The Low Barrier To Entry of WordPress

Oftentimes, one of the great things you hear about WordPress is its low barrier to entry.

Depending on who you ask, this may be seen as a good thing or this may be seen as a bad thing. Whatever the perspective, I think there are inherent problems with treating any language and/or platform that way.

At best, experienced developers can pick it up quickly. At worst, beginners feel as if they’re lacking because this “low barrier” doesn’t actually feel so low.

A Low Barrier To Entry

First, every language and/or platform has a barrier to entry. How it’s set is usually dependent on how much experience a given developer has with the tools, similar languages, and the understanding of each of the moving parts that make up the application.

If a person has never done any type of web development, then WordPress doesn’t have a low barrier to entry; instead, they’re left with having to work with a database, a web server, and at least four languages – easily more if you include pre-processors – to make something happen.

How fast do I need to do to break the language barrier?

Tack on an unfamiliar API, a lack of understanding of relational databases, and a combination of procedural and object-oriented programming and you’ve got a lot to learn.

Other Web Development

But is that all together different from any other web development?

Perhaps you’re just trying to build a single with HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. All three of these things have their own learning curve let alone figuring out how they all fit together.

Or maybe you’re trying to do something with a more advanced stack such as Rails – then you have a framework, the Ruby language, the standard web languages, and other framework features (such as migrations) to learn.

Or turn to something completely different like Objective-C or Swift for building tools for iOS. At this point, you have a completely new foundation off of which to build an app – an environment, design principles, a new language, a strict compiler, and more.

Use The Right Language

Everything has a barrier to entry but to claim something has a high or low barrier is dangerous because  it may make some potential programmers over-confident in their abilities, or it may make others feel dumb.

Beaking the Sound Bearier
Such a low barrier for bearier jokes.

Rather than describing things in those terms, first learn a bit about those to whom you’re talking. Since all things are relative, it may be safe to use that type of language; however, if not, be realistic and share what each person will find when jumping into whatever environment they’re headed.

7 Replies to “The Low Barrier To Entry of WordPress”

  1. My main disagreement is that, yes, you need to know a lot of different technologies to get WordPress started, but you don’t need to know much about each of those to get it working. When I started, I didn’t know how PHP worked, but I could see the_title() displayed the post’s title in my template. I didn’t know about MySQL, but I could go into my host’s console and get a username and password for a database. I didn’t know how the template hierarchy worked, or how to do HTML/CSS or anything else, but I could edit a theme by copying a few files into another directory, making a few simple changes, and see my changes appear on my site. Adding functionality or changing how things look was as easy as swapping themes or installing plugins.

    Basically, to do really simple stuff, WordPress provides a loooooot of scaffolding for all of the various technologies, and it provided a really easy point-of-entry into programming for me without having to learn super-low-level stuff like PDO and cURL. I probably would generally know a lot less about programming generally if it wasn’t for WordPress’s low barrier to entry.

    It’s partially a question of where beginners should get started though. There are enough hosts with one-click-installs for WP that you really can make the barrier to entry so low that anyone can figure out how it works. You don’t even have to know those techs to get started, and you can start learning them as you want to, rather than learning them all at once.

    1. Basically, to do really simple stuff, WordPress provides a loooooot of scaffolding for all of the various technologies, and it provided a really easy point-of-entry into programming for me without having to learn super-low-level stuff like PDO and cURL.

      You bring up some good points. And you’re right. There’s a lot that can easily be done with little understanding, but there is a limit that you’ll hit.

      What I fear seeing is those who get so confident in the small stuff that they end up thinking that’s all there is to WordPress, get tasked with a more advanced job, and realize their up the creek without a paddle, so to speak.

      It’s partially a question of where beginners should get started though.

      Definitely! Depending on what your nature is, you may want to go with themes, with plugins, with widgets, or with minor modifications (like say maybe child-themes).

      But there’s a wide breadth of things that one can learn – or must learn – in order to get more involved with WordPress. The funny this is – as with so many other things – the more you learn, the more you realize how much you really don’t know and thus the more you end up having to learn.

      It’s a vicious – but fun – cycle :).

  2. Like any other programming ‘environment’ WordPress has his learning curve. On the other side even developing for WordPress has a lot of levels.
    Just by looking at the code of products, you can find commercial products that were developed by starters and you can free products that were developed by professional.
    The code style and structure is very different and the real problem is not the entry level but the time it’s taking a starter to become a pro (sometimes it’s just never happen).
    There are many great learning material on the web that will teach you how to code for the WordPress environment but none of the them take you to the pro level and on the end it’s up up to every developer to learned it on it’s own and from my point of view this is the real entry point.

    1. Like any other programming ‘environment’ WordPress has his learning curve. On the other side even developing for WordPress has a lot of levels.

      Agreed – and it really depends on what all you’re aiming to create.

      Just by looking at the code of products, you can find commercial products that were developed by starters and you can free products that were developed by professional.

      Exactly.

      The code style and structure is very different and the real problem is not the entry level but the time it’s taking a starter to become a pro (sometimes it’s just never happen).

      And at what level are you a pro? Are you a beginner with plugins but pro at themes? That’s just an example, of course, but it’s like I mentioned in an earlier comment, it’s hard to become an “expert” because the more you learn, the more you realize how much you don’t know.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.