Taking Your WordPress Development To The Next Level
Having been an avid web developer for over 10 years now I’ve seen a lot of change during this time. One of which is the explosion in the use of WordPress Content Management System. About 90% of sites we design and build today are based on WordPress, and I’d probably be right in saying that a lot of other web agencies find the same thing.
One thing that amazes me however is the amount of designers and developers that don’t actually know much about WordPress beyond the basics, and it’s easy to see why; It’s so easy to install and setup WordPress, there are thousands of themes available for download on the web, and the documentation is great should you want to create your own theme. I even know designers that can just about put together a HTML site, but that are then also creating whole sites in WordPress.
So, what’s the problem then? In this post I’ll try to explain the advantages to knowing more about the WordPress innards, why it’s worth taking your WordPress knowledge to the next level, and how you can do so.
No Limits on Functionality
By knowing more about WordPress and how to use the full range of code available, no longer will you be restricted to what you can do, or end up using plugins to add functionality on your behalf.
Reduce The Use of Plugins
You’d be surprised at how many plugins do things that could just as easily be done with a slightly broader knowledge of the WordPress code. By reducing the number of plugins you can reduce the load that the site inflicts, remove any dependencies on third party code, and reduce the number of updates required whenever you update the WordPress core and plugins.
Improve WordPress for the Client
If the site being built is for a client it’s important that the admin UI is clear and easy-to-use for them, especially the less technically-minded clients.
By knowing what options are available, you can make the clients experience a much better one. You could brand WordPress to match the client’s company, remove specific menu items, rename labels, and declutter the interface.
Increase Chance of Selling Themes
If you’re interested in selling themes, you’ll be more likely to be able to sell them to others if you understand it inside out. Not only this, but you’ll also be able to support it going forward.
Charge More Money
With knowledge comes power, or money in this case. By being able to build a better, customised and more optimised site, you’ll be able to charge more for your services, as well as justify these costs.
How You Can Improve Your WordPress Skills
WordPress is constructed using the programming language PHP. My best advice for improving your WordPress skills would be to completely erase WordPress from your mind for a short while and go and learn PHP.
Without knowing PHP, it’s like getting in a car but not knowing how to drive. You might know what the steering wheel and pedals do, but putting them into use is a different story.
There are many great tutorials out there, so why not spend a couple of hours a week improving your PHP knowledge. I guarantee once you’ve done this for a while, working with WordPress will become a whole lot easier, and probably make a lot more sense too.
Understand the WordPress Database Structure
Similar to above, this is all about learning what drives WordPress. In this case I’m referring to the WordPress database. For me, it’s great knowing where posts are stored, or where a plugin writes it’s information too.
The database only contains a few tables so have a quick look at the structure and the records each table contains. There’s even a Codex page available outlining and explaining in depth the database structure:
Build Your Own Plugin
From my own personal experience, one of the key stages where I learnt the most about WordPress was when I built a plugin.
This introduced me to the notion of how actions, hooks and filters work which are a key part of advanced WordPress development.
If you’re confident building your own, or are unsure which plugin to build, why not download an existing plugin that’s already available (the simpler the better) and take a look into it’s code to try and understand what’s going on.
Read The Codex
The WordPress Codex contains a description and examples of how to use pretty much every function available, as well as some great tutorials.
If you’re ever stuck, or unsure on how to achieve certain functionality, the first place I recommend you take a look is here.
Memorise The Code
This will come with time, but the more often you create websites and use certain functions, you’ll memorise without having to revert to the Codex or existing code.
By memorising code, function names and how things work, you’ll massively reduce the time spent developing sites, especially in the early stages when setting up the theme,
With the above in place, I’m confident that you’ll notice the improvements in the sites your building, both in terms of the functionality you can offer, as well as the time it takes to push sites out.