So Much Tech
The web changes fast. Really fast. Think back to the newborn web in the early/mid 1990’s, with the basic colors, system fonts and brutalist layouts. The building blocks of these early sites were very, very simple – mostly just HTML.
It’s been a fast and furious crescendo of technologies since then: server-side, client-side, frameworks, pre-processors, task-runners, font libraries, third-party services. And everything is constantly updating, turning every website into a living piece of code that requires husbandry. If you mix a large number of technologies with the need to be familiar with the current version of all of them, the level of knowledge and training required to build and maintain a modern website is elevated far beyond entry-level.
It was a few short years ago that IronGate Creative decided to focus on WordPress as our core CMS. The decision was made for a number of reasons, including the broad base of support and popularity of WordPress, the reported ease of use by our clients, and perhaps most importantly it allowed us to focus our skill set and produce better products.
At the time the decision was made, many of our client projects were built in a variety of PHP CMS’s DuJour, Angular, ASP.NET, a handful of task runners and CSS preprocessors and even a good bit of static HTML. It was a veritable grab bag of web tech from the last 7-8 years. As of this post, all new projects use WordPress, and all but a small handful of custom projects for which it is not appropriate have been converted.
WordPress, having evolved into a capable and customizable CMS over the last few years, provides a great foundation for us to build upon. We have been able to bring our core technologies down to a manageable list. This is one current version of our ever-evolving list:
- PHP (as used within a WP framework)
- jQuery and related plugins
- Google Fonts
- Twitter Bootstrap for grid framework
- SASS (SCSS)
WP plugins/ themes
- InfiniteWP (site management)
- Custom Field Suite
- Gravity forms
- Padbury’s BST (Bootstrap Starter Theme)
Other good tools
- sanitize.css (basic css reset)
- Don’t overthink it grids (when you don’t need Bootstrap)
- WP CLI (if you need to export/import huge DBs or other heavy WP lifting)
- Grunt (compiling sass, minifying scripts, etc)
- 10up engineering best practices (a great resource, even if we don’t follow everything)
For the Future
As with any growing agency, standardization has been a boon for us. We have been able to hire more easily, since we are aiming at a more focused target. We have been able to deliver on promises of future support, since the required knowledge hasn’t shifted under our feet. It has also opened up for discussion what technologies we should embrace, making the decisions more clear, public, and lasting. Our thinking has changed from focusing on each individual project to looking forward to how we want our agency to look in the future.
If you haven’t started putting together a list of standard tools that your agency uses, you might consider starting now. It has certainly worked for us.