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.