Like most web development companies building a website on WordPress, we start with WordPress Core. This is the basic framework which includes a few initial themes you can build off of, or you can install your own theme. Because we only build custom here at TM, we’ve improved upon this with our own better base code.
In website development, base code refers to a whole collection of source code that is used to build the website.
The base theme that we created is customized and modified to fit our workflow here at TM. It is the foundation that we use to start building each custom website, which we layer other web technologies on top of in each build.
What Web Technologies Are Used?
All modern websites use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and most developers use a CSS “preprocessor” like SASS or LESS. We use SASS, which compiles into a single CSS file.
Before CSS preprocessors, housing all your styles in a single CSS file would have been been bad news. You’d end up spending extra time scrolling through a large, lagging CSS file looking for your selector. SASS allows you to break up your code into different files, or “partials”, which aides in organizing the code into logical files that are easy to find and, most importantly, easy to modify.
Why is TM’s Base Code Superior?
The amount of organization, simplification, and quality of code is what sets our base code apart. When you start building a website, each section of code is broken down into folders. There are prescribed places for typography settings, layout, images, scripts, and so on.
In our experience with off-the-shelf themes, other agencies don’t take the time to optimize and scrutinize code like we do. At TM, we use every learning experience to advance and improve our “starting point” in building a website. We often find code thrown together, without regard for future site changes. The resulting website might look the same at first glance – but soon things start to break and are found to be time-consuming and costly to fix. When you don’t do things right from the start, it always comes back to haunt you, and creates something called technical debt.
Why is Base Code Organization Important?
When the individual pieces that make up a website become convoluted, with duplicate code appearing in multiple places, it creates many problems. For example, if you were to want “dark blue” changed to “light blue” on your website, a developer would have to search through file after file to find and change every instance of “dark blue”. We’ve even worked on websites that required us to color match “dark blue” on one page of the site in order to correctly repeat it on another page simply because nothing was written properly in the code the first time.
At TM, our base code is built such that each property of a website is defined ONCE in a neatly organized structure. In our example, changing “dark blue” to “light blue” is as simple as changing a single line of code, affecting the entire site in an instant. Not only does this improve website speed and functionality, but it makes modifying your website so much cheaper!
Imagine a simple color change like this requiring three times as much time as it should, simply because things weren’t done correctly the first time. What would a more complex change cost you?
We Have High Standards
At TM we do things the right way and use modern, accepted web standards for multiple reasons. Each line of clean code we write is just one more step that ensures our clients websites are easy to update, maintain, and will not break or be hacked.
TM’s goal in collectively refining and building our base code is so we always have the most current and up-to-date web standards. This ensures that future developers will know what we were doing (and why), making future rebuilds and upgrades easier. Once you know how the base code is set up (it’s a big task learning what’s going on in the base code, don’t let us fool you) it’s easy to know how to work on our sites.
The Pre-Made Theme Downfall
WordPress themes and drag-and-drop website builders have recently taken over, with every small business owner wanting a customized website on a minimal budget. The problem with these “one size fits all” options is that the code that’s written is massively bloated (sic organization and simplicity), in order to try and make them competitive in the theme marketplace.
The creators of these themes want them to sell, so they’re coded to be as customizable as possible – boasting every feature imaginable (which commonly don’t work properly). Then, they’re sold for a couple hundred bucks or a monthly subscription. Usually these themes are abandoned after a short while and the sites are left broken without recourse to update the site or fix bugs. In our experience, overhauling a site built on a pre-made theme is a massive and expensive task.
For many start-ups, using a service like Wix or Shopify is a good option while they’re small and working to build their business. However, once the business is ready to make some real money and expand into other ventures, those same small business owners realize their template can’t be customized to handle large scale operations. That’s when it’s time to call the pros.
Why Pre-Made Themes & Plugins Break
Just like our iPhones, websites need frequent updates or rebuilds (we know you get that new phone every time you’re up for an upgrade, don’t lie!).
Because these pre-made themes are written to be as customizable as possible, they’re extremely bloated (read: large file sizes, slow load times, hard to edit). The theme folder is usually 10-20 sizes larger than it needs to be, and is generally coded poorly.
When WordPress or a plugin updates, it’s almost a certainty that something will break. Many times this is because of plugin incompatibility, or abandoned theme development. Abandoned means that the developers simply stopped working on keeping the theme up-to-date, causing the code to become outdated.
We’re often asked why we charge what we do for our websites, and it’s because we code them and design them the right way the first time. Consider this:
A man is planning to propose to his girlfriend and he knows they need a home to live in. His budget is pretty sparse, so he buys a home on a limited budget. The foundation is crumbling and it’s too small for kids, but it’s good for now, right?
Fast forward a few years and a baby is on the way, so he decides to build an addition. He doesn’t want to invest in a new home (he’s got this one and it’s been good enough so far) so he builds the addition.
Yes, he has an addition and the house is technically larger but there’s still no insulation and the foundation is still crumbling. He can forget adding that second story his wife wants because the house simply won’t support it.
This is the exact same scenario people come across when they’ve purchased a theme, their business has grown, and they realize it’s time to expand.
To customize your website, for an Event Calendar or a QuickBooks integration, plugins are installed. While there are out-of-the-box plugins created by WordPress, there aren’t enough to give clients exactly what they need, so outside plugins are also used. These plugins are created by developers and, just like WordPress, are constantly being updated to keep up with changing technology and the competitive plugin marketplace.
WordPress, in the past 9 months, has updated 4-5 times. Since the platform is open source and constantly updating, we write our code so that when WordPress (or plugins) update, nothing breaks.