2019/04 Quo Vadis WordPress



Quo Vadis WordPress

Last quarter we relaunched four websites in three CMS. The quickest was of course produced (mostly on a train with wonky wlan) in WordPress. I say of course because a WordPress website is simple to build and maintain, normally works for every occasion, and is very cheap to produce.  WordPress sites are ubiquitous, much like plain white tshirts – and like a tshirt they are easy, comforting, and no nonsense.  As the Plain White T’s aptly sing: “Don’t you worry … I’m by your side …”

WordPress currently runs about 30% of all websites that have a CMS backend – which is about half of the billion plus websites on the internet today. 150 million plus websites rely on WordPress, which is of course a lot of websites.

I began building websites in html and php, then moved over to CMS slowly but surely. There was a period where I found it easier to simply produce without a CMS – but in the end someone other than you must maintain the site and the content so a CMS is necessary. Now I teach courses in WordPress – from the 4 hour crash courses to the 3 day intensive ones.

No 150 Million Websites are Alike

No matter how many websites you build, each one is different – much like when you explain WordPress to a new group of people.  Sticking to a script is not half as interesting as letting WordPress tell it’s own story, which is invariably what it does in each new website.

The web guru Jakob Nielson said, “If your website doesn’t answer a visitor’s key question, they will leave.” That is true for anything. A store, a book, a website, a restaurant – people leave if they don’t find what they want.  You must always ask “What are we trying to accomplish?”  For every website owner the answer to this question will always be unique, hence so will the website.

Don’t Tread on Me

If you know WordPress, you will be aware of certain changes that have occurred in the last year. Some of these changes are obvious, and some more subtle.

The first big change has been the introduction, out of the box, of the Gutenberg Editor.  This replaced the Classic Editor which is similiar to MS Word. If you look at the number of downloads of the Classic Editor plugin (4 million +), it will be obvious that the new editor is riding a bumpy road. I find it extremely annoying to use, requires a lot of clicking, and dragging, and most importantly I feel the editor is dumbing us down as users.  Do we really need all these drag and drop elements? I really am not so sure.  To date all of my clients have requested the Classic Editor to be reinstalled – and each WordPress course I teach is offered in both editors. To date only about 2% of the students have even logged in to the Gutenberg installation.  What I’m thinking here is, please don’t insult my intelligence. :o)

Another development in WordPress is to do with Advertising and plugins. Plugins are the nifty downloads that add functionality to your site from giving you contact forms to picture galleries to SEO tools.  All CMS have modules and plugins but WordPress offers volume.  In addition to more than 10 000 different themes to choose from there are more than 50 000 plugins.  Most plugins are free, but some do charge a fee, and some themese are packaged together with plugins so you often get more than you need.

Jetpack is one such plugin collection, and in its’ latest version supports WordPress advertising. WordAds is one of the most popular alternatives for Google Adsense. Owned by Automattic (WordPress.com), WordAds allows small publishers to have advertising revenue at CPM base.

Of course you need to be careful. Plugins weigh down your site, pose potential security issues, and in many cases are simply nice to haves that are not necessary to have – and, does one really need a plugin to add more Ads to your site? I don’t think so. :o)

Whither Thou Goest I?

No one likes it when their white tshirts go grey, or catch a dribble of tomatoe sauce, or no longer fit exactly right.  Some go to the extreme of wearing a tshirt once and then discarding it – but before that we should draw a line marked “common sense”.  Once the comfort factor has worn out of the tshirt, insecurity arrives and it’s goodbye tshirt.  Something of the comfort factor has started to seep out of WordPress for me – or at least it has begun to grey.  I wonder if soon a new CMS may arrive, all shiny, and new, simple, and comforting.  We already rely so much on Alexa, and Siri, so perhaps we have room for a … Delilah?

Further Reading