Admitting To Being A WordPress Developer Reluctantly

As a developer specializing in WordPress websites,  a WordCamp multi-time presenter and WP Toronto Meetup organizer., you would think I would be proud to acknowledge being a WordPress developer. Five years ago, yes. But at the start of 2018, not so much.

What? Not aligning yourself with the CMS system that has 29.3% of the World’s websites. Not being anxious to say that there are 10,000 themes  and 47,000++ plugins to choose from? Well that is part of the problem. WordPress has so many choices and the themes + plugins are improving so fast, that it is truly a full-time task to keep up with the best and most effective choices available. And clients can short change a lot of diligent testing and go with their own personal favorites. Or worse, not give credit [read “pay for”] for being presented with a  careful analysis of plugin and/or theme choices tested to meet their requirements.

Why is this so? Well many WordPress users are simply not aware of the rapid changes going on throughout the WordPress ecosystem. For example, there are about 15-25 essential plugins that should be used on all WordPress websites in such categories as security, performance tuning, backup + migration, SEO + promotions, image sliders, media gallery tools, grid display routines, CSS Styling editors, WYSIWYG PageBuilders, font and icon managers, ecommerce billing tools, etc. There are from 3 to 10 top quality plugins in each category. For the 2016 Podcast conference, I gave a presentation list of  about 40 essential, best in category plugins. Less than half are still on the list. So keeping up with best on WordPress is a formidable task.

The curse of being free & Open Source. What? That is a key attraction of developing in WordPress. So many of  even the best themes and  plugins are free  or substantially so. The result is that the initial entry cost is very small. But the learning curve for many of those themes and plugins can be substantial  – to wit, take a look at  the Customize commands for many themes, or the Yoast SEO  and WordFence Security plugins, Yep, lots of learning required. But many users, unaware of the improvements achieved with a theme or plugin, find the existing theme or plugin “hard to learn”.  So free and Open Source carries a double indemnity – there is the false expectation that such tools will also be easy to learn. And if not, there is a second expectation that   cost of training  and support should be as near to free as possible.

The DIY Curse. One of the appeals of WordPress that has won it favor over the past ten years has been its ability to relieve users and developers of tedious tasks in maintaining a website. Starting in 2004 with “dead simple installs and updates” to 2017 extensive updates to theme Customize, WordPress has a truly enviable history of delivering ever more DIY capabilities to newby users. But just as in the case of free & Open Source this has a gaslighting effect. Users blithely unaware of the increasing complexities of participating fulltime on the Web, again discount greatly the amount of training and work that developers have to master in order to make this wonder full width sliders with animations or flip image galleries work so well. So it is not a surprise to discover the number one complaint among developers for the past year at Toronto WP Meetups is the users severe reluctance to pay for knowledge acquired [and often quickly obsoleted] and what would be minor miracles just a few quarters ago delivered on time and within costs.

Gaming Users. So this developer downplays WordPress experience and up ticks on aspects of a project such as interfacing with corporate or government systems or delivering new VR video capabilities – the portions that users perceive as high risk [and they may well be] and therefore worthy of high reward. Even more rewarding is finding clients that can appreciate and pay for value delivered. So if you find me admitting that I am an expert WordPress Developer, that likely means that I assess you the client as respecting the value of state of the art Web expertise.

1 thought on “Admitting To Being A WordPress Developer Reluctantly”

  1. Jacques,

    Well put. The fact that in less than 2 years, half of the 40 plugins you featured are “dead in the water” shocks me. Does that mean they are unlisted in the directory or are just unmaintained and haven’t been updated since that podcast? It doesn’t surprise me much — I see each plugin and theme as a “dream” — an idea that someone had to fix a pain they themselves or their customer had. It’s by no means a product yet. Selecting plugins and themes that have not had the test of time on them is a curse. Basically you’re just asking to choose tools that will be obsolete.

    I think there is something to be said for waiting to select the best ideas. This is why I like standing on the shoulders of giants and choosing ready baked solutions that have been recommended and have stood the test of time. I like to use 3-5 years as an indicator of that and at least 4-6 updates per year over that time. This requires me to look at the history of each plugin and see if it makes sense.

    The user interface in WordPress to choose themes and plugins is broken — it should be much more based on metrics like “# of updates over the past year” and “# of downloads” and “age” — keyword should just be the first match, but right now it seems to be the only metric, although I am sure there’s much more going on behind the scenes.

    I like to think of it like this — if you’re a WP developer you are “all in” on WordPress, but if you’re using WordPress as part of an overall solution you may not put as much effort of “staying on top” of WordPress. I prefer to use WordPress as one solution, but not the only one.

    For instance, recently I was looking for a barter plugin (maybe WooCommerce powered) and was surprised I could not easily find one. Indeed there are PHP solutions NOT based on WordPress that do a great job of empowering a barter system between customers. In a year maybe there will be a nice plugin based on user demand, but right now if I had to recommend someone to build a barter site I would not choose WordPress because as far as I can tell you’re going to end up building a frankenstein monster of solutions.

    Customers don’t pay a lot for doing searches, they pay for cogent advice and solutions that are a right fit for them. I’d suggest trying to see what your target market needs and what tools you have in your quiver outside of WordPress. I think that will lead you in a path of discovery.

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