mabujo redesign and the state of modern web development

Whilst working for other companies, on other projects and sites, and with limited time to spread across each project, it can be easy to neglect a particular project. That was certainly the case for me and this site. As mabujo’s company site and main presence on the web, it should serve to show what we are capable of as a company and set the standard for our best development and design practices.

I first launched as our company site in 2008 and apart from the occasional blog post and update about our other projects, it had stood neglected and without updates. Seven years is a long time on the internet, and few designs or implementations stand the test of time in such a rapidly progressing environment. Personally, I’ve lived in three different countries in that time, and the new site needed to refocus mabujo as a provider of web design in Marbella.

It’s bewildering to think how much has changed since we built the first site in 2008. Apple’s iPhone was only a year old, neither the iPad or App Store existed, Facebook didn’t have company pages, the first Android device was a couple of months away from launch, jQuery was a couple of years old and still in its infancy, WordPress did not yet have a built-in plugin or theme installer, and responsive web design was yet to be the standard it is today, with the sites that even considered  mobile browsers mostly opting to serve separate sites to mobile and desktop users.

Fast forward to today and there are now more mobile devices than people in the world, for most sites mobile devices account for at least  50% of all traffic, with many sites having as little as 20% of visitors browsing on an actual computer. The first mabujo site actually used a custom percentage based grid for its design, so while the site design was hopelessly outdated, it did still sort of work on modern mobile devices.

We’ve become a hyper-connected, technology toting, social sharing mobile society and if your business wants to do well online, sort of  supporting mobile usage of your site is not going to cut it.

Web development practice has moved on immensely too. JavaScript has gone from manipulating the DOM, to server backend language, to near omnipresence and isomorphic app provider. We now have npm, composer, bower, SASS, gulp and git amongst a host of backend and frontend frameworks which make developing sites better and easier than ever. While PHP was slow to move in following the latest trends, it is at last catching up, and Facebook’s HHVM and PHP 7 offer hope in adding new features and revitalising the language.

Whilst planning the new mabujo site I considered moving away from the WordPress platform. Legacy support for PHP 5.2 and what is for some a useful effort to support backwards compatibility for older servers seem to have held WordPress back. While new features and APIs have been added, theme and plugin development has fundamentally changed very little in all these years.

Things are however starting to change in the world of WordPress which offer some hope for the future. WordPress is now getting a RESTful API, and the hosted version of WordPress has seen a recent move to using React.js along with this new API to run as a Single Page Application.

Third parties have also moved the hosted WordPress product forward, none more so than Roots, with their Sage starter theme, Bedrock boilerplate and Trellis build and deployment stack. For the moment, it’s Roots that have made WordPress continue to be a viable platform for us, and we have used all of their projects in creating the new mabujo site.

With Roots, we now build WordPress sites in a similar manner to how we build sites with modern web frameworks, with Vagrant as a development host, composer, npm and bower seamlessly handling dependencies, gulp handling frontend build and Ansible provisioning servers and handling automated deployments.

As native apps and internet sites converge, the capabilities of what we can achieve with web technologies expands thanks to frameworks like React Native, it’s an exciting time to be a web developer.