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The WordPress Perspective – 15 Years As A WordPress Developer

15 years of experience as a WordPress developer has taught me a lot about this nimble and popular CMS and the amazing things it can do.

WordPress has a lot to bring to the table

As one of the most mature CMS on the market, WordPress provides a heck of a lot of flexibility.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve built many websites in my role as a WordPress developer.

And I always end up coming back to WordPress as my #1 platform of choice

I’ve used other content management systems such as Craft CMS, Statamic and Ghost

While those are excellent platforms, there’s something about being a WordPress developer that’s pretty unique and special.

I’m not afraid to say it’s got a place in my heart!

Even now in 2023 with so many different content management systems, frameworks and languages to choose from, WordPress stands head and shoulders above the rest.

There’s a good reason it powers at least 450 million websites!

Solid and Stable

  • WordPress users create roughly 70 million new posts every month on WordPress.com
  • More than 20 billion WordPress.com page views per month
  • Nearly 3 million searches for WordPress every month
  • 60% share of the overall CMS market

Fluid and flexible

Being a WordPress developer means building with an exceptional platform – it’s strong and solid yet flexible and malleable in surprising ways and has an incredible community behind it.

It’s open source which is, of course, awesome.

It’s easy to find answers to questions and to get informative and entertaining updates via Twitter and other social media.

It’s got everything I could ask for in a development package, honestly.

It’s not without its flaws, of course. No platform is. But throughout all the years I’ve been working with it I’ve found literally zero issues which were insurmountable. Not one.

Wordpress developer dashboard introduction screen saying "Welcome to wordpress"
WordPress powers 40% of the internet

Delivering for Clients as a WordPress Developer

I always recommend WordPress to clients who are looking for a tool that will let them manage their content on a granular level.

It lets them dig deep into their content strategies and allows them to express themselves and their business goals clearly and concisely.

Also, not only is it an extremely capable system in its own right – it also has a huge external plugin library (more than 55,000 free plugins the last time I checked)

These plugins allows the core WordPress code to be customised and extended as required so you’re not restricted to what comes out-of-the-box.

There’s literally a world of potential to deliver on expectations as a WordPress developer.

A screenshot of an advanced custom fields field group editor page
Advanced Custom Fields gives you full control

5 Absolutely Essential WordPress Plugins

Here’s a few plugins that I always recommend as an experienced WordPress developer.

Looking Beneath The Surface Of WordPress

What makes this powerful content management system tick?

WordPress’ plugin system is powerful – It’s hard to overstate quite how powerful it really is.

But it wouldn’t be possible if it not for WordPress’ feature-packed and extendable core code.

Thanks to the way WordPress’ internal core functionality is built, plugins can hook into vital core functionality via the use of actions and filters.

  • Actions take data to process and returns nothing. In other words, actions can be used to make things happen at certain points during the core WordPress process.
  • Filters, on the other hand, take data to process and return changed data. Or, to put it another way, filters can be used to make changes to data during the core WordPress process.

This might sound simple, but these two concepts together act to provide plugin and theme developers with a significant amount of leverage over a WordPress installation and how it operates.

It gives WordPress developers the ability to turn the platform into whatever they want.

These clever features ensure that plugins have access to the same powerful functions that keep WordPress itself running.

Instead of having to change how WordPress works internally – modifying core code is a practice that would leave websites prone to breaking whenever major updates are releasedplugins can attach functions which are executed at the same time as the equivalent core functions.

For example, an action hook can be created which allows a plugin to modify a post’s content after it is saved within the WordPress core.

Or a plugin such as Gravity Forms can add an action hook to update a user’s account details whenever they submit a specific form.

Extremely powerful plugins offering event booking or tiered subscription memberships are built through the use of these hooks.

Plugins can take advantage of, to name a few:

  • Post creation hooks
  • Filters to modify content before it’s displayed on screen – great for things like translation plugins
  • Actions that fire whenever someone leaves a comment on a blog article
  • Administrative hooks which let plugins introduce new and novel admin funcitons
  • Hooks to build powerful APIs on top of WordPress

There’s a very good chance that if you can see something happening in WordPress, you can add a hook to it and extend that functionality in whichever way you’d like.

There’s a lot to cover here though, a lot more than I could detail in this short summary. If you’d like to know more, check out the WordPress documentation on the subject.

Or get in touch if you’d like to know more about plugin development.

Bespoke plugins can be created for commercial or personal use and there’s significant scope for interesting new ideas to benefit yourself, your company or the WordPress developer ecosystem.

Building custom templates

Bringing a client’s vision to life can sometimes require digging down into template code

Soemtimes a page builder like Elementor on its own isn’t enough.

Custom WordPress design services often make use of various techniques to deliver the finished results.  These might include:

  • Building out a custom template from scratch using PHP, HTML, Javascript and CSS
  • Making use of an existing feature-rich template from an online source such as themeforest.net, though it can be tough to find one that isn’t bloated with features
  • Using a bare-bones template designed for rapid scaffolding, such as Elementor’s Hello theme, WordPress block themes such as Ollie or a WooCommerce theme like Flatsome, if building an online shop.
  • Elementor also offers a cool kit library which offers 100s of ready-made themes open to customise.
  • Make use of a starter theme like Underscores if you like writing everything yourself, but appreciate guidance along the way

Depending on how the designs have been provided – perhaps via design services like Figma or Invision or perhaps even exported directly from a page builder tool like Webflow, a process of converting those designs into a working template will take place.

WordPress’ Template Hierarchy

WordPress, at a core level, makes use of a flexible template hierarchy which tells the internal code how to convert URLs into a specific page.

For example, you might have a URL, https://mysite.com/blog/category/news-updates. WordPress will:

  • Check to see if a template file exists called category-news-updates.php, if not…
  • If the category’s ID is 123, it’ll look for category-123.php, if it doesn’t find that…
  • It’ll look for category.php – the generic category template page. If that’s not found…
  • The higher-level archive.php will be loaded. And if that’s not available…
  • The main index.php template file is loaded

Using this approach, WordPress developers can build varied and extremely powerful site structures.

The above approach doesn’t just work for categories, but also blog posts, articles, author biography pages as well as custom post types

The "Hello" theme by Elementor
The Hello theme by Elementor
Colourful WordPress themes listed on themeforest.net
Colourful WordPress themes listed on themeforest.net

WordPress developers can build all sorts of complex website structures by making use of WordPress’ powerful internal template architecture.

You’re not just restricted to a standard approach which page builders can sometimes encourage.

You can feel free to explore, innovate and experiment with whatever your imagination can conjure up.

This might be desireable if:

  • You have a particularly innovative or creative design which would be hard to represent in the very literal and linear grid-based designer that Elementor and other page builder tools offer.
  • You want to include a lot of animation or dynamic funcitonality. Features like this often benefit more from lightweight, scaffold-like website structures with more focus on the interactivity between elements, something that page builders may struggle with as the complexity of the page grows
  • Data-heavy websites. Page builders are natively designed to handle static content and don’t cope well when presented with a task to e.g. create a fluid and responsive administrative portal or complex multi-user Software as a Service (SaaS) app.

Custom Post Types

You can also make use of a powerful feature of WordPress known as “Custom Post Types“.

Using the custom post type system means you can define new types of data, outside the default post and page types which WordPress offers by default.

  • For example, you might want to create a “Property” post type if you’re building a property portal or real estate website.
  • Or a post type called “Document” if you want to track particular types of documents internally within your website.

Adding this extra layer of flexibility on top of the existing WordPress template hierarchy and plugin system means there’s almost unlimited scope for building extremely useful and engaging websites for your own personal use, your business, your customers – whoever you want to build for, the tools are there.

Innovative design and animation from https://5yn3rgy.com/
Innovative design and animation from 5yn3rgy.com

Benefits Of Hand-coded WordPress Templates

There are many reasons why a WordPress developer might choose to build a template from scratch using code and a suitable code editor:

  • Some clients also appreciate the ease of administration that comes with a more direct, hand-coded approach.Page builder tools like Elementor can sometimes be more time-intensive.Especially if editing a lot of pages or documents at once, it can take a while to load up each page, make the necessary changes and repeat.With a custom approach, you can edit content directly via uncluttered text fields or inputs designed specifically with your requirements in mind.
  • You can also think outside the box and harness the raw power of HTML, CSS and Javascript without limitations.This can create incredibly dynamic, visually appealing and extremely engaging 3D visuals or interactive animations. 
  • The code can be kept lean and efficient and guided by extremely precise requirements, without having to stick within the guidelines imposed by pre-existing templates or builder systems.

There’s benefits and drawbacks to both approaches, though both can be utilised to build extremely powerful and engaging websites. It all comes down to the needs and wishes of your customers or stakeholders. Whatever you’re looking for, we can figure out the best approach and take it from there.

WordPress – an all-round champion

Whatever your website WordPress requirements are, WordPress will be able to offer solutions. Speak to Solarise about custom WordPress developer services if you’d like to learn more.
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About the author

Robin is the dedicated developer behind Solarise.dev. With years of experience in web development, he's committed to delivering high-quality solutions and ensuring websites run smoothly. Always eager to learn and adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape, Robin believes in the power of collaboration and sharing knowledge. Outside of coding, he enjoys diving into tech news and exploring new tools in the industry.

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