WordPress is not in Kansas Anymore

“WordPress is not in Kansas Anymore” means WordPress is no longer a simple, easy-to-use app anymore. Many basic features of WordPress are being challenged when used beyond blogging apps. For example, simple point-and-click, and drag-and-drop operations are subject to more complex steps. Meanwhile, pledges of  WYSIWYG edits or”no coding required” development are being qualified or directly compromised as in Gutenberg FSE and the dense Block editor/Elementor styling components. The result is the no-code, simple, easy-to-use WordPress is subject to some real caveats.

This difficulty is also seen in styling and editing for popular, multiple display views Styling now requires more dropdown levels to deliver attractive stylings. As a result, the WordPress tradition of simple ease of use and no-code features is harder to achieve. Another drag is that older components have to be updated to deliver the newest styling features.. In sum, designing in WordPress hcan be complicated and is definitely subject to a constant stream of changes.

Change has been inevitable as WordPress reached 40% market share of all the World’s websites in 2019. WPEngine calls it the emergence of the WordPress Economy and pegs its worldwide revenues at $1/2 trillion spread over theme/plugin/app makers, hosting services, plus agency and WordPress developers. But now the WordPress Economy is under intensive competition from Cloud-powered Web Builders and a rush of enterprise sponsored low-code/no-code tools.

WordPress users are transforming simple blogs into more sophisticated systems and workflows – membership and event apps or galleries and shops – they also become services with multiple tools, steps, and operations. In turn decision-making and control operations become more vital in responding to multiple inputs and changes in priorities, etc. These are broad business priorities as users experience new risks, changing conditions with unexpected outcomes to be addressed and controlled.

In sum, many WordPress systems are now operating at a new level of business impact and sophistication.

WordPress developers, both Core Team members and the vast army of 3rd party theme/plugin/app developers are responding to the changing market and user demands on  WordPress. They have extended WordPress tools to the limits while trying to honor such WordPress standards as simple easy-to-use WP processes, “no coding required”, no feature/element left behind, keep security and complexity risk low, and make database plus data integrations reliable and controlled.

Yes, simple WordPress websites will work well for many blogging tasks or for shopping sites with multi-products, shipping, and support requirements. But even these common examples can slip into the murky waters that are present in WordPress design and coding standards.

Examples of new WordPress Coding Conventions

Is the Classic/Visual Editor vestigial? Shortcode, Jquery, Customizer, Classic Widgets too??
The lifespan of WordPress code , routines and APIs  is under WordPress Core Team control and on occasion that has been arbitrary. Every fan of the original Visual Editor[see screenshot above] knows that the Classic Editor a)has a limited WordPress official lifespan [end of 2022] and b)is used by almost every popular PageBuilder from BeaverBuilder through Divi and Elementor to VisualComposer and Gutenberg Builder. However, in November 2022  a WordPress Core Team set a new lifespan:
“Classic Editor is an official plugin maintained by the WordPress team that restores the previous (“classic”) WordPress editor and the “Edit Post” screen. It makes it possible to use plugins that extend that screen, add old-style meta boxes, or otherwise depend on the previous editor. Classic Editor is an official WordPress plugin, and will be fully supported and maintained until 2024, or as long as is necessary.”

But it is the second group, the 3rdParty Page Builders that may have the largest effect on Classic/ Visual Editor. Each vendor has implemented its own version of the Visual Editor – small variances in the menu commands available, shortcode support, and other plugin integrations. In sum, the 3rd party PageBuilders may break the Classic/Visual Editor before 2024.

Read here about the status of shortcodes, Classic Widgets, Customizer & Meta Boxes and the current status of JQuery use in WordPress. There is a constant stream of WordPress routines that may become surplus. So there is no doubt in the concerted rush to perfect the Gutenberg Block system culminating in the FSE-Full Site Editor a lot of traditional WordPress processes and methods are being displaced if not prematurely obsoleted. A recent example is shortcodes:

Divi is not only a pioneering PageBuilder, but also has set the standard for WYSIWYG visual editing and template-based design. But in late September 2023 announcement, Nick Roach announced a move away from classic shortcodes to the Gutenberg Blocks model with promises of speed improvements and ease of use but with continued support for some classic shortcodes Does this signal a major change in how PageBuilder/ThemeBuilders will work?

It can be argued that a stark competitive reality facing Matt and Automattic Managers is collapsing their decision time. Elementor leadsWordPress UI/UX usage with 13 million active sites while advanced WordPress ThemeBuilders like  Oxygen, BricksBuilder, and BreakDance push their new challenging feature sets in the market for fast development. And don’t forget that the “other” WebBuilders like Spotify, Wix, Weebly, and Webflow – all of these tools have upped their UI game by adding security, auto-backup features, refined SEO, and Analytics. But most importantly these tools are delivering runtime performance speed averages that have recently matched WordPress performance. Finally, Enterprise software vendors have taken note of the huge half-a-$trillion WordPress Economy and are re-targeting their web developer tools or offering Gartner LCAP or Forrester LCDP  tools that both emulate WordPress “no-code required” while delivering design and mobile savvy tools.

Finally, System Modernization is on executives’ minds, think Southwest Airlines, and so new tools and methods like LCDP-Low Code Development Platforms are being actively promoted. There is a bit of irony in this because all these new platforms weaken the “no coding required”mandate by using increasing amounts of CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and  PHP/C++ in their end tools.

Changing Nature of WordPress Development

The rapid emergence of the WordPress Economy is not the only major change agent in the WordPress environment. The rapid growth of online retailing and the move from desktop to mobile use reaching a 59% shift worldwide has shaped and shaken in 5 years how all Web development is done.

Suddenly mobile responsive layouts, less than 2 seconds online response time, social media allure via creative designs and all done in shorter delivery times –  each factor has become vital. But for WordPress users and developers – perhaps hackers and spammers is the big attention grabber.

As per Adam’s tutorial, keeping WordPress itself plus all your themes and plugins up to date is a full-time task. Being backend vigilant with good backup systems, security, and SEO Analytics has become as important as frontend page design and layout tools.

With these trends in mind, here are 5 WordPress Development directions to expect in 2-3 years:
1 -Continued mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations among Hosting, Theme, and Plugin vendors. In the past 3 years active players have been Automattic 5, Godaddy 2, WPEngine 3, Liquid Web 2, Publish Press 6, Theme Isle 4, WP Developer 3. The biggest investors have been Automattic, Theme Isle, and WP Engine. However, with the downturn in the economy, transactions have slowed.
2 – Despite there being 12 active PageBuilders including Gutenberg Block Editor/FSE, there are 5 advanced ThemeBuilders innovating at a fast clip: Breakdance, Bricks, Brizy, Oxygen, and SeedProd. These vendors are targeting Elementor, replacing redundant plugins, plus advanced WP  integration. But another result is an overlap in plugin functions and features. Recent mergers & acquisitions plus intense competition produce more redundant/overlapping themes and plugins. Just have a look at the overlap in performance optimization and slider plugins.
3 – As Themebuilders like  Breakdance, BricksBuilder, Divi, Gutenberg Block Themes, Elementor, Thrive, Themify, and Visual Composer offer complete Theme & Template Libraries with huge pro + user created template  plus advanced sitewide styling options and management  – the 5000 WordPress Themes will shrink. Theme Designers will move to offer their works in a top Theme Studio.
4 – Ease of use will continue to take a hit from complex, multiple-option setups or direct edit steps. Just consider many membership, event or service management plugins. Or the current WordPress admin interface. Or the ins and outs of Custom Post editing.
5 – “No Coding Required” has taken a big hit with Gutenberg Block Patterns,   Blocks Controls, and other FSE tools – not just CSS and HTML but also JavaScript and PHP coding will be needed. But 3rd party ThemeBuilders have been using CSS embeds for several years. And now ThemeBulders are using full code editors so users can create and/or customize special APIs and control blocks.
Given competitive demands, these “Not in Kansas Anymore” WordPress trends will likely persist.


For many users, simple “in Kansas WordPress” will be more than good enough. This developer will continue to favor the Classic Visual Editor for many pages and posts, use Nextgen Galleries, and decide between either Astra or  Kadence Theme depending on the circumstances. But clearly, I have to expect a lot of my workload will not be in Kansas anymore.

“No Coding Required” will become “some coding needed”. Drag and drop, point and click layout will not always be trivial or even available. Backward compatibility will be on a much shorter time span. Cross-platform, integrating  Enterprise systems will be a constant expectation. Styling, performance, reliability, and security will be ever-present touchstones – just harder to achieve.

But the 2 biggest WordPress Change agents will be 1) the continued growth of the WordPress Economy onto $1 trillion annual cumulative revenues and 2)the new major players beyond Automattic setting new usage and development workflows standards. Yes, the WordPress Core Team will be the decider of UI interface and runtime standards. But now Cloudlare has a dominant position in performance tuning for all Web systems not just WordPress. In addition, Cloudflare is gearing up to become a major player in hosting services.

Likewise, Elementor at 13 million active website users is by far the leading UI developer interface despite its continued flexbox and templating issues. But Elementor has bought Strattic’s Headless WordPress as a defense against the Enterprise LCDP vendors. Also, the question is will one of the much-improved WebsiteBuilders be able to take off and gain significant CMS market share? Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace are already billion-dollar businesses.

Finally, cross-platform integration sees the emergence of players from Zapier, Kubernetes, Zoho, Docker, plus other IpaaS integrating apps and services. who play a vital role in correcting info indigestion as seen in isolated silos of info. In sum, WordPress is no longer in Kansas because there are now other major players besides Automattic and the WordPress Team shaping broad Web Development practices and standards. This is inevitable as  Web Development becomes vital to corporations as well as medium and small businesses.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top