WordPress has been designed from the ground up to be an easy-to-use blogging platform. Depending on the host, you could be publishing articles in less than half an hour after buying your domain. This fits most freelance bloggers: they install WordPress on their hosting platform, buy a theme, and start posting articles. But when you’re one of the bigger players of online publishing, this doesn’t really cut it. You’ll need a sturdy hosting service, a theme that’s tailored to your style and audience, probably an advertising network and for sure you’ll have to bring some additions to WordPress that weren’t there from the start.
A lot of publishers who are new to WordPress and have prior of knowledge when it comes to web development may think that they can handle both writing and doing maintenance at the same time. And this might even work for a while, but when the site starts to grow big, when you lose account of all the patches and changes that the site suffered, and when you have to post so many articles that you don’t even have time to think about the technical side of the whole thing, the idea of actually having someone who knows what they’re doing starts to sound like a great one. A developer will certainly implement a lot more features than a publisher ever could while also writing articles. He will be there, ready to implement anything that may sound good, so that you will never have to postpone adding functionality to the next month. The last thing that you will need to take into consideration will be bug fixing, since there will always be someone willing to get his hands dirty and do the necessary repairs.
Sorted by what we consider to be more important, here are five essential technical skills every WordPress developer should have when working on the backend.
Every software developer should have his roots buried deep into the nourishing ground of engineering in order to be successful. A developer needs the skills to solve never-before-seen problems and the creativity to find new and elegant solutions. A somewhat efficient trial run to see if someone does in fact have these skills is to subject him to a technical test. Not only does this tell you how good an engineer your future WordPress developer will be, but it also gives you insight into his PHP skills. Furthermore, when developing for WordPress, the PHP language is your bread and butter, so you’ll have to make sure there’s no language barrier when writing code. For all this, there are a few popular online services that come in handy, like Hackerrank for Work and Codility, both of which work great with PHP.
Web development has always been considered to be a less-than-tidy task, and mostly for good reasons. Web developers are often tempted to write patches directly through SFTP, to alter tables on the fly, all changes that are not accounted for. This is where Git comes into play.
Git is a great versioning system and we use it everywhere inside of Presslabs. A developer who knows how to use Git is, thus, a great asset to have; you’ll never have to worry about finding out who changed what and about trying to reproduce the manner in which a certain part of your site was built because you have to do a rollback—Git can do all this with a simple command. It also goes hand in hand with third party online services like continuous integration and on-the-fly static code analysis.
At the core of web development is none other than the good old HTTP. It might seem like an obvious requirement for a web coder to know about HTTP, and most of them actually do. The real problem is that a lot developers nowadays learn HTTP superficially. As was previously stated, for just small patches and non-essential changes, this will most probably suffice, but for a serious publisher who is concerned with site safety and performance, a solid HTTP base should be taken into consideration. Good knowledge of the HTTP status codes will help a developer to properly debug the website as well.
If there’s one thing every WordPress developer should know about, it’s the WordPress Codex. The Codex is the Bible of every line of code that gets developed on our popular CMS. Whenever in doubt, the Codex is the place to go to, and every developer should know that. Moreover, if he’s nice enough and feels like contributing to the community, he can bring his own changes to the Codex to make it better; any relevant addition or change is more than welcome.
Something essential to any publisher is to help interested people find their website and articles. SEO works by making sure that the searching engine that’s indexing your website knows what the pages are actually about and helps them get better rankings in relevant search queries. Although it might seem like this only has something to do with content, it’s about the structure and technical side as well. Search engines rank websites based on their structure, the technologies used, and even their security. So, a plugin that is seemingly perfect from a software engineering standpoint might bring a significant descent in the website’s search engine rankings with its usage. It is, thus, a recommendation—maybe even a must—for every WordPress developer to know what kind of impact his work has in terms of SEO.
The previously discussed skills are what we consider to be the pillars of a rock-solid WordPress developer, one that most definitely fits even the most demanding of our customers. Making compromises when choosing a dev, or worse, choosing to do all the work yourself, will only bring frustration and lower you overall productivity. We encourage any WordPress publisher to choose the professional path and hire a competent person to take care of the technical bits, enabling him to sit back and create the content that his readers are so eager to get their eyes on.