With tomorrow being arguably one of the largest holidays in the world, I thought that it might be a decent change of pace of the posts and offer up something a little bit shorter and a little more open ended in hopes of getting some feedback from the rest of you WordPress designers, developers, bloggers, and other users.

So here’s the deal: Back when you first became acquainted with WordPress, you started at ground zero. We all did.

Sure, there might have been a few things that we knew – like how blogging work, or how HTML and PHP worked together, but we weren’t necessarily familiar with WordPress templating nor the WordPress API (or any part of the API for that matter).

But with diligence and over a long enough period of time, we get better at what we do. Sure, we end up realizing just how much we don’t know, but we also continue to add more and more tools to our arsenal.

The thing about doing this is that sometimes it takes us longer than we’d like, or we learn things the hardware. So here’s my questions:

Knowing what you know now, if you could go back to teach yourself WordPress or, rather, something about WordPress the proper way the first time around, what would that be?

I’ll go first: Unashamedly, it’d actually be three things (in no particular order):

  • Better techniques for writing plugins
  • The Settings API
  • WP_Query

Okay, the question still stands. Your turn. Don’t leave me hanging as the only person answering my own question.

That’s like being the only one showing up to your own party.

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Join the conversation! 14 Comments

  1. If I could go back I with a proper understanding OOP approach and separate the purpose of plugins (business logic) and themes (visual logic) I would have saved a few years of re-working my projects I’m sure. I appreciate that WordPress made me feel like I knew PHP when I didn’t which inspired me to then actually learn PHP. Shout out to the community because when I say WordPress I’m not sure referring to its core codebase; WordPress has one of the best communities in my opinion.

  2. The big one for me would be the importance of using child themes when building off of an existing theme. My early projects, I modified those themes directly.

  3. Mine would also be about writing better plugins, especially how to write

    plugins that mind their own business. By that I mean plugins that do

    nothing but register hooks when they have no other business to do. My early

    plugins would load and run a lot of code on every request, whether it was

    ultimately needed or not. I learned better, but current me could whip

    younger me into shape a lot faster!

  4. If I could go back, then I would have taken a subscription of Pippins tutorials to learn WordPress, plugins, etc. and also would have made my team run through all those tutorials in their first month.

  5. For me the biggest thing was learning how to look at the Core code as much as I can instead of trying to search the internet for a ready solution for the problem, most of the times I did that I’ve learned that WordPress core codebase already had something that would do what I was looking for, or nearly it.

  6. I have dabbled with theme and plugin code and am in the process right now of head down code and education efforts. That said, I have been a “full stack” (my UI skills are what add the quotes) Java web developer for about a decade with other languages, frameworks, and tech thrown in along the way.

    I am treating my WP educational efforts the same way I treat all of my previous education.

    Find quality education tools (I am a big fan of Team Treehouse right now).

    Find quality developer blogs (Such as your little web home here Tom).

    Dig into any “canon” code you can find such as that found in the WP core.

    Code, code, code…. then code more.

    Fear no mistake, just fix it and move on. I tend to learn by breaking things and then fixing them.

    Don’t get complicated with your tools until you know what you should or shouldn’t like. Basic editors are a great place to force you to do more yourself in the beginning.

    As I get comfortable with a specific area within development, then I start looking for best practices and will rewrite code to learn the best practice. It is almost like I allow myself to feel the pain of having to rewrite code in a better manner so as to make the lesson stick…lol.

    Lastly, once I am feeling pretty confident in what I am doing I will find senior devs and beg them to do a code review. Even if they don’t find anything wrong per se, it is always valuable to get another perspective.

    I am currently living around #7…ish.

    Anyway, that is my .02.

    •  I have been a “full stack” (my UI skills are what add the quotes) Java web developer for about a decade with other languages, frameworks, and tech thrown in along the way.

      I think you can still be full stack as long as you know how to build the UI that, say, a designer gives you :). 

       Code, code, code…. then code more. Fear no mistake, just fix it and move on. I tend to learn by breaking things and then fixing them.

      This really is a big deal as it relates to learning code. I mean, I think it caters to a specific learning style and that style also happens to be my own so I definitely identify with it ;). 

       Don’t get complicated with your tools until you know what you should or shouldn’t like. Basic editors are a great place to force you to do more yourself in the beginning.

      True! And even some people stick with basic editors throughout their career. I know that I use a moderate editor in place of more powerful tools right now. I know people who are more experienced who use simpler editors, and I know people who are more experienced who use more complex editors.

      Whatever it is that helps you get your task done, done well, and done right (or as close to right as possible) is fine.

       Lastly, once I am feeling pretty confident in what I am doing I will find senior devs and beg them to do a code review. Even if they don’t find anything wrong per se, it is always valuable to get another perspective.

      Love code reviews. I used to fear ‘em when I started out in my career – now I’m a huge fan and advocate for them.

  7. Wow – I’m just starting out with Website Development. I’ve built 10 sites or so. I’m teaching myself WordPress as I go along. Is there a path of tuition anyone can recommend? I’ve been experimenting with CSS and HTML code. Should I concentrate on one route or another? Can anyone point me in the right direction?

    Kind Regards

    Mark

  8. I’m actually pretty happy with the process that led me into WordPress development, but I think of a few things as key:

    1) Attending WordCamps, meetups and forming relationships

    2) Sharing my code and getting critical feedback (through writing tutorials or plugins)

    3) Submitting my first theme to wordpress.org

    If I was to do it all over again, I might try to start a small development shop where I could get more mentorship and regular code reviews. Being able to tap someone on the shoulder and ask a question rather than searching through forum posts and Google for hours on end would have been really valuable.

    • If I was to do it all over again, I might try to start a small development shop where I could get more mentorship and regular code reviews. Being able to tap someone on the shoulder and ask a question rather than searching through forum posts and Google for hours on end would have been really valuable.

      I think that’s actually a really good idea. I’m a big fan of code reviews and trying to mentor one another – the thing is that I think it’s hard to do that. The people who are capable of doing that are usually very busy and heads down on things, and the people who think they are capable of doing it usually have yet to solve complex programming problems.

  9. Re-reading this, I realize I left out a small but important word “start at a small development shop”, not “start one”.

    At my last place of employment, if one developer wrote the code for an update, bugfix, etc, a different developer would be responsible for the QA (Quality Assurance / Code Review) and pushing to production. I think this makes a lot of sense- even the most senior developer can make stupid mistakes.

    But sure, I’m well aware some shops don’t have a process like this. It’s definitely important to ask questions if you looking for a role that can provide mentorship.

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