WordPress isn’t Voodoo!

It’s a funny thing, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a simple, straightforward explanation of how WordPress actually works. It’s not that hard to find out, of course, if you’re a programmer or some sort of software geek, but otherwise it tends to be a case of, ‘If you want to achieve this result, here’s how to do it.’ Rarely a mention of why you should do it that way or what happens behind the scenes when you do.

And it does actually matter – I think it does, anyway. It’s all very well being told you have to check this or that box, or enter this or that bit of text, or upload an image of a certain width and height, but unless you have some sort of mental picture of what’s actually happening it’s quite hard remember what you’ve done or still less envisage what sort of exciting things you might be able to do if you put your mind to it!

One of the nice things about WordPress, in my opinion, is what we might call its ‘transparency’. Everything it does, it does in plain sight; nothing is hidden. And if you’re so minded you can change anything – absolutely anything. Reckless as this would undoubtedly be, you can do it if you want to. It’s yours, after all. In practice WordPress has ways of helping you only to change things it’s safe to change, so that’s even better.

But if you don’t know anything about any of this you’re limited to choice of theme and images, simple ‘customisations’, and form-filling to control the finer points. That can get you a very long way, I admit, but suppose (for the sake of argument) you want to be emailed when someone who used to be a regular subscriber hasn’t been seen for six months, or it’s someone’s birthday, or you want to add a members-only page that displays posts of a certain category. Where would you start?

Well, of course, you’d look for a plugin, and if you’re very lucky you might find one that does exactly what you want. Until, that is, WordPress upgrades itself to a version that’s incompatible with the plugin and the plugin developer has moved on to higher things…

Now I have to accept that for much of the time none of this really matters, and a straightforward installation with a standard theme may well be perfectly adequate. I’m writing this blog, for example, for the standard WordPress theme Twenty-Sixteen, and so far I haven’t even added a plugin, though I expect I’ll have to add a contact form pretty soon. And perhaps a database for contacts. But if you’re developing professional sites for serious clients you’re going to need more flexibility, and to use that flexibility safely you’ll need to know what’s going on behind the scenes, and, occasionally at least, to get in there amongst it and make some changes.

OK, that’s enough. I’ll stop now. But I’ll be writing posts on how WordPress actually works quite soon, and you never know, you might find some of them useful.

I hope so!