Learning WordPress: Is It Better to Self-Teach or Do an Online Course?


Are you considering learning how to use WordPress, the most popular Content Management System in use today? Do you long to spread your message to the online world? Are you ready to see your name in (web-based) lights?

If you’re keen to learn, choosing the best teaching system for you will save a lot of heartache. If you have never used WordPress before you will be amazed by the never-ending possibilities that will be available to you from day one. Knowing from the outset how you are going to learn about it could save your sanity!

Learning WordPress

Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress, recently announced that in the 12 months prior to July 2013 there was an average of 89 WordPress downloads per minute. With its popularity at an all-time high, it stands to reason that there are a near-infinite number of blogs and courses out there, all promising to make you an overnight WordPress whizz.

But here’s the thing: you can’t learn everything you need to know about WordPress overnight.

Most people could definitely get a blog up and running overnight. However, without prior knowledge of WordPress, you’ll be learning new tricks and tweaks for a very long time after your site is live. Throw in a desire to learn HTML and you’ve got a pretty steep learning curve ahead of you.

So, is it better to self-teach WordPress or should you do an online course?

To decide on the answer, let’s first look at the benefits and drawbacks of both options.

Benefits Of Teaching Yourself WordPress

Drawbacks Of Teaching Yourself WordPress

Now let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of an online WordPress course.

Benefits Of An Online WordPress Course

Drawbacks Of An Online WordPress Course

As you can see there’s a lot to consider when deciding how best to learn WordPress.

An online course gives you the benefits of being fully planned out and offering a step-by-step schedule to get your website online. As long as you put in the work, you’ll finish with a fully operational site you can be proud of. You’ll usually get email support and a community of enthusiastic classmates to continue to converse with.

On the other hand, plenty of highly successful bloggers have learned from scratch without paying for penny, so it certainly can be done. It’s ultimately up to you!

What’s your experience with WordPress? Did you take a course (and if so, which one) or did you venture out on your own? If you had your time over would you self-teach or take an online WordPress course?

Photo Credit: dcJohn

Tom Ewer

Tom Ewer is the founder of WordCandy.co. He has been a huge fan of WordPress since he first laid eyes on it, and has been writing educational and informative content for WordPress users since 2011. When he's not working, you're likely to find him outdoors somewhere – as far away from a screen as possible!


  1. victor feliciano

    I am eager to learn wordpress ive I have tried to learn wordpress on my owend with out success.

  2. Mark

    Mindblowing job Tom for helping the blogging communities. Your article is really very helful for me because i am also searching best sites where i can learn wordpress.

  3. Global Edulink

    This looks like a really nice tool,thank you

  4. Grant Price

    Wp-tutoring.com. offers one on one WordPress training and you get to work specifically on your site or project. Its a pretty good resource.

  5. martin

    Doing it online is certainly the better approach, because you can do it whenever you want. Disadvantage is, that most courses are rather to long / time taking but I found something new. This here is incredible fast, and very well structured. I guess it takes you 20 – 30 minutes, after that you get your side up and running http://jb-webs.com/wordpress/

  6. cleve land

    i think online course because it lessen your time and also your money,. i also try online tarining like
    wordpress training it help me knowledgeable in wordpress.

  7. tablokar

    thanks for your nice site – im from iran and i have translate your writing text to persian – you are professional – thanks for your web site .

  8. cloudypen

    Learning wordpress seems to be easy for many when you consider that wordpress is all about publishing contetns. But to thirve as a blogger suing wordpress one need to learn a lot including backing up, customization, SEO etc. I think that new users can take advantages of online wordpress courses which provide support to each student.

  9. Alex Cooper

    Great post Tom. I’ve been delivering workshop locally on WordPress which have gone down quite well. Business owners are keen to take control of their websites.

    I’ve also been making video tutorials which are available for free on Youtube. Would love you to take a look if you get a moment. I’ve posted them all on http://www.wpeagle.com.

  10. Alex Cooper

    Great post Tom! I’ve been teaching WordPress for a while through classroom workshops

    1. Tom Ewer


      Thanks Alex!

  11. Frank Stepanski

    Great article.

    I think there is no “best” way to learn WordPress. It depends on each person and how quickly you can learn new topics.

    I teach WordPress and other technologies (mainly online) and everyone is different. Some are great at just researching links for information, some want a book to be told what topic to learn and in what order, some need one-on-one help, others are a mixture.

    The best advice is to initially spend a few hours just ‘Googling’ the topic and getting an idea of what it is about. Then if you can, email or ask someone who knows the topic well for advise on where to go next in learning the basics, and if not, then subscribe to a video service like lynda.com just for a month to get at least an overview to help you get started.

    Then you can decide if using online videos are the way to go, or finding an online course will be better. I teach at eClasses.org and most students get a good overview of specific skills and then they can do more learning on their own with their own projects.

    WordCamps are great to get more information and network with people who are on the same level to gain knowledge or ask questions with the WP pros.


  12. Will

    Hi I really would like to know abt a good and authentic online wordpress course that I can take and would like your advice tom as you know a lot!!! Thanks

    1. Tom Ewer


      Hi Will,

      The WordPress Codex is as good a place to start as any. I’d also recommend the WP Beginner blog. WP Lifeguard (http://wplifeguard.com/) also has some great free videos 🙂



  13. George Thiess

    Can anyone recommend an online course?

    I am a small business owner who always seems to learn on my own. However, there is so much i do not know and I really dread having to be at the mercy of a web designer.

    My company’s website is in WordPress and I think it is time that I start with the basics of WordPress and then follow with coding. It all gets so confusing when us small business owners start trying to improve our site and start seeing the CSS, php, HTML, Java script jargon being thrown around.

    1. Kathleen

      Hi Matt,
      Your comments reflect mine, especially this one ” However, there is so much i do not know and I really dread having to be at the mercy of a web designer.” I am in this situation right now and need a super efficient way to learn basics and then go forward.


      TY for your post, Kathleen

  14. Matt

    I have a friend wanting me to help him run and expand an existing website which was created with WP. I have very, very little experience. Would I be better off starting with online courses for wp and figuring out the rest as it comes or should I focus on other web developing courses first? Money is not a real issue if a particular course or site charges I just don’t want to waste my money from the start!

  15. John Kerr

    I learnt basic website development when the only tools available were HTML4/5 and Cascading Style Sheets (if you were lucky). That was damned hard work. After a long period of using rather than developing sites, I’m now coming back to revamp some of the old stuff that’s been festering for years. It’s quite a culture shock. Scrap and start again with WordPress is obviously the way to go, but the old habits die hard. Unless you have unlimited time for trial and error, I now think that a more disciplined formal learning process is the better route. Life is too short for messing about.

  16. Bebo roni

    Really awesome, great useful points. Thank you Tome

    1. Tom Ewer


      Thanks Bebo, glad you enjoyed it!

  17. matts

    These is good beginning for wordpress users specially for me.
    making my first site in wordpress thanks for your description.

    1. Tom Ewer


      Thanks Matts! Glad it helped 🙂

  18. Jana

    Hi Tom, I take pride that I am actually a quick learner. I actually started with a personal blog, and most of the things I need to learn, I learned from forums and tutorial videos and articles. But if given the time, and the will to spend money for a class (lol) I would want to sign up for one to be able to learn more.

    1. Tom Ewer


      I’m pretty much in the same boat, although I’ve never paid anything to learn WordPress either.

  19. Christine

    If you don’t want to take an ongoing online course on WordPress- we have a 2 day thorough training where you can leave the class ready to build and manage your site. The classes are available in person or online live: http://thinkbiglearnsmart.com/wordpress-training-classes/

  20. Bob Dunn

    Hey Tom, great points and love the conversation. Not much I can add that’s not already been said.

    But since I do WordPress training strictly for a living, I have heard it all. The exact reason there are so many options is directly related to all the learning styles out there. In fact, I did a presentation at WordCamp Portland on just “how to learn WordPress”.

    Listening to people’s needs I have done them all from individual training, online classes, in-person classes, etc. You have the users, the power users and then people who want to learn design and development. A lot try the DIY at first, and depending on your comfort level of tech, this can be a do or die situation for anyone.

    Foremost, I think everyone needs to know and understand their own limits. Once they do that, the road to learning will be a lot less bumpy…. cheers!

    1. Tom Ewer


      Spot on Bob; thanks for commenting!

  21. Greg

    Some great points Tom. A lot of business owners are time poor but really want the ability to control their own website content and WordPress does a very good job of that.

    I teach people how to learn WordPress while building their own website. This practical approach allows them to learn while doing and allows me to see what they are struggling with. Students love having control and the process gives them a much better understanding of what’s involved in a WordPress website build.

    A lot of my students really want to learn on their own but they prefer to train with me because they don’t have to spend hours trying to work things out the ‘free’ way. The beauty of WordPress is that for those who do have the time, there are plenty of ways to learn.

    1. Tom Ewer


      Quite right! The diversity of learning methods is one of the reasons WordPress is so accessible.

  22. Charlie Sasser

    I like a little of both methods.

    A few years back I learned Joomla by reading a great book and setting up a test site on a shared host and then a real site at work. Not bad for a sales and marketing guy but I will admit I am technical and have been around the internet since the days of Gopher.

    What I find is after I’ve tried to figure something out on my own, I then like to follow-up with a live course because I have lots of questions and learn a lot of “best practices” I was unaware of doing it on my own. So in the case of Joomla, I took all of the courses from OSTraining in Atlanta from Steve Burge and learned lots.

    Now that I’ve learned enough about WordPress to put up a few sites and even one for a friend’s small business, I’m ready to go to the next step. So…. I’m going to my first Word Camp in Raleigh, NC, in a few weeks and hope to learn better ways of using WordPress and learn more about “best practices”.

    Thanks for the great post.

    1. Tom Ewer


      My pleasure Charlie — enjoy your first WordCamp!

  23. Noumaan Yaqoob

    As for asking questions when self learning WordPress. WordPress support forums are a great place to start. At WPBeginner we also answer user questions related to the tutorials on our site. There are many other online communities like Stack Exchange, Quora, where users can ask questions. I personally got a lot of help and advise from the WordPress IRC chatroom.

    1. Tom Ewer


      Forums are awesome, no doubt Noumaan. Thanks for commenting!

  24. Bob in New Hampshire

    The answer is “yes”. I don’t mean to be flip, but depending on who you are and what style of learning you prefer, you could go either way.

    Everyone is different. Some of us (me included) would have no patience for sitting in a classroom, or in a webinar (interesting that spell-check doesn’t like “webinar”). I’m a dive-right-in guy.

    I’ve been in technology for 30-yrs but always in sales, marketing and product management, never engineering or development and once installed, I had my first website up and running in a half hour. Was it any good, or did it have great plug-ins and themes? Hell no. But, for me, doing and figuring it out is how I learn. Sure, I had to post on the WordPress forum for answers, but the community really helped me. So, put me down in the “I’ll figure it out myself” camp.

    My wife? She would NEVER do it that way. She’d love to sit in a class or a webinar and learn from an instructor.

    That’s why they offer both vanilla and chocolate, because people have different tastes.

    I’ve been a professional ski instructor for forty years and we have a similar issue. It’s about evenly split when I ask this question to a client: “are you the kind of person who would prefer me to ski behind you and offer feedback, or for you to ski behind me and see what I’m doing?” Same point, people have different learning styles.

    1. Tom Ewer


      Good points Bob. Also, thank you for introducing me to a new meaning of the word “flip” 🙂

  25. admin

    This is great article. When I started learning WordPress back in 2006 there was no useful learning resources online or self-help books. I learned by trial and error. That took me very long time and it was frustrating. But today we have an abundance of learning resources be it free or pay. But the biggest challenges are: 1) How much time can you invest in teaching yourself to get to a point where you can comfortable design useful website? 2) If you are designing a website for your business, there are host of other tools and concepts (website planning, learning brainstorming to generate content, setup simple seo, learning specialized plugins, custom post types, Taxonomy etc) you might need to learn. In my live WordPress training program, 95% of students who take the courses have tried the online free course, videos and books before they decided to take the courses. Here are some of their common complaints:
    1) Pre-recorded tutorials – “None is there to answer your questions when you are stuck
    2) Time commitment – ” I have no patient to sit there and follow the video tutorial and apply on my own but instructor lead training forces me to commit time and effort
    3) Open discussion – “During the training I can ask as many questions as possible and get responses real-time”
    4) I have spent so many hours to learn WordPress on my own I finally gave up because I feel I still have long way to go to grasp the core concept.

    As you can see WordPress “newbies” face a combination of different challenges. For those who already have technical background, following tutorials and applying them is easy but for general public it is not that easy.

    What is your opinion/experiences about Live WordPress Training?

    1. Tom Ewer


      Live WordPress training? Sounds expensive 😉

      Having said that, live training with an experienced teacher is arguably the quickest way to learn something.

  26. Philo

    After years of being a huge advocate of “learn by doing” I’ve finally backtracked and now suggest that any new software should be learned via some formal method. It doesn’t have to be an actual class, though those are great for many people. But there are also online tutorials, and plenty of books.

    The problem with throwing yourself into it is that you don’t know what you don’t know. If you don’t understand “the way of” the program, you can end up very, very frustrated. Two WordPress examples:

    – for beginning content creators, understanding the difference between posts and pages is pretty important. If you don’t “get” this when you’re creating your content, trying to create pages out of posts (or vice versa) creates many problems.

    – for beginning programmers, understanding the loop or why you don’t edit core files will cause you much pain. But how do you learn that if you just start looking at files and editing things?

    Step 1 should always be “understand the platform as taught by someone else.” Then move forward.

    1. Philo

      That should be “**not** understanding”

    2. Tom Ewer


      Hi Philo,

      Learning as you go *can* be an inefficient way of learning, but then some people see that kind of approach as part of the fun 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


      1. Philo

        Tom, it’s beyond “inefficient” – I believe it’s actively harmful, both to the student and to their employer/customer.

        How many times have you seen this:

        Q: How can I write code to do [complex task]?

        A: Why don’t you just use [library]?

        Why? Because they didn’t know about it, because they “learned by forum” – took a programming task and solved it the way they’re used to, instead of understanding the new paradigm. Picture a procedural developer working with a database and looping through all the records to do something instead of just using using a SELECT query.

        That’s why I insist that when learning a new platform, at least work through the 101-level stuff in an orderly manner.

  27. leif

    My experience has been sort of an ‘all of the above’ journey. I’ve mainly used Lynda.com to get my classroom lectures in and then logged into CodeAcademy or Mozilla’s MDN to go hands on. Installing a local server like WAMP/XAMPP to be able to play with and test WP/themes/plugins has also proven to be insightful. Beyond that, it’s mostly a matter of learning what I need to learn in order to solve a problem. For that, the resources can be overwhelming so I try to stick to the more authoritative sites like the codex or anything on dotorg. There are a staple of blogs I do hit up on a daily basis to stay on top of trends, and forums like StackOverflow are very useful now as I grow, but were daunting at first.

    My advice to anyone starting fresh – bookmark a couple of programming glossaries that you can keep open while you browse and learn.

    Great article!

    1. Tom Ewer


      Thanks Leif! I’m with you on the “all of the above” learning method 🙂

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