Building complex systems using WordPress

We are increasingly being approached to build more and more complex systems in terms of related data. We’ve recently completed work on one of our partner agency’s’ projects. A site which required a filtered search interface for a set of categorised data.

When dealing with any data, no matter how complex, you need to think about how digestible and manageable it is for everyone using the system. This means that a person visiting the site should be able to find the product or material they are searching for easily. The person(s) creating or administering content, should be able to do so in a way that is easily understandable.

Part of Our Process

Before building a system, no matter how complex, it is critical that understanding of how each attribute of data is connected. This allows the system to be correct and to meet the clients expectations of their system. Illustrating systems through diagrams and producing functional specifications are some of Burfield’s primary steps in creating a solution.

These diagrams or ERDs (entity relationship diagrams) not only help understanding but inform the system of its architecture.

Burfield work with the knowledge that it is quicker and cheaper to fix a problem before it has been integrated into a system.

So once code/development work begins, there is already a portion of the complex work addressed. It should, in a perfect world, just be a matter of implementation. No nasty surprises as all pitfalls or shortcomings will have previously been addressed.

WordPress for Application Development

WordPress, since its beginnings, has been a specialist tool for cataloging user managed content.

In recent years it has opened up its core codebase to developers to allow them to more easily build upon its core functionality. Thus, allowing for complex systems that are seamless in presentation, management and creation of content.

Building applications with the WordPress API and its foundation can yield efficiently developed systems that offer high levels of stability and quality.

As an agency, a tool like WordPress allows us to create complex systems that are reliable and efficient. We have a suite of in-house plugins that have been battle tested and are constantly being improved. These plugins allow us to address requirements of a project instantly, reducing build time and extensive testing. We have also created The Burfield Plugin Framework allowing us to rapidly develop more complex functionality when appropriate.

Filtered Search via Taxonomies

At the core, a filtered search system would require a categorised index of data. Given a set of criteria, the system needs to return an accurate set of content related to the filters provided. In a filtered search system this is usually achieved via an intuitive form based interface with predefined options.

A system like this is usually called a Faceted Search and examples can be seen all over the web.

The aspects of the wordpress foundation that are required in producing a system like this are, custom post type and taxonomies. Each post to be searchable in this interface would be categorised on multiple taxonomies. Using taxonomies allows for indexed content and efficient targeting of results at a query level that matches the filters requested.

We can control templating for the front end interface to behave as our bespoke templates dictate. The front end search interface then uses built in wordpress query architecture to retrieve an accurate set of data that matches the requested criteria.

Using this strategy along with some core WP features and functions like Query Vars, Advanced Tax Queries, Rewrite/Plugin API, the system can be developed speedily and presented seamlessly to the end user and client who manages content.

Can WordPress build more than blog sites?

Much like with any tool, it can be simple to get a result. The real skill and expertise can really come in when crafting something complex and intricate. It requires an in depth knowledge of the tool, the desired goals, and experience.

With Burfield’s in-house expertise, we can offer our partners and clients high quality and accurate systems that behave as expected and perform when your system grows.

Thanks to Huasonic for the article image.

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