WordPress: The Appleton Way

An Inside Look at How Appleton Uses WordPress

One of the most popular content management systems in use today is WordPress. Being an open-source project backed by a large community of dedicated developers has made WordPress one of the fastest-growing content management systems in the market, powering nearly 40% of all websites on the internet.

WordPress, a content management system made up of themes and plugins, has a simplistic architecture that makes website creation flexible and seamless. Generally, a single theme is utilized while there potentially could be dozens of plugins in use to increase the functionality of the website.

Themes are nothing more than a collection of template files that are utilized to display different components of a web page such as the header, footer, or sidebar. There are a specific set of template files earmarked for different sections of a website, but custom templates can be created to showcase functionality not native to WordPress. Templates also have many static assets including CSS stylesheets, JavaScript files, images, and fonts.

Plugins

A plugin is just a collection of template files and static assets that provide isolated functionality to a website. Plugins are widely reused across many websites because they provide general functionality that can be styled to match the branding of the website. Plugins come in all functionalities and sizes including contact forms, event calendars, image carousels, and many more.

To better understand the WordPress architecture, you can think of WordPress as your favorite car. The core WordPress architecture acts as the engine while the theme would act as the body of the car. This would include the vehicle’s shape, color and interior. In this scenario, plugins would act as accessories to the vehicle such as navigation, interior lighting, or even a turbo.

Having a plugin-driven architecture has significantly increased the popularity of WordPress by making it much more flexible than comparable content management systems.

But with great power comes great responsibility.

Reduce Your Risk of Malware

Because WordPress is open-source and widely used across the world in almost all industries, it has become a prime target for malicious actors. Upgrades and patches are released by theme creators and plugin authors to eliminate potential exploitations by hackers, but many websites often do not keep up-to-date and malicious actors can exploit vulnerabilities within the WordPress codebase, or the many plugins being used. This can result in a slow website experience, a broken website, or even a compromised database which may include customer data.

Where your website is hosted is also a factor. A plugin can have potentially thousands of files alongside your WordPress theme. If you have dozens of plugins and do not perform routine maintenance of your website, the server where your website is hosted can become bogged down and result in reduced performance affecting your customer experience. It is important to minimize your dependency on plugins to ensure they help reduce server usage. This can also help increase page speeds which have obvious benefits to your customers.

There are many pros to using WordPress as your content management system, but caution must be exercised to minimize the potential of harmful malware.

The Appleton Way

The Appleton team has been using WordPress and has evolved alongside the improvements of the WordPress architecture over the years. Appleton has adopted an application-driven approach to website development. This approach allows us to build highly complex themes and plugins while maintaining consistency across each codebase.

Using a proprietary build process, we can leverage all the benefits of WordPress while minimizing the potential pitfalls.

One of the biggest culprits of page speed indicators are HTTP requests. Every stylesheet and JavaScript included on a website must be requested and loaded into the browser. Each page can potentially have dozens of HTTP requests that need to be resolved before the entire page is loaded. This can significantly reduce page speed and affect user experience. Our build process ensures that external CSS stylesheets and JavaScript files are moved into the actual page template eliminating HTTP requests altogether. This improvement has significantly increased page speed.

With the adoption of modern development tools, the dependency on plugins has been significantly reduced. Legacy websites that utilized a dozen or so third-party vendor plugins can be rebuilt without any third-party plugins. This is a significant leap forward because there is no third-party code on our websites. Having third-party plugins can be a potential risk to your website because updating to the latest version can cause conflicts with other plugins or even the web server itself resulting in a broken website.

Building complex user interfaces requires great tools. Using SCSS, a CSS preprocessor (rather than normal CSS for styling), allows us to write more complex CSS that is more maintainable and better organized. Because early JavaScript, or ECMAScript 5, has many quirky behaviors, our build process encourages the use of Es6 (ECMAScript 6) syntax. Using this syntax removes the quirky nature of the older versions of JavaScript resulting in more performant code.

One of the most significant successes of our proprietary build process is the separation between a development environment and a production environment. When a website is in the process of being developed, it is built in a development environment. Most WordPress websites do not have a distinction between environments which can lead to issues over time when a website is being updated or improved. When we launch a website to a live server, the codebase for a website will undergo a series of command-line tasks which automatically generates a production environment. The production codebase includes only minified template files, compressed images, and bundled stylesheets and JavaScript files. This significantly reduces the number of files on a web server which minimizes server usage.

The Competition

In the web development community, WordPress is often overlooked because of the vast number of other technologies and content management systems in the market. With the rise in popularity of Node.js, Python and other programming languages over the years, the CMS market has been highly competitive. Even with the introduction of more mainstream technologies and development tools, WordPress still has a firm grasp at the top of the CMS market.

Appleton has successfully merged modern web development techniques with WordPress to build highly modular websites that are easily scalable and optimized for best practices. While the WordPress architecture is evolving, Appleton will be continuously improving its website architecture and build process to ensure quality and consistency is maintained throughout all our projects. Appleton is an award-winning, full-service advertising agency that specializes in Orlando web design services. Appleton works with local, national and international clients to deliver powerful, responsive websites that are specifically designed to be seen first in search engines. Reach your target customers in the right places and establish highly qualified leads with a dynamic and accessible website. Your web design and development goals are worth a conversation: contact us at 407-246-0092 or info@appletoncreative.com.

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