WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world, with millions of new websites created every year. Despite its reputation for being beginner-friendly for those with no coding skills, the platform ultimately comes down to code. Learning to create and modify WordPress code is the best way to get the most out of it.
But to understand and manage WordPress code, you need to learn multiple programming languages that intertwine and interact with each other to make websites possible. In other words, you need to become a full-stack web developer.
This article explores what full-stack WordPress developers are, what they do, and the skills you need to become one.
What is a full-stack WordPress developer?
In general, a full-stack developer is a software developer contributing to both front and backend development.
Backend development refers to the behind-the-scenes structure of the website, the parts of the website that face the server, and the database. In WordPress, PHP is the essential backend language to know. Java, Ruby, and Python are commonly used as backend languages in other platforms.
What do full-stack WordPress developers do?
Full-stack WordPress developers have various responsibilities, including:
Building, maintaining, redesigning, and migrating WordPress websites.
Building sitemaps or wireframes for WordPress websites.
Designing and developing new features and functions for WordPress websites.
In some cases, developing WordPress plugins.
Converting client business needs and preferences into code.
Testing and debugging code written by other developers.
Be aware of help desk tickets for broken web pages, hacks, and other issues.
Configuring regular automated backups.
Safely install the necessary plugins and themes the website may need.
Safely updating plugins, themes, PHP versions, and WordPress versions.
What skills do you need to become a full-stack WordPress developer?
HyperText Markup Language (HTML)
HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the most popular markup language in the world. It is the code used to structure a webpage and its contents. A web page may contain text, images, video, audio files, and any other format of multimedia content.
HTML acts as the building block of the pages visitors use. It allows web developers to structure them by giving instructions about how each type of content should be displayed.
WordPress developers can add HTML blocks into a post or page with the text editor or edit each media type directly as HTML.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a “style sheet language” and the most popular web language, along with HTML. In fact, HTML and CSS are tightly intertwined because CSS is used to style HTML elements. You can imagine HTML as the bare concrete and metal structure of a building, and CSS is equivalent to the siding, paint, and all other styling materials.
CSS is also used to style other markup languages, like XML.
Some of the most common (but not the only) uses for CSS are the following:
Adding colors to the text.
Changing the size of the text.
Manipulating the spacing between elements.
Changing background images and colors.
Making a web page more responsive by modifying how it displays on different devices with different screen sizes.
JS is the most popular programming language worldwide, making websites and web pages interactive. It comprises the bulk of WordPress’s front-end development along with CSS and HTML. With JS, WordPress developers can make websites more dynamic by adding interactive features like:
Displaying content updates.
2D/3D animated graphics.
Generate popup boxes.
Embed interactive multimedia files like playlists.
Any time a web page is doing more than displaying static text, there’s a good chance JS is involved in the additional elements.
WordPress developers use various JS libraries and collections of pre-written code snippets that allow for more efficient software development. Some of the most popular include jQuery, React, BackBoneJS, Boba.js, and Bricklayer.
Hypertext Processor (PHP)
PHP is the most popular backend scripting language in the world and the one WordPress uses to connect the user interface with the database part of the website. PHP is the code that makes WordPress work.
PHP allows websites to get specific information from the database and use it to piece together HTML pages. All PHP files in the WordPress core installation run on the website’s server. When someone visits your site and enters a specific page, like a blog post, they request information from your server.
When that happens, the server runs PHP code to create an HTML web page and return it to the visitor. Finally, the visitor’s browser receives the HTML code and displays the content of that specific page.
In general terms, a database is a collection of structured data. In WordPress and other content management systems, the database collects data associated with posts, pages, categories and tags, user data, comments, site settings, plugins, and themes.
WordPress developers have access to this database. Using the database management system MySQL, they can control and protect its contents.
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
APIs are software interfaces that allow two applications to share data. APIs allow communication between programs not designed to communicate with each other, such as WordPress websites with a PHP foundation and any other application written in any other language.
Managing APIs allows developers to pull information from many external applications.
Version control systems
Version control systems allow developers to create and manage multiple versions of a single website. These systems can take snapshots of a website’s files to essentially create a copy of its entire codebase and store it so that developers can later restore it or modify it according to their needs.
Without them, developers would have to keep local copies of their website’s codebase, which makes it easier to make mistakes, get versions mixed up, and lose progress. Mastering version control is one skill differentiating professional WordPress developers from everyone else.
Git and SVN are the most popular version control systems.
Ultimately, you need to know four languages to become a WordPress full-stack developer:
HTML for web page structure.
CSS for HTML styling.
PHP to manage the WordPress backend.
In addition to these languages, database management, version control systems, and APIs are very relevant skills for WordPress developers. Depending on the specifics of the website they’re working on, it’s likely that other more advanced skills will be necessary too.
As you get more familiar with the WordPress environment, other skills will be necessary as they become relevant. It’s a gradual process, but with each step you take and every new skill you learn, it will become easier to learn even more.