How Learning Programming Will Take your WordPress Site to the Next Level
Photo by Damian Zaleski via Unsplash
If you know "enough to be dangerous" when it comes to WordPress but you're looking to learn more, this article is for you!
Because of its ease of use, WordPress is used by technical and non-technical people alike. There are two common terms for those who can install WordPress and do some basic editing like setting up a theme and installing plugins: Implementors or Power Users.
A WordPress Developer, on the other hand, knows how to write themes and plugins and has a solid understanding of The Loop and hooks (actions & filters).
It's important to determine if you actually want to be a developer or if you'd rather stay a power user. Just because you are not a developer, doesn't mean you cannot sell WordPress sites. There are great template builders out there for those who don't want to write code. A couple of common ones are Beaver Builder and Divi.
Learn WordPress Development: Making the Switch From Power User to Developer
There aren't any hard-and-fast requirements to learn about WordPress development, but a solid foundation in the following skills will help:
- HTML/CSS Understanding
Where to Get Started
Install WordPress on localhost for Testing
One of the fundamental pieces of knowledge to have is how to install WordPress on localhost for testing. Testing locally allows you to work more quickly (you don't need to wait for FTP), work in a safer manner, and troubleshoot/plan more effectively.
The basic steps to set up WordPress on localhost are:
If you haven't done a manual WordPress installation before, don't be intimidated by the process. There is a great page in the WordPress Codex that details the entire installation process.
Please Note: I highly recommend using the WordPress Codex as much as possible to find answers to your questions. It is the official resource on WordPress and very rarely has outdated information.
A great way to start learning about themes is to start with Child Themes. Child Themes allow you to take an existing theme and make changes to it, without actually affecting the code within the "parent" theme. The advantages are that you can still receive updates to the parent theme and there's less work for you to do to get up and running. That makes Child Themes the ideal way to start learning about custom themes.
The WordPress Loop is what powers the blog and search functionalities. Understanding how to alter The Loop or run two queries on one page can be incredibly helpful when working on more complicated themes/projects.
Here is a simplified version of The Loop. (Normally, you would have HTML elements within The Loop.)
<?php get_header(); if (have_posts()): while (have_posts()): the_post(); the_content(); endwhile; endif; get_sidebar(); get_footer(); ?>
Building on Your Knowledge
Once you feel you have a handle on the above information, some other topics you can research are:
Where to Go Next
The best way to get better at development is by practicing. Here are some great projects to practice your skills on:
- Convert an HTML/CSS site to a WordPress theme.
- Site Maintenance - Test theme/plugin updates for a client (Read more about 5 Most Common WordPress Errors and How to Fix Them)
- Developing Child Themes
- Reverse Engineering - Recreate themes/plugins that already exist without looking at the code.
- Write small plugins for use on your own site (Read more about How to Submit a Plugin to the WordPress Plugin Directory or Getting Started with Object-Oriented WordPress Plugin Development)
Resources & Networking
One of the best things you can do to help yourself when learning a new technology/language is to build a support group. As developers, we sometimes isolate ourselves to stay focused, but that can lead to burnout.
The WordPress community is a very close-knit network of enthusiastic contributors and volunteers. There are a ton of local Meetups for WordPress as well as WordCamps, which are laid-back conferences for bloggers, developers, designers, and business owners that use WordPress. I urge anyone reading this to find a way to get involved in the community.
Finding a Mentor
Another way to ensure you are on the right track to achieve your career goals is to hire a mentor. Mentoring relationships are especially beneficial if you are working on a certain project or if you are looking for continued help in learning something new. Codementor has a great platform for finding mentors and making sure the mentor will be able to help you before committing to working with them. You can set up repeating schedules, share files, screen share, and rate your mentors.
If you're looking for help on any of the topics covered in this article, please feel free to send me a message on Codementor.