A Conversation with Ahmad Awais, Full Stack Developer

Ahmad Awais is a seasoned full stack developer and regular WordPress core contributor. An intense WordPress lover hailing from Lahore, he has donned several hats — coder, author, speaker and WordPress evangelist.

Ahmad set aside time from his crammed schedule to answer a volley of questions we directed at him. Here goes!

Do you see a great future for WordPress with improved interoperability, thanks to the WordPress REST API?

Oh, yes I do! WordPress is quite late to the party but I am glad we are there. WordPress can now be used in a lot of different forms. Imagine having an enterprise software that’s written in .NET — but you’d like to use the biggest eCommerce product i.e. WooCommerce with it. Well, now you can. Build a WooCommerce store and connect your enterprise software with the WordPress API.

I think it’s only the beginning of what’s possible with WordPress now. In the coming years we are going to see amazing new products built on top of the WordPress REST API. I am building one, ssh, top secret — I only talk about it in my monthly newsletter.

Don’t you think WordPress is being stretched too far to be used as a reliable web application platform? Where do you think is the boundary that shouldn’t be crossed?

I don’t think so. Though, I agree I have seen some pretty weird use cases of WordPress but that’s just it. WordPress empowers nearly 30% of the web. If an app or a SaaS startup wants to connect with that, they have to use WordPress via REST API.

About boundaries, I think that’s completely subjective. It’s about the task at hand. What is WordPress really? A community of PHP programmers. PHP is not the language being used to build mobiles apps. So, when a regular PHP/WordPress programmer wants to build a mobile app, what do you think happens?

Most probably that programmer tries to use WordPress to build the apps for you. And that’s not a new thing. People have been trying to do that for ages. It’s just getting a lot better now.

With Gutenberg getting merged into the WordPress core, are you happy that resource-heavy page builder plugins will turn obsolete?

Oh, far from that. I don’t think that any of the page builders will go stale. Remember Gutenberg is not a page builder. It’s sort of a framework on top of which one could build a page builder, though, it isn’t one itself.

There are both Pros and Cons to the Gutenberg project. I have contributed to its code and documentation and have shared my concerns as well as a boilerplate for developers to build custom Gutenberg blocks.

It’s amazing to see your work with WordPress, the Advanced Gulp workflow and your contribution on GitHub as well as your labs projects. What is your advice for someone who wants to be a prolific open source contributor like you?

That’s very kind of you to say!

Well, I love building open source projects especially FOSS (free and open source software). I think it’s a lifestyle for software engineers. At the moment, I spend 50% of my time in building FOSS and contributing back to the WordPress Core, maintaining 70+ open source projects at GitHub. My advice would be → Just Do It™ — seriously, by building open source software, you get to know about collaboration, building together, you learn why someone is not using your software, and it’s brave to put your code out there.

Do NOT think that if something has already been created you can’t recreate it the way you want. That’s why I build so many projects — mostly to share my personal workflow — which I never thought thousands of developers would be using.

Some developers have concerns with using WordPress as a headless CMS, particularly those who are web publishers and need good SEO. Can you share your experience on how the REST API plays with SEO?

I have had been a blogger for about 13 years now. So, I can tell you that SEO is important. But hey, WP REST API has less do with SEO. SEO has two major parts — On-page SEO and Off-page SEO.

  • On-page SEO: It depends on how you code your site’s theme. A REST API based theme can be coded which takes care of all the important aspects of having a good on-page SEO. There are plugins like Yoast SEO for which you can easily find API extensions.
  • Off-page SEO: The site built with REST API is likely to load a lot faster, which will get you ranked higher in search engine rankings. Search engines and now even the social media sites improve the engagement around the sites that load faster and provide a better user experience.

Thank you, Ahmad, for your valuable thoughts! We hope this interview will inspire a lot of budding developers to put lots of energy into open source projects and WordPress.

You can read more of Ahmad’s views through his newsletter WPTakeaway. You can also keep the conversation going on Twitter, by following @MrAhmadAwais.

Our countdown to WordCamp Colombo 2017 is ticking — 23rd September is the day! Just like this interview, we are going to have great insights delivered in person by some of the world’s finest developers and businesspersons who have been confirmed as speakers already.

It’s a good time to book your tickets to attend the event!

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