My Continuing Evolution in WordPress

mug on desk that says, "Need coffee to functions.php"

This year — 2023 — marks the 20th anniversary of WordPress. It’s been around for so long that it’s hard to imagine when it wasn’t part of my daily life, yet it’s still not old enough to drink.

When I first dipped my toe into WordPress waters, I was a freelance illustrator and animator. It was 2009, and I was scrounging around the interwebs trying to find a good platform to rebuild my online portfolio site. I can’t remember what I was using at the time, but I had a personal blog on Blogger.com and I wanted to integrate a blog with my static portfolio site. I stumbled upon WordPress and gave it a go.

Within minutes, I had a new hobby.

screenshot of old website from 2009
My first WordPress site in 2009. Awww, the days of sidebars.

Not only did I create my own website — and spent hours tweaking it — I started putting up sites for friends and family. It was a revelation to me that I could have such control over my content. Back then, I wasn’t yet the Open Source evangelist I am today. I just enjoyed the experience of making new things. I started to dig deeper into the workings of WordPress. Partially because I wanted to customize my sites more than the themes would allow, and also because in digging I reawakened my love for writing and understanding code.

Then there were the people. Going it alone worked for a while, but soon enough I had questions. I got stuck. I screwed things up. And I discovered another aspect of building in WordPress; the community. It seemed there was always someone who had a solution or idea, and eventually that person was me. I loved talking about All The WordPress Things, and I still do.

In the years since I built that first WordPress site, my business, the site, and even myself have evolved and bear little resemblance to their 2009 counterparts. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.

If you had told me back then that I would be a freelance WordPress consultant and author scads of articles about the platform, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are. Today, my WordPress business is my main occupation. I regularly contribute to the open source WordPress project, and I volunteer at WordCamps.

But why?

There’s an old quote (okay, they’re all old now) by Walt Disney from when he was building Disneyland.

“The park means a lot to me in that it’s something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing, keep plussing and adding to—it’s alive. It will be a live, breathing thing that will need changes.”

Walt Disney

This is what I love about building websites. Beyond that, I also believe that this is the very spirit of WordPress itself. These past few years, there’s been some backlash to new features like the Block Editor and now the Site Editor. Some users downright despise these changes, and even demand that the Classic Editor remain intact, for example. While I can understand some of the reasons — accessibility issues, mostly — I feel strongly that the answer isn’t to lean on the old tech but to work harder to improve the new tech. Plussing.

Maybe this is an emotional leap, but I’ll say it anyway. WordPress keeps me thinking young. I’m only 52, but long ago I made a promise to myself that as I get older I’ll never stop evolving. That means learning new things and stepping out of my comfort zone. In fact, I’m looking at a book of JavaScript exercises on my desk as I write this and I’m kind of dreading it. Then I remember yesterday when I solved a JS puzzle without looking up the solution and I’m re-energized. Figuring out FSE has been challenging, but through contributing as a tester (Hi, Anne) and building a new site using Twenty Twenty-three I feel super confident in it.

WordPress has been the catalyst for my journey into coding, open source, and even using Linux every day. I’ll be around for a while.

itsjustdj
itsjustdj
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