Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

We are “standing on the shoulders of Giants”.

No matter who you attribute this famous quote to,  we are still thankful to all those that came before us and provided us with lessons learnt so that we can contribute to and build on their ideas.

Ten years ago, almost all of the web solutions I provided were bespoke solutions that I tailored to every client. I did reuse existing code from previous jobs, due to retaining copyright and passing on a perpetual royalty free license to my clients to make whatever changes they see fit, howevever it was only ever limited to core functionality and almost every other web page was developed as static html using a common header and footer that contained the site’s look & feel or “theme”.

Nowadays, the same sites can be built in less than a day using tools that are freely available to anyone that wants an online presence. That’s right. I’m talking about WordPress. Over the years I’ve seen quite a few attempts at online site builders that let you customise and create a collection of webpages, but they were always compromised in some way – lacked theme support, CSS edit-ability, cost too much or were functionally limited in some way. and has all the features I ever thought were needed, yet it has so much more. WordPress – where were you 10 years ago?

Sure as a web developer, the longer it takes to build a site, the more you get paid, but with clients looking to pay as little as possible and competition in a growing market, the faster you could knock up a site and get it out, the sooner you could move onto your next job. Add to that a lack of respect for true experience, which meant you were competing with 14 year old kids who were pretty cluey at putting together a functional page but had no idea about usability and performance, and it becomes all too easy to become very disenchanted with the whole industry.

So now, as I sit here and write this blog using WordPress, it becomes so much clearer that the next website I build will be using WordPress. With the vast number of free and commercial themes available and widgets and plugins, I no longer need to do Photoshop layouts or write any code. Imagine that! As a web developer, I’m back on an equal footing with my clients who are equally as capable of performing the (WordPress) famous 5 minute install and getting online. Have I become redundant? Well, No. that’s probably being a bit extreme. Web Developers will alway be required to customise, configure and update sites and themes.

I’ve come of age considering my last site was built using Joomla – an open source PHP-based CMS similar to WordPress. I managed to get by building an entire site with image galleries, news articles, and of course the admin system to create , update & delete articles, pages and anything else – all without writing a single line of code.

Does this make me a lazy developer? I don’t think so.

Does this make me a dumber developer? Quite possibly, but that’s another story. (Read The Shallows by Nicholas Carr for more about what the internet is doing to our brains).

Does this make me a better developer? I think so. The client gets what they want (in fact so much more if you consider just how extensible WordPress is) and for much less that it would have cost to provide a bespoke solution.

I  believe that when using tools like WordPress and Joomla, we are “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” and this allows us to go so much further in what we can do and deliver for our customers. Anyone that’s not looking to leverage existing solutions to deliver is not looking far enough. Granted not everything that can be invented has, but we can always do with a bit of a boost!

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