After I decided that I wanted to become an expert WordPress developer I immediately found a problem; where do I find the information that I need? The question is not so trivial as you may think. As a learner, you need to find good quality information to improve your skills, so you have to rely on other people’s willing to share their knowledge. It’s easy to find information about WordPress, there are tons of blogs around. The problem is to find good quality information for beginner developers. Even if today I cannot claim that I’m the most expert in finding information, I can say that I’ve developed a few methods that I’m going to share with you.
You cannot become a WordPress developer if you don’t use codex. It’s not very newbie friendly, codex is a good resource if you already know what you’re looking for, but it’s a good starting point for a number of reasons. First of all, there are good articles that explain the fundamentals. For example, this article explain quite well The Loop, but it’s not only the article itself that is useful. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you’ll find many links to other sources. Many of them are articles inside the codex site, but under ‘Resources’ you’ll find external links. Here is where I started building my library of resources about WordPress coding.
To be honest, it’s not easy to find a course about developing under WordPress, but I added this section because there are a few worth mentioning.
Lynda.com is one of the companies offering WordPress tutorials. I haven’t tried them but the company is reputable so I have reason to think that they are top quality. They offer 36 courses about WordPress but only 10 of them are for developers. A few worth mentioning are
- Creating custom widgets and plugins with PHP
- Creating and editing custom themes
- Developing secure sites
Another good resource is Tuts+. They have a monthly membership plan for only $15/month if you pay one year in advance, and their library of courses is huge but if you’re just interested in WordPress you could consider paying $19 monthly and then leave ass soon as you’ve finished the courses you’re interested in.
After this, I haven’t found yet anything that is more than a tutorial.
I’ve found that WordPress.tv is a fantastic underrated resource for the developers. In WordPress.tv you can find the recordings of many presentations at WordCamps around the world. If like me you’ve never attended a WordCamp you don’t want to miss these presentations. An example? Download and watch at least twice this presentation from Andrew Nacin about WP_Query.
Support Forums at WordPress.org
The support forums at WordPress.org are one of the best places to learn and to practice your skills. If you’ve never been there, try to go to the Themes and Templates forum and look at the questions and answers. Open an account at WordPress.org if you don’t have one yet, and then start answering questions. The forums are a fantastic place to find a huge variety of problems, and try to solve them is a great learning experience. Even if you don’t make it the first times it doesn’t matter, someone else will probably look at the same question and solve the problem, and you’ll have the chance to compare your tentatives with the correct way of doing it. With time you’ll notice that you’ll get better and better, and you’ll be able to answer to a lot of questions. Spending even only 30 minutes per day in the forums and answering questions will have another effect; it will give you a reputation, and the chance to get known inside the WordPress community.
Follow The Developers
If you want to be a WordPress expert you must know at least who are the main people involved in its development. If you use Twitter, follow them. Usually they also have a blog where they write very interesting things about WordPress, and they often publish code and explain it.
Here is a list of a few of them
- Andrew Nacin (leading WordPress developer)
- Mark Jaquith
- Konstantin Kovshenin
- Otto on WordPress
- Paul Clark
- Chris Wiegman
- Nathan Rice
- Tom McFarlin
- Mike Jolley (leading WooCommerce developer)
- Justin Tadlock
- Remi Corson
Follow The Opinion Makers
The difference between a developer and an opinion maker is, as you probably have guessed, that the opinion maker doesn’t write code. Opinion makers however, are not less important than developers. They are normally involved in the WordPress community as much, and sometimes even more, than developers, they often participate actively to the WordPress development by reporting bugs and giving suggestions, and they sense what’s going on in the ‘real’ world and what the WordPress users really need. In other words, they are as important to the evolution of WordPress as the developers.
As you can imagine, becoming a respected opinion maker is not easy. It requires an active involvment in the WordPress community for quite a long time, in order to build a good reputation. Many people try to open blogs where they want to talk about WordPress, give news and opinions. However, I noticed a common property among these blogs; they tend to die as fast as they tend to show up. This is probably due to the fact that the WordPress community is hyper-active and lively, and it requires a lot of time keeping up with everything that happens. If you do it as a side job or just for personal passion you soon discover that there’s too much to cover, and if you want to make it your full time job it’s hard to make a living from it.
It is probably because of what I just said that I haven’t been able to find many authority websites around. However, I can guarantee that the few that I know will keep you very busy if you want to follow them all.
- Matt Mullenweg: It was obvious that the first place in my brief list belonged to one of the creators of WordPress.
- WPTavern: Jeff Chandler, the founder of WPTavern, is one of the most active and respected members of the WordPress community. His blog is an authority and you can easily get lost in all the news and information available. WPTavern was bought four years ago by Matt Mullenweg, who subsequenttly hired Jeff and asked him to keep running the website as nothing was changed.
- poststat.us: this website is the result of a brilliant idea of Brian Krogsgard, who launched the website at the beginning of 2013, and should be in your list of the websites to visit regularly. The reason I’m saying this is that anyone can submit posts from his/her own blog. They then pass an editorial review, and if accepted they will show up in the sidebar. This is a great way to promote your blog if you talk about WrodPress, and to discover new sources of information if you are new to this world.
- WordPress Plugins A to Z is a podcast run by Marcus Couch and John Overall. It gives news about the last plugins published on wordpress.org. Very useful, it can lead you to discovering true gems.
News and Tutorials Websites
I decided to make a separate section for these websites because they are not run by a single person, and they don’t necessarily talk exclusively about WordPress.
- Smashing Magazine: I’ve been visiting Smashing Magazine from time to time for years, long before I decided to become a WordPress expert. They have a specific section about WordPress.
- WP Smackdown: This is another of those websites where you can easily lose hours. WP Smackdown has loads of really good content, guides and code snippets.
- WP Tuts: The free side of tutsplus. You’ll find a lot of tutorials and interesting articles.
- WPShock: another good source of information and good tutorials for WordPress developers
Lists, Forums And Q&A
- WP-Hackers: this is definitely not for everyone. This list “is a place for advanced development discussion (hacking) and WordPress core discussion”.
- StackExchange: StackExchange is a network of Q&A sites about dozens of topics. The most know of these websites is Stack Overflow for developers but there’s also one dedicated to WordPress Answers.
- Reddit: Reddit is not really a forum. In my opinion it’s better than a forum because they have a great spam control, and the rules forbid participants to promote themselves, so the overall quality of the discussions is better.
There are two subreddits dedicated to WordPress that you should check out:
Read The Comments
This is the title of the last section, but it wants to be also an advice. Read the comments means that any time you read an interesting article or howto you shouldn’t stop at the end of the article. Comments can add a lot to the content, and through comments you can discover more interesting resources. Check if the name of the commenters is a link, if it is visit that link. Sometimes you discover fantastic websites. It happened to me, why not to you?