If you are like a lot of respected WordPress developers, you probably don’t have a degree that is remotely related to the work you do with WordPress. I can firmly say that my almost Accounting degree doesn’t support my need to use PHP or the WordPress Codex.
Start Playing Around
The idea with playing around is to get more familiar with how things work. You’re already doing this right? Does this sound like you:
- Start modifying theme files – You set up a couple of sites using the default theme settings. However, you ran into a client that had some specific styling requests that weren’t available. You ran to the support forums and got a basic code to modify within a file. You paste that in and BOOM! You’ve made your first theme file modification.
- Adding some functions in functions.php – You became more comfortable with modifying the cosmetics of the theme. You can add sections, remove sections, move stuff around. You feel POWERFUL! Until… you run into a client that LOVES the design and layout of a site but they require a basic functionality change. SHIT! You’ve heard about the functions.php file. You saw some comments on WordPress forums about being careful within that file. Be careful? What does that mean really? You add your first lines of code and… the site goes down :/. You remove it and add a new snippet you find online, the site is live again but isn’t doing quite what you’re wanting. You go back and forth until you finally get what you need.
- I can build that! – Almost everybody that works with WordPress has dreams of starting a premium WordPress theme side business. I’m personally working on my second round of rejection through ThemeForest as I type. Your first theme sucks. And that’s ok. Your second theme sucks… just a little less. With every iteration you learn more and more until you finally have something that is acceptable.
- You realize how much you don’t know – It’s at this point that you’re pretty comfortable with the WordPress structure. You know where to go to change something or to troubleshoot an issue. But, it is also at this point that you realize how much you really don’t know. You start to feel insecure. You’re at the point where you want to contribute to the community, fork something on Github, create a plugin for the repository – but you’re too afraid of doing something wrong and or stupid. To get past this, check out the “Be supportive” section of this post by Pippin.
Getting beyond the insecurities
I am currently still in step 4 and feeling less insecure everyday. I’ve accepted that I don’t know everything and that I will make mistakes, but I still try to put myself and my work out there for people to review and criticize (something I’m striving to do a lot more of in the next few months). Here’s whats been helping me become more comfortable with coding:
Using boilerplates is a great way for me to capitalize on the knowledge of people who are WAY smarter than me. I use them, get to know them, and seek to learn WHY they are set up in their specific ways. Here are a few that I love
Does anyone still use RSS? I love Twitter now for staying up to date with information. By far, it is THE BEST way to stay up to date with the WordPress community. Here are a few of my favorites: