Some months later the internship turned into a job. I carried on working for the company until eventually, due to chaos in the company and late salary payments, I quit. I was out for a new job, still motivated to learn and continue growing. My first job had been a "proper development" job. No CMS, no builders, just HTML, CSS and JS (mostly Vue.js, but that's besides the point). I figured I would continue on this path. Mostly because no other path had been presented to me. So I looked for jobs of this description, but, due to the fact that I had decided, no matter what, I would work from home and part time, it was a little more challenging to find good offers. Another hurdle was my lack of experience, as I had only been a Frontend Developer for 8 or 9 months. One offer came through and the employer seemed eager to get someone on board now. Great! Except, the job description was "WordPress Frontend Developer". This seemed odd and foreign to me, as I had only peripheral knowledge of WordPress. But my soon to be Employer encouraged me to have a look at a couple of short courses, which he paid for. The courses were basically tutorials on custom WordPress theme development. I consumed them and understood the principles rather quickly, for they were not very complex (even though I had never written a single line of PHP).
After finishing a week of part-time learning, watching tutorials, making my own little theme from an Underscores template, I was more or less ready to go, so I let my almost employer know that I'm ready to sign a contract and get to work. We took care of all the semantics and soon enough I started receiving my first tasks. At first they were very easy, as they only required my Frontend knowledge for little bug fixes on existing client sites. No problem. But soon enough, more WordPress specific tasks started coming in and, though confusing at times, I managed to accomplish all of them and was accumulating a decent bit of new knowledge, which, although the job was not quite what I wanted initially(not a "proper development" job. #sad), I still enjoyed myself and finished my work days satisfied. That has always been a guiding light for me with Dev work. If I leave work angry, unsatisfied or anxious too many days in a row, I need a change. And you probably do too, but that's for another time.
And thus I had taken my first baby steps towards becoming a WordPress Developer.
As with any new technology, there are a lot of unknowns. To me the new tech was WordPress and all it encompassed. There were many things to learn and research, but for one reason or another, I was specifically interested one day in site speed and performance optimization. So I Google'd (Youtube'd actually) something along the lines of "wordpress site optimization" and one of the first videos to come up was this:
Now, don't watch the whole video. I didn't. Because around the 4 minute mark, this interesting graph showed up on the screen:
After seeing this, I didn't care anymore what the rest of the video was (eventually I watched it and it's very useful). I thought: "What the fuck is Oxygen"? For some reason I imagined Oxygen to be some sort of bare bones template maybe? Something that is not actually a builder per se? Because I had tried builders before and they were so hard to operate, so clunky, restricting and just overall seizure-inducing that I had resigned never to use one. But this graph, bro. Dat graph! I had to see what's up with this Oxygen thing.
So I started researching. After researching for 2 hours, I had bought the damn thing, along with the Woocommerce integration and the Gutenberg thing (fuck Gutenberg, though, I never use it).
What had first sparked my interest in Oxygen Builder was the bloat graph. I.e. the performance leg up it would give my sites. But once I started using it I was seriously blown away about how well it worked as a complete replacement of the theme (at this point I'm assuming the only people who are still reading know WP terminology, so I won't bother explaining terms suchs as 'theme'). And not just that, but their frontend builder was so intuitive and, most importantly, the best visual representation of how HMTL+CSS works. This meant that in order to work with Oxygen, I didn't have to forget HTML+CSS, as was the case with most other builder, which introduced some r-worded new terms for flex properties or omitted them all together, provided a bunch of elements but completely locked their structures so that if you wanted to actually edit anything more than the color, you'd have to dig in with JS.
Now, for me, this would already be enough to switch over to Oxygen, but that's not all you get with it. The next thing I absolutely fell in love with was Oxygen's templating system. The way it integrates with any post type, taxonomy and their archives is absolutely amazing. After that came the design sets. Even though I barely ever use design sets, I sleep a little easier at night, knowing that every time I need a new header, footer or some sort of content section for articles or whatever, I can just pop open the design sets section and have a look through the screenshots to see if any of them already have the structure I have in mind. 80% of the time I find something useful. Then I take the design set and use it's structure as a base for an element I style from scratch. We know how to build a header. We know how to build a footer. We don't need to do it manually every time. Anyone who tells you otherwise, can sit and spin.
Plenty of "real developers" will tell you that using a Builder is not "real development". And they're right. But that doesn't mean that you're automatically wrong for using it, because maybe "real development" is not what you're using Oxygen for. Personally, I use Oxygen to quickly build fast, robust, performant sites for my clients. Why? Because that's what the client wants: they want it well made and made quickly. And that's what Oxygen let's me offer. Also, I turn down projects that are not right for my "stack". I don't bullshit customers who need a full Dev team and a 200k budget but want it done in 2 weeks and for 5k. I don't tell them I'll do it and then I do it poorly, but juuuust good enough for them to make the final payment. I simply tell them honestly that what they are looking for is not something I can do.
On a side note, I have a little observation, but still relevant here: the only "real developers", who take the time to tell you how using this tech or that builder or that plugin or that theme in the stead of a fully custom coded solution is lazy and not "real development", are usually the people you'd never want to work with, let alone go out for a drink with. Don't blindly follow anyone. I have nothing against "real developers". I want to be a "real developer" and hopefully I live to see the day when I can, for my own amusement, build fully custom solutions, but until then, as long as I can make a good living meeting the demands of ~85% of the market, I am pretty sanguine.
Did that sound a little bitter?