I am Shawn Hesketh, the creator of WP101® — the popular video tutorial series that’s helped millions of site owners learn how to use WordPress to build their own website or blog. Before launching WP101, I worked for 26 years as a freelance designer, creating websites, logos, and branding solutions for my clients in my hometown of Houston, Texas.
The Journey Began
In 2006, I was building static, ‘brochure-style’ websites for my clients. My clients loved their websites, but anytime they needed to make a small change to their website, they had to reach out to me or their ‘webmaster.’ So I started experimenting with browser-based content management platforms like Drupal, Joomla, Expression Engine, and of course… WordPress.
Of all the systems I tried, WordPress was by far the easiest to learn and had the most intuitive user interface. I used WordPress to build a couple of custom sites for clients, and was thrilled that they loved it as much as I did! So, I started using WordPress for all my custom website projects from that point on.
To help my clients get up to speed as quickly as possible, I also provided onsite WordPress training. While my clients loved the personalized training, several asked,
“What happens a week from now, when we’ve forgotten what you taught us?”
That’s when it occurred to me to create a series of WordPress 101 video tutorials that I could provide to my clients. They could watch them as often as needed. Plus, it would free my time to focus on building websites and running my business, instead of teaching WordPress basics over and over again.
So, I recorded and released the first WordPress 101 video ‘crash course’ in 2008.
I told a few of my WordPress developer friends what I had built, and they were ecstatic. “I need that for my clients, too! Why don’t you make the videos available as a membership site, so I can send my clients to the WordPress 101 videos, too?”
Since then, almost 4 million beginners have watched the WordPress 101 videos, and hosting companies like GoDaddy, Nexcess, WP Engine, Pressable, and EasyWP have licensed the videos to make them available to their customers.
The Need for WP101
It may sound absurd now, but in 2008, when I set out to find a set of video tutorials for WordPress, there was only one! It was poorly produced and badly out of date.
With my background in audio and video, I was confident I could produce a series of high-quality tutorial videos. But I realized right away that one of the biggest challenges would be keeping the videos up to date with each and every major release of WordPress.
That’s definitely proven to be a ‘labor of love’ because I’ve updated and re-recorded the WordPress 101 video series 24 times over the past twelve years.
During that time, there have been several competitors pop up—then quickly disappear—when they realize the challenges of creating and maintaining a video series like WordPress 101.
To say nothing of the growing number of features in WordPress, necessitating more and more videos to cover all the features of Gutenberg, and soon… full site editing.
But we didn’t stop with WordPress 101. We’ve also added video tutorials for WooCommerce, Jetpack, Yoast SEO, Beaver Builder, Ninja Forms, and more.
And in 2011, we released the WP101 Plugin, which provides all of our WordPress video tutorials right in the WordPress dashboard. While our membership site, WP101.com, continues to serve individuals who want to learn WordPress basics, the WP101 Plugin serves WordPress freelancers, agencies, and hosting companies who want to provide our video training to their clients… right in their own WordPress dashboard.
We continue to expand our library of video tutorials, and we’ve partnered with some of the most talented WordPress educators in our community to create new courses for the most popular WordPress plugins.
We’re here to serve the WordPress community, and we’ll continue to do so for years to come!
In the Studio
Shawn Hesketh in Action
Shawn Hesketh Workplace
Advice for Business Owners
Seth Godin said, “Effective marketers don’t begin with a solution, with the thing that makes them more clever than everyone else. Instead, they begin with a group they seek to serve, a problem they seek to solve, and a change they seek to make.”
When young business owners reach out to me for coaching, they typically have questions about how to improve their product or market it to a larger audience. The problem with the, “build it and they will come” approach is that it just doesn’t work!
There’s no shortage of brilliant products that have been launched to the sound of crickets because they’re answering questions that aren’t being asked.
Instead of focusing on your product and its features, spend time building your audience and asking questions. Only when you fully understand the challenges they’re facing and the problems they’re trying to solve, you can begin to offer solutions.
Best of all, when you spend your time developing relationships with your audience, you’ll be able to ‘future proof’ your business.
The products and solutions we offer today will change over time, and perhaps even become obsolete. What won’t change is the connection you have with your customers.
If you invest in building long-term relationships with your customers, you’ll be uniquely positioned to offer new products and solutions down the road, without having to start from scratch every time.
At the end of the day, keep in mind that people are what matter most.
WordPress & Beyond
Since I first began using WordPress in 2006, WordPress has matured and evolved into a robust platform that can power websites, blogs, or even full-blown web apps.
And now, we can choose between Gutenberg or any number of page builder plugins—each of which has a completely unique user experience.
To say nothing of the confusing differences between the WordPress.com user interface and WordPress.org. That makes it nearly impossible to create a ‘one-size-fits-all’ training curriculum that works for every site owner. And that has an impact on the end-user experience, which is one reason Squarespace and Wix are so appealing to many first-time site owners.
That’s why we’re continually looking for better ways to get WordPress beginners up to speed as quickly as possible.
We’re partnering with more educators to create additional courses that will enable site owners to choose their own learning path, depending on the type of site they’re building, the plugins that may be installed on their site, and their unique goals.
My personal mantra is, “Never stop learning.” And I’m constantly studying new approaches to online learning so we can deliver better training for WordPress beginners. And that benefits the entire community.
My Love for the WordPress Community
Over the years, we’ve sponsored dozens of WordCamps and community events. The conversations we’ve had with WordPress professionals and site owners at those events have informed our future roadmap more than anything else.
Listening carefully to their concerns and frustrations enables us to create more effective training content that makes onboarding new users easier. And that enables WordPress professionals to free their time to focus on what they do best.
Attending WordCamps has become like a family reunion of sorts, and we’ve built lifelong friendships with incredible people like Chris Lema, Bill Erickson, Karim Marucchi, Cory Miller, Carrie Dils, Brian Richards, Joe Casabona, and many others.
The WordPress community is like no other, and we can’t wait for WordCamps to restart again soon, so we can make new friends around the world!
How I Keep Myself Updated
Because our videos need to be kept up to date, I stay tuned into the WordPress Slack channel and make.wordpress.org. That keeps us aware of new features, so we can update our video tutorials accordingly.
Outside those official channels, I’m also a member of Post Status, which I’ve found to be one of the best ways to stay informed about insider news and trends that impact the WordPress community at large.
I Have a Life Other Than the Work
Outside of work, I’m an avid fan of F1 and IndyCar motorsports. In my 20s, I raced sports cars through the SCCA, plus our local BMW and Porsche clubs. I still love attending races whenever possible.
When I’m not in front of the computer, you’ll often find me enjoying a nice cigar & whiskey with my amazing wife of 25 years, Kay. And my greatest joy in life is helping our three teenage kids discover and pursue their own passions and sense of purpose.
Because we homeschool our kids, and I can work just about anywhere with an Internet connection, we’ve been fortunate to travel quite a bit as a family. We’ve spent weeks at a time in Florida, and attended WordCamps across the country.
But some of our favorite family memories have been traveling with our dear friends, the Lemas, with whom we’ve attended two Indy 500 races, as well as Chris’ annual mastermind event for business owners, CaboPress.
Of course, we all love coming home to Charlie, our beagle, who can often be seen sporting a fancy tie… much to his chagrin.
Connect With Me
As a special thank you for taking the time to check out my story on WPfounders. Feel free to save 30% off by getting exclusive coupons for WP101 & WP101 Plugin from WPdiscounts.io. Thanks again!