Being an exceptional WordPress developer is about knowing the environment, the tools, and the community of WordPress development. It is also about dealing with challenges and having the right attitude towards the WordPress system. I have prepared a few points that will help you take the next step and become a truly exceptional WordPress developer.
I know, this might sound obvious. I mean, WordPress is written in PHP so how can anyone build WordPress sites without it. Well, times have changed and the abundance of drag and drop builders out there has created a new kind of WordPress developers that do not use PHP. If you belong to that new generation of developers, don’t be discouraged. It does not mean you do not have what it takes. It just means that you can be better, and that is awesome. PHP is a very friendly language with a ton of amazing functions. You do not need to learn them all at once (that’s practically impossible). But I do recommend doing one of those Video tutorials on lynda.com like this one for example. That will open the door for you and make all these weird dollar signs start to make sense.
What template part is this
One of the main moves you have to make if you want to become an awesome WordPress developer is doing less on the front end with HTML, JS, and CSS and more on the back end with PHP. The problem begins when you want to change something and can not find where to change it. This happens a lot with WordPress because it is built with various template files that are calling each other in different locations. It could be quite daunting in the beginning. One of the coolest tricks is to use a plugin that will let you know which templates are currently being displayed in the browser. One of the best ones is What the file. Check it out.
The Codex is your friend
So, you got the hang of PHP and you are feeling more at home when trying to go over those template files in the back end. Well, the fun does not stop here. WordPress itself has many functions that are commonly used in themes and plugins and you will get to know them sooner or later. Some of them are awesome and some of them are weird, but like with everything, each developer has their bag of tricks and favorite functions they use all the time. The best source for learning these functions is the WordPress Codex. It is kind of dull looking and seems confusing at first. I strongly suggest that you refer to it as much as possible. At one point, it will just feel like home.
Build your own plugins
When building a WordPress website, there are times when you need to add new functionality. This functionality can be as simple as a new contact form, a like button, or more complex like a map displaying locations of recent posts on a map with links to various sponsors (it happens). When you are just starting out, you will probably head over to the vast plugin library that WordPress offers, and sometimes, that is a good call. But I suggest that you take these opportunities to hone your skills and try and build the simple functionalities yourself. Plugins in WordPress are just pieces of code you can attach and detach from the main code base. That mechanism is great for people who are starting out, cause it basically eliminates the chance of you breaking anything in the website. If something goes wrong, you can always just deactivate the plugin. So next time your client wants you to add a Mailchimp form, go ahead and build it yourself.
Build More, modify less
So as you are probably gathering, I am a big supporter of building stuff yourself. From my experience, the result was almost always better. The main reason is that you build exactly what the project needs and no more. This fact keeps the website lean and fast and prevents conflicts between different plugins and themes all written by different authors. So my biggest advice to you would be to “Build More, Modify Less”. It will make you a better developer, will make you know the WordPress environment like no other, and will give you confidence when facing new challenges.
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