From Writer to WordPress: How One Creative Made the Transition to Tech

by Gil Zeimer on February 7, 2011
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Let’s say you’re a successful travel writer, but your exotic travel days have ended because you and your wife are raising two young boys.

How would you go about changing gears? Bradley Charbonneau of Likoma, in San Francisco, went from writer to webmaster, website designer, and web hosting outfit, all without any technical knowledge at the start. How’d he do it? We asked him.

ISBB: First, what does “Likoma” mean?

Charbonneau: Likoma is a small island in Lake Malawi in East Africa, near the coast of Mozambique. It’s where my then-girlfriend-now-wife began our lives together. The advertisement for the island (a scrap of paper on the wall of our guesthouse) said, “No running water, no electricity, no mosquitoes, no malaria. Take the boat on Tuesday nights.” We took the boat. Life has never been the same since.

What’s your career background?

I’ve done the big corporate thing. I’ve done the creative and travel writer thing. I even published a travel book (Urban Travel Guide San Francisco). Now I’m happily in the middle, a place where I can combine techie, writerly, and marketing.

I have a background in marketing, web design, writing, branding, and languages. I speak plain English, Dutch (that’s where my wife is from), French, and German, and have a real addiction to analogies to explain complex technical issues. I subscribe to the Euro-lifestyle of working to live — and not living to work.

So how and when did you become a web designer, webmaster, and web host?

Back in 2002, being a writer but also armed with an MBA, I knew I needed to promote my writing. I built a simple website to showcase my work. Writer-friends wanted that, too. I said, “OK, sure, I could do that.”

Then my writers’ group colleague, Khaled Hosseini, wanted a website, and when The Kite Runner hit the big time, simple HTML updates weren’t cutting it. I shopped around for Content Management Systems to, well, easily manage content. WordPress rose to the top of my research and it’s been a clear winner.

What do you like best about WordPress?

Because design and content are separate, design upgrades are easy. We can revamp the entire look of the site without having to touch the years of content already in there. It’s also built to be Search Engine Optimized: You add content on a regular basis and Google search will love you.

It makes it easy to add content (text, images, video, audio, etc.) so you can do it easily and on a regular basis and don’t have to contact/wait for/bother/pay your website developer to do it.

WordPress is quite a bit like the iPhone or Firefox: a strong core with a ton of “apps” (extensions, plugins) to make it do pretty much anything you might need it to do. Need to integrate your Twitter updates or add a mailing list sign up form? Want to embed your YouTube videos, show off your Flickr slideshow, or see statistics about which content on your site is most popular? WordPress can do that with a few clicks.

What’s your best website success story?

Loic Nicolas “works his website.” Loic cares about his site traffic and makes a big push to build his audience. He is constantly blogging about photography, his awesome photo shoots, and tips for soon-to-be married couples in San Francisco. I enjoy that because it pushes me to learn more about SEO and gets me strategizing. Most people don’t take the time and effort to work their website, but they also don’t get the results that Loic does. Oh, and it’s pure pleasure to be working with such an excellent photographer. Check out Loic’s work here.

I like to say that, “If you’re working for your website, your website should be working for you.”

For more advice about creating a site with WordPress, contact Bradley Charbonneau at Likoma.

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