Oena//Oct 18, 2019

Ask Oena: What's your thoughts on WordPress?

Oena discusses their thoughts on WordPress and how it now fits into their daily stack.

4 minute read

Ask Oena: What's your thoughts on WordPress?

Ask Oena is our own advice column where we share our experiences in the industry. Read more about why we decided to start this column.

Introduction

When we first started our little agency in the early 2010’s, WordPress was our go to platform for all our client work. It was versatile by all means for us, we could utilise it for commercial websites, eCommerce thanks to its WooCommerce extension and of course it was one heck of a blogging platform which is originally how it started out. We loved it. Our little team were able to push boundaries with the platform and we even created our own template stack that we called Luna.

The possibilities felt endless to us, the WordPress ecosystem gave birth to a thriving community and with that came a vast ocean of plugins that allowed us to solve many of our clients problems throughout our growing years. So where do we stand now?

WordPress and beyond

Fast forward to 2019 and a lot has changed in the WordPress world, Gutenberg was arguably the biggest change in 2018 to the platform since it started. It brought forward the exciting concept of blocks which promised endless possibilities for developers and not only that, it was also built using the modern framework React.js. The change however was met with great controversy. The community was split in half and it became the most feared update in its history.

Agencies and freelancers were up in arms (we were too!) with how many of our clients site might break and when some of their core plugins would be updated to support Gutenberg. As we know now the hype and fear was somewhat overblown, no this wasn’t Y2K part deux. Upon release WordPress 5.0 updated most client sites with ease and it was somewhat a relieve. The whole episode however sparked a huge concern for us and our future with the platform as our number one go too.

Prior to WordPress 5.0, we’d already been following the release of React.js closely since its initial launch in 2013. React.js is a Javascript based framework created by Facebook that promised a modern way to not only build immersive websites but also apps. We were intrigued by the possibility of moving to a framework fully created around Javascript but we weren’t ready to fully commit initially due to our ties within the WordPress community.

This of course all changed during the mid December month of 2018. Christmas was looming and Oena was about to shut for the festive period. This is when we mapped out the biggest shift in our agencies life. It was time for us to fully embrace React.js and move away from platforms that share the same front-end and back-end. This would allow us to create bigger web apps that were scaleable on a large level for our clients to grow. We wanted our clients to not have to worry about updates and security patches which was accomplishable with a headless CMS. Hold on a second, what’s a headless CMS?

Off with its head! (Okay not literally)

As web based technology has continued to focus more and more on "front-end components," less markup is coming from sites server and therefore the CMSs as a whole. Platforms like Twitter and Reddit are now single page applications. The application that is "in-charge" of rendering and displaying content is separate and distinct from the application that is "in-charge" of storing and returning content.

This trend is continuing to become more popular across the web and the flexibility is what drew us in. By keeping the front-end and back-end separate, it keeps codebases separate, and allows our team to focus on the most important pieces of the application. It also ensures that the front-end and backend are interchangeable. As long as the content structure remains the same, each part of the app can theoretically operate the same which works with its own data and communicates with each other through RESTful APIs or GraphiQL.

WordPress as a headless CMS

So you’re probably thinking where does WordPress fit into all this now? Well, since WordPress 4.7 there’s been the ability to disable the front-end entirely and dynamically pull data thanks to its handy REST API functionality thus making it a headless CMS. Imagine the whole WordPress plugin ecosystem at your fingertips with a front-end of your choice.

Since our move to React.js we’ve been able to utilise WordPress’s strongest features and remove its weakest. Theres no denying its a strong CMS platform and a lot of our clients still love using it so it’s arguably the best of both worlds. That’s not saying WordPress is now our only CMS choice to pair or web apps with, we love to use Prismic and Contentul as well.

If you’re a developer or maybe you’re just curious about what the WordPress REST API is all about, we’ve left a link below to their official explanation and also how you can utilise it on your next project.

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Oena™
A full service agency

Oena is a full-service agency, hard at work designing and building beautiful digital products, brands, and experiences. In our spare time we also like to run our blog and share our experiences in this ever changing industry.

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