Sorry Mom

You know that classic parable about the cobbler’s children having no shoes? The shoemaker is is too busy with other work to provide for his or her own children. This is prevalent in the technology industry too!

I last updated my personal “website” almost five years ago. It’s hand-coded html instead of WordPress because I didn’t really plan on needing to update it. Sure, I have lots of test sites and I use WordPress several hours each day, but I am not using it for self-promotion.

Speaking of self-promotion, let’s talk about my poor mom. She is a self-employed psychotherapist. Long before I was hired by Automattic she asked me to build her a website. I have spent my entire career building websites, and she gave me life, it was the least I could do for her. I set her up with a simple WordPress site, I think using the ubiquitous/infamous Kubrick theme. I remember helping create a few pages, some contact information, her photo. I think I even managed to set up Google Analytics on the site (back when you had to paste a javascript snippet). I tried showing her how to login and edit things once, but she didn’t have time for that and didn’t retain much of what I showed her at the time.

The site was up for a while, I mostly forgot about it, until DreamHost emailed me to tell me the site had been hacked. I hadn’t kept it up to date, didn’t have any sort of backup or security tools in place, and I don’t think I’d heard of Jetpack yet (it might have barely existed at that point). The site was likely down for more than a year until I started working here. At some point I dug up the FTP password, deleted everything and freshly installed WordPress, cleared out the database and got the site back up.  

This isn’t a success story though. The only content on the site is the Hello World post. The site now runs Jetpack, it uses the 2017 theme, DreamHost now auto-updates WordPress core, and the site hasn’t been hacked, but I’m always too busy or she’s too busy to devote time to customization and content.

When she asked me to ‘make her a website’ what she meant to ask was ‘can you build me a web-presence’. It didn’t fully occur to her that having a website was only a small part of the equation. She would need to write posts regularly, build search engine recognition, fill out a Google My Business profile, work to build a network of inbound links, and of course engage on social media. I can’t really do all of that for her since the content is all in her field.

That’s not to say she has no online presence. She’s a very active Facebook user and maintains a profile on Psychology Today. I think she still has a handful of brochures I designed for her nearly a decade ago. She’s great at networking, she just has no time or patience to learn new systems. This is true for so many of us. We want to focus on the thing we’re good at, not pick up a side career in marketing.

Last November I took a trip to India and spoke at a conference. I also got to talk to dozens and dozens of WordPress professionals, hosting providers, and domain resellers. They consistently shared that the Indian market is much less DIY than elsewhere. People tended to shop around, find an expert, and pay them to maintain their online presence. They get to focus on their business and a web expert keeps their business online.

We’re all very busy. I’ve tried to take that to heart when leading the design of Jetpack. We can’t ask for too much of people’s attention. We can’t make things hard for them. We have to do our best to give them tools that reduce friction and increase their chances for success. We have to make WordPress easier to customize, help customers grow an audience, and keep them secure. And we need to make Jetpack a go-to tool for developers and WordPress experts as they build sites for their customers. Time is precious, developing content and growing an audience is hard, and the tool you’re using can’t add any additional friction.

I’m sorry mom, one of these days we’ll get you some web traffic.

By Rick Banister

Designer at Automattic