At Southern Web, our development team is essential. Not only do these seasoned WordPress experts ensure our client’s websites are functioning and performing the way they’re meant to be — they also provide cross-departmental support to our digital marketing team’s efforts.
In the latest installment of our “Meet the Team” interview series, one of our developers, Bert Hixson, shares his experience as a WordPress expert and offers up advice and resources for newbie developers.
As a developer, what do you do at Southern Web?
I develop custom WordPress theme designs from PSDs or pre-built templates. I also troubleshoot technical issues that arise on client sites and try to optimize them in the best way possible.
What tools or apps are indispensable to your work?
I primarily use Visual Studio Code, SASS, Gulp, Git, Sourcetree, and Adobe Photoshop. Google is also a valuable tool for research. If I come across something that I don’t know how to do or need help with, I can usually find the answer or helpful resources somewhere on Google — most often I’ll be directed to Stack Overflow or CSS-tricks.
What would you say is the most challenging part of your job?
Whenever there’s a situation or a client request that is unique or not standard, it can be challenging trying to diagnose and find the best solution to fit that need. Luckily, I work with several other great developers on our team — Byron, Ryan, and Matt. They are all invaluable resources to me, and I think we all work well together. If I share with them a challenge I’m facing, they either know what to do because they’ve seen it before, or they can point me in the right direction to find the answer.
How do you keep up with the latest development trends and technologies?
A lot of reading and research.
If there’s a skill or language that I feel like I’m going to use often, I will just delve into it and try to build the solution myself in a development environment. Getting my hands on it helps me become more familiar with it — that kind of “hands-on” experience is the best teacher, in my experience.
How do you see the world of website development changing in the next five years?
You know, that’s a hard one to predict, but I’ve definitely noticed a growing trend in website builders. I think there will always be a need for developers, but I think the do-it-yourself website builds are going to become more prevalent.
I have also read that artificial intelligence will become more prominent in web design. Now, how much that’s going to play a role in five years is yet to be seen, but I think there will be more labor done automatically through applications than through development.
Over the past year, there’s been a lot of changes in WordPress, specifically with the release of the new Gutenberg editor. How has that transition been?
I think, at the moment, Gutenberg is still a little complex for the average WordPress user. Compared to coding, it doesn’t give you quite the same control over styling and layout. However, I’ve already noticed major improvements to Gutenberg since it was released, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it will change and evolve over the next couple of years.
What advice do you have for people looking to break into web development?
I also think “hands-on” learning is critical. When I first started learning how to develop websites, I just bought a hosting account, and just started building websites. Not for anything, but for me to learn how to do it. So, get your hands dirty.
How do you spend your time away from coding?
Anything that’s not staring at a computer!
My favorite thing is riding my motorcycle, especially down mountain roads. Hiking is another activity I enjoy — it’s nice to get out in the woods and walk around.
I also enjoy binge-watching TV shows like Game of Thrones, but now that it’s over, I don’t know what I’m going to do! Oh, and of course, nice dinners with friends and family is always a lot of fun.
So, invisibility, flight, or telepathy, of these three superpowers, which would you choose, and why?
I would probably choose flight. I often fly in my dreams, and I think it would be cool to view the earth from above. Also, traffic! It would be nice to fly above it and get away from it.