Can I Learn PHP Through WordPress Development?

Learning PHP through WordPress is possible, although I wouldn’t recommend it.

Learning PHP From WordPress

In all honesty, I know of a couple dozen people who followed that route. One of the smartest minds in my network did that – but it happened over a decade ago when email lists and support forums were still heavily used.

He was genuinely interested in learning – and did his due diligence on various questions and problems daily, submitting sample code snippets and helping people out.

He now leads an enormous team in one of the largest WordPress companies worldwide, handling development, security, performance, automated testing and more.

Lazy PHP Learning

The problem with studying PHP through WordPress is the ease of use of the platform. It offers a large set of reusable components that you can use out-of-the-box.

  • You can easily work as a plugin developer for years without having to:
  • Design a new database schema from scratch
  • Create a brand new dashboard for users
  • Define and architect user roles, sessions, authentication, email confirmation
  • Create a media management dialog
  • Deal with importers or exporters (too much hassle)
  • Handle discussion options and comments (including spam management)

Once you accept that all of those (and many, many more) are available and should be reused as a best practice, it isn’t your top priority to learn how to build them yourself.

PHP Through WordPress Plugin Development

Still, it’s possible to make it work. When we organize internships or onboard developers who don’t know WordPress, we give them a plugin framework I designed which represents a collection of functions and libraries interacting with the most popular platform APIs.

That combined with WordPress APIs ” WordPress Codex can be a great starting point for junior developers eager to learn more at a later point.

If you join a team of professional WordPress developers and follow a similar track, you can advance by working on complex projects with seniors helping out. But there’s a lot more to programming than building more post types for an existing website or designing a yet another widget.

PHP is Required for WordPress Development

Complex WordPress projects do require expert familiarity in PHP and JavaScript. You may have to extract existing components or replace them with more optimal ones. That often requires a new set of databases suitable to your business case.

Migrating platforms from and to WordPress also depends on a good amount of experience with the platform. Optimizing for performance is a whole different beast. Security code reviews matter a lot – and while there are plenty of suitable functions in WordPress and its nonces, you still need to understand how handling requests works on a lower level.

Best-case scenario, you would learn PHP, build a couple applications from scratch, spend some time with a framework like Laravel or Symfony and switch to WordPress. But if you have already found a job opportunity as a WordPress developer, it’s still not too late to teach yourself PHP along the way.