T’was the summer of 2009. when I got approached to create a WordPress based website for a small company. That ended up being my first WordPress project.
Prior to that, I had 2 years of professional experience with PHP. I was working for a small company that had a bespoke CMS (as most of the companies at the time did). At the time, I did install a WordPress couple of times just to see how the installation process works and to get inspired by their admin UI (it was top notch even then). I did know about WordPress hooks but for the life of me couldn’t grasp how it all worked.
But hey, when a friend asked me to step in for him (as he was too busy at the time) and if I’ll be able to do it, I was all like “of course, what kind of question is that?!” Boy did that arrogance bite me in the ass later on :)
WordPress 2.8 was just released, and client chose the brand new Headway theme (released couple of months back). Now that I look back at it, customer requests were pretty basic. Adjust colors, remove few items from footer (like copyright message) and stuff like that.
Oh, and it had to be multilingual (in English and Croatian). Now, at the time I didn’t know WPML existed (it did, version 1.1 was released at that time) so I set up two WordPress installations one for each language (one was in “en” subfolder and the other in “hr”). I managed to convince the client that this was the way to go and he was OK with that :)
At that time, when I found myself in unknown territory (unknown code or someone else’s project) I fixed stuff by searching for problematic code in the code base and fixing it right there. I didn’t take the time to familiarize myself with the code or the proper way to do that.
As you imagine, I wasn’t aware of WordPress update system and that I mustn’t touch any of the core files. Or any of the theme files for that matter :)
So I went ahead and modified theme footer template and remove all mentions of copyright text. Easy-peasy, I’ve search for the “copyright” mention in the code and deleted it. Similarly, I needed to (not exactly sure what) modify some of the code found in the WP core and I quickly changed the code in one of the core files and the problem was solved.
The website was all finished and uploaded to production. It all worked flawlessly until the first WP core update. After the client reported the issue, I quickly located what was the problem — the files were somehow different than mine. But still, I wasn’t aware that the WordPress can update itself. I re-uploaded the “correct” files and left it at that. I thought that I messed that up when uploading due to having two separate WP installations.
It took me a couple of WP updates before I figured it out. And a lot of hours trying to debug the whole wrong files thing. After that, I did what I had to do in the first place, before jumping in and simply replace the code.
I read the documentation, figured out the how the WP actions and filters worked and were able to achieve what was needed by using my new found knowledge.
I never got paid for the work that I did, even though some of the work I did quite a few times :D And I’m OK with that. I did learn a lot and sometimes that is worth even more than monetary compensation.
What was your first WordPress experience like?
tl;dr First WordPress project, modified core and theme files, files got updated and my code got overridden - several times before I figured out what was going on