2 Jun

10 Years of ACF – A truly wonderful time

By Elliot Condon

A little over 10 years ago, I uploaded the first version of Advanced Custom Fields to the WordPress.org repo. Little did I know, this passion project of mine would soon become embraced by the WordPress community as a leading content editing solution, and in return provide me with a fulfilling decade-long career developing a truly wonderful plugin!

Happy 10th birthday ACF! ๐Ÿฅณ๐ŸŽ‰ This milestone is a celebration for all WordPress developers. 10 years of growth shows there is real-world demand, and a healthy future for, bespoke WordPress websites. Custom is cool. Unique is meaningful. For me, ACF represents the kind of web that I want for the people – one that is well designed, curated and crafted. Thank you all for believing in my vision.

We actually hit this 10 year milestone a few months ago on March 28th, but I delayed the announcement to coincide with some important and exciting news regarding ACFโ€™s future, which is that I will be stepping down as owner/maintainer and passing the torch to a team who can safely navigate ACF through the ever-changing WordPress landscape for another 10 years.

Hello Delicious Brains ๐Ÿ‘‹

I’m delighted to announce that the wonderful dev-focused team at Delicious Brains Inc will now become the new owners of Advanced Custom Fields! Today’s news of an acquisition might come as a shock, but I hope that you agree my decision to nominate Delicious Brains is not. This team is responsible for developing some of the highest quality WordPress products, and are often mentioned in similar circles to ACF when discussing tools that developer’s can’t live without (WP Migrate Pro and SpinupWP – just to name a few). Their company is lead with a calm approach, with a finger on WordPress’ future and a foot in WordPress’ backwards-compatible past.

My appreciation for Delicious Brains spans many years, but has ramped up over the past 5 months whilst getting to know Brad Touesnard (Founder & CEO at Delicious Brains Inc), along with some of the team. I can honestly say, these are the people who I want in control of ACF’s future. To help explain why, Brad and I sat down and recorded a special episode for their podcast – Delicious Brains Waves – in which we talk about this acquisition in detail.

If you’re interested in picking up on all the nuance that isn’t possible for me to write, please be sure to add this episode to your listening list for the next time you’re commuting to work, or going for a walk.

A decision for the Community ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ

Stepping away from ACF has not been an easy decision to make. The reasoning behind it comes from a place of humility. As the number of installs have grown from thousands to millions, the needs of the product have outgrown my ability to develop solutions. The last thing I want to do to this amazing community is unintentionally hold back the project, so something needed to change.

It’s not just the scale that has grown over the years either. It’s also the technology complexity and user expectation. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe the web is much better off having both of these forces drive plugin and theme developers to create higher quality products. The problem is simply that as a one-man-band, I can no longer keep up with said growth.

So who can keep up? Well, a developer focused team can – like Delicious Brains! DB are currently navigating the “classic” to “reactive” climate with the professionalism and skill-set expected of a premium development house. Be sure to read the WP Migrate Pro 2.0 release post for a taste of what this team can bring to the WordPress table. They are comfortable with large user-bases and unique challenges. It’s pretty exciting to think a whole team of talent will now be contributing to ACF!

So as I transition towards some self reflection, allow me to say that I’m completely humbled by, and eternally grateful for, the wonderful opportunity you – the WordPress community – have encouraged me to pursuit. It’s safe to say that finding WordPress changed my life and I hope it changes yours too.

A successful acquisition ๐Ÿค

It’s surreal to admit that ACF has outgrown me, and that my self-taught adventure has come to an end, but Iโ€™m excited to think about what this new future holds for ACF.

In Brad’s announcement post, he mentions that “Two of our greatest strengths that weโ€™ll bring to ACF are design (UI/UX) and developer education. Weโ€™ll be focusing our initial efforts in those areas”. I agree these are two areas of the product (not just the plugin) that are in need of fresh energy.

Over the years I’ve made attempts to write meaningful documentation and record helpful demo-videos, however, have never been able to keep up a healthy rhythm against the daily development and admin tasks. Similarly, I’ve struggled to push ACF’s UI/UX beyond the basics of functionality. To hear that DB have already identified these are two areas as interests brings me a lot of confidence and excitement for ACF’s future.

What about more immediate changes? I’m pleased to quote Brad again when he says “we have no burning desire to make any drastic changes to ACF or ACF Pro … [and] we have no plans to adjust the pricing of ACF Pro anytime soon”.

Delicious Brains are the real-deal. They live and breathe WordPress product development, and have the experience to make sound decisions. I’m so proud to be handing over my passion project to this team, and hope that you reading this are just as excited too.

A little Wisdom ๐Ÿง 

I thought it might be fitting to share some knowledge that I’ve gained over the years building ACF from the ground up as a self taught web developer. The problem with that idea is that we’ll be here all day! So perhaps instead, I’ll distill everything down into a single development practice that will dramatically transform the quality and successfulness of your own code. And that is to Write Meaningful Comments.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, either in a tweet or a blog article, that there is a right and wrong way to comment code. Well, It’s true, and it’s something that I wish I had taken more seriously in my younger years. It’s a healthy practice that in turn encourages clearer and more efficient code.

For a long time, I used comments as a way to “visually structure code” or “describe the obvious”. These kinds of comments may seem like a good idea at the time, but are eventually rendered pointless when a fresh set of eyes look over your code – or even your own set of eyes 4 years later!

Comment your code to explain why the logic exists, and to deter any future accidental changes. As an example, something like this would work nicely.

// Australian tax authorities require an additional invoice note.
if ( $order->get_billing_country() === 'AU' ) {
	$invoice_notes[] = 'ECWD PTY LTD is registered for GST.';
}

I encourage you to rethink your own code comments today and ask yourself “does this help my project in the future”? I guarantee that if you start thinking in this way, you’ll find yourself writing better code too.

Farewell ๐Ÿ‘‹

With a decade of development under its belt, and fresh set of legs, Advanced Custom Fields is ready to tackle the content editing challenges of tomorrow.

My new role for the foreseeable future will be assisting the Delicious Brains team in handing over this wonderful project and ensuring momentum is kept with the recent features currently in development.

After that, I’m not quite sure what is in store for me. I’m looking forward to expanding my skill-set, tackling new challenges and enjoying some well earned time off.

Thank you. Thank you WordPress. Thank you PHP. Thank you Developer Community. Thank you Delicious Brains. Thank you to everyone who I have had the pleasure of meeting during my time with ACF. Thank you to the bug reporters, and the feature requesters. Thank you customers, users, assemblers, designers and developers.

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