As with practically anyone who considers themselves a digital native, I dig using Twitter. One of the things I love the most is seeing various people’s opinions on many things (not everything, but I digress), especially when it’s related to an interest of my own.
Last week, Baratunde tweeted the following:
remember when "apps" used to be called "programs?" Let's bring that back.
— Baratunde (@baratunde) January 29, 2013
Though I respect the opinion, and definitely get where he’s coming from – probably more than I’m going to convey in this post – I disagree with the sentiment.
I Used To Be “That Guy”
First off, you can ask anyone that’s known me for an extended period of time: When it comes to words like “coding” or “software” or “developer,” I used to have very strict definitions as to what I considered each to be.
As arrogant as it makes me sound, it irked me that others would call themselves “developers,” when they weren’t familiar with certain ins-and-outs of programming languages, how compilers work, how data is transmitted across the wire, design patterns, how software design works, etc, etc, etc.
Literally, it goes on and on.
Thankfully we mature.
The truth of it is, if you’re writing anything that goes into a computer system or computer application that is not English (or your native language) – be it CSS or C++ – you’re writing code; therefore, you’re coding.
The thing is, no matter how much you really know about any given topic in the development space, someone will always know more.As such, you can’t define yourself as a developer if you know more than someone else, because that someone who knows more than you could do the same to you.
Apps or Programs: Which Is It?
So what does this have to do with the previously mentioned tweet? Simply put, years ago, I used to be that guy that would take a hard stance and say that “they are programs, they aren’t apps, so stop calling them as such.”
But the truth is that I believe “app” or “application” is a significantly better term.
First, when it comes to developing software, one of the things that developers love to talk about is the amount of care, craftsmanship, and/or care for the end user that we have.
But is that really true? For some, definitely; for others, definitely not. And it’s obvious.
Here’s the thing: Programs aren’t meant to do one thing and that’s solve problems.
The thing is, the average person doesn’t talk about a “program” in that regard. To them, a program is something that runs on a computer. A computer program will rarely be described as something that solves a problem that they have.
Applications, on the other hand, is a much better term.
Apps Over Programs
For those developers, companies, and firms that believe that their software is tailored for the end user, then the entire experience – that is, from the moment the user downloads and installs the program to when they begin using it for their work – needs to result in feeling that their problem was solved.
People don’t speak in terms of finding programs for their problems, but they definitely speak in terms of finding solutions or applications to their problems.
In other words, they need to feel that they’ve found an application to their problem.
So whatever dialog that you and/or your team use internally is fine. Case in point, my team and I have opted to use the word beta for a number of things that we’re working on, but we’ve opted not to use the word publicly simply because that word has been ruined by other large companies and we don’t want to set improper expectations for our users.
In short, it doesn’t mean what it once did.
Similarly, “apps” are the new “programs.” Call them whatever you’d like internally, but the mainstream are calling them “apps” or “applications,” and if you truly believe that your software is a solution to a problem that your customers have, then calling them “applications” should be perfectly fine.
Does This Relate To WordPress?
I almost didn’t bother talking about WordPress in this particular post, mainly because I think the point stands on its own, but WordPress is software – or, ahem, an application – and the majority of what I share here is oriented around exactly that.
So this raises the question: Are there apps for WordPress?
Though I’ve already discussed this before, the short answer is yes.
- Themes are applications for the design and/or presentation of WordPress data
- Plugins are applications for extending WordPress functionality
Although there’s definitely an ongoing debate as to where we should draw the line in theme and plugin functionality, these two definitions are usually accepted by the community as a whole.
So whether or not you want to say that you build themes, software, plugins, apps, programs, or whatever, doesn’t matter. But think of the user.
After all, they are the ones who have the problems that need to be solved. We’re the ones that can provide those applications.