How WordPress Development has Changed
And not necessarily for the better…
There was a time in the recent past, where building a website with WordPress was a far more involved process than it is today.
Back when a WordPress website was the perfect mix of a beautiful Theme and a powerful set of plugins that controlled the site’s functionality.
“The best applications are coded properly. This sounds like an obvious statement, but by ‘properly’, I mean that the code not only does it’s job well, but is also easy to add to, maintain and debug’.” ~ Md. Ibrahim Rashid
A quick Google search I ran today for “my WordPress site broke when I swapped themes” returned well over 170 million results… so what’s going on?
The rapid growth of WordPress from a blogging platform into a CMS has opened the door to thousands more web developers that would otherwise never have had the accessibility and freedom to create websites in the past.
By being such an easy system to create with and giving developers unbridled freedom, WordPress has become both one of the most accessible development systems in the world, as well as one of the largest repositories of crowbarred together code dumps on the internet.
As developers, we are the ones who have to take responsibility for the code we put out online.
The fault doesn’t necessarily lie with the developers though, it’s as much of a flaw in the system as a whole as it is in those who use it.
By allowing developers the freedom to create an entire website from within a system designed to be easily swapped from one Theme to another, it was only a matter of time before developers started looking for ‘quick fixes’ to be able to throw together a website to hand out to their clients.
So what exactly caused the problem?
Sadly, we did. Us, the developers.
As developers, we are the ones who have to take responsibility for the code we put out online. Regardless of our dislike for a project or a client, or the tight deadline we’re working to to accommodate our client’s schedules, ultimately, we make the decision to build our websites the way we do.
Now, I don’t know whether it’s just down to the nature of web development as a whole, but websites today (especially, for some reason, WordPress websites) don’t seem to be as revered as they were 10 years or so ago when I first started building them.
Back then, web development was still a novelty to a lot of people. The internet was still practically in it’s infancy and was on the verge of exploding into the digital media hub that is is today.
Still, companies and individuals knew that the people who could build those websites and give them that real competitive edge in their industries where like 24 karat diamonds nestled in among the rocks.
Today though, with DIY website builders, hosting providers offering “15 minute website setup” as an included part of their service and the cost of bespoke built websites dropping through the floor, it’s becoming harder and harder for the real, solid, experienced developers to keep afloat above the agencies and service companies that offer the All-In-One package solutions.
The outcome of that? We drop our prices and take on more clients, finding those quick-fix solutions that let us build quick, one off websites for our clients and then move on to the next one as soon as it’s done.
Web development has turned from being a niche, bespoke service offered only by an elite few to a mass-produced conveyor belt service built with cheap, imported parts that might as well have “Made in China” stamped into them.
So what can we do to change things?
Surely there has to be a solution, right? Well, there is. But you might not like it…
Above all else, we have to take pride in our work.
To change the way things are going to be, we have to change the way things are now. As developers, we have to take up the mantle, we have to make a stand and, above all else, we have to take pride in our work.
Whatever project you’re working on right now, stop.
Take a step back, look at what your client wants and look at what you’ve promised to deliver. Is it a reasonable goal?
Is it something that, at the end of the day when that piece of code irretrievably goes out into the big bad world of the internet, forever scrutinised by your peers and co-workers, is it something you’d be willing to put a picture of your face beside?
If the answer is no then stop, now.
Re-evaluate what you’re doing. Look back to when you first started building websites, what your motivation was. The pride you took in every single line of code you wrote. Get back in touch with that version of yourself and imagine how you’d build this knowing what you know now, but with that pride and enthusiasm.
Forget about current expectations. Forget about what everyone else is doing or the fact that you need to build the project quickly. If deadlines are too tight, tell the client that the deadline is too tight.
Explain to them what their options are; that they can either make do with a website that you’re not 100% happy with, or you can go back an re-evaluate what the absolute best solution for their project is.
It’s a tough decision to have to make. But, in the long run, it’s going to change not only your life, but the lives of web developers around the world.
If, together, we can bring web development back to what it really is; passionate, lovingly coded websites that we can truly take pride in, then every web developer in the world will truly benefit from that one, single change.
The ball is in our court now, it’s time to decide what we want to do with it.
Do you agree or disagree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!