“WordPress is not in Kansas Anymore” means WordPress is no longer a simple, easy to use app anymore. Manybasic features of WordPress are being compromised. Simple point and click, drag and drop operations are subject to more complex steps. And pledges of WYSIWYG edits or”no coding required” development are being qualified or directly compromised. In the move to more modern design styles or fitting into multiple display views has placed greater demands on responsive, CSS frameworks. As a result, the WordPress tradition of no code feature/element left behind or abandoned has become more difficult to deliver. In sum, working in WordPress has become more complicated and subject to a constant stream of change.
This change has been inevitable as WordPress reached 40% market share of all the World’s websites. 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. As online sales continue to grow after the pandemic so does the WordPress Economy.
Thus WordPress users are transforming CMS -Content Management Systems into more sophisticated systems and workflows – membership and event apps; services systems with multiple tools, steps, and operators; decision-making and control operations subject to multiple inputs and changes in priorities, etc Users expect new risks and conditions, changing dependencies and unexpected outcomes to be addressed if not directly controlled.
WordPress developers, both Core Team members and the vast army of 3rd party theme/plugin/app developers are responding to the changing user needs and demands in WordPress. They have extended WordPress tools to the limits while trying to honor such WordPress standards as “no coding required”, no feature/element left behind, keep security and complexity risk low, make database and integrations hidden and/or controlled.
Yes, easy and simple WordPress implementations will work well for many multi-user blogging tasks or for shopping sites even with multi-products, shipping and support requirements. But even these common examples can slip into the murky waters that is present 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 implementation 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. Is this inevitable?
Changing Nature of WordPress Development
The rapid emergence of the WordPress Economy is not the only major change agent in the WordPress environ. 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 time how all Web development is done.
Suddenly mobile responsive layouts, less than 2 second online response time, social media allure via creative designs and all done in shorter delivery times – each factor has became vital. But for WordPress users and developers – perhaps hackers and spammers is the big attention grabber.
As from Adams 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. 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, + advanced WP integration. But another result is overlap plugin functions and features. Recent mergers & acquisitions plus intense competition produce more redudant/overlappig theme 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.
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 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 on to $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 becoming a major player in hosting services.
Likewise, Elementor at 13million 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 defense against the Enterprise LCDP vendors. Also, the question is will one of the the much improved WebsiteBuilders be able to take off and gain significant CMS market share? Finally, cross platform integration sees the emergence of players from Zapier, Kubernetes, Zoho, Docker, and other integrating apps and services .In sum WordPress is no longer in Kansas because there are now other major players besides Automattic & The WordPress Team shaping its standards and future.