Which Programming Language Should I Use in 2019 for my WordPress Sites?

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May 27, 2003: this date marked the initial release of WordPress as it was made publicly available. Sixteen years later, WordPress is still growing in popularity and depending on the source, 34 percent or more of all websites on the internet use WordPress. Like with anything else, age and increased popularity bring the need to adapt to stay current.

Agencies and developers are getting smarter in what to use for specific scenarios and needs. WordPress still serves its classic use-cases well, as a blogging platform or a Content Management System (CMS), but there are some new trends to pay attention to.

Let’s take a look at these WordPress trends to get a glimpse into which WordPress programming language you should use to extend your latest WordPress sites:

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WordPress Programming Language #1: JavaScript

One of the more interesting ways WordPress is being used is as a headless content management system (Headless CMS) using the WordPress REST API introduced a few years ago. This can be done using JavaScript, APIs, and Markup architecture (a.k.a. “JAMstack”) or server-side using a specific JavaScript framework like React.js or Vue.js. The site reads content from the WP REST API, then uses a framework such as Next.js or Nuxt.js to render it. For less-frequently updated sites, Gatsby.js is also a popular solution for serving a statically-generated site.

Going headless bypasses the need for traditional WordPress themes and allows developers to utilize WordPress for content management while keeping the look and feel of the website controlled by a favored framework. Even if you still need plugins for specific parts of your site, the functionality is still there to be utilized, while clients are able to manage their content in the familiar WordPress interface.

Gutenberg

Since the release of WordPress version 5.0, WordPress has shipped an alternative editor as a plugin by the name of “Gutenberg”. If you still aren’t convinced about going headless, I can confidently suggest JavaScript for this editor alone. Gutenberg Blocks are built using the React JavaScript library. While it is still in its infancy, you can expand and modify what Gutenberg offers you right now. Understanding the core of JavaScript goes a long way in picking up React.js or any JavaScript framework.

While you can still use the “Classic Editor” until (at least) December 31, 2021, using the Classic Editor plugin, it would be a great idea to start learning Gutenberg now if you plan to use WordPress in the future.

Here are some reliable sources to help you begin your JavaScript journey:

https://www.codecademy.com/catalog/language/jav\ascript
https://guide.freecodecamp.org/javascript
https://www.staging.liquidweb.com/blog/wordpress-gutenberg/
https://www.staging.liquidweb.com/blog/real-world-guide-using-gutenberg/

Javascript and PHP

WordPress Programming Language #2: PHP

If you are fine with how WordPress is currently working for you and are not ready to use WordPress outside of its classic setup, that is fine as well! With that in mind, if you have not learned PHP already then it is essential to learn now in order to develop anything inside the WordPress ecosystem since all of it is written in PHP and JavaScript.

PHP frameworks like Laravel can also be used to make a decoupled WordPress site. This would collect and send data from the same REST API that JavaScript would use. Since PHP is run on the server and JavaScript is generally in the browser, you can use both for some really great results.

Take the time to learn PHP standards that apply to PHP versions 7.1 and beyond. The reasoning for this is PHP5.x up to 7.0 is already end of life. Learning older standards would only apply if you were to work in a legacy environment. You can still utilize older versions of PHP on Liquid Web Servers with cPanel, Managed WordPress, and Managed WooCommerce servers for the time being.

Do understand that learning a PHP framework is quite a bit more complex than learning to make a theme for WordPress, for instance. Learning programming principles will go a long way towards understanding concepts outside of the WordPress ecosystem.

Here are some reliable sources to help you begin learning PHP:

https://www.codecademy.com/learn/learn-php
https://www.w3schools.com/php/

Final Thoughts

Designing sites using WordPress is certainly a useful skill to have. Learning PHP, JavaScript and how to develop a WordPress site may also lead to more job opportunities. JavaScript is in the top three sought-after skills in 2019, so taking time out of your life to learn these skills can be extremely valuable. Keep in mind that it is always good to stay ahead of the curve with new technologies around WordPress.

If you already have a workflow that allows you to produce quality work for a large number of clients then that is great. You likely do not need to change much. If you wish you could provide a bit more to your clients or feel like you have grown stagnant, changing things up by learning a new framework or a new language might be something to consider.

Managed WordPress Can Help

Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting takes care of image compression, automatic updates for plugins and the platform, automatic daily backups, automatic SSL, and staging environments. It also includes access to developer tools, which leaves you with more time to learn a new programming language.

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