Of Building WordPress Themes

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Two months ago one of the Bulawayo WordPress Community members, Kevin Mpofu, facilitated a WordPress theme development training designed to help WordPress enthusiasts develop and design themes from scratch. The training ran for about two weeks at The TechVillage and it attracted about 15 participants. Kevin was motivated to facilitate this workshop by  the need to share the knowledge he had gained over the past years  so as to bring more people to the tech table and to grow the development community in Bulawayo.

Here is an account of the interview that our Chief Storyteller, Tatenda Mapfumo,  had with Kevin Mpofu.

Tatenda: Soo, Kevin, can you tell us about the work that  you do?

Kevin: Well,  I am trained as a chemical engineer, but, I work extensively in  web development, software creation, graphic designing and most recently Web Training.  I started out as a freelancer and just over seven years later, I established Web Velocity – a web training & software development company. I am really passionate about increasing accessibility to the tech world. After mentoring numerous young people and budding designers I remained consistent in my message ‘The tech table never runs out of room. If seats are filled, we’ll create new ones!” I wholeheartedly puts this message in to action and recently created a curriculum and training session for beginners on WordPress .

Following the success of the pilot, plans are in place for it to be rolled out across tech hubs in the county. Embracing the Future is Female movement that has taken  the internet – and retail world – by a storm, my most recent work focuses on enabling young girls to empower themselves in coding –  placing girls at the centre of that conversation and training.

When I am not giving the internet world a run for its money, I am your guy when talking  all things precision and problem solving.

Tatenda: How long have you been using WordPress?

 Kevin: I have been using WordPress for five years  and have developed my skills in both front-end, back end and developing themes.

Tatenda: Besides the need to bring more people to the tech table, what inspired or motivated you to facilitate the theme development workshop? And what was the objective of this workshop?

 Kevin: My inspiration and main driving force has always been  the need to share the knowledge I have gained over the past years to bring more people to the tech table. I love sharing knowledge, especially to things which are web related. So WordPress was an avenue to help the development community in Bulawayo grow. There was also a passion to standardize the work being created within the community.

The objective of the workshop was to help WordPress beginners  to appreciate the use of WordPress, have a deeper understanding of the base technology behind WordPress themes and eventually be able to build their own custom themes.

wordpress workshop resized
WordPress workshop

Tatenda: What was covered during this Theme Development workshop? 

 Kevin: The workshop was a hands on workshop where, the participants actually worked on their laptops with coding tools provided in the sessions. During the workshop we covered a range of topics from basics to intermediate course material these were:

(1) the internet and how it works, (included tools to use for web development)

(2) Introduction to Web Page Design, HTML & CSS

(3) Introduction to JavaScript (ES5) and PHP

(4) Best Practices Performance & Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and the relatively new and exciting topic

(5) Building Progressive Web Applications.

However, because scheduling with the community calendar they were paused for a while and are to resume soon.

Tatenda: How do you feel about the whole experience? And would you do this again?

Kevin: The experience was exciting and fulfilling. I had great participants and I believe I also learnt a lot from the participants. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I plan to resume my classes. I love sharing knowledge, and making tech more accessible.

Tatenda: Having been part of the Bulawayo WordPress community and also having a chance to take some of your time and effort in facilitating this free workshop, What do you think about the WordPress community in Bulawayo?

Kevin: I think the WordPress community in Bulawayo has got off  to a good start. However, it will take the whole community to inspire each other and to grow. I also am personally now more determined than ever to also include female participants in the project. After doing my first class I noticed that my class was 100% male, and would like to engage young women and girls to participate in web development, process planning and user experience & interface design (UX & UI design). Its essential to the growth and sustainability of the tech community that women are given the necessary tools to enable them to  be active participants.

Theme Development Training
Theme Development Training

Tatenda also managed to ask  Martin T. Mtandi, one of the workshop participants about their experience during the duration of the training program.

Tatenda: Martin, how many sessions of the Theme development workshop did you attend?

 Martin: I attended all sessions.

Tatenda: Where you a WordPress novice or intermediate or expert?

Martin: I had a little background from University, so I can say I was a WordPress novice.

Tatenda: What did you learning during the workshop?

Martin: The thing that stuck to me was the section on performance. As a developer I learnt that I need to be aware of  front and backend processes, how they can affect a web application’s performance, search engine optimization and the impact it can have to the end user. I also learnt a lot about initiatives by Google, Progressive Web Applications (PWA’s), how they are built, their pros and cons and I have to say it is really exciting. I wouldn’t have learnt how to create a fast, reliable and modern web application if I had not attended the workshop.

Tatenda: Interesting, how did the stuff that you learnt during the workshop help to improve your skills in your line of work or in your projects?

Martin: Progressive Web Apps and performance issues have really changed my approach to designing and development. Now when I design my web applications, I am building user experience centered and fast applications which will load on various mobile devices.

Tatenda: Any recommendations and advice for the WordPress community?

Martin: If such workshops continue, and can grow by providing material that will help move intermediate developers to expert developers, I think that would be great.

Every First Friday of each month we host WordPress meetups for the platform’s enthusiasts in Bulawayo.  It is free and open for anyone to attend. We simply want people to come through and learn, share and do. The next WordPress Meetup is this Friday 6 July 2018

Takunda Chingonzoh is the founder of The Village Innovation Network which is a support network that focuses on innovation and technology and its ability to empower organizations and communities through entrepreneurship. The Innovation Network includes organizations like the TechVillage Hub and Velociti Ventures which strive to support startups and the entrepreneurs that create them.

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