Widgets : Help or Hindrance?

I’ve been using WordPress as a CMS in many of the new sites I commission however I’ve always been willing to make modifications to themes and plugins to achieve what I want. WordPress is free software. In my book this means that I should expect to have to make changes to how things work to get everything I want. I’m not paying anyone so its not someone else’s responsibility to make the code do specifically what I need.

Widgets hail a new breed of free software users. Those who do not know how and do not want to know how to make their own modifications to site layouts or styles and yet still expect someone else to make it possible for them, indeed in some cases harass them to do so. Sure widgets are nice. They allow users to drop things in easier and not always having to edit files is a bonus. But someone has to code them, and no one configuration will be right for everyone.

By promoting an architecture that allows anyone to make what were traditionally code based changes to a site we up the ante on developers to provision these things in the first place. Lets not forget that these developers are writing for free and perhaps release something for the common good rather than with a desire to support every user’s whims. Further more there is still the hope that we can support old versions and the differing way with which widgets work make doing so increasingly harder.

So if there is a widget you use but are not 100% happy with, why not thank the developer for making your life easier and then look in the WordPress Codex for how to make the changes you want. Waking up to 30 complaints in your inbox is enough to make any developer want to hang up their keyboard. Waking up to 30 messages detailing the wonderful and amazing ways your free software has been modified and implemented in interesting and exciting ways is enough to make you want to extend your working day to better provide for these innovators.


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