{ Roger the Web Dev }

Learning how to create websites to using WordPress (Part 2)

by | Oct 1, 2020

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Meeting the Man behind the Curtain

As I continued learning about website design and development I eventually had to meet the other part of web development: the backend. The true iceberg under the water, the chef in the kitchen, the man behind the curtain. 

I was not a fan.

Now don’t get me wrong it’s not that I don’t like the backend, it just wasn’t what got me excited about creating websites. I was lost. Some of this had to do with my lack of experience with JavaScript vs CSS and design etc…however the main reason is that I had moved from design and moved to programming. Which was fine.

So, gone were the days of trying to get a <div> to center correctly and size appropriately when I resized the page, or trying to find the correct color that spoke to the message and feeling I wanted to convey with my website. Now, I was importing Express, running a serve, connecting routes and authenticating users. Not that this wasn’t interesting, it was. Learning even just the basics of this allowed me a deeper understanding of how websites worked.

It’s just that I didn’t really want to do that. I am a visual person and I enjoy immensely doing frontend work. This routing stuff just wasn’t for me.

Moving back to the front

Now, don’t get upset or accuse me of giving up (which I did point out was a problem for me in my last post) quite yet. You see, I had stuck with backend for many months to about a year. In fact, I learned a lot and even helped out a small startup hand-code and set up a login and authentication with a dashboard for their website. It was extremely challenging, and stretched me a lot. But in all honesty, I wanted to spend more time in the fronted. I was more concerned about making the buttons look good, as opposed to where the route went when I pressed the button. So, I again had to refocus myself.

I felt at this point in my journey to learn website creation, I was at an impasse. I had entered this coding/website journey with the idea of learning WordPress and being able to create websites. Now, however, I knew a whole bunch of stuff rather well (some things better than others), but didn’t have a direction really. There was a many directions I could go, but I was not sure which road to focus on.

Back when I had initially graduated college I had always found web design and creation interesting. In fact, I remember that I had even considered going back to school to learn about website design and creation after college, or even learning it on my own. But, I had graduated college in ’08 and the advent of online learning was still mostly young. There was no Team Treehouse or Udemy like it is now. So I dropped that idea and just do what I had originally planned to do with my degree. But, in 2016-2017 I continues to get that itch again to really sit down and learn web development. Deciding to start with WordPress was a great idea. However, as I pointed out earlier, I didn’t know there was a difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

New Discoveries

From about 2017 on, I taught myself web development, either through courses and tutorials, as well as Youtube and articles. I had created sites for fun and even some for actual businesses in order to build my portfolio. Yet, I always felt something was missing. Like some missing ingredient in my attempt to build websites. I would call it a veneer, or a shine that my websites lacked, which other websites had. I was still a rookie in creating websites but I didn’t know what to do. 

Around 2018-19 I decided that I wanted to do freelance website design. But I knew that my skills, while I had some, still lacked. So I continued to practice and learn more but eventually I needed to get out of tutorial hell and actually start doing something.  I had at that point done some free websites for a couple of businesses, other than one that didn’t really go anywhere. But I decided to press on and learn more. 

Two WordPress, One Choice

I had been searching for something that would allow me to quickly, and efficiently, build a beautiful and functional website for clients. WordPress, the platform I originally started my journey with, was the logical choice.

When I started to build a website for myself I realized quickly that I needed a blog. Well, how was I gonna create a blog for myself that I could update and use regularly? I had no idea about how to create a simple backend for a blog.

So I went searching. I found out I could either hand code a page for a blog, then hand code a blog post, but it was the ‘illusion’ of an actual blog system with a backend. Essentially I would have a template for the post and then just write the post in HTML and then paste it to the website. Sounded pretty 90’sish to me. I needed some sort of CMS, or some sort of system that would allow me to have a platform that I could write a blog, post it and rinse and repeat.

I had looked at how to do it in Node/Express. As a matter of fact, the rise of headless/decoupled CMS’s, like Storyblok, Contentful and Sanity, started to gain more popularity around that time. Eventually, through trial and error I got something working, but I still was basically coding a normal page then added that to the website myself. Which was a lot of work. But, again, it did work. 

Some (almost) Last Thoughts

I eventually realized that I needed my blog to look a little better, so I went the wordpress.com route and created a simple blog page and post that I could edit and then just link to on my page. However, I didn’t personally like that I was going away from my site, but it worked out pretty well. I had what I was looking for: A platform I could blog with and link to my website. One downside was that I didn’t like that it was very clearly a WordPress site that I was linking to. Especially, after I had coded a nice website for myself. But again, it was a good stopgap until I came up with something better.

But I realized that I wanted more and a better way to become a more rounded developer/designer. So after some more tutorials and building some sites and just learning more about design and development I did a little bit of research on how to combine what I knew with some ease of use to be able to code websites quickly and efficiently.

It was around that time I found Divi

Divi WordPress Theme

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