Long live App Themes! (The custom web application is dead)

Posted by on Jan 30, 2013 in Blog, Web Development | No Comments
Long live App Themes! (The custom web application is dead)

Serious Web Apps like Directory Services, E-Commerce, Collaboration Tools, Business Tools, Bulk Mailers and so on are often hosted as stand-alone websites. Some are implemented as application “Components” in frameworks like Joomla!, Drupal, DotNetNuke and so on.

WordPress was rarely considered as a vehicle to carry full-blown apps. No more!

WordPress is no longer just a blog. It has progressed to a general purpose content management system and beyond, to a serious contender as a web-portal or application hosting framework. The reasons are not hard to find. The sheer number of WordPress sites has driven development of the platform at a dizzying rate, with new releases appearing every week or two, addressing things like security, functionality, styling and, above all, usability. This frequent update policy, an agile strategy that implements small changes more often, has meant that the update mechanism be extremely robust and reliable, even through major versions. Add to this the fantastically well-organized and well-presented wordpress.org website, a plugin repository you can largely trust, the largest supply themes in the world and amazingly responsive community support and, best of all, the slick and intuitive back end. WordPress has overcome the UX hurdle on which contenders like Joomla! have tripped. WordPress tops the charts. Easily. It’s no surprise that many of the worlds top organizations are now using WordPress for the primary website, not just to run their blog or online news portal.

The design is no less pretty and well thought out for those venturing a peek under WordPress’s hood. So much so that many web application developers have started using it as a development framework. Just think about it, when developing from scratch in something like hand-coded PHP, CodeIgniter or CakePHP, a developer spends the biggest chunk of his or her time with the standard stuff, like menus, security, content management, the admin backend and so on; and then comes the extraneous stuff like training the user how to use the beast, ensuring that the code can be maintained and updated when technology shifts — and not a line of the killer app (along with cool design, our raison d’etre) has been written Ugh!

Enter “App Themes” and App Plugins. What could make more sense? Themes and plugins that are applications in their own right, but rely on WordPress for all those things that are not core to the application. The styling, the menus, the contents that is not specific to the application, and so on. Just like Joomla! or Drupal. Yes, only better. WordPress is less rigid about it’s layout so, for example, the application settings can be placed all in one easy-to-use admin menu. And if it makes sense to change core WordPress settings, you can do that from your new admin menu too. Or you may decide that the best way is to add a setting or item into an existing WordPress edit menu like, for example, adding an image to a category. This non prescriptive capability has allowed WordPress’s admin back-end to shape itself into what most ordinary, non-tech users comfortable with. Best non-prescriptive, best practice guidelines have evolved, rather than some rigid, pre-designed management framework.

And if you think that there are no more cool things to be said about it, hear this. How about developing your website, live, as you go? Get up and running quickly with WordPress, a cool theme and the important content. Then add your web gadgets and added functionality as required. Commit to smaller changes more often. The big, custom development project needs a large upfront commitment of resources and, therefore, risk!

Lower cost. Reduced risk. No brainer?

Here at Potion our new policy is to make WordPress with app themes (or app plugins) the first consideration when proposing new websites. Contact us to see how we can reduce the development cost for your new site. Also, if you have been shocked by a recent quote to update your old [other framework name here] site, consider converting to the new way – there’s a good chance it will actually cost less; and you will definitely save a bomb on future maintenance.