Practical WordPress Development

WordPress Pointers: What’s Required For Development?

When I was in college, I had a year’s worth of classes where we did all of our homework assignments and projects in C.

I specifically remember hearing that if a person couldn’t grasp the concept of pointers and their associated functions, then they may not be best suited for programming. Although I think that understanding this is valuable, I’m not sure I fully agree. I digress.

Every now and then, I come across a new blog post that is breaking down pointers in C. They’re usually of the following flavor:

  • Pointers Made Easy
  • The 10 Step Guide To Understanding Pointers
  • Pointers: Let’s Get The Point!
  • …or something like that

Today, I came across another post doing the same thing. For what it’s worth, I think it’s well-written and I’m actually in favor of keeping this information current in the blogosphere.

But it did get me thinking about “WordPress pointers,” or what is WordPress’ equivalent of pointers?

Perhaps another way of phrasing it would be: What is the one of thing about WordPress development that you’d say:

If you can’t grasp this concept, you may not be suited for WordPress development.

Personally, I’d say it would be one of two things:

  • Actions and Filters
  • The page lifecycle

I could go into more detail, but I’m more interested in hearing what you guys think.

So what are your “WordPress pointers”? What’s the one thing that you consider critical for success in WordPress development?


  1. Japh

    I would agree on Actions and Filters, I think. The page lifecycle is obviously important too, but if you don’t get Actions and Filters, you’re going to have a rough time with WordPress.

    • Tom McFarlin

      Obviously, I generally agree with you – here’s the thing for me, though: there are proper times (or times better suited than others) that actions and filter should be used in the lifecycle.

      For example, you don’t necessarily wanna throw stuff into ‘init’ just because it’ll work, you know?

  2. Wes Cole

    As someone who is learning WordPress and development best practices and how-tos, I would love to see your thoughts on understanding and using actions, filters, and the page life cycle. What are the top 10 things that need to be known about these subjects, in your opinion.


    • Tom McFarlin

      Wes – love the idea. I’ll throw this into my notes and see if I can’t publish a post sooner than later on something like this.

  3. Coen Jacobs

    Definitely actions and filters. It is what makes WordPress so flexible and powerful at the same time. Lean core, can be expanded in any possible way with plugins.

    • Tom McFarlin

      Yeah – like I told Japh, I think they take precedence but knowing when to properly use which action is also dependent on page lifecycle.

      That’s why I have a hard time separating the two :).

  4. Scott Lee

    I suppose I would say proper theme file structure (yeah, I know that’s pretty broad.) But I feel it’s imperative to understand how to logically group functions (especially inside functions.php) and general template structure. Properly organized theme files easy to understand for everyone, not just the person who create the theme.

    Oh and speaking of templates, understanding the Template Hierarchy is pretty dang important too.

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