An open letter to the WordPress Community

I reflect on 9+ years of using and teaching WordPress and share some of my personal thoughts on the upcoming Gutenberg editor and what will ultimately be the failure of WordPress if not addressed. Hint, it's not Gutenberg.

Dear WordPress Community:

First of all, thank you to everyone who has contributed their time to advance the WordPress project and community. I’ve had the great pleasure to use WordPress for both fun and profit and I personally owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who has volunteered their time to building such stellar software.

I understand that WordPress is a two-way street so, in order for it to grow one must contribute back to the project. My contributions are primarily in the form of onboarding new users through a variety of workshops, meetups and speaking gigs and being on-call for WordPress help and site-building.

As I write this, I come with 9 battle worn years of being on the front line of WordPress through teaching, consulting and creating. WordPress has transformed my life in so many positive ways but I must say that I’m burnt out from the project and desperately looking for new ways to streamline my processes so I can achieve more with less. You know, everyone’s dream.

Why I’m burnt out from WordPress

I love WordPress and for years finding a new plugin and testing themes was a pleasure of mine. Today, it’s a bore and I’m just very tired of digging through plugins that haven’t been updated in several years and that only advertise a pro version with persistent admin popups. I’m exhausted from reading through many support threads only to find the wrong answer or no conclusion. Dead frustrated from purchasing rather expensive theme frameworks only for them to go out of business or just fall behind. The only thing really keeping me in the WordPress game is the demand for help and that is what pays the bills.

I’m personally excited for new major WordPress release like Gutenberg in 4.9 as I hope it breathes some fresh air into me and the project. Love or hate it, Gutenberg will likely not be the failure or flourish of WordPress. There’s so much more that needs to be addressed.

Gutenberg will not be the failure of WordPress, the install process will.

There’s not doubt in my mind that WordPress is beyond the foothills and up against the steep rocky outcroppings of mass adoption. While I hear the WordPress community continuously splitting hairs about the future with the Gutenberg Editor and theme page builders, I often think it’s likely not going to be Gutenberg that rallies or rails the project but rather the infamous “wait what, there’s two types of WordPress?” blank stare from new users that will ultimately need to be re-thunk.

WordPress.com and WordPress.org must build new clarity or combine.

From my understanding, Gutenberg’s core mission to help maintain WordPress as a key player in the website and blog content management market. Which is being pushed hard because the powers-that-be feel Gutenberg’s features are in the best interest of a more of a “mass market” user rather than a WordPress developer or assembler. As if someone who is a Squarespace.com, Weebly.com or Wix.com user can even navigate through the installation process of WordPress.org.

Then there’s the ramblings that WordPress (.org) is maybe not for the mass market users but rather something more for developers or programmers. In my mind, this is absolutely is the wrong way to think. We’ve all spent years contributing to WordPress to make it a powerful web publishing platform.

I began my journey into WordPress with a country music blog and I didn’t have a dime to pay anyone to help me build it. That first blog project has opened up so many doors for me and hands down was one of the best things I’ve done in my life to advance my career and creative skills.

I hope the WordPress community would continue to open its arms to the indie publisher who needs a voice on the web but doesn’t have the budget and not continue to make WordPress something only for an elitist group of word nerds. I’ve spent many years pitching and contributing to the WordPress Project and desire to see it live long beyond into the future. This can only happen if WordPress maintains a market edge by balancing power and simplicity.

Is it time for WordPress.com to take center stage?

WordPress.com could be so much more than the for-profit stepchild we, within the .org community, refer to it as. In fact, I almost wish WordPress.com and WordPress.org would just become one great product so we could move on with the idea that “someday” .com might take over or vice versa. It’s complex, I know but what might one platform WordPress world look like?

I’m a huge proponent of open-source, thanks to WordPress.

In order for the WordPress project to survive well into the future and carry on all of your hard work and contributions, it must accommodate the needs, and future needs, of a larger user base and continue to be the best solution for simple and complex problems.

Let’s continue to work towards making WordPress better. Better for you, me, future users and the Web.

Cover Photo Credit:

Jeremy Bishop

published onSeptember 24, 2017

tagged Gutenberg Editor

About the author

Scott is an avid blogger, marketer and PR pro specializing in digital and social media strategy. He's an entrepreneur and is the co-founder of ContentAcademy.com. Please follow me on Twitter.

2 responses to “An open letter to the WordPress Community”

  1. Which install process would that be? If you get WordPress managed hosting at any of the many companies that offer it, they install WordPress for you. Even most traditional shared hosting companies use something like Softaculous that lets you install WordPress (and many other things) with a click or two. It’s true that a manual install is far beyond the abilities of the ordinary business owners who make up my clients, but that is rarely required, even if some of us are old-fashioned enough to prefer to do it that way.

    Navigating themes and plugins is much more confusing, and a real issue: the more plugins there are in the repo, the more likely you are to need a consultant to help guide you through them. Even the somewhat more limited choice of themes on WordPress.com can take hours to go through, and now that WordPress.com is allowing plugins for business plan users, their potential overwhelm is only going to grow.

    The conflation and confusion between .com and .org is a genuine problem, and it’s only getting worse. But I suspect there is another problem that actually applies equally well to the people who use Squarespace and Wix, even though their more limited options may spare them from the worst consequences.

    Most small business owners and freelancers don’t have the faintest idea what their websites are supposed to DO. (Hobbyists who just want to blog are actually better off in this department.) If you start out with the belief that you have to have a website just because everyone else has a website, it hardly matters what platform you’re using: you’re likely to get chaos and very poor returns for your efforts.

    I don’t think it’s a killer that a good WordPress site–or a good website of any other kind–requires the assistance of a professional to set up, even if it’s just for advice on the tools to use. Look at everything else that a business owner invests in to run a business, and how many of those things require professionals to set them up and repair them, not to mention government permits and inspections. Just as you might go to the SBA to find out what you need to do to start your business, it makes perfect sense to go to a consultant to find out what your website needs to do and what the best platform to build it on is.

    If you are a hobbyist who just wants a blog, and for some reason you don’t want to use WordPress.com, you can sign up for hosting practically anywhere, press the 1-click install button, add Jetpack, and be ready to go. It’s actually the maintenance, more than the setup, that’s likely to be a problem and is the reason I’d recommend WordPress.com.

    You won’t see the developer crowd writing much about how to set up a simple blog with self-hosted WordPress, because that hasn’t changed much over the years. But while it’s certainly challenging to create a product that can serve both the people who need things very simple, and the people who want powerful features, I don’t actually see that anything is happening to make it more difficult to install WordPress and start blogging.

    • Really great points Sallie. From my experience, must newbies have a hard time grasping the concept of hosting, domain and then navigating a cpanel to install WordPress. That is what I was referring to.

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