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Learning Multiple Languages In A Year, Am I Misguided? (8 posts)

  1. Mulsiphix
    Member
    Posted 2 years ago #

    I am planning on starting a website business and want to use WordPress multisite as my CMS. I will be creating hundreds of websites and need the ability to make them look very different and non-standard issue WordPress. From my understanding from browsing the WP Codex I will need to learn PHP, CSS, HTML, XML, JavaScript, JQuery, AJAX, and become familiar with the WordPress engine itself. Most of my customization of these websites will be purely theme based. I imagine I can start the business with a solid beginner/so-so intermediate knowledge of each language. It is just theme creation after all. All of the hard work is already done (WP Core) and XML/CSS/HTML is more about memorization than mastery.

    My Question: Am I shooting too high here? Is my chance of success ridiculously small? I figure I have about one year to learn whatever I can before I have to start building my WordPress web development business. I have always been good at figuring out code I haven't studied but I don't know enough to write code from scratch. I am a quick learner and have a good 8 hours a day to dedicate to learning and practicing.

    I would love to hear general feedback, suggestions, bad news, good news, anything you have to offer.

  2. peredur
    Member
    Posted 2 years ago #

    A lot depends on things like the following:

    • Your background in ICT. If you've got an IT degree and/or have worked in this area for years, you'll at least understand some of the fundamentals. If you've got an MBA and a first, brand new razor, you may struggle
    • Your programming background. Especially Web applications programming. If you've had years of programming in another language, like C# and ASP.NET for instance, you should pick up PHP in no time. But even if your programming experience has been away from the Web, you shouldn't find PHP a problem. However, if you have no programming experience, you'll find it tough. Learning the language is one thing. Learning to write good code is quite another. Unfortunately there is a huge amount of dreadful programming around. Bad coding is hard to maintain and needs a lot of maintenance. If you have many sites, that might make life tough.
    • I could say similar things about HTML/CSS. The comment about there being a lot of really bad coding about I could say in spades. To write good HTML/CSS you really need to be aware of the philosophy: semantic markup and the separation of style and content.
    • Ditto JavaScript. It depends on how complex you want to be with JS. Probably just taking advantage of, say, JQuery would not be too hard.
    • WordPress is easy to learn once you understand HTML/CSS/PHP
    • And lastly, it depends on how many sites you're going to be creating and managing; and how creative and individual you're going to make their themes and operation. As compared to the extent to which you can take advantage of ready-made components: plugins and the like. If you're going to be creating your own themes and plugins, you'll find it hard.

    So, from your description of what you're aiming at, I'd say you'll find it hard if you're starting from scratch. But of course I don't know how bright you are, nor how determined, talented and eager to work you are.

    If I was planning something like this, I'd be thinking in terms of a team of people - for design and coding, server admin and office admin and sales.

    But, of course, this is all just my opinion. Maybe I'm becoming too inflexible and risk-averse in my old age.

    Cheers

    PAE

  3. Mulsiphix
    Member
    Posted 2 years ago #

    "If I was planning something like this, I'd be thinking in terms of a team of people"

    Question: For what it is worth the development of these sites will be slower. Essentially making sites available en mass using open source and commercial themes that allow it, developing my custom themes one at a time. I will likely reuse as much as possible (code wise) from other open-source themes and use commercial themes as a primary reference; almost entirely in the beginning while I continue to learn. As themes are finished they will become available for the users in the multisite to use. As long as the end user is happy, my job will be successful. Using this strategy I hope I can avoid the need for other developers, at least until profits start to make expansion financially possible.

    To write good HTML/CSS you really need to be aware of the philosophy: semantic markup and the separation of style and content.

    Question: Are there IDE's or Frameworks that could help me learn best practices in the beginning? Just so I am not completely in the dark and left to referencing books and tutorials? Any types of programs out there designed to look at your code and make suggestions?

    Ditto JavaScript. It depends on how complex you want to be with JS. Probably just taking advantage of, say, JQuery would not be too hard.

    Question: In terms of web development for WordPress, where PHP is the primary focus for actual development of most of the site and its plugins, what else can you really do with JavaScript beyond some fancy effects to add glitz and glam to your site? I plan on cramming as much functionality into the site via PHP as possible, just so anybody not using or who disabled JS won't be missing anything crucial.

    My last question is about PHP. I know WP is setup so you don't need to know how to code in PHP to design themes (HTML/CSS only requirments). Beyond plugin development, will knowing PHP have any application in WP development? I'm just curious what the benefits of seriously dedicating myself to learning PHP will yield, specifically to WP theme development? I apologize if this is a poor question. My experience with WP plugins is pretty poor but not non-existent.

    Thank you so much for your feedback peredur. I sincerely appreciate it.

  4. peredur
    Member
    Posted 2 years ago #

    Themes... The best way to reuse is to develop child themes. I rarely develop a theme from scratch unless my client has very fixed ideas about what they want and I can't find a F/OSS theme sufficiently close. The standard of coding for both OS and commercial themes is very variable, but I wouldn't assume that commercial themes are better on average, if that's what you were thinking. This is true of plugins as well.

    HTML/CSS frameworks... Nothing that I know of that's halfway decent. And visual tools like Dreamweaver are more of a hindrance than a help IMHO. Others may disagree.

    PHP... You're probably going to need PHP for theme development. At the very least you need to know how to call the WP API to do things like return a set of posts (for example) from the database, to return a list of menu items, even just to return the name of the site and so on. And you're going to need to know how to do things like enqueue scripts etc.

    JavaScript... There are many reasons for using it. Not just visual effects in a pejorative sense. Some things like concertinas and so on can be essential to make some designs work at an acceptable speed. Then there's stuff like geo-location (here's a map of where our meetings are held... etc). Much of the fancy stuff like dropdown menus can be done using CSS these days. I stopped using JS for menus and the like some time ago. Although you may still have to include some scripts, of course, to make stuff work in older browsers (yes, IE, I'm looking at you). Also, if you make your themes configurable, which you will almost certainly want to do, you will need to provide options in the Dashboard. This may well involve you in using both JS and PHP quite extensively.

    HTH

    PAE

  5. Mulsiphix
    Member
    Posted 2 years ago #

    So there really is no way to get around learning PHP and JS. Someone just told me today that due to similarities, learning them at the same time will be ridiculously problematic and probably result in more confusion than productivity. There really is no fast track to learning theme creation then...

    I don't suppose I could get by using plugins for anything JavaScript. I even came across a plugin for generating administration controls for the backend of WP themes. I don't know how great it would be but it makes me wonder, would it be better to attempt to only learn CSS/PHP and just try to get by without JS for awhile? Then move on as time and experience permit?

  6. peredur
    Member
    Posted 2 years ago #

    Well, we don't know your background or the extent of your resources and ambition. Just because something takes an effort doesn't mean it can't be done. However, what you appear to be intending, if I understand you correctly, is a major undertaking - along the lines of wordpress.com. If that's correct, you need a lot of resources, a lot of skills and knowledge (either your own or from partners/employees) and a lot of personal skills and determination.

    Some of the questions that spring to mind are:

    • Do you have a fast, probably direct, internet connection? Your server(s) need to be connecting to the internet over a super-fast link. Going via an ISP will probably not work if you want to scale up to hundreds of sites
    • Do you have the necessary skills to administer those servers?
    • Are you or can you become in time, an expert in the creation of WordPress sites? Before you start offering services. Using your clients as guinea pigs is not a sustainable way to do business IMHO
    • If you don't have all these things already, can you afford, and do you have the mental wherewithal to get them quickly enough?

    What you are proposing to offer seems to me to be very ambitious. There is no shortcut to success with these things. You have to have sufficient physical and mental resources.

    Just my 2c (ceiniogau Cymreig)

    PAE

  7. Mulsiphix
    Member
    Posted 2 years ago #

    Background: It is hardly a background in programming or impressive from the viewpoint of someone who already has a real career in web development, but this where I am coming from.

    I taught myself HTML at 16 and have used it on and off over the last 15 years. I have built 20+ websites, worked on more community projects than I can count, and worked with other languages for most of these projects. I cannot read them per say but I am good at analyzing code structure, figuring out what likely goes where, looking up what I need on the internet, etc... I have heavily modified phpBB well beyond downloading plugins, I've worked extensively with phpMyAdmin and databases, I've modified a JavaScript search engine to suit my needs, started learning Visual Basic, Python, C#, CSS, XML, PHP, and JavaScript all over the last 10 years. Life has been busy and often unstable, so I never got much farther than 50 pages into any book for these languages. Note that any examples that were taught were successfully completed though.

    I've rented three linux based dedicated servers at different times, all self-admin, for web hosting and running game servers. I've installed linux, apache, mysql, php, and a variety of other things on linux all by command line. I never know anything when I go into these new ventures but I learn very fast and am a great observer. I learn a great amount from looking at other folks code and by digesting both hand holding educational and reference style books. I read the HTML book (500+ pages) in about two weeks. I know that is nothing like PHP or JavaScript as I have started reading those before as well.

    I believe I do have the necessary skills to administer a server including security and backend administration of all aspects of the servers operation. I have never used linux at home or work personally, but utilizing it to administrate my own DS(s) was never a problem. I already have done my research on hosting and will be going with a company called SwiftWay.

    Swiftway has 9 datacenter locations worldwide and a high quality network AS35017 with multiple uplink providers like Nlayer, Level(3), Steadfast, Hurricane Electric and private peering with Cogent and Fiberring. I will be using their CDN and eventually Colocation services. They also offer streaming services should I need them. I've talked extensively with customer support and feel very confident in my choice to use them. I will have an unmetered Gigabit connection through them. All in all, I think my hosting needs are well researched and more than sufficient for the project's needs. I do have the money to get my hosting and coast with it for a few months while I get everything setup server side.

    I do plan on offering something like WordPress.com but not on that scale. I am starting a modeling company and the pages will be for the girls to self-market themselves with. Girls will be given a website with tons of features and content, but in the beginning I will be selling one single experience which will utilize the same theme, where they can change the colors to "customize" it as they like. This theme will most likely be tested by the community itself (free release?) or if I choose to keep it in house I will hire someone proficient in theme creation to look it over and analyze the various aspects required for it to be client ready.

    From that point on my skills will be going into theme creation and site administration/maintenance. My wife will be handling the business side of things. We just closed down an eBay business we successfully ran for 10 years out of our home doing large scale reselling of item lots purchased on ebay. The business side is definitely something we are both well versed in but for the sake of time management I will focus purely on web development.

    This is the plan so far. I imagine the amount of clients I will be looking at will be in the low hundreds for the first two to three years. With any luck it will grow well beyond that. So those are my plans and a little about my background. As for my personal drive, everything in my life depends on this. I have a wife and four children to support, the youngest being a newborn. Pushing myself hard and performing well is something I have done all of my life. I am ready and I am hungry. I just want to make sure I am walking the most logical path before I begin this new journey.

  8. Mulsiphix
    Member
    Posted 2 years ago #

    I failed to note thus far that the one year timeline is for learning only. I'm estimating six months for actual deployment, start to finish, though that is more of a maximum "time left" than an estimated timeline to completion/launch of the site.

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