that isn’t actually helping them get more customers, or more visitors, or more whatever. So I do push back, and argue, and I think some of that does come from my academic background in terms of, well, you were always having people critique your work.
Chris Badgett: And that’s okay.
Sallie Goetsch: It’s okay, and it’s expected. I remember my thesis advisor saying, “The way to prove that you’re a grown-up as a scholar is to disagree with your dissertation advisor in print.”
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome.
Sallie Goetsch: We are constitutionally incapable of agreeing with each other because we feel like it would undermine our credibility. I think that’s taken somewhat to extremes, but it’s important to have people push back. It’s important. It’s a good idea as a developer especially if you’re releasing something to the public to get a code review from another developer because there are inevitably things we’re blind to. If you’re an author writing a book, you want an editor who is not the person who was the writer, who is somebody who hasn’t seen it before, and will see those things that you have become blind to in the process of creating it. We need to question our assumptions in order to succeed, and that seems to be true for pretty much everybody in any field, and it’s definitely true in terms of building websites. Sometimes a thing is very trendy. It’s popular with designers. It’s popular with clients often because it’s popular with designers, so they’ve seen it a lot, and it may or may not be appropriate for their own website, and what they’re trying to do.
I frequently liken building a website to building a car, or at the very least commissioning a developer to buying a car, and it’s like, “Well, if what you need is a large-capacity truck with off-road capability because you live on a farm out the middle of nowhere, it’s a bad idea to buy a smart car. But if what you need is something that you can park in a very congested city area, you probably don’t need an oversized pickup truck.” So you have to think first about what you need, and then you choose your tool. We have to be aware of that trap of when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.
Chris Badgett: Very well said. Well, Sallie Goetsch, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for sharing your consulting knowledge with us, and getting into community building, event management, and talking about events. That was super helpful. I’d encourage you to check out wpfangirl.com. Sallie, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Sallie Goetsch: Thank you, Chris. It’s been a great time.
Chris Badgett: Sallie and I also are regulars on the WP-Tonic Roundtable show, that’s at Friday’s live streamed.
Sallie Goetsch: It’s live at 8:30 a.m. Pacific.
Chris Badgett: Much later for me on the East Coast, but I’m glad you get up early for that. So thank you Sallie for coming on the show and sharing your wisdom with us, and I hope to do it again.
Sallie Goetsch: I look forward to it.