To code or not to code is the question when it comes to WordPress sites and web developers. There is a camp divided among web developers that embrace today’s digital world and choose to use WordPress to make their job easier, and there are those that refuse even to utter the words “WordPress”, thinking it is child’s play with limited features and functionality. So do they use it?
Most web developers will use WordPress in conjunction with their web development knowledge to build custom CMS sites off child themes and using CSS to create sites more quickly and efficiently. More than 4 million top websites around the world have developers that design, code, integrate, maintain and work on their WordPress sites. There are more than 800 million websites in 2023 that are built with WordPress.
This article will briefly cover what WordPress is and what web developers do. Then we will look if web developers use WordPress, and for those who don’t, why? We’ll also cover all the various factors that make WordPress a go-to solution for web developers, in turn making their job that much easier.
In order to better understand whether a developer would use WordPress, let’s first understand exactly what it is and what its impact on the web is. By understanding this and understanding what a web developer is and what their job exactly entails, we can correlate the two and come up with a definite answer to our question.
WordPress is a content management system also known as a CMS. It is free and open-source, which means that anybody out there is able to study, use, copy or otherwise change the software without the need to have a license of any sort. It also means that the source code is openly shared so that people are encouraged to voluntarily change, improve, and design the software further.
WordPress is written in PHP, a programming language, and paired with MariaDB or MySQL database. It was first created as a blog publishing system but has since evolved. Due to it being open-source and free, many developers have jumped on board, creating other web content for it, such as learning management systems (LMS), mailing lists, forums, membership sites, online stores, galleries, and more. Some of its features include plugin architecture, templates, and themes, which are template systems.
As of March 2023, approximately 43% of the top 10 million websites use WordPress. This information alone would give us a clear answer that, indeed, web developers use WordPress in some way or another.
However, WordPress is built around the premise that almost no coding knowledge is required, so many people with no background in actual web development could set up a WordPress site. This includes setting up large e-commerce sites, online learning sites, and membership sites.
Web developer overview
Let’s discuss a web developer now because you do get various types. We will only briefly cover web developers in order to understand if they use WordPress. If you would like to know more in detail about them, then check out my article here.
Front-end developers will be tasked with the layout of the website, how it looks, and any other forms of front-end integration that may be required. One coding language that is used for front-end developers is CSS which WordPress also allows you to use one way or another.
Do web developers use WordPress?
As we can see, both front-end and back-end developers have areas in which they are able to use WordPress even though an individual with no coding experience could set up a WordPress site in minutes.
The answer is indeed, yes – they do use WordPress. However, some may not like it, and some choose not to use it for particular reasons (which we will discuss shortly). Even though WordPress is an out-of-the-box solution for website design and creation, there are situations and reasons why a developer would use or, in fact, need to use WordPress.
Why would a web developer use WordPress?
A web developer would use WordPress for various reasons that we will look into, but for the most part, the main reason is simplicity with easy integration. We know that almost half the top websites in the world use WordPress because they are much easier and quicker to build, customize, and maintain regardless of whether the developer has extensive knowledge in coding or not. Let’s look at these factors in more detail.
Making web development easier
One reason that developers use WordPress is to make things easier. There is no point in reinventing the wheel, and WordPress is an all-in-one solution. If the developer has a background in coding, they will be able to make changes to the site where need be without starting from scratch. As you can imagine, this will cut their work time down drastically, and as such, they can get more work done.
One such way that WordPress makes things easier on a web developer is that, if you recall, two of its features are templates and themes. Themes are different from a template in that a theme controls the overall design, feel and look of your site, while a template will define the layout of a single page.
Do web developers use templates?
Again the answer is yes, web developers will use templates to make their life a bit easier. In the case of most websites, each page will be filled with content, and depending on the content, some pages may have or need the same design. It is much easier to mock up a page and then save it as a template (copying the necessary files and code) and then repeating it when you require the same layout for a different page.
Furthermore, you can find templates available online to purchase, which could make things even easier for a web developer. If they are looking for a specific layout and don’t have the time to write all the appropriate code, they can easily find one online to purchase at a minimal fee and integrate it into the site they are building.
Do web developers use themes?
Besides templates, web developers will also use themes that they can purchase for a nominal price. Currently, EnvatoMarket (one of the largest retailers of themes and templates for WordPress) has over 51 000 WordPress themes and templates to choose from.
These themes and templates include layouts and designs with functionality for almost anything you can think of, including blogging, magazine, corporate, creative, listings, e-commerce, education, entertainment, mobile, nonprofit, retail, real estate, technology, and more.
Depending on the client’s requirements, a web developer will be better off looking for a theme that has the correct design, layout, and functionality that they require and can further customize and tailor to the client’s specified requirements.
For example, perhaps a client requests a site that will be a large e-commerce site. It would literally take a web developer months to code this site, and most likely, there will need to be a team working on various aspects of it. By obtaining an e-commerce WordPress theme, the developer could potentially have the site up and running in a couple of days and concentrate on tailoring the site to the customers’ needs instead of building it from scratch.
Making web development faster
As we said, due to WordPress making the development of a site more accessible (depending on the site, what it calls for, and what the client wants), this will, in turn, make a developer’s work quicker. Getting a WordPress site up and running takes minutes, and from there, if the WordPress site needs to be customized for the client, then that can be done using drag and drop features, plugins, and widgets.
WordPress features (plugins and widgets)
The reason why WordPress is used so much is that because it is open-source and free; hence, many individuals or companies create plugins that you can integrate into your WordPress site. These will offer additional functionality. Need a calendar to book appointments or social share buttons? There is almost a plugin for anything that you can think of.
Using plugins, a developer can quickly install and integrate the feature that their client requires with almost no hassle. One thing to note is that these plugins are “bound” by the developer, so it is difficult to customize or change.
Widgets are sections of code that are written into the theme and offer an easy way of dragging and dropping various features. For example, you need a gallery image on one page; it is easy to grab this widget and just insert it into the section you require. As you can tell, this will drastically increase workflow and lessen the amount of time needed to build or customize a site.
It should also be noted that just like with plugins, widgets are designed and written into the code of the theme and cannot be changed per se without the knowledge of coding.
Making more money faster
Another reason developers would opt to build WordPress sites is the simplicity and speed at which they can produce them; they can get more work (especially considering freelance developers). Thus they would be able to make money faster, or at least more often than building a website that required the knowledge of more complicated systems and coding languages.
Can a web developer code in WordPress?
There are typically two main ways a developer will code in WordPress. That is, they will directly change the core code (the PHP code), or they will change the visual aspects of the site coding in CSS.
Even though WordPress is a CMS, many themes allow you to code and change core systems directly with the help of what is known as a child theme, and then sections in the WordPress back-end or with plugins will allow you to customize the CSS of the site.
A child theme for all intents and purposes will be the same as the central theme, but there will be a separate functions.php file that you can change, and it will not be altered in any way whenever the theme needs to be updated. With this, many developers will opt to use a child theme and then code in specific features and functionality depending on what is required.
Furthermore, they will use CSS to customize the layout and any visual aspects of the site’s front end that need to be changed again, depending on what is required.
When do web developers not use WordPress?
A lot of the time, WordPress as a CMS is not capable of certain features and functions that need to be implemented and designed into a site. Think of banking sites. The security needed to be able to build and keep a site like a banking site will never be built on WordPress and will require web developers to build a site using very complex systems, requiring more than just PHP.
Additionally, government websites and sites associated with businesses that require added features, functions, and security will not use WordPress. For example, online stock trading websites.
Why don’t some developers use WordPress?
WordPress is the bane of all existence for some web developers, and they refuse to use it. This is because of a few reasons. Firstly they feel that it is not actual web development but rather a simplistic way to build a website with drag and drop features, and they do not consider that web development.
Additionally, they find that the functionality is limited, so coding, designing, and implementing specific features and functions require more work than needed. This is especially true when some themes don’t come with a child theme, or the theme has not been updated to the current WordPress version. Furthermore, some plugins may not be compatible with the WordPress version or theme making it difficult trying to code a workaround that is compatible with everything.
Some web developers do not like to use WordPress because they say it has watered down the profession, making it challenging to get work, and if they do get work, they have to charge minimal fees. This is due to the fact that WordPress is so accessible, making it easy for non-professional developers to create seemingly glorious sites that you would think required a lot of knowledge and know-how.
Thus they have to fight for jobs lowering the price at which they will build a site, and with each developer doing this, it creates a snowball effect, inevitably draining the value of a web developer.
Furthermore, when a client asks for a WordPress site, they immediately assume it is easy to make and easy to integrate any feature they want at no extra charge or a minimal charge. Even though building a WordPress site is pretty straightforward, some things require proper knowledge of web development, which takes time, knowledge, and experience. A web developer should be able to charge for these features, especially when they have to integrate it into a WordPress site with buggy and out-of-date plugins and themes.
For this reason, many web developers hate using WordPress, and some refuse to use it outright, drawing the line between a real web developer and a “web developer” (WordPress developer).
We discovered that web developers do use WordPress, whether they are front-end or back-end developers. Web developers also distinguish between proper web developers with knowledge of coding and individuals who classify themselves as developers, but just use WordPress as a drag and drop application.
For the most part, you will get a camp divided between developers that do use WordPress, some who do not like it but use it, and those who refuse to use it outright. Some developers use WordPress and utilize child themes, custom CSS code, along with templates and themes to make their job easier and quicker.
This allows them to be more productive, creating more websites and thus earning more money more often (this applies to freelance developers). The downside of being a freelance developer is that the market is oversaturated with them, and therefore they may have to charge more affordable rates to beat out their competition.
Even from a company’s standpoint, if they have developers working on sites built in WordPress, that developer can make sites faster, increasing the companies revenue. Keep in mind, some companies charge tens of thousands of dollars for a WordPress site.