Website development still feels like the wild west. Thankfully, there are no gunslingers on our team. You don’t have technicians touting best practices since whatever they do, it was their preference and therefore justified. Too many opinions and not enough consensus told me that I had to take a closer look into which type of development was best – a custom coded site, custom-coded WordPress site, or WordPress site with plugins? Time for a closer look.
While website development is not my foundational knowledge base, I devoted time to attend web tech meetups, formal education, stretching myself to grow in knowledge. I was committed to understanding what is truly required for the most efficient, healthy, and manageable sites for both WordPress and custom coded sites. If MEQ was to continue performing work, we needed an impeccable understanding of where to draw the line, and we needed to establish a definitive plan based on what and why. After talking with senior level-engineers who work on top brands across the world, and having one of them engage with me on a project, I became much clearer in my perspective and my opinions grew.
While you can create a custom WordPress site, in my humble opinion, you are going to endure much more site management and repair when WordPress updates, plug-ins, and PHP are in conflict with your code or design. In addition, custom code can be written in nearly innumerable iterations in multiple web languages from developer to developer. When one developer leaves and another takes over your site, you know what their first question is? Why did he/she do it this way? Then, they go about “fixing” code. That’s like taking a baked pie scraping out the filling, hoping a new ingredient makes it better. Chances are, you will have a bit of a mess on your hands and your pie will never be the same. WordPress and its user-friendly plugins can both be updated as the need for compatibility, and changes are predictable. That is a recipe for success!
For custom sites, Laravel is a new kid on the block, and a popular language for sites that will become highly extensible and grow – like different languages and geographies, or multiple databases. The programming language is based on PHP, and it’s super smart and fast. You have to write code once, then it continuously and impeccably performs that task, no matter which direction it travels, and which data it fetches. In one site we developed, we created custom dashboards both for the admin and user. This is a perfect example of why custom code is written – to do a very specific task and process that is unique. This type of site is ideal if there is a sizeable database of information and the site will be fetching and processing a lot of data. Otherwise, this type of site would be overkill. If the language is written correctly, anybody who understands this language can easily take over. This site also required Amazon hosting, which was a step up from WordPress hosting in both cost and in functionality.
In my quest to understand the variables in custom development that create innumerable variables of conflict, I leaned on a trusted adviser Steven Jadzewski who is an engineer on the Taco Bell account in two countries. Steve follows the highest standardization in development. Best practices for custom code uses Behavioral Driven Design and Testing Driven Development. BDD is written in plain language that describes the function. This means we write the action to be performed, then it is coded exactly as it’s written. When we make changes, they are always documented at the front end so we always know how it’s coded. Tracking the changes and having control of them before development means no surprises! Through this clarity, I am fully prepared for new projects using the proper processes and never losing control. This transparency for every client is required and will keep web management running smoothly with little bumps in the road.