We got to the Music City Center a little earlier than most because we didn’t account for the 1 hour time gain between Eastern and Central time zones.  As 9am approached I watched the large room we were in begin to fill with techies, marketers, developers, designers, and more. When the annual international Wordcamp for 2018 kicked off there was a lot of buzz about what the next year held in store for all of us in the room. Anxiety over some of the biggest changes WordPress has undergone since its inception was tangible. Most of us in this room had built a significant portion of our livelihood on the dependability, user friendliness, and relatively low cost to use WordPress.  

 

At Epic Nine, 99% of the sites we develop are created in WordPress. Several years ago I made the decision to go with WordPress because it is supported by a worldwide community of developers and it is still the best choice when user friendliness and versatility are important. A decade ago some of the contenders included Droopal, Joomla, and the CMS I cut my teeth on, Text Pattern. Now the challengers include SquareSpace, Wix, and any number of up and coming CMS’s. Some of them put emphasis on user-friendliness and sacrifice versatility, or vice versa.  The new changes in WordPress 5.0 launch WordPress into a class of it’s own, where it has the potential to be the most user-friendly website platform as well as the most versatile.

 

Up to this point I had always taken the WordPress community for granted.  They don’t demand recognition or exact any sort of fee to use the software that powers close to 1/3 of all websites on the internet.  In my mind the community behind the advancement of WordPress had been a quiet giant neither soliciting or requiring much attention. That was about to change.

 

The conference itself was incredible.  We had the opportunity to sit at the feet of people who have helped design, build, and optimize more of the web than any other group of people alive. However, many of those in attendance, including myself, had built their livelihood around this software that for the most part had continued along a fairly straight upward trajectory and the changes with WordPress 5.0 threatened that.  It didn’t take long for me to see that many of the rumors of this threat were based more on laziness and an unwillingness to change with the times than legitimate fears that the new WordPress would make website development worse.

 

 

The main change in WordPress 5.0, the new editor dubbed ‘Gutenberg’, had undergone a year of scrutiny with beta trials and continual rebukes from the active online community.  The pre-launch Gutenberg plugin still has a 2 star rating on wordpress.org. People are naturally opposed to change. Web designers and developers aren’t any different. And while this change requires more work on our part (we had spent 7 years focused on PHP – Gutenberg relies mostly on JavaScript) it will make the lives of our clients much easier and ultimately make the web even better.  The mission of the WordPress community has been to democratize publishing. It has made it extremely simple for anyone to launch a blog or craft a website. When the power of Gutenberg is harnessed in the hands of a talented designer/developer it gives that mission super powers.

 

So what does Gutenberg do exactly?  Colby, our resident WordPress developer will dissect it in a future blog post. But in a nutshell it allows users to not only create content but to also create layouts and design elements straight in the editor without the need for 3rd party plugins.

 

And while Gutenberg is a huge step forward for the WordPress community it is only a small part of a much larger picture.  The last day of WordCamp was focused on improving WordPress. Sunday at 10am we walked into a large hall where hundreds of volunteers were divided into teams of developers, designers, and marketers.  They were all working to make this software better… for free. Some were dedicated to making sure it performs faster, more securely, and more efficiently, others were passionate about making sure it was accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.  And there were others who were working to make sure the admin area is as user friendly as it can be.

 

The mountain of processes, revisions, and systems that this group has dedicated to WordPress would give enterprise software companies a run for their money.  And added to the volunteers, were hundreds of paid developers that had been donated by other software companies to help make WordPress better. They are a part of an initiative called Five for the Future. A program where businesses that benefit from WordPress give 5% of their resources back to its development and progress.

 

So, why do we build most of our sites in WordPress?  Because it has survived a decade and a half, outlasted most of its competition to this point, and is still on an upward rise as the internet continues its evolution.  I often tell our clients that if you can imagine it on the screen we can make WordPress do it. And with the constant progression of this platform we can say that even more confidently than before.

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