I recently wrote an article for SitePoint.com on the ultimate WordPress development environment. If you’ve been following me for a while you will know this is something I’ve spent a good deal of time figuring out.

What surprised me was the feedback that I got on the article.

Using the word “ultimate” in the title was definitely a little bit contentious, and I expected to have some readers push back on it. However, they didn’t. The feedback I got on the content of the article was quite positive.

Out of nowhere though, a number of people started critiquing me for implying that you could apply coding standards to WordPress. Reading deeper in to their thoughts, the crux of their argument seemed to be that they feel WordPress is architected really badly and inherently, anyone who works on WordPress must be a sub-par developer just because of their association with the platform.

That’s a very unfair judgment and from my experience, very far from the truth.

So why is that an unfair judgment?

To answer that question, we really need to look at one simple thing. Why do developers choose WordPress?

Why do developers work with WordPress?

I think we could all agree that there are architectural blemishes in Core, but good developers still choose to work with WordPress despite this. Here’s why.

  • Open source. That warm fuzzy feeling inside from contributing code to a greater cause.
  • Large share of the market. 25%, enough said!
  • Established platform. Large and small, old and new businesses are running on it (including some of the biggest brands).
  • Easily extendable. Actions and filters.
  • The business opportunity also can’t be ignored.

Because of all of this and more, WordPress has a thriving development community and it’s only getting bigger and better.

Are architectural hiccups in Core a good enough reason to ignore all of the platform benefits? Personally I don’t think so.

So the question then becomes, why should WordPress developers be taken seriously?

Why should WordPress developers be taken more seriously?

They should be taken more seriously, not because of the platform they choose to develop on, but for the skills that they demonstrate in their work. Skills like…

  • Working with bleeding edge frameworks and tools. The REST API has opened up opportunities for heavy JS development and apart from that, the tooling available for WordPress is on par with other communities like Ruby, Python and Go.
  • Writing well architected WordPress themes, plugins and applications. Plugins, themes and applications don’t have to be restricted by the architecture of Core. I’ve seen tons of really well architected plugins. Good WordPress developers do apply standards to their code and care about their craft.
  • Solving hard challenges. If you’re working with any semi-decent sized WordPress website there are challenges around scaling that need to be addressed. There are many other kinds of challenges around architecture, design, UI and more. Challenges make stronger developers.
  • Community spirit. You’ll find that many WordPress developers have a good sense of community spirit and this makes them great team players.

These skills are desirable of any developer. WordPress developers are no exception. And that is why WordPress developers should be taken more seriously.


Join the Conversation


  1. I’m going out on a limb here, and say that we’re missing the point.

    Yes, we are perfectly good developers even when working with WordPress (which IS badly architectured from an OOP point of view). Yes, we also have our merits. But I’d say actions need to speak louder than words.

    There will always be people critizicing other people. Hell, it’s DEVELOPERS we’re talking about– we’re always a passionate bunch. But when you need to come out and say ‘Hey, I deserve some recognition too!’, that’s when we’re missing the point.

    I’d like to mention as well that what makes a good developer is the ability to adapt to the environment. You won’t be able to test out that slick React/Grunt/SASS/whatever setup on a corporate job… and same goes for WordPress. It is badly architectured, but we have managed to keep it going for 25% of the web.

    1. Great comment Manuel! You’re right too. Maybe we just require more inner confidence within ourselves to know that when the trolls bash us, we’re just as good as other developers working on other technologies and platforms 🙂

  2. Hi Matt,

    I read your article on Sitepoint and felt it was a good contribution. Thanks.

    I think that people tend to repeat the same things they’ve heard over and over. This was true for PHP, JavaScript, and WordPress, not to mention even developing for the web at all. How many of the people who say negative things about WordPress code have even looked through it, you know, really read the core files to figure out how it works? These myths gets repeated until people involved with the platform develop more compelling alternative stories. The PHP Standards Recommendations, PHP 7, Symphony, jQuery, Node, the REST API and the continuous improvements of core … I have a lot of respect for people who ignore the negativity and work to improve things.

    I agree with your points above and would add that people like to develop on platforms and with tools where they feel productive. WordPress is very open and developer friendly. Your Sitepoint article is just the type of information we need. No need to try to defend or justify yourself, just lead by example.

    I think the financial prospects of working with and around WordPress are a false friend. First make sure that you like it and can get behind the project. Otherwise you will feel entitled because you are contributing or not validated because other developers put WordPress down.

    1. Excellent comment David. You’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s far easier to sit back and moan about how WordPress sucks than to get involved and actually fix it. Most people have no idea how far WordPress has come in recent years!

  3. I had pretty visceral negative reaction to this post. Probably overblown, but I think such narrative is one of the _reasons_ WP developers are not taken seriously. We tend to be in denial about realistic state of WP industry, related to larger webdev.

    > Working with bleeding edge frameworks and tools.

    No, we don’t. We are literally years behind on Composer adoption alone. We are years behind on modern PHP. As of right now you cannot even commit PHP code with newer features into official repositories!

    The burst in JS area is mostly because we desperately want it to make issues of PHP core go away. Which it won’t of course.

    > Writing well architected WordPress themes, plugins and applications.

    No, they are not. The state of extensions’ architecture is generally abysmal.

    Some of the most popular plugins struggle with years upon years of convoluted procedural code. I work on plugins like that. They are what people judge WP by, not some of random unicorn of freshly created and shiny tiny plugin out there.

    > Solving hard challenges.

    WordPress is content centric and its challenges tend to be as well. My rule of a thumb is that the farther your content is from looking like a blog post the worse time you are going to have with WP as a framework.

    There are _some_ challenges WP projects out there solve. But again, the _general_ output of WP industry are content sites so boring, one can usually tell WP site just by seeing it (one column, N sidebars).

    > Community spirit.

    WP has enormous focus on cultural fit. It serves it very well in many ways and fuels momentum behind enormous volunteer effort in main project and around it.

    However the pitfall of such communities is that they are highly egocentric. WP isn’t receptive to any and all external feedback. It has extremely low amount of technology drift between it and surrounding projects. It doesn’t produce open source components and consumes very few in very non–modular way.

    When we are told we are a mess we don’t spend time figuring out why do people think that. We go to our blogs and write a post about how awesome we are.

    1. Thanks for the thought provoking comment! Really appreciate your input on this topic.

      First off the bat, the point of the article (maybe badly executed on) was that we shouldn’t judge a developer based on the platform they work on, but rather the skills that they demonstrate. It feels that you missed that point, probably my fault for not making it clearer.

      I’m not trying to say that every WordPress developer should be treated equally and that they should all be taken more seriously.

      So on to the points you raised.

      Personally, I only got back in to WordPress development last December. Before that I worked for 3 years in the payments industry. It’s given me some perspective of development life outside WordPress albeit very different industries.

      On bleeding edge frameworks and tools. As mentioned in the article, yes, we all agree that architecturally, Core is behind and there are many different reasons for that. But that doesn’t mean we’re not working with bleeding edge frameworks and tools.

      Core work aside, in my day to day work on enterprise scale WordPress projects, we’re working with the latest JS frameworks, we’re using some of the same development environment tooling and processes that I used on Ruby projects in the payments space, and we push for a modern based approach to our PHP architecture.

      Architecture. Like I said in the article, architecture of plugins is not totally restricted by Core. You can still write good plugins. That was the point, not that there are badly architected plugins in the repository.

      Solving hard challenges. What’s an exciting challenge to me probably varies completely to what excites you. I’ve enjoyed some of the challenges of working on larger enterprise WordPress projects, as much as I enjoyed the challenges that came with processing millions of transactions a day in the payments space.

      Community spirit. I could agree with you on this point. Part of the reason for the lack of drift and components, in my opinion, is because it’s large enough of a platform to exist on it’s own without the broader community outside WordPress. Not saying that it is a good thing either.

      Maybe it’s too simplified (obviously without PHP we wouldn’t have WordPress) but someone working inside of WordPress has enough going on to keep themselves busy with the platform that there isn’t a need to go “outside”.

      And lastly, I’m not saying we’re awesome, all I was trying to say (as per above) is take developers seriously based on their skills and not the platform they choose to work on.

  4. Working with bleeding edge frameworks and tools. The REST API has opened up opportunities for heavy JS development and apart from that, the tooling available for WordPress is on par with other communities like Ruby, Python and Go.

    … what?

  5. Whenever I read something like this, I am missing the context.

    So, other “real” developers think “we” are not doing serious development because we rely on a outdated, but reality-approved, most-of-the-time stable, subversion of PHP called WordPress? Ok, what is the problem? A broken self-confidence?

    If you use “bleeding edge technologies” (whatever that actually means), you apparently are able to learn new stuff. Congrats, you are a real developer, and using WordPress seems to be a conscious decision.
    My all-time favourite car is still a Ford Fiesta from ’92, I don’t have to prove that I could drive a Tesla or a Jaguar or whatever.. I can drive. I even have a license. And today, a different car, different vendor.
    I’ve built real websites with WordPress, even so-called enterprise websites. It’s there. It’s true. It’s done. And I did the same with node/angular and it wasn’t fun (npm self-destruct).

    And really, in the last ten years no client ever said “Show me your dev stack!” “Are you using latest coding standards?” Penetration tests: passed, professional,overly expensive code reviews: passed..all with WordPress (as one part of the solution)

    But, my context is professional website building for clients, on a budget, with timeline, restrictions and sometimes ridiculous requests. And aside from paying my own bills, I need to make sure that others can pay their bills as well..and when it comes to that responsibility, being “on the edge” is really the smallest problem I have to face ( from a business context ).

    So whenever someone starts to critize your decision (using WordPress (or whatever)) ask for his/her context, ask for their responsibilities in life…there is always something more to it than code and if not, feel pitty for them. Be proud that you manage to get by somehow and concentrate on more important things in life. You maybe have to do it for the next (up to) 10-40 years, with or without WordPress. And really, never judge people because of strings in a text editor, sometimes it’s fun to argue about, yes, with friends, having a good time to remember when you got old..but anything else is so pointless.

    It does not mean, that such posts shouldn’t exist and I think it’s important for any project to keep the conversation going, and especially in the WordPress ecosystem, we have to respect so many different contexts and I think that I’d really help to put each discussion, each critique, each arguement in some kind of restricting context.
    “WordPress Development”, 25% percent on the internet, seems a bit too broad.

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