For the last couple weeks A few months ago, I’ve been building I built a WordPress site for a project that I’m doing with a friend.
Ah WordPress… 😄
It’s a CMS that’s the backbone to over a quarter of all the websites on the internet, and a source of endless grief for many, but does it actually deserve it’s reputation?
For those who haven’t used a CMS before, it basically makes it possible to easily change the content of a website, or even run a blog, without having to write code each time. In the case of WordPress, the initial setup may or may not involve any coding, depending on what kind of site you want.
The site I built from scratch on the other hand is another beast entirely. It started out as a static HTML page, one with no content that could change dynamically, and with the help of a great piece of software called Pinegrow, was turned into a full fledged custom WordPress site. The process was simpler than I had expected, but still quite a bit more complex than the setup for this blog.
Turns out, a WordPress site is a collection of about 1500 different files, lots of PHP, and some database stuff that I still don’t fully understand. Usually all that code runs on a server somewhere and somehow generates the HTML pages that show up in the browser. It’s also possible to run this kind of server locally.
But, if you wanted to build a WordPress site from scratch without any special tools, there’s a good chance that it would be kind of painful. You’d have to download the WordPress software, know PHP, run a local server, and learn all of the intricacies that go with building the theme. It’s all documented, but it’s also quite a bit more difficult than writing a static piece of code. I personally wouldn’t attempt it without a better grasp of PHP, and I’d need a pretty compelling reason to not just use Pinegrow.
There’s also the issue of plugins and updates. Plugins are third-party add-ons that extend the basic functionality of WordPress. It can be simple stuff like making buttons that look pretty, to full fledged e-commerce solutions. Like all third-party software, there’s always a certain amount of risk involved, especially for smaller, less popular plugins. Like all software, every time you update it there’s a chance that it will break, and WordPress is no exception. Plugins, while useful, are possible points of failure during updates. Use them, but it’s probably not a good idea to install tons unless you need to.
When I first wanted to start this blog, I was incredibly reluctant to use WordPress. I’d heard nothing but bad things about it, presumably because the tools to develop for it weren’t always as good as they are today, and I was quick to try to find an alternative. After trying it out and giving it a chance however, I’ve actually started to like it! From a blog like this one that could be set up in under an hour, to a complex publication like TechCrunch or The New Yorker, it’s only as difficult and complex as you want it to be, which is why I’ve decided to stop hating it.