For developers, the WordPress world is full of opportunity. Creating plugins and themes, and building awesome websites are just a few of the possibilities. Becoming a WordPress developer, however, requires a great deal of time, dedication, and practice, and isn’t a decision one should take lightly.
To better grapple with the hard work and commitment that goes into becoming a developer, I reached out to Nick Haskins — Developer and CEO at aesopstoryengine.com — to understand his personal evolution, both as a developer and an entrepreneur.
Q: Could you talk a little about how you’ve seen the WordPress plugin and theme industry evolve over the years?
A: In the time that I’ve been in the industry, I’m seeing a shift back to simplicity. It’s becoming more and more common for themes to ship with very few options and I’m particularly excited about this. It leads to less maintenance, less chance of conflict with other plugins, and less support on the product itself.
I hope to see this trend continue to gain traction, but the key will be in educating new developers and instilling those philosophical WordPress values of “decisions, not options,” and “clean, lean, and mean.”
Q: Aesop Story Engine is such a unique idea, what is the inspiration behind it?
A: The basis of the idea was inspired by some work I had done on a site designed to showcase authors’ writings. It had multiple “layouts” available, which really broke out of the traditional small column stories.
Then I found the NY Times Snowfall article. Reading that it took 16 people 12 months to create really surprised me, so I wanted to see if one person could build it in a few weeks. And so I did. I spent most of Christmas and New Years of 2013 putting it together. During the process, I started to see more and more big name sites toying with interactive transmedia presentations, which to me validated the work I was doing.
I wanted to be able to give writers and storytellers access to an amazing, open-sourced suite of tools, without having to hire or outsource the development.
Q: Any new projects in your future?
A: Absolutely. Now that Aesop Story Engine is at a matured and stable point, we’re laying out the initial pieces needed for a hosted storytelling platform. The goal is to remove the points of friction associated with crafting unique story presentations, while making it easy for collaboration between writers, illustrators, and photographers to produce really meaningful stories. There’s of course a whole lot more that goes along with this which we’ll be sharing in the coming months.
Q: What’s the most significant lesson you’ve learned in your time as a WordPress developer?
A: To stick to WordPress core functions and avoid abstractions. Avoid leveraging “time saving” tools and frameworks, which generate the code that you could just write out yourself. These types of “time saving” tools actually end up taking more time because you become dependent on them.
A lot of time, there’s no exit strategy if these “time saving” tools go south. If you’re using these tools for everything you do, everything that was done has to now be redone. Perfect practice makes perfect.
Q: Could you give some advice to those who are thinking about creating their own WordPress plugin or theme, but don’t know where to start?
A: Just dive in. There’s honestly no better way to learn than by actually doing and breaking. A plugin a day keeps the urges away. If you’re passionate about writing code, you’ll find something to write. Every day. If you find something on a site that looks amazing, it could be a slider (meh) or a cool gallery. Go and build it! Think about the logic, think about the presentation, and dive in. Oh, and StackOverflow will be your BFF.
Q: What’s your favorite plugin, and why?
A: That’s a tough question. I’d have to say Easy Digital Downloads. It’s one of the very few plugins that I can update without worrying about things breaking. It serves as commerce backbone of our site. It’s incredibly stable, and the developers are just as passionate as I am about writing code.
You can contact Nick on Twitter @nphaskins!
Marie Dodson is the editor at Torque. She enjoys writing, reading good books, and travel.