Why We Like WordPress

Why We Like WordPress

We have been fans and users of WordPress for 8 years. And the fundamental WordPress virtues have not changed over that period: open source coding tools [HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, MySQL]; simple open API for code core, themes, and plugins; wide set of 3rd Party contributors who have added thousands of innovative, free themes and plugins to the WordPress core; commitment to making WordPress DIY Do-It-Yourself for a broad set of users. Yes, there are new directions with GutenBlocks made of React.js and other JavaScript tools taking over much of the PHP role in WordPress core code, RestAPI being added to XMLRPC and AJAX for interprocess transactions/messaging, and now in addition to WordPress.com VIP other major Cloud/container vendors like AWS, Azure and Digital Ocean are offering WordPress hosting services.  Let see how these underlying principles and new WP user environs are affecting the WordPress community.

12 Key WP Development Decisions

In deciding whether to use [or continue to use] WordPress for your Web Presence there are a series of key decisions that should be made before and while embarking on a WordPress website project. Here they are in ranked order:

0)Can we state the website’s Mission in a 1-2 line Statement. Is there consensus among website owners that this is the primary purpose of the website? Is this statement designed to be headlined on the website’s home page?

1)Has the Mission Statement been translated into a 5 part implementation strategy:

  • who are identified as the target clients and their primary needs?
  • what are the “must-have” website features to meet those needs?
  • what is the website design and theme layout used to attract target clients?
  • what are the website’s expected start-up and operational costs?
  • what is the scope/size of the system: small, small to large ASAP, large?

2)What is the buy-in among management, sponsors and developers on the project feasibility?

3)Are any of those “must-have” features and design styles outside of WordPress capabilities. Equivalently, are other web tools better suited to meet the website requirements. Stop now if WordPress does not fit. Assuming WordPress meets the capabilities requirements the next 3 decisions are most important.

4)What hosting service will be used: Cloud container, dedicated machine, shared hosting? What are anticipated start-up and ongoing costs? How important will hosting support be?

5)What combination of Multilayout theme and Pagebuilder will be used on the project? This is a key decision because these design tools are so flexible and productive the right choice can determine the success of the project.

6)Will shopping, event scheduling, rental services, transactional queries  and/or memberships be a significant components of the website? In each case specialized WordPress add-ons/plugins will be required. Does the development team have the expertise to handle the tasks? The final four key decisions, if ignored, can sneak up and bite your development.

7)What provisions for data security have been made for the system? In today’s hacker climate getting  security right is vital.

8)Website promotion and SEO-Search Engine Optimization is an almost arcanebut essential set of tasks that gets websites higher page rank in Google, Bing and other popular search engines. Setting up SEO requires as much work as creating web page content. What SEO tools to use can be a daunting task.

9)Performance statistics and tuning comprise the basic feedback data that tells how well a website is  performing for its clients and customers. This analytical data often shapes a website’s new designs and/or features. Most of the tools are automated if setup and queried properly.

10)Web media [images, video, graphics, typefaces, and animations] have become vital in delivering compelling website designs. However, deciding display tools, optimizing the media and managing these resources are real challenges especially for smaller websites.

11)Now more than ever, being able to interact and cleanly interface with other computing systems is becoming vital to website success. WordPress offers a number of tools including AJAX, iframe, RestAPI, and XML/RPC among others to carry out these messaging and interactive tasks. Which to choose and why is the the challenge.

Now many of these decisions can fall by the wayside depending on the size and complexity of the website. But as more website owners are taking a DIY approach both to their website creation and day to day operation, having chosen WordPress tools that meet this DIY need is an oft lingering issue. Fortunately there are many training videos, free and premium presentations, plus online reviews that can help users come up to speed quickly. And hopefully make the right WordPress decisions.

One of the key attractions of WordPress 10 years ago was that it was open source, largely free and easily gotten, installed and used.  But just as important, WordPress was a doable DIY project assuming a reasonable understanding of the Web stack of tools – HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL and PHP. And for many users knowledge of HTML and possibly CSS on the HTML side of the Visual Editor was sufficient – 3rd party themes and plugins carried the bulk of coding load.

So let us examine how over the past ten years WordPress has kept its commitment to an open source, free/low cost and DIY Content Management system. Start with WP 1.0 of Jan 2004 which added search engine friendly permalinks, multiple categories, dead simple installation and upgrade plus comment moderation. Note that DIY touch with dead simple installation and upgrade was introduced right at the outset. This installation and update advantage scooped competitors like Drupal and Joomla for many years. This was followed in May of 2004  with WP 1.2  which delivered plugins whose initial code design lasted 7 more years. Plugins brought 3rd party developers to WordPress  and again problems for rivals like Drupal and Joomla.

WP 1.5 of Feb 2005 produced a ton of new features: static pages, a theme system that had templates for small variations between themes plus a default  theme  named Kubrick which could be used as a starter layout design for new WordPress users. Soon developers followed with their own theme designs , some for sale establishing an important secondary market for WordPress components. WP 2.0 of Dec 2005 completed the the rapid 2 year emergence of WordPress with rich editing, better administration tools, image uploading, faster posting, improved import system, a fully overhauled back end, and various improvements for Plugin developers.

In the space of 2 years the foundation for the DIY competitive advantage of WordPress in the CMS – Content Management System marketplace was established. The next 2 years see a broad set of improvements to the system.

WP 2.0 to WP 2.5 in Mar 2008 saw spellcheck & more editor options, several widget improvements, security fixes, dashboard revamp, better category taxonomy and plugin improvements. WP2.5 to WP3.0 in Jun 2010 saw Multi-User incorporated into core WP, auto install of themes and plugins, improved admin UI, global undo and change tracking, image editor added to Media Library. This period also saw the emergence of premium-cost design plugins like NextGen Gallery offering major admin  improvements over the standard WP Media Library and Visual Composer backend PageBuilder going well beyond WordPress Visual Editor with rows divided into columns which could have a wide range of new components dragged and dropped into specific columns. Finally Genesis themes allow for different layouts for specific pages and posts. The key is that both developers and end-users now have more options for designing the look and features of their websites.

WP3.0 to WP 4.0 Sep 2014 see more frequent updates and more attention paid to the admin interface. Admin Bar added to the top line when updating a WordPress site, more hints and help for beginning users, theme customization allows setting global options for styling, typography and key layout designs. A rash of enhancements appear such as faster operational speed with less memory needs, menu UI simplified with intuitive drag and drop operation, new revision system, autosave and post locking,   multi-language support eased and enhanced, redesigned  theme browsing and options management, full screen writing, and more media types in library plus new url embeds for youtube.com etc. 

But again premium plugins dominate WordPress innovations. In media, several slider plugins add new display modes like carousel, accordion, and full-page-width sliders made up of image, video, or HTML object with multiple transition animations. Gallery plugins allow for masonry and justified image layouts plus captioning and lightbox display of enlarged images. Visual Editor plugins extend the features with column and divider shortcodes, robust table layouts, extensive typography options including Google fonts. PageBuilders offer WYSIWYG drag and drop layout of pages, posts, and custom post types. Most impressively, media tools, Pagebuilders and themes all support enhanced automated mobile responsive layouts. The design improvements provided by  Premium plugins  keep WordPress competitive with new WebBuilders like SquareSpace, Jimdo, and Weebly.

From WP4.0 to WP4.9 in Nov 2017 there have been a broad range of incremental improvements to the theme customizer, the number of supported embeds, tuning the full page writing experience, under the hood coding and performance improvements, more multi-language support. The biggest improvements are to widgets with multimedia support, WYSIWYG widget design,  and gallery widgets. The theme customizer got more site wide options and scheduling of customizer changes.

Again premium themes provide the biggest WordPress innovations. PageBuilders now have selections of templates that can be used to jumpstart a complete page or even total website  design. Users can quickly modify that inserted page design with their own copy, images and styling. But also users can create their own page templates  or partial page sections and insert them into any page or posts. PageBuilders also support revision histories so users can step back multiple changes and recommence from that point. Finally PageBuilders become complete SiteBuilders as they can layout headers, menus, footers and sidebars in unique ways.

Meanwhile, MultiLayout themes allow users to set site-wide typography, color and styling standards along with a base page and post layout. But these MultiLayout themes also allow users to customize the layout of any or all pages, posts or custom post types [header or no header; menubar or no menubar; sidebar, 2 sidebars or no sidebar; footer or no footer; user set width of the content with control of margins, padding or borders]. Every page can have a  common color, typography and styling but a unique and different layout. The combination of MultiLayout themes used with top-rated PageBuilders give designers unprecedented control of each and every web page.

And the WordPress web page design revolution continues to new CSS Styling IDEs plus Media tools. Now slider tools support multiple layers for every slide with text, images, HTML objects and buttons being placeable anywhere and on any level on a slide and then moved in animations to new positions and finally made to either stay or to fade out and disappear. Media Galleries now support flipping  images to text on hover or click. Media galleries can control the order and filtering of the displayed gallery images with precise control on their styling. But the least known but perhaps most useful innovation for WordPress developers has been the new CSS Styling IDEs.With CSS IDEs , developers [and CSS savvy DIY users] can go in and correct the styling on any post or page or components there on. And the operations are point and click oriented. Yes, for some of the edits being knowledgeable of CSS systax and rules certainly speed up the operations. But let me  assure readers that these CSS IDEs are essential for delivering pixel perfect pages and designs.

The WordPress Future is Now

In the past 5 to 10 years the bulk of WordPress innovations have been increasingly driven by the huge community of WordPress theme developers [10,000 free and premium] and plugin designers and developers [54,374 free and premium plugins]. And these community innovations go well beyond the creative design PageBuilders, MultiLayout themes, Media Display tools, CSS IDEs  – just look at any top WordPress lists. For Business plugins, general plugins, and operational plugins, 3rd party software suppliers dominate every list  But with announcement of Calypso for backend WordPress operations and now Gutenberg to become first the new Visual Editor in upcoming WP 5.0 and then after the primary WordPress SiteBuilder, the development ball game changes profoundly  in two ways. 

First, Automattic [home organization for the lead WordPress design team] becomes the principal supplier of core WordPress creative design  and operational software. Plugin and theme vendors will have to follow Automattic design standards more closely.  Jetpack has assumed that role for admin and media plugins in the WordPress.com market. Calypso has also taken over broad support and multi-WordPress site management  role again first in WordPress.com but now extending to all WordPress. The RestAPI now take precedence in WordPress interprocess  communications. And for creative design tools, Gutenberg and Gutenblocks will dominate WordPress design world.

Second, JavaScript will become the coding language of choice replacing PHP. Of the standard tools named above, JavaScript is core of Calypso and Gutenberg while playing an increasing role in JetPack and the RestAPI. The reasons JavaScript is being used preferentially are performance speed and component creation advantage over PHP. But the problem is that most of those 10,000 themes and 54,000 plugins are written in PHP. The bottom line is that we like WordPress for the increasingly broad tasks that can be done with it. But at the same time,  WordPress is going through a very delicate and possibly painful “teething period” as its underlying features and coding languages change rapidly and profoundly. 

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