Review: Essential Training

I’ve been a subscriber to the online training site for almost a year. I really enjoy the video training courses on offer there and find them especially useful for learning applications. Following along in books can quickly become dull and I find explanations which actually show the use of the product to be very effective. When I joined, content management systems were at the top of the list of topics which I wished the site had more coverage of. I’ve therefore been very pleased to see recent training titles appear on Drupal, Joomla! and WordPress. Hopefully I’ll get around to looking at all these courses in time, but for now I’ve been going through the course hosted by Maria Langer.

Maria is a great host for the training and is very clear and enthusiastic. She uses a couple of her own blogs as examples through the course, which lends a nice personal touch. She also gives plenty of advice which sounds authentically drawn from personal experience. The training could easily be used by people with very little technical knowledge and starts from first principles: “What is a blog?” is the title of an early video. However, all the video lessons are free-standing and more advanced users could just skip to the later videos for the features they are interested in. The full version of the training has exercise files which let you develop the exact elementary school blog example built in the videos. However, unlike with some titles, the files aren’t really essential and you could follow along easily enough without them.

Among the sections which would probably be most useful for a WordPress newbie, there is a clear description of the difference between categories and tags which people starting out with the package can find confusing. The section on working with comments is also very useful and contains some sensible advice for people new to blogging. The discussions at the end of the course on blog promotion and maintaining your blog are interesting and I would have welcomed it if these segments had gone on for longer.

However, the biggest issue for a lot of people with this course is likely to be that it only covers using the online service at and doesn’t include any specific training for the server install of WordPress. Although a lot of the subjects covered are still relevant for people using the standalone application, there is plenty to know about installing and upgrading WordPress which you won’t learn here.

If you want to hear Maria discuss some of the pros and cons of using vs a server install, there is a useful interview with her available on MacVoices which serves as a nice supplement to the training course.

MacVoices #8112: Maria Langer Talks Training and Why It Is Better on Video

The current training title is still a great guide for beginners seeking to start blogging and for people who’ve used other packages who want to get a basic idea of WordPress’s features. Maybe a good way for to develop their WordPress training in future would be to keep this as the beginner’s level title, but also to produce an “advanced” WordPress course which includes discussion of the server installation, upgrades, backups and possibly further discussion of promotion and SEO for WordPress blogs. [Update (27/02/09) - I've noticed that  an advanced WordPress course by Maria Langer became available on in January - see Self-Hosting a WordPress site.] Essential Training is available from as a CD-ROM, or online via subscription.

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