WordPress Development Tools for 2016

The holidays are approaching and soon we will be entering 2016, just in time for us to look at a few WordPress development tools we aren’t going to want to live without. There are numerous tools available for developers but this list of the top 6 WordPress development tools comes straight from my workflow. These resources have taken my development skills to the next level and decreased the time it takes me to finish a site. Let’s go ahead and look at the first one:

WordPress Development Tools: #1 Cloud 9 IDE

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Cloud 9 is a development environment that lives in the cloud, allowing you to easily collaborate with another developer or a team of developers. This helps alleviate the issues that can arise when working with versioning products like some developers getting the wrong version of the site and messing things up once it gets pushed back up into the repository. C9 has a one click WordPress installation and supports quick key / auto-completion for your php code. The downfall would be that you have to have an internet connection to work on your files unlike working locally on your own machine. Their free account is great but they also have some great features in their pro version.

WordPress Development Tools: #2 Twitter Bootstrap Framework

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The Twitter Bootstrap framework is probably the most known / used framework on the market right now. With version 4 on the horizon I expect that to continue into 2016. Using a framework to help you move more quickly into development is a must these days, especially when taking cost and profitability into consideration. TB provides you with a library of components, a full css library and pre-built javascript elements that help you quickly get the frame of your website in place and allow you to quickly get into the styling and loading of content. Why re-invent the wheel when you can use code that already works. I always suggest that you really think about your project and decide on the elements you know you are going to need. Then download only those elements from Bootstrap so that you aren’t including extra code that you won’t end up needing. This prevents site bloat. Keep an eye out for version 4 coming soon!

WordPress Development Tools: #3 Foundation Framework by Zurb

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While on the topic of frameworks, let’s look at Foundation by Zurb. Foundation is the self-proclaimed most advanced front-end framework in the world, and I tend to agree with them. They have a lot of the same elements that Twitter Bootstrap has but from their infancy have had some very advanced technology in their bundle. One of these technologies I would like to touch on is their interchange javascript library which gives you the ability to switch out images and content based on the size of your browser window. This made huge strives especially with making images responsive. It can serve smaller file size images based on what screen size or device you are using. Foundation 6 recently came out and is full of new technology that I can’t wait to explore myself. I definitely recommend trying it out.

Here are a few free WordPress themes currently built with Foundation:

WordPress Development Tools: #4 Roots / Sage Framework

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I had to include this framework because I literally use it everyday on every single one of my projects. If you are building professional themes and want something using modern technology, Sage is the one to pick. Originally called Roots, Sage Framework follows modern development workflows including the Gulp task runner which auto-prefixes, combines and minifies your files so that they are much smaller. This framework is for advanced users and can take some getting used to from traditional WordPress theme development. If you aren’t familiar with NPM, Node, Bower and Gulp I would highly suggest you play around with this theme on a Cloud 9 dev environment because getting your hands dirty and breaking things can sometimes be the best way to learn something. I have personally learned a lot from having to use this framework at my job.

WordPress Development Tools: #5 WordPress 4.4

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Although not available at the time of writing this article, WordPress 4.4 is about to be released with some really great additions you need to know about. One of the most highly anticipated additions would be the WP-API finally available in core, FINALLY! For those of you who don’t know about the WP-API check out this article I wrote. A few other items included are the ability to share content using oEmbed, taxonomies are getting meta data, and commenting is getting some standardization. But what I am most excited about is that WordPress is finally going to have responsive images! With the addition of srcset we will now be able to provide our viewers with optimized images based on screen size and device. This will be a new tool we as developers will need to master.

WordPress Development Tools: #6 Advanced Custom Fields

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For most people, WordPress is the easiest tool to go in and change / update content on their website. I think that is why WordPress encompasses 23% of the sites online. It is very intuitive and easily navigable. With Advanced Custom Fields in your development tool belt you can make WordPress even easier for your clients, and yourself. ACF provides you with a gui to build and implement meta fields and data that can extend your pages and posts. It also gives you the ability to create option pages much like you would see on a professional / paid theme. What I love most about ACF is their documentation is very well written and organized which allowed me to quickly learn how to use each field type. I literally use this plugin on every site I build. I highly recommend you check them out! They have a free version which gives you a lot of functionality but the pro version contains some extra / more advanced fields that will knock your socks off!

WordPress Development Tools: BONUS Site Ground WordPress Hosting

Site Ground is the best hosting provider for WordPress
Site Ground WordPress hosting is optimized with some really great tools for protecting, speeding up, and optimizing your development workflow so I couldn’t leave it off the list. With caching specialized for WordPress, security features, CDN integration and free staging environments, Site Ground is a developers playground! I personally switched all of my websites to Site Ground, as well as, the sites I build for my clients and I couldn’t be happier with their performance and their customer service. If you would like to learn more about Site Ground, check out this article.

The Top 6 WordPress Development Tools: Live On Periscope

I gave a presentation to the San Antonio WordPress Meetup Group on this topic and live streamed on Periscope. Watch the full video below:

I wish you all a safe and happy holidays and hope that this list prepares you for your WordPress development journeys in 2016. Please feel free to contact me if you have a question or leave a comment below! I am always happy to help!