Some years ago — around 2013 this was — I gave WordPress my first go. I remember the ‘famous five minute install’ then spending a few minutes on the Admin screen and thinking it was the most complicated thing I’d seen in my life. While panicking, I tried to undo what I’d done. Thus bitten on my first dive into the deep end, I had an endearing trepidation in WordPress’ general direction… and did everything I could to avoid using it again.
This led me to a series of interesting decisions — i.e. page builders in their incubation phase. I don’t remember all of the different services I tried. The last one was wix.com last year. Actually, it was pretty nice. But I spent hours developing this simple website. It must have been 80 hours setting everything up. Anyway, it seemed ‘good enough for government work.’
It was an okay website, and a great personal brand. I’ll build a Case Study for it eventually, because I’ll launch it again sometime… but for now, well…
Each of these page-builders had one thing in common: they left me feeling bewildered. Just lost in a forest of trying to style things visually and walking uphill both ways in order to do it. Each time, you hike up the same learning curve for the various different providers.
I mean I had to keep re-learning how to build websites every time I built a website because I was using different page-building software(s).
It worked, but left me feeling deeply unsatisfied; and every time I began to research a better solution, all roads lead to WordPress — which is no less bewildering for the uninitiated despite the intervening decades. (Though, these days, it is bewildering because of the sheer quantity of plugins and themes, then being overly technical.) But this time, when the time came to build a website, I decided to go with WordPress… mostly because everything else is just as complicated.
Thus it was that I downloaded WordPress 5.0 to my (this) website… and though I poked around for a few minutes in the new Gutenberg Editor and the Elementor Page Builder, there that (highly hypothetical) website sat for months. It’s not that it wouldn’t have been simple — if not time consuming — to build a website, it was that I was just so burnt out learning about things with an expiration date. Elementor is a wonderful program, but how long until some other, even more intuitive, program becomes king of the hill? Build me a website, Siri!
Enough! Enough! Enough, I say! Enough! I had finally had it, and decided to surrender to the vast gravitational pull of WordPress.
It was LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) which enabled this deep dive. I cannot speak highly enough of the learning platform. And thanks to an enthusiastic client, I was able to arrange my time and space so I could go into a WordPress Deep Dive in January of this year (2021) and became a “Junior WordPress Developer.” Within a few short months, I had learned enough code — PHP, HTML, CSS, and a smidge of JS — to be able to read and work with the WordPress core code.
WordPress is SO Considerate!
Now that I’ve spent some time learning to code, and learning to understand the “WordPress Core” I am here to tell you that it is just the kindest and most nurturing environment a burgeoning web-developer could hope to grow up in. WordPress — like other ‘open source’ environments — are built to be easily understood, and to teach you as you go along. It is brilliant. No wonder 25% of the internet supposedly uses it.
Don’t get me wrong. There is definitely a learning curve. (One which the good people at LinkedIn Learning can help you hike over in record time.) But that is the lovely and brilliant thing! Like I said, and if you want to learn, WordPress brings you along. The coding standards are the best. So once you learn the language, it is a lot like reading poetry. (And most of the time, makes as much sense as poetry does.)
Where the user-front end side of WordPress can be overwhelming and confusing, the code and backend is logical and seamless. For example, many of the individual pages of this website — like the landing page — were custom built. There are underlying parts of the WordPress code, Template Tags and Conditional Statements, that make coding this type of website a reasonable task. One does not need to reinvent the wheel… (or even have to understand it particularly well.) It is just SO considerate and helpful!
There are other parts of WordPress which are totally awesome. Like, this blog post was composed using the Gutenberg Editor, which is a LOT of fun to use from a writer’s perspective. The Editor does a MUCH better job of coding your blog posts for SEO purposes than other blog-processers I have used. In fact, Gutenberg is very powerful layout software in it’s own right. We’re talking advanced enough to make Adobe’s InDesign look clunky.
The neat thing is how these different functions work together. I didn’t have to learn how to validate data against my website’s database for my landing page, or how to code React JS for my Gutenberg blog compositions. I certainly can learn how to do these things, and will eventually, but meanwhile, the heavy lifting is being done for me and I can get to work.
I ❤ WordPress
Now that I’ am a few months into this Junior WordPress Developer thing, I am very happy I went through with it. That unsatisfied feeling is gone, and I have far more control over how my designs appear in the ones and zeros. Actually, I can dig into the code of any website and begin to understand it.
At this stage, incidentally, one of the BIG advantages of building your own website from [relative] scratch is the amount of control you gain over terms, and terminology. For example, if you use a page builder, you end up with a bunch of extra fluff! Dividers, and sections, and sidebars and who knows what else. This is how page builders work! They make these [highly hypothetical] boxes to put your content in, but because it’s all automatic, the number of ‘boxes’ they have to put your content in is absurd. It’s like one of those Russian dolls that contains a smaller doll, that contains a smaller doll, that contains etc. Just imagine THAT for every box of things you try to display on screen. Now, just imagine a search engine having to crawl each of those boxes every time it needs to find out the information unique to you while simultaneously ignoring the information created by the page builder.
Understanding the intermediate WordPress Code solves all of this. Since you are creating your own HTML the semantic information can be far more clear and straight forward and coded directly into every element. Yes, very satisfying indeed.
Before this year, I was so intimidated by WordPress. Now, I wonder how I ever made due without it.