Don't Edit The Core Files in your CMS

Truer words that you see above have never been spoken.

Ever since the days when I was The Computer Answer Guy, I’ve lived in a world filled with both end users and programmers. I’ve made it my challenge to bridge those worlds for decades now, which is why I find questions like “Where’s My Any Key?” so funny . . . and so real.

It gives me a unique perspective. When programmers back in the day talked about “spaghetti code” (programming code that’s so redundant and undocumented that it becomes impossible to maintain), I understood it in a way that most non-programmers or not-quite-a-programmers just can’t get a handle on.

Well get a handle on this:

As we inch closer to launching “The Influency Project”,  (for that matter, even when something as big as Influency isn’t being defined) we’re constantly examining tools that will help you get a leg up on your competition. I told you earlier this week about Headway, and right now I happen to be involved in trying to make Headway a more useful tool. So the comment that Headway Guru Gary B. made struck me, hard.

You NEVER alter core file.

Never. Not Ever. Never, ever, ever alter a content management system’s core files.

Here’s what that means, and why it matters to you:

Ignoring simple things like the importance of H1 Tags in Search Engine Optimization, and how much easier using a CMS makes maintaining your business’ web site, the equally simple tenet involved in never editing your core files is three-fold:

  1. Editing your core files can open you up to major security issues
  2. Editing a Content Management System’s core files is asking to have your work overwritten later by a software update
  3. It defeats the purpose of a CMS, which is simplified, standardized management of content

In the case of WordPress, the core files are the ones that come with each WordPress update. Go a step farther, and you get to the core files of your theme; those shouldn’t be edited, either, and The Headway theme’s files say very clearly “don’t edit me!”.

So how do you make changes to a web site running Headway if you can’t alter the underlying WordPress CMS, and you can’t edit Headway?

First, you trust Headway to do its job; Headway’s design is such that many people won’t ever have to touch code, period. Headway puts the alterations you make to your WordPress site inside a database table, and while I have some reservations about the way Headway has implemented that approach, it’s basically sound.

Second, if you absolutely must do programming directly in your WordPress Theme, Headway or otherwise, it isn’t right to alter the original files (see point 2, above). the solution, and it’s easy, is to set up a “child theme”, which takes all its cues from Headway (and sends instructions back to Headway, too) without ever altering the Headway core files.

Now of course when I say “it’s easy” to set up a WordPress Child Theme, It’s like saying “a content management system makes it simple to change the way your web site works at the drop of a hat”; that isn’t actually true. But it makes things exponentially easier at a lot of levels and makes it so that when you do need to make changes you can do it yourself more easily than without a CMS, and you can have us do it for you at a lower cost than if you have a traditional website.

In its way, “editing core files” is like blowing up your content management, right back to where it becomes a mess of spaghetti code, or no more functional than a standard web site—which at the end of the day is exactly that; spaghetti.

If you’re a programmer and understand all the stuff I just said, I want to hear from you. And if you’re a business looking to establish Influency, well, you want me to hear from you; click here.

Now: step away from those core files.

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