Awesome Stuff You Can Do with WordPress (Part One)
Instead of “Awesome Stuff You Can Do with WordPress”, this series could just as easily have been titled; “What the Hell Haven’t We Done with WordPress?” But I’ve decided to stick with the original title for now.
The team here at Redsqware always has an eye on for the latest tech news, but we can’t help but notice that certain interesting development concepts sometimes seem to slip below the radar of the general public. To be fair, this happens for lots of reasons. We find ourselves in an age when there are more avenues to success in front of us than ever before.
This is the first installment in a multi-part series I’ll be writing; Awesome Stuff You Can Do with WordPress. To understand our perspective, it helps to know a little about who we are. As an author, I must confess my own personal bias. I’m one of those people who is still naive enough to believe in the power of the internet to change things. Beyond sharing videos of dogs, cats, and babies (more on that in a moment), or serving the interests of the most powerful and best-funded players. I believe it’s possible for a relatively small group of people to do truly awesome things with the right tools, a truckload of sweat, and a boatload of know-how. I’m not purely an idealist. But let’s just say that for me, what we do is about more than money. It’s about the journey, and the satisfaction that comes from knowing we’re doing meaningful work.
Since childhood, I’ve loved making stuff and trying new things. The best days for me are ones when a client succeeds in reaching an objective. Not just the big ones (to be fair, we have our share). But the smaller entrepreneurs and local businesses, too. Because positive change for any of them means positive change for the people who depend on their success. Our primary goal is to help those same enterprises realize their own objectives. It’s a modest goal. But modesty is part of who we are as a company, and it’s a goal we take seriously here.
In a tech news cycle frequently dominated by momentary trends, that philosophy, the job at hand, and our ethics are the stars we travel by. I’ve resisted turning the spotlight on myself until now. Because after more than two decades in the agency business, I’ve had enough of it to last me until the end of my days. Frankly, drawing any amount of focus away from the work we do is antithetical to Redsqware’s somewhat unique culture.
But every so often, the quiet evolution of a revolutionary idea is worth drawing a line under. With that in mind, I’ve decided to stick my neck out a little to share some of the things we’ve done with WordPress. My hope is that by doing so, we can make a very small contribution to the general knowledge base on the subject for those who might not be aware of just how much can be done with it. But particularly for those businesses and non-profits who aren’t sure they can afford to own and manage powerful, purpose-built online tools. Whatever part of your process you want to optimize, chances are there’s a shrinkwrapped solution that may fill the need to a certain extent. But often, that solution isn’t specifically designed to match your process – or you won’t own it, even if you pay to use it. That’s one of the places where affordable, powerful custom developed systems – based on common standards like WP – can make the biggest difference.
It’s hard not to be a little cowed by the simple, earnest genius of Matt Mullenweg’s vision. While it seems that more companies than ever before are talking about WordPress development, the complete picture of what is possible with the WP Platform often gets missed. It’s true that there are lots of frighteningly cheap service providers focused mostly on customizing theme frameworks, primarily for simpler purposes. As there should be.
Alternatively, there are lots of large development houses and code shops pushing their own, more proprietary versions of WP, or selling plugins, support, theme licenses, and other related swag. I’m speaking, of course, of companies like WP Engine and its competitors. But also Envato, and the micropublishers it sustains. Those small publishers are quite possibly the real lifeblood of WordPress, because they help power ongoing innovation and evolution at a grassroots level.
Each of these players has a critical place in the overall WP ecosystem. However, what often gets missed in all the chatter is the fact that – in the right hands – WordPress has the potential to be an enormously powerful, democratic solutions architecture all on its own. A greater investment of resources is required to realize that potential, but there is a strong case for making that investment under the right circumstances. Because the business problems WordPress can potentially be used to solve go far beyond the need for a generic business website.
Due to the ubiquitous nature of PHP and all flavors of SQL today, WordPress can serve as a natural jumping-off point for all kinds of projects. With a wealth of hooks, bootstrap mods, and improved RESTful API resources, WordPress is just beginning to spread its wings. It is swiftly becoming a full-fledged application framework worthy of consideration in its own right. The sheer size of its user and developer base makes it a force to be reckoned with. In the ten years that I’ve been working with WP, I’ve watched it continuously evolve and sharpen its edge to match the market. From a humble platform favored for blogging, into a juggernaut open source CMS representing 25% of all websites worldwide. And now it’s evolved once again. Into a framework worthy of serious consideration for varied and unique purposes – purposes far more ambitious than simple website development.
I should be clear that I don’t believe WordPress is the right tool for every job. Sure, we’ve built sites that handle millions of users a year with it, like SURFboard.com. But we also work with Drupal, .NET, Ruby, PhoneGap, Laravel – and several others. The sweet spot for any project we do has always been managing code, cost, and compliance to deliver a successful solution. In my mind, that determination of success has always been based on the unique needs of each individual client. Not how conveniently something fits into a “box” of predefined methods. There are many unusual cases – particularly for larger, middle-tier companies with finite resources and IT personnel, where we’ve found that WordPress can really shine. The things we’ve done with WordPress are many and varied. That said, if you’re building something truly unique with it, you’ll obviously need to keep a few things in mind.
Those include stuff like:
+ Site Speed
+ Load Balancing
+ Managing Dependencies
+ Compliance Documentation
+ Common Standards
+ Streamlining Deployment
+ Continuous Improvement
+ User Access
+ Ownership Rights
+ Support Models
+ Versioning Methodology
Feel free to add your favorite items to that list. To be certain, WordPress doesn’t lead the pack in all of these. Or, if you prefer; it doesn’t lead the pack in all of these – yet. But in the Awesome Stuff You Can Do with WordPress series, I’ll be showing some of the unusual uses it can be put to. Things we’ve done with WordPress – built either wholly, or in part with it – include:
+ Financial Calculation Tools
+ Private Social Networks
+ Customer Relations Portals
+ Patient Management Applications
+ Loyalty Rewards Programs
+ Large Scale DAMS
… and a bunch of other stuff I may get into if the mood takes me. Tune in next week if you like. Or don’t. We’ll be here working our arses off, regardless.