Teaching JavaScript for WordPress with Zac Gordon

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In this episode, Zac and I get deep about how he built his online learning course, Javascript for WordPress! We discuss the tools he used, coming up with content, and how often the best course of action is to pay the pros to get high-quality work. It’s a great episode, with lots of show notes.

Show Notes



Joe Casabona: Hey everybody. Today’s episode is brought to you by two great sponsors. The first is BrandBucket.

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And now, on with the show.

Hey, everybody. Welcome to How I Built It, a podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” I am here with my guest, and very good friend, Zac Gordon. Zac, how are you doing today?

Zac Gordon: I’m doing great, man. Thanks for having me on.

Joe Casabona: No problem. Thanks for being on the show. So, Zac, you are a developer and educator, an internet extraordinary, and a whole bunch of other things. But, today we are going to talk about JavaScript for WordPress, right? You’re kind of an online master course.

Zac Gordon: Yeah, that sounds great.

Joe Casabona: Awesome. So can you tell us just a little bit about the course and how you came up with the idea?

Zac Gordon: Sure. You know, sometimes folks have probably heard me talk a bit about, and I don’t know if we’ve all forgotten about the, “Hey everybody. Go learn Word or JavaScript deeply from the Wordcamp U.S. last year” We got the WordCamp U.S. coming up again this year. I’m excited about that. So that’s kind of a year that this will all have been in the move. 

But it was a transition between not being a Treehouse anymore, figuring out what I’m going to do, hearing that homework assignment from Matt Mullenweg to learn JavaScript deeply and taking it on, maybe not fully knowing how big this course would get, but it’s been a cool process that, yeah. Happy to talk more about it. But that was kind of the origin of it. Just the timing and thinking it would be a cool project. I mean, I’ve worked with JavaScript before, but never really at Treehouse had a chance to tackle the API or Javascript stuff. So it was like kind of a fresh start doing my own thing and building up around a lot of that stuff, I guess, is what we could get into a bit more.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, most definitely. And then I remember Matt saying that at WordCamp last year. And I remember thinking like, I need to brush up on my JavaScript’s chops a little bit. But I also remember talking to a whole bunch of other like front-end developers who were like, I’ve never touched JavaScript before. So that was good homework for us to get. And I, you know, I think the courses, you know, I did some proofreading for the course and it looked really good to me in the iteration I saw. So did you, it looked really well thought out and you’ve developed courses before. So did you do a whole bunch of research on this or did you kind of just like go with what you know, or how did you develop the course outline?

Zac Gordon: Wow! So, I guess I can kind of start backward from that. The course outline I knew how to get to the API, but kind of knew before that you had to be able to do something useful with the API. Which decided to focus pretty much just on full JavaScript, either decoupled or, you know, heavily rewriting, or doing it differently than what would normally be in a plugin or theme.

Joe Casabona: And this is the… sorry, there’s the WordPress Rest API, right?

Zac Gordon: Yeah.

Joe Casabona: Neither of us mentioned that explicitly.

Zac Gordon: You know, the only API out there it’s for WordPress.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. Of course.

Zac Gordon: Other sites do that? So, that was kind of the idea. And I thought, “Oh, cool.” We’ll just get into each of the major frameworks, you know, Angular, Ember, Backbone, React, and build a little something with them. That’ll be that. But the kind of like you had mentioned after I had done the outline and done quite a bit of research, which I’d love to kind of chat about. But after I’d done that, I realized, you know, most WordPress developers learn PHP or learn JavaScript just from getting into projects and kind of learn and around, and don’t necessarily have classical programming training. And you could do that I think a bit more with PHP because it doesn’t have some of the intricacies of the browser and coding environment and some other events type architecture. That’s a little bit different. So I realized, “Okay, I’m going to have to go back and include all the introductions to JavaScript.” 

And that comes to the research part because basically, I took every online JavaScript course I could find. Like signing up for all of them and just doing like a month and a half, two months just watching videos all day, taking courses, reading as many articles. Cause I had been teaching JavaScript since like 2004 or five, maybe. But not since like 2010 or 11 when I kind of switched more towards WordPress. So it’s changed a lot in that. I kind of missed a lot of the node stuff and definitely some of the bigger frameworks. So I had to learn all of those, build projects with them, get advice, talk to tons of people, ask people like you to help me review the stuff. And that was sort of how it all came about.

So I had a decent JavaScript foundation. I knew just from Buzzwords what we had to cover, and then it was kind of filling it in from there. And, it’s been, Wow! So funny because I just finished a week of rest with the folks from Human Made. So like a week-long thing, doing React front end with the API and kind of building a cool little project. And it was cool because when I started it, I didn’t really know React that much. I knew the API but hadn’t really built with it and to have like less than a year later, be very comfortable with whatever we were doing with it was really cool.  

So yeah, the course seems to be in line and going in the right, right way with all this.

Joe Casabona: That sounds awesome. And, that’s a really, that’s a great point about PHP versus JavaScript, and something I hadn’t really thought of, right? I just, I always tell people that PHP is a good first language to learn if you’re learning programming cause it’s like, it’s a weak type and you can really focus on syntax and things like that.

And JavaScript is just so vastly different and people, you know, people still think that it’s not as powerful as maybe it should be, or maybe it’s just not that powerful. And it does a whole lot of crazy things. And if you don’t understand what you’re doing, I mean, you can like blow up your browser and things are not going to work the way you think it will. So, I mean, starting at square one, I think is going to be really helpful for a lot of people. 

Zac Gordon: Yeah. I agree. And like, it’s funny because, so just to bring out one of those, I think biggest differences is that with JavaScript, you have the language itself and its syntax, which in scope, which is a little bit different in ways, but, but kind of a cool, nice, simple language. I personally like it.

And then You also get into the DOM pretty quickly, which is interacting with it, unless you skip it all completely and kind of get a framework, and then you still have to know what you’re doing. But the DOM is an API. It’s an API for the browser and for the HTML and the CSS. So like immediately, you’re not just programming JavaScript, you’re interacting with the API for your browser itself. And like, that’s pretty have you, so you have to kind of know the conventions around that. And like you said, it’s not even so much classical training. Because even those people get tripped up with JavaScript because classes and some of the object orientedness, which JavaScript is fully is, is different. Anyway, sorry, not to get too into it all, but just to kind of extend on that.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, definitely. And are you classically trained in programming? Like, do you have a degree in coding or anything like that?

Zac Gordon: So I have taken some computer science courses. It was funny. I was actually kind of teaching at the college and high school level without an official CS degree, but part of no child left behind and a Federal Municipal’s like regulations, you have to have a degree in what you’re teaching. So I went back for one, but never ended up having to complete it cause I can just drag it on for a long time. But I actually went back to teach classes. And then the next semester I was teaching at the school where I went to take them. So it’s kind of funny how it all works out.

So I have some enough to understand it and teach things like Java, but I’m also definitely, you know, I learned more programming from just working with PHP and WordPress early on. Tweakin themes were kind of my early into it working practically so I could definitely relate to people coming from it, from that.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. Cool. Very cool. Yeah. I think there’s a lot of, you know, especially in the WordPress community, people are self-taught and then tweak, and mess around and then kind of get formal, of the formal. 

So I tried to teach myself a little bit, but most of my education came from college just because I know some of the teachers I had really helped me understand things. And I didn’t really get into hardcore programming until college anyway. So, but awesome. So I found it, the reason I started this podcast is I love talking to people, I love getting their perspective. I love bouncing ideas off of people. And I know that you put together a crack team of people to help out with the course. So aside from like the actual contents, did you talk to people about features, business advice, direction, things like that?

Zac Gordon: Yeah. Definitely like as if you go to the JavaScript for WordPress site, I have a bunch of advisers up there, yourself being one of them. And definitely pulled advisors from different categories.  Some more educators have that experience, some were more salespeople that had worked with either product or marketing, were just people from WordCamps, you know, met, and trusted, and appreciated their feedback. 

So yes, I did have that. I give a big, well there’s too many shout-outs. Mark from ServerPress,Troy from WP Elevation have been like very helpful with bouncing ideas off of like, just really the most unique thing I had to tackle in kind of that regard, where was, this is such a big course and it’s been rolling out over time. So how do I both let people in who want to learn the content that is currently being rolled out? Whether it was all the basic JavaScript stuff and advanced JavaScript stuff, that’s just kind of winding down. And then the next level that’s released now, which is all the libraries and frameworks, how do I let people kind of scale it because I’m managing all this myself, which has gone really well. The support hasn’t been too intense. Then, you know, it’s gone well in that regard. But doing enrollment periods versus just open enrollment, so I can kind of manage that has been very helpful. And then just, you know, people like Brian at Post Status who were awesome and kind of plugged the course. And Tanya from knowing the code whose students were kind of. She’s doing more of the PHP and software dev stuff, and I’m doing kind of a more full-stack in JavaScript.

So those people were great and connecting with that and advice and how to approach things. Yeah, Tanya was huge because I was doing like, I was taking a day to like really manicure and make videos as short and concise as possible. But then I was putting day’s work, and getting like 25 minutes of content. I’m like, “Dude, I can’t keep this up. This is crazy.” And so I took her approach, which is a bit more of like, I’m just going to sit down and roll with it, which is what I used to do at Treehouse. Like I just, you know, have an outline and go. And so that’s making things richer, more content. So, you know, not all the students are keeping up, even with the content release schedule, which is like, that’s awesome for me. I’d rather be on that end than the other. But yeah. So that’s kind of marketing. How that is helped and some of the advisors and different areas. So yeah, hopefully.

Joe Casabona: Nice. I’m going to have to check out the way you do videos. Cause I’m the kind of the same way it takes me like four hours to produce like a five-minute video. And just it’s like something easy, like how to register your domain. But like if I mess up talking or if I miss a part, I’m like, I have to do it all over. It’s a lot of work. So, you know, getting that, getting that process, right. I imagine it helps a whole lot.

Zac Gordon: Oh, well, I can tell you actually there, I just have an editor and I just send all my ScreenFlow files,  drop them into a plugin, then ether and drop them into Google drive. And then I get everything back edited from there. So I don’t worry about mistakes mix-ups. I can just be like, okay, starting over. And I’ll tell you like, and that’s like, if I had to edit all these and do that myself, it would probably be unsustainable. Like cry because I have so much content to still edit through and worry about that stuff. And I know some people just kind of do a bit more raw take, but it’s been worth it for me. And like trying to have that higher-end production has kind of had to incorporate into the price and all. But I know it makes such a huge difference. And, yeah. I couldn’t imagine doing otherwise. I’ll have to hook you up with my person then.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, definitely. And actually, \this is great. Cause I mean, I think that this is like, we can just roll this into the next question, which is how did you build it? Because you know, something that I, myself included, a lot of people will go the, do it yourself route at first to try to save money, right. And with this podcast, I’ve learned, like I’m going to take my raw audio. I’m going to take your raw audio. I’m going to send it to, you know, a guy that I found on Fiverr. I’m not paying him five bucks. I’m paying him more than that to do it, right? Like to do it like his best. But if I was editing this, it would take forever. Like it wouldn’t be worth it. And paying 30 bucks for him to do it is well worth my time. So maybe we could touch on that in the, how did you build the course? So there’s like a lot of moving parts here. So maybe we could just start with what you think makes the most sense.

Zac Gordon: So I can, yeah, I’m going to, I’ll walk you through it all. And for anybody that’s like wants to geek out on the specific, like plugins and tools and software, I’ll give you all those details.

So basically. It started with, I’m going to start with the recording aspect cause that’s kind of before I have the site got to have the stuff to put up there. 

So originally I really wanted to do like Treehouse kind of videos and a nice recorded like me on camera. I felt it was very important for my branding and I wanted to continue that. So I tried several times in different ways and kind of learning some and asking other people to set up a home video studio. And that just really didn’t work in part because I couldn’t get the right lighting where I’m recording is very low ceiling. So that was tricky. And after like months and months of like, I had to eventually give that up just to focus on screencasting, which we’ll get to in a minute. But there was one area where I found that just plugging into the local photographer and like wedding videographer scene in the DC area was enough to find me some people that we could rent out a coworking space at night and like record some legit, like super high quality. We just both showed up for a couple of hours. And so like after I finish major sections, I’ll go back and just have like a, for every section of videos, I’ll have one overview video that has me in that. I haven’t done that cause I’ve just had to put it off with planning and prepping the costs. But that was one place for, you know, 1500 bucks can go a long way. And just getting something that somebody else is going to be way above the par. So that was kind of the video.

For home recording, I’ve got a blue Yeti mic here plugged into my Mac. I’m using ScreenFlow to record a keynote for the slides. And then, you know, just my basic code editor for a lot of the stuff. And I did hire a motion video person to do our history of JavaScript video. If you go onto the JavaScript for wp.com blog, there’s some free videos I released during the last enrollment period. And one of them is the history of JavaScript. So this cool interactive timeline and stuff hired someone to do that which was kind of expensive. But I really wanted to have it today. I didn’t use it as much as CAD or as might have if, you know, a cool motion person. It might take a little time to get them, but another place where it just kind of outsourced wasn’t worth my time to really learn it well enough. Or get keynote bending in that kind of way, couldn’t really do it. So, and then, like I said, I save the ScreenFlow files that are smaller than if I export them for some reason. So I just grabbed the whole ScreenFlow, which is like a packaged file, and put it on Google Drive with my ethernet cable because the wifi was not fast enough, and upload those, get them back edited. 

And then they actually, the editor drops them directly into Wistia for me. I use Wistia for the videos for a number of reasons. And one that is just kind of a side effect that she’s like, “Dude, this is so easy. I just like drag and drop, upload them. And can you like inline click to edit names and stuff for titles of videos? So we do that and then I could preview them, embed them into WordPress” And that kind of brings us in. can take a pause for a sec and then we can get into maybe more sites and have it, and that side of stuff. But that’s kind of the thing most of the tools and stuff I’m using on the backend for recording.

Joe Casabona: Cool. Very cool. And so you’re using Wistia. You have an editor, you hired out people to help you kind of record the Treehouse videos in a coworking space. I think that’s really great advice for anybody listening is that, you know, it might affect your bottom line a little bit. But Just think about your hourly rate in that regard, like if you’re going to charge a hundred bucks an hour or whatever, and it takes you four hours, it’s costing you 400 bucks as opposed to somebody who can do it in an hour and whatever you pay them. So that’s a lesson that I’ve kind of learned doing these things. And I’m glad to see it’s being reinforced by you. Because I mean, you’re a pro in this space, you know, you’ve recorded a ton of videos, audios, you’ve developed a bunch of courses. So I’m really glad to hear that.

Zac Gordon: Yeah, man. And it’s kind of like, let the pros do their pro job. One thing I definitely learned at Treehouse is like respect for audio developers, you know, video people editors like that stuff. And they’re just like banging at it. Like I might be with JavaScript or WordPress, you know? So yeah. A lot of respect there and it’s cool to work with them. And if your budget can handle it, and allowing it, and doing it right, which if you’re going to pursue it should, yeah, definitely recommend it. It’s been, you know, my experience, it works. Can help. Definitely help.

Joe Casabona: Awesome. So, what about the tech side?

Zac Gordon: Yeah. So getting into kind of the front end and website, one thing I’ll say with Wistia that’s been a little tricky is Wistia has, and I love the company. Big fan have been since very early on when they launched. And, but their transcripts that are built in are a little bit expensive. It is nice that you can get them in the app. And I was doing that for all of them, but that price of transcripts, it’s like $5 a minute or something gasp. And we’ve got what, 14 hours of content already. So like, yeah. Do that math real quick. It gets freaking expensive. So found another site. Hold on. Yeah, I’ve not seen it. So I’ll just go on. But I kind of just put a poll out on Twitter and got folks’ feedback on a transcript company, rev.com. I think that’s them.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, I’ve heard of that. I think Chris Lema has tweeted about them and stuff like that. I’ve heard nothing but good things about them.

Zac Gordon: Yeah, so solid. The only thing I recommend is that don’t by accident purchase transcripts when what you want is captions. Because I put in a bulk order in max. I did learn that lesson for a pretty penny and couldn’t get them really converted from one end to another. 

So transcripts. Are converting into texts. Like you’re going to paste into the page and the captions have the minute-by-minute kind of sync up so that it goes in the video. They’re the same price, a dollar per minute. So, you know, I’m already saving $4 per minute, but I haven’t actually put back in and redone the transcripts in part just because that initial, like last enrollment period money went so far. And this is a pretty big investment.

I do want to stay committed to it. And I do have a number of international students that have said that it’s a really cool feature and noticed when the video stopped having it. So I feel bad in that regard, but it’s also like, you know, to be Frank kind of a business, You know, determination as well. And just, but, you know, stuff that will be added and as a final product, definitely getting there.

So that kind of plugs in with the Wistia and the video. And then, so how do you use WordPress, right? Of course. And that one of the guys for LearnDash, which is one of the LMS options for WordPress at WordCamp U.S. same weekend buddies at WP Valet had done some work with them. So, you know, like friends, and friends, and family, and all that. And I just like, I remember standing in off, of the bar, just be like, “Hey, so does it have this feature? Does it have this feature?” Okay. So like what were things I’m asking? I’m like, “Okay. So how do quizzes work? Do quizzes get assigned to a video or are they assigned to a section? Can you hook it up with badges? Can you get downloadable PDF certificates when they’re done? How does this work with profiles and profile-like facing pages? And can I reward points with it? And how do videos get marked as complete?” and these kinds of things. So It was like, boom, boom, boom, boom. All the way down the list. And I was pretty impressed. So it was like, “All right. Don’t go with LearnDash. And it was cool because I had a contact point there that I could just email when I had questions. And as you’re learning something new, like how freaking valuable is that, Justin over at LearnDash thank you a ton, because he definitely helped in that regard. But overall it’s pretty intuitive, way more powerful than I have even got to using. And so I recommend it in that regard.

But I’ve also used Sensei and some of the other ones. I haven’t checked out LiftLMS. Is that one of the new ones?

Joe Casabona: Yeah. I think that’s a…WP 101 I think is using that?

Zac Gordon: What? Okay.

Joe Casabona: I know. So I’m also using LearnDash. I talked to Justin and they’ve sponsored the show before. And, yeah. So, I’m a big fan of that. I was using Sensei at first and there were things that I wanted that I had to kind of custom code myself that LearnDash already had built-in. So I’m like a no-brainer. Like I’m used to, I’m going with this and I’m discovering new stuff every day as I develop more courses. So It’s a great tool, I think. But I’ve heard really good things about LifterLMS too. 

Zac Gordon: Yeah. The one thing I’ll say about LearnDash that I learned is not to try to use a duplicate post plugin with quizzes and things. It was more with quizzes because they were tied in weird ways in the backend. And I was like hacking the database Like re-associate things. It was a hot mess and not worth the time. So take the time to learn their template structure. They have like quiz templates where they have a bazillion options when you’re working with a quiz. And you can save those course templates and things. And so make sure you take the time to do that because I tried to cut it, you know, shortcut and that was not worth it. 

Joe Casabona: I’m really, I’m glad you told me that because I’m going to start on a new course and I was going to use a duplicate post.

Zac Gordon: Okay, cool. So let me just say I’m going to read through my little list here of plugins that I’ve installed, that kind of relate to it for those who are listening and interested. The BadgeOS from the folks at WebDevStudios is kind of the go-to badge plugin for WordPress. And it integrates with LearnDash. So anytime they do something, they can get a badge. It also lets you do points. So I have something setup, the points are a little bit weird, like, and they’re kind of tied to badges. So I found kind of a limitation in that. What I wanted to do is like, okay, if you finished a quiz, you’d get a badge. But what I was really after is anytime you finished a quiz, you got points. So the way you have to set that up is you have to say any time you earn a badge, you get this many points. But you still get the same badge. So it’s like, they have one badge, but then they get points too. Like some of that stuff was a little bit quirky and not as flexible as I would like. But it’s the main option and it’s pretty solid. So there’s a BadgeOS and LearnDash add-on integration. So we have that going. There are some LearnDash plugins, like course access manager, which is like four groups created. And I found that really helpful.

So a business we’ve got XWP, which is awesome, doing like internal training with their folks. So they have, you know, like the main business account and they can track the progress of all their employees taking it. And once this is done, that’s probably going to be one of my main targets because this course is just so rich. And just so taking it from beginning to end, then I’m like, “Wow,! You can kind of just sit someone down at this and be like, “Oh yeah. Here you go. Good to go.” on whatever now. So those were some bugginess with quizzes. 

So there’s this little plugin called to delete specific data that I had to work with in order to like, if someone like a quiz is bugging out on them, you could delete that quiz attempt, and then they could keep going back to it that, “Oh, I’m sorry.” The course access manager, was different. The course access manager,  there’s an integration between WooCommerce and LearnDash. And you know, you’ve probably already worked with this, but if you’re new to it, there are some plugins that help with that. So basically when somebody pays for a product, get access to the course as well. And so I should mention at this point that like, so we’re using LearnDash and WooCommerce, and then there was some integration with that. But I had some folks from Pango.org which is a web development company. And actually, some of them were Treehouse students and they’re based out of South Africa. And they reached out to me and they’re like, “Hey mate, we’d love to help with the site if you need anything.” And that was one area where I knew, man, if I have to do all this course and then build a site. You can’t build a site like this in a weekend, you know, it’s the thing that you and I would tell ourselves. Yeah, dude. I’ll just knock out the site that you’re like, “Dude, I want to tweak like one little custom woo-commerce thing for all weekend.” And like that is just not getting done. So again, like part of hiring people is just knowing yourself well enough and knowing the time it’s going to take you to definitely, you know, you’re not getting it done.

So this was a God-sent and thank you a ton to the folks at Pango world for helping because they set up most of this integration and stuff. I kind of knew I wanted to LearnDash. And so I’d like installed that in a few like modules, put in just to test it out, but they helped with so much of this stuff. And part of it was them researching these integrations. And part of it was me like, just asking. But their help was instrumental. So again, I mean, now we’re talking kind of getting into a $3,000 budget or so hiring all these people to do these parts, but also this was like my main income and gig for the year. So it made sense. But also they were donating their time, which I know not anybody can get. And it was a very cool and huge thing. And part of it was, you know, they learned a lot of their chops doing the Treehouse WordPress courses and wanted to help. Man, I put them to the task. I’ve worked with those boys. So thank you again. So they did that.

And we also used a theme because I thought that we might have to have some groups or like bbPress or BuddyPress integration, which I knew could be tricky. If you’ve ever tried to theme a BuddyPress installation, it could get really tricky, especially if you’re trying to put notifications wherever you want. Or just like assuming, “Oh, I could grab whatever data because it’s WordPress and just stick it wherever.” I mean, I’ve definitely struggled with that. So I knew it’d be nice to maybe go with a theme that was already setup to work with this. So Buddyboss.com is a theme site that makes them pretty good both. I knew about them from doing my Treehouse course on BuddyPress. And I was like, “Dang, these are the most solid themes I could find really good folks.” And then they came out with a theme called social learner for LearnDash and Sensei. It works with both of them. So, I just grabbed that because I was like, “All right. This is going to look basic and like enough of what we need.” I actually, originally the whole learning site was going to be behind a subdomain. So I didn’t actually expect the front and back end to be the same. If like you go back to the machine or something. And look at the site, it was set up differently. It was just like a very simple white page. And I figured out let’s just keep it a simple sign-up page, and then we’ll kick them over to, you know, learn javascript for wp and sign up there. And I had advice on why to do that. It’s simpler. I don’t have to worry about double theming or consistent theming throughout it. And I was just like, “Ah, it’ll be easier this way” But there are kind of some issues like, do you have to have WordPress installs is like one just a static site. Then, are they just signing up on one page? Then if I wanted to show portfolio or if I wanted to Badges, and have people be like,  kind of like Treehouse has profile pages like, “Oh, I can’t do that on the main site, unless I’m pulling from the API on the subdomain” And then displaying them in JavaScript. And again, all these plans, I’m like, “Oh, I’ll just build all this with Javascript” like, no dude.

So,  folks at Pango world made the decision and really pushed to do it as one solid thing. They’re like, well, we’ll theme the front end. We’ll use this theme. We’ll get the back end, looking nice with this. And we’ll just take that approach. Then it’s only one WooCommerce install. It’s on one domain. If you have profiles, you can control them that way. So all of that. Oh also, that got a little icky because ah, geez. I don’t even want to get into that. Yeah. I had originally used woo-commerce, not hooked up to LearnDash. So there were some corks and importing people. We had to, you know, use some WordPress importers and then make sure that they had access. But then the usernames kinda got messed up. So we had to override usernames cause they were like email addresses, which was not good. And like, yeah. Just so weirdness kind of sucked. And we needed some plugins to hide, or we wanted to hide the profiles. But we also wanted to show them, but we didn’t want everybody to see everybody enlisting. But it was just kind of weird.

So I came across some issues there. But pretty much once everything was set up, you know, it was pretty much, my boy who does the ProsPress, who does the single page checkout for WooCommerce, really that. So how did that end? You basically just sign up, you get access to the course and you get going. We’ve got a bbPress form that I’m using on the backend for all support.

You know, some people email me, but, try to do it through there. And it’s been pretty, pretty good. And so that’s pretty much the full stack, you know, that Wistia embed gets going in every page. So I check on my stats from Wistia, because with LearnDash you could check how many people have completed quizzes or completed sections. But I couldn’t really get a nice, pretty tabbed or like report of how I was really hoping to be able to just view in a graph out of all my population, how far are all the students? Who’s where, and I couldn’t really get that. So I kind of use Wistia for that. It’s not a really good gauge, but it shows the reason I use Wistia is because they have such amazing stats among other things. And so I can see heat maps of how far into videos people have gone. And if you haven’t checked out wistia.com for video, they’re pretty great.

And so I can go there and see, “Oh, this many people have watched this video, these many videos.” And I could get a rough percentage of, “Okay. If only five people have watched this out of 400 students, I kind of have a good gauge of, All right. People haven’t quite caught up to where we are yet. Let’s keep pumping out content” and that sort of thing.

Joe Casabona: Awesome, man. Well, That is a lot, like if you’re looking to set up like an online course, just like grab this podcast and hang on to it because I was taking note.

Zac Gordon: Yeah. Sorry, I just ratted it off. Cause I know if I was on the other end, like Sean from WP 101 has this great blog post on a home podcasting setup with the best equipment and what he’s learned, and that was super helpful. I don’t have all of that stuff may be, yet. But, so in that honor, hopefully, if you’re trying to do the core stuff, this information could be helpful in kind of a dump of everything. 

Joe Casabona: Yeah. Absolutely. And, the show notes will be full for this. Awesome. We are banging up against time. So, I know we hit on a little bit of the transformation, and a little bit about the future. But I really want to ask you what trade secrets do you have for us? You know, you’ve been developing courses for a while for a bunch of different places. And so, you know, what advice do you have for the listeners?

Zac Gordon: All right. Trade secrets is this like, I wasn’t fully expecting it, but this course is legit. Take you to full-stack JavaScript developer territory and It’s a game-changer. Like I’ve been coding in JavaScript more than PHP in the last year. And like, thinking about things differently, seeing different opportunities, working with different sets of folks around that. And the biggest thing for me is that like, as an educator, what I see coming is that folks are gonna enter WordPress is not too long, the coming year, three years. And this is going to be their avenue of how they learn it. They’re learning like the development tools are learning the frameworks, they’re learning the angular, the react, and then just plugging in with API and doing kind of crazy stuff, and taking it from just like how so many of us learn PHP from coming in through theme development that this other avenue like that doors open. And I feel with this course, and just kind of living in this world and working in it, that that’s coming. And nobody has to like, rush or feel that like, “Oh, I gotta get up and I got to start doing this. Or I have to start offering it to my clients, or I’m going to become obsolete.” I really don’t feel it’s that kind of scenario. I think it’s more just how things are shifting and changing, and we’ll see how it influences us. But like, you’re not going to be obsolete anytime soon. And like, yeah. It’s cool to learn. But this course has a doozy in it, and it’s a lot to learn. And it’s kind of different thinking in certain ways, but that’s where we’re at. That’s the trade secret, but that’s what I gotta let you in on from where I’m sitting. 

Joe Casabona: Awesome. Thank you. Well, I really appreciate that. That’s excellent. Zac, this is a great conversation. I could talk to you all day just about everything.

Zac Gordon: Sure. good to know that.

Joe Casabona: Zac, Thank you so much for being on the show.

Thank you so much to our sponsors BrandBucket and Sucuri.

Before we go, I want to tell you about something new that I’ve started over at Patreon. Patreon allows people to make contributions to projects that others are creating. So if you go to patreon.com/howibuiltit, you’ll see that I’m currently accepting contributions to do things like, create more content, do longer interviews, tell stories about how other things like Disney World, a Yankee Stadium, or the Eiffel tower were built, and a lot more at the highest level. You will even be able to submit questions for me to ask future guests.

So if you head on over to patreon.com/howibuiltit, you can contribute anywhere from one to $10. I’ve got a lot of really cool things planned with the first round of money. I want to transcribe all of the current episodes as well as upgrade some of my travel equipment in hopes that I’ll be able to do some cool interviews at WordCamp U.S. coming up in December. So again, head over to patreon.com/howibuiltit and contribute. It would be deeply appreciated. Thanks so much.

And until next time. Get out there, and build something.


  1. Such a great listen, Joe. Zac is a very well-respected member of the WP Community and I’m sure this course will be a great resource as JS skills become critical for WordPress developers.

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