WordPress as an Environment

As WordPress has matured over the past few years, my perspective has shifted to think of it as the environment I develop in. I no longer really associate myself as being a PHP developer, a front-end or back-end developer, an architect, or a designer.

This both scares and delights me.

To be a good WordPress developer, it helps to understand how all of the skills come together to create the perspectives I just mentioned, and how they apply specifically to WordPress — far beyond the conventions of everyone’s favorite PHP stack.

  • Front-end WordPress development requires knowledge of WordPress’s theme options, template tags, template hierarchy, theme hierarchy, and action order.
  • Back-end WordPress development requires knowledge of WordPress’s object cache, action order, what filters to use when and why, when to use custom tables, and having a plan to scale beyond WordPress’s built in table schema.
  • Architecting for WordPress requires extensive knowledge of WordPress’s action order, WordPress’s included functions and APIs, the WordPress coding standards, and liberal use of phpdoc and inline documentation.
  • Designing WordPress themes requires an intimate knowledge of what WordPress is actually designed to do, and then being able to think outside of that box to create visually stunning sites that push WordPress to it’s limits.

Because of this, it’s safe to say WordPress is our environment now, and PHP is just the platform it runs on. WordPress is popular and complex enough now where it’s a great time to specialize on one area, and become the go-to person in that area. Taking this a step further, focusing on individual plugins or themes is actually where we are today.

Part of what makes being a WordPress developer so fun is being able to load-up a new installation and start creating new and amazing things in a matter of seconds. As WordPress evolves with smarter warnings, sandboxing of plugin activations, and doing_it_wrong() notices, we’re watching WordPress shape-shift from a bunch of PHP scripts on a server, into the environment we create, live inside of, build enhancements for, all while individually influencing it’s direction.

It’s at this point, WordPress and it’s community of contributors deserve much more recognition and thanks than they usually get.

Building an environment, is hard to do.

“WordPress as an Environment” is what comes next; a future where WordPress shields us from annoying things it can detect and protect us from, both as users and developers; an environment where WordPress can detect two plugins are trying to perform the same action, and safely prevent conflicts; one where several posts of different types will be allowed to have the same slug without colliding with each other. More over, I can’t wait until WordPress allows plugins to register template parts, so completely theme-agnostic features can be built with no additional effort. (BuddyPress, bbPress, Shopp, and WP eCommerce are making huge strides here.)

When you think of WordPress as an Environment, you realize how much we depend on WordPress core to protect us from ourselves and each other. A future where the correct safeguards are in place to help us not shoot our own feet or get caught in cross-fire is one I hugely look forward to.


7 responses to “WordPress as an Environment”

  1. (Edited for grammar and typos.)

  2. I couldn’t agree more. BuddyPress, to me, falls under this same mantra, an environment to develop not just a “social network”.

    When I release next BP mobile I will show two ways to use it and it is going to flip people’s idea about using BP for mobile apps.

  3. “…fun is being able to load-up a new installation and start creating new and amazing things in a matter of seconds.”

    Also couldn’t agree more. That’s what my website (and life) is currently all about! 🙂

  4. I just started using Twenty Twelve and found your blog listed as someone using it well. I’m curious how you posted your community in the sidebar, a feature I really like. Is that a built in widget or something you created on your own.

    Love the hydrangea pictures above. I’m a big fan.

    1. Neat! The community section is a widget here on WordPress.com. It looks at comments, post likes, and a few other bits to come up with a random group of Gravatars.

    2. Thanks, John! I just added the widget. Love it!

  5. […] the past, I’ve gone on the record and called it something even bigger, but none of these descriptions truly accurately describe what WordPress actually is, at least to […]