Back when I started my career as a web designer (circa 1996), the main idea of having a website was to, well, have one. In those days, most businesses weren’t doing much more than putting together a hierarchy (an often poorly designed one, at that) of text and images.
The idea of a content management system, or CMS, was completely foreign to most people – myself included. Back then, a CMS was meant for mega-corporations with lots of money to spend. It was a mere pipedream to those of us developing websites for smaller clients.
Looking at the industry today, I almost can’t imagine creating an old-school, static HTML site. I’m asked to do so every once in awhile, but it’s now become more of the exception than the rule.
And Then Came WordPress…
WordPress was a tool that I used every once in awhile (strictly for blogging) starting around version 2. But it wasn’t until 2010 when I started taking it seriously as a content management option. Soon after, I became quite convinced that this tool would become something that would allow my business to grow.
Initially, I saw WordPress as a way to benefit me as a developer. Through its core functions and ability to run plugins, I could now offer my clients functionality that I never could before.
I’ve always felt that my design skills were a bit sharper than my development skills. So having a tool that brings so many powerful features within reach is a big deal. The fact that it’s open source, free to use and has a dedicated community behind it made me a believer.
While I make no claims about being the world’s top developer, I have used the many resources of the WordPress community to strengthen my skills. I’ve been able to learn a bit about how WordPress works and PHP in general. I feel like that has made me much more well-rounded in my skill set.
And, when I do run into trouble (which is quite often), I know there are resources out there with plenty of answers. It can take a little bit of time, but more often than not I find what I’m looking for.
WordPress Strengthens Design?
It almost sounds silly to say that a content management system could help you become a better designer. But, for me, I really believe it’s true.
Because WordPress allowed me to create functionality that I previously couldn’t, I started looking at the sites I previously created in a much different way.
It used to be that a freelance designer would have to try and master the architecture of both their own design and the server technology that makes it all work. For me, that often meant compromising certain design ideas because I just couldn’t get the functionality to work the way I wanted. These days, the application takes care of the core functionality and allows us to use our creative imagination.
Now, it’s no longer just about creating static sites with ease-of-maintenance in mind or spending countless hours trying to make a server app work properly. It’s become more about laying out content in a visually appealing way that will help users find what they’re looking for. My focus on detail has improved greatly, and I feel like I’m doing the best work of my career so far. Perhaps that’s because WordPress helps us to create websites more efficiently.
Sometimes in the past, I would feel a bit handcuffed by small budgets that led to a lack of real design resources. But, with a community-based application like WordPress, even small budget websites can do more than just look nice. Form and function is no longer just for high-paying clients.
Of course, WordPress isn’t the only powerful CMS out there. You may enjoy working with different platforms. No matter what you’re using to build websites, the modern tools we have available are making us better designers and developers.