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It’s Time For WordPress Developers To Learn JavaScript

April 28, 2016 0 Comments RSS Feed

JavaScriptIn 2015’s State Of The Word address, Matt Mullenweg talked about WordPress 4.4, about PHP 7, and about the growth of WordPress, but the headline message of the talk was this: JavaScript and APIs are WordPress’s future.

That statement has to be taken in its proper context: WordPress isn’t abandoning PHP, and PHP will be part of WordPress for the foreseeable future, but the role that JavaScript plays in the WordPress world will grow ever larger.

Significant chunks of WordPress already include JavaScript, including the customizer, and libraries like JQuery and Backbone are integrated into WordPress, but, until now, WordPress developers have been able to create themes and plugins while knowing only the bare minimum of JavaScript. If you could integrate a JQuery plugin into your themes, you were pretty much covered.

Things are changing. When WordPress 4.4 released, the JSON REST API finally became part of WordPress Core. Automattic created Calypso, a new administration interface for WordPress in JavaScript and Node.js. It’s likely that more developers will start creating JavaScript-based WordPress integrations that leverage hugely popular JavaScript frameworks like Angular, and that JavaScript will become increasingly important to the WordPress ecosystem. And if that isn’t enough of a incentive, Mullenweg has made it explicit:

“Learn JavaScript, Deeply.”

Which raises the question, what’s the best way to go about learning JavaScript? There are plenty of excellent resources to lead you through the path from JavaScript novice to expert — JavaScript is Sexy has one of the best — but I’d like to offer a path to JavaScript competence that’s both free and easily accessible.

JavaScript Basics

Codecademy offers an excellent introduction of the basics of JavaScript. As many sources have acknowledged, Codecademy’s courses won’t take you from zero to master, but they if you’re completely at sea where JavaScript (and coding more generally) are concerned, they’re a great educational resource for gaining an understanding of basic concepts.

Beyond The Basics

If you don’t need the hand holding offered by Codecademy, or have completed their JavaScript track, my next recommendation is the very good Eloquent JavaScript. It’s too terse to be useful to a true beginner, but anyone with basic knowledge will find clear-eyed explanations of JavaScript concepts and patterns, as well as plenty of exercises to get their teeth into.

WordPress And JavaScript

Using JavaScript with WordPress depends on an understanding of the right way to integrate scripts and external applications with WordPress itself. For the former, Tuts+ has a thorough guide: The Complete Guide to Proper JavaScript Usage With WordPress. If you want to understand how to integrate applications built on JavaScript frameworks like React and Angular, there’s no better source of information than the official WordPress API documentation.

Node.js

Much of the recent excitement in the JavaScript world has been generated by Node.js. Node is a server-side implementation of JavaScript, but describing it that way can be misleading. You can’t go straight from writing JavaScript for the browser to writing server-side applications, largely because it takes some time to get your head around Node’s event driven model. One of the best resources I’ve come across for learning Node is Node: Up and Running. It’s a couple of years old, and things move fast in the Node world, so you should supplement with Nodeschool’s Workshoppers.

It’s highly unlikely that WordPress developers’ PHP skill are going to be superfluous to requirements anytime soon, but forward looking devs should think about adding JavaScript skills to their toolkit so they can participate in what will be some exciting developments in the WordPress world.

Posted in: Webmaster, WordPress