My Relationship With WordPress

Over the weekend, our Senior Associate Dean asked me to come up with a message board for the Scalia Law School’s class of 2020. Since the graduates won’t get to have a formal graduation ceremony in May, she would like us to create a special page to let faculty, staff, and administrative members post messages to the graduates. My immediate solution was to create a WordPress page with comment section enabled.

On Monday, I spun up a new site from our WordPress multisite and activated the Scalia Law 2019 theme, which is based off WordPress’s Twenty Nineteen official theme. When Twenty Nineteen first released, I created a child theme to have our own brand, which includes typography, colors, and our logo. For everything else, I depended on the parent theme. Twenty Nineteen is beautiful out of the box and it uses the new Gutenberg block editor.

Within a few hours, I created a page addressing our graduates, “Congratulations Class of 2020! An Extraordinary Class in Extraordinary Times.” I used a big cover image and made the text huge. We launched the site on Tuesday and the messages have been rolling in. I love reading them even though I am not a graduate. The messages are wonderful.

WordPress has been a great asset to my professional career. It has helped me provide many solutions to the needs of the school. Now that the entire network of over 30 sites is hosted on WP Engine, courtesy of the University, I don’t have to worry about the backend. I still have full control the themes, plugins, and full SFTP access. Some IT members at the Law School had criticized me for giving up hosting the server part of the sites, but there’s no way I can run the server as reliable as WP Engine. It would be a huge undertaking and I am not a server administration. If the University offers this huge service at no cost, why not taking advantage of it?

WordPress is great at solving problems that do not required original design. I could get pretty far with some changes to make the templated design suits my brand. Of course, I could create the entire WordPress theme from scratch, but that would required tremendous time and technical investments. For my own personal use, WordPress is far too complex. This blog, for instance, probably uses about five percent of WordPress’s powerful features. This blog has been powered by WordPress since 2003 and it hasn’t changed much over the years. I am still using the classic editor. I still code the theme using HTML and CSS and with only a minimum amount of PHP. I have control of every code I input. Developing a new theme, even from a starter theme, isn’t as simple anymore; therefore, I no longer offer WordPress for freelance clients. The amount of customization is just too much. Of course, I can still do it if I get big projects, but not for my typical clients.

I still love WordPress, but my development has changed. I am now happier to use WordPress as a tool to solve technological solutions instead of trying to offer WordPress as design solutions for client projects. It is a change in perspective that I have to come to term with if I continue to use WordPress. There are other choices out there, but WordPress remains a tough contender in the web space.

My choice is either WordPress or hand code HTML and CSS with some PHP to keep the pages manageable. I am missing the entire trend of static site generators. When web designers and developers moved their sites or blogs to Jekyll, Hugo, or Eleventy, I still keep my blog on WordPress. When they spent countless of hours moving from one static site generator to another or back to WordPress, I am still on WordPress.