Random Thoughts on…WordPress?

I wasn't sure how to title this one. I went to the WordPress NYC "Help Desk" meet-up on Wednesday and learned a lot about things users of WordPress are struggling with.   So I guess in some ways it is random thoughts on me learning more.

  • The biggest thing people struggle with is themes they bought off Theme Forest. Most of them are hard to configure and include so many damn options that it's easy to screw up a site and get lost trying to fix it.
  • One of the worst parts of these themes is that when there is an issue, I can't just open up the source from everywhere in the world and trouble shoot.  If they used themes from WordPress.org, I could help them.
  • The first question someone asked me about related to Gutenberg. People are paying attention to it. I don't know if this is a good or a bad thing. 
  • I was referred to as a WordPress Celebrity and it was a bit off putting. The people that make and contribute to WordPress are just people. Some of us have the privilege of contributing to WordPress. Others have the privilege of maintaining WordPress. But both come from points of privilege as they require time, energy, and money (for a computer, internet access, etc.),  but ultimately we shouldn't be considered celebrities. That's not to say it isn't nice to be thanked every once in a while, but I don't know anyone who contributes to WordPress for fame. 
  • It's important that we don't assume people know the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Especially with the lines getting more and more blurred due to "WordPress.com Business".
  • Finding the right theme is still #HardAsFuck for most users. I think that no matter how great WordPress the application is, until people find the right theme for them, we are likely to lose them.

6 thoughts on “Random Thoughts on…WordPress?”

  1. One of my Grand Gutenberg Theories: The multitude of terrible Themeforest are attractive to people because WordPress has a Customization Wall, a point you hit with .org themes and popular plugins where you can’t tweak it to be what you imagine. The FrankenThemes with tons of customization built-in provide the promise of doing exactly what you imagine, unfortunately the way they’re developed and that you interact with them isn’t as easy as the marketing implies.

    Gutenberg allows people to customize their site in ways they could never do before without knowing HTML and CSS, or using some built-in theme features. I think there will be a new class of themes that leverage this flexibility and new capability.

    That’s before, of course, the blocks of Gutenberg move to replace widgets, menus, headers, and footers. Once that happens it’ll enable an entirely new class of people to realize their vision using WordPress more or less out of the box.

    1. I agree that Gutenberg has a lot of potentials to help with this problem, especially once it is combined with starter content and block templates (I’m not sure if that idea has a proper name yet).

      Knowledge of HTML, CSS, or any other languages should not be a barrier to publishing your thoughts or starting your business.

  2. On your Point 4, you are indeed a WordPress Celebrity, Aaron! I know you are a fame-shy person, but there are indeed several people who does it to become highlighted and use this fame to land a good job or to have better control on things that matter to his nature of the business. At the same time, after spending over a decade with WordPress, I know maybe over 95% of people who contribute the most and does it 100% selflessly.

    And Matt, right on point. We sometimes misunderstand who WordPress is targetted for, millions of user are basic user, who hardly understand the difference between Tags & Category! If Gutenberg becomes mainstream for theme and plugin developer it could really happen. But with shortcode and so many things that will become obsolete with Gutenberg could delay this adaptation. In WordPress.org Theme directory we could push theme author, but for places like ThemeForest, where Authors are not even bound to provide 1 year support, they should, but they could decide to stop supporting, it’s going to a be a very hard and costly process, costly in terms of community diving itself even more!

  3. While there are all KINDS of problems with these popular kitchen-sink themes from Themeforest, I think one that people overlook, and which is equally a problem with page-builders and likely to be a source of disappointment with Gutenberg (even though I’m quite pro-Gutenberg and believe some page builders have a place) is that no theme, and indeed no software, will teach you design skills.

    If you have even a basic understanding about composition and white space and fonts, tools like these make it easier to build what you want. But many people have no understanding of design at all. They can identify a look that they like (or that is familiar because they see it a lot), but have no idea why it is they like it, never mind how to create it. Not only that, they don’t understand how WordPress works and the kinds of pages it generates automatically for categories, tags, etc., so they waste a lot of time trying to reinvent the wheel. (I think this is more of a page builder problem than a Gutenberg problem…but only so long as Gutenberg remains a TinyMCE replacement and not a full-scale theme customization and page layout tool.)

    In large part, this is not a technology problem but a marketing problem. These themes, and the page builders they bundle in with them, make a big to-do about how you can create a website of awesome “Without knowing code,” and for some reason people think that means “Without knowing anything,” as if anything that doesn’t require code has to be so easy that no skills whatsoever are required. (Brain surgery, anyone? Adobe InDesign? Olympic sports?)

    I do think there’s progress to be made in helping people work out a theme selection process based on their needs, but there’s also a lot that we, as theme developers, plugin developers, and consultants, need to do around setting expectations. If some of these things were marketed as “Lets designers bring their designs to life without having to become developers,” instead of “Lets people who have never touched WordPress before build professional-looking sites with complex functionality,” I think we’d all be better off.

  4. Themeforest isn’t really to be blamed IMO. They are actually giving out to buyers what they seek. These are buyers who unlikely are willing to pay excess of $5k for a website design. I feel the pain they go through buying a $50 dollar theme to circumvent paying a developer/designer to build one for them is fair.

    1. Themeforest is to blame in that they have a lot of horrid themes for sale. There are thousands of themes that are free and amazing, you shouldn’t need to buy something with 10k options that is fragile at best.

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