WordPress – what comes next?

WordPress - what comes next?

What will come after WordPress? And is this something that businesses who use WordPress, and agencies who specialise in it (like us!) need to worry about?

Like any business, your attention is drawn in many different directions: There is the day to day project/client work that needs constant attention, there is running/administering your businesses, there is looking after your short/medium terms goals & projects.

However, you do also have to try to look further down the road. To see if there is anything coming that you need to be aware of.

Anything on the radar?

Is there anything potentially looming on the long-range radar that can impact your business?

Because, if there is, we want to try and trim our sails to best fit those conditions (I feel a nautical theme coming on here!).

WordPress

As you may know, we are a WordPress specific agency. WordPress accounts for 99% of our work. We do occasionally go outside of that; perhaps providing bespoke design work (including building HTML templates) that third parties can integrate within their systems. We can also create bespoke PHP apps.

However, in the interests of making it easier for potential clients to work out where we fit in the world (and to allow a consistent message to be broadcast online), I say that we specialise in WordPress.

Crystal Balls?

If WordPress is the technology that we are betting the Glass Mountains farm on, I need to be pretty darn sure there will be work for us in 5-10 years down the road.

Now I don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future, so all we can do here is to give it our best guess. Because if we don’t have an educated guess, we’re just going to get carried along with the current anyway – perhaps in a direction that we don’t want to go.

With that caveat ringing in your ears, let’s have a look at my predictions.

Web Presence

Businesses will still need a web presence.

They will want to have a digital hub that they have full control over, and knowledge that (all things being equal), it will always be there.

More and more businesses are able to act globally now (indeed, we’re UK based and 75% of our work is from the US). And I see this trend only continuing.

2020 drew a line in the sand shattering illusions about what a ‘proper’ company looks like. Does it need a swanky office, with hundreds of 9-5 permanent employees? No. It does not.

A ‘proper‘ company needs to be agile, adaptable, reliable, creative, flexible, and able to work remotely.

And businesses are more and more open to working with companies like that.

So your web presence will be there to help set your stall out, be a valuable touchpoint in your customer acquisition (or retention) process.  SEO, in some form of anything, will always be there – because people are always looking for things.

And I don’t see that changing.

Facebook?

A few years ago we heard “websites are dead, we just need Facebook now”. That never happened, for a good reason: a presence on a platform like Facebook is rented – they can change the underlying rules at any time, and you can do nothing about it, about from sucking it up.

And things have changed on Facebook.

When you post something on your Facebook Page (or your Facebook Group), the amount of people it can get in front of is called ‘reach’. You could be forgiven for thinking that reach is easily calculated in terms of how many people like your Facebook Page, or how many people are in your Facebook Group, but it’s not that simple.

Why?

Because over time Facebook has changed the rules.

They have reduced the reach of Facebook Pages/Groups (perhaps especially for businesses).

Why?

To drive you to their advertising platform. As that’s how they make money.

I mention just this one aspect of how the sands shift under your feet. The key point here is that on any such platform, you need to be aware of what can change and the impact this can have on you and your business.

Traditionally, websites are more of an owned resource so that, whilst Internet-wide changes still occur (e.g. the move to SSL HTTPS). Such changes are typically for the good of the internet (rather than for the good of a private company’s adverting model).

So no, I don’t see businesses moving too far away from having an owned digital resource under their full control.

Where does this leave WordPress?

Notice that I didn’t mention WordPress much in that previous section? Just because businesses etc will need something to power their digital presence, that something doesn’t have to be WordPress.

However, saying that, WordPress apparently powers about 35% of the web at the moment, so clearly, this technology is not going away anytime soon.

And, in fairness to WordPress, it is constantly evolving & updating – it does not standstill. Because of this, we see large strides forward with developments like the Gutenberg editor etc.

Plus, of course, there is an ever-growing ecosystem of plugins, and themes out there, ready to extend and customize WordPress.

Familiarity

Another benefit is that many people in businesses know a bit about WordPress; so they are already au fait with this popular website system. Knowing a bit about WordPress is a very useful thing to have on your CV.

So in that sense, there is safety in numbers for businesses; by using WordPress (where it is applicable), they know there is a strong likelihood that they can get staff who are familiar with it.

And the same logic applies to businesses relationships with agencies like mine. Because WordPress is a widespread technology, they are not as susceptible to ‘vendor lockin’. If a business is unhappy with who is supporting their WordPress site, they can find another agency (like us – feel free to use our pay-as-you-go support service to try us out).

What else?

In the realm that WordPress operates, you have other systems like Wix, Squarespace, and Webflow which are all promising platforms. And, applied to the right feature set, they can offer fantastic solutions.

But they are not powering 35% of the web, like WordPress. So unless they offer something that WordPress doesn’t, then a business won’t necessarily go flocking to it.

So yes, I think WordPress will continue to thrive in the solution realm within which it is most applicable.

By ‘solution realm’  I simply mean, don’t try to make WordPress do things it was not built for – yes there are plugins for all manner of functionality. But if you are not prepared to live within the constraints of such plugins, then WordPress is a bad choice for you – and instead, you need custom web development. But that’s not a criticism of WordPress, that’s more about choosing the right tools for the job.

Left Field

Let’s mull some options:

Google

Let’s imagine Google created a hosted website service running some sort of their own flavour of CMS and, by using some coding, magic, this new service could use WordPress plugins & themes.

Such a service would automatically have a community of businesses who might use it, and a community of developers & designers who have transferable skills.

And, from our perspective, if it looks like an interesting direction, then we’ll look into it.

Note: I don’t think Google is doing anything on this front, though perhaps Blogger will get an upgrade soon.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

We hear a lot about AI, can that threaten the traditional website?  Hard to know. Perhaps AI can help split testing content? Or even write content?!

Or perhaps we can employ AI bots to research services on behalf? But that leads us back to the fact that we need something to discover in the first place.

Voice

Voice (e.g. Alexa, Sir etc) are all new ways we can interact with the web of knowledge and services that surround us.

Websites are already built in a standard-based manner that future evolving technologies (such as voice) can seamlessly interface with.

So again, I see the web enabling here, but not being sidelined.

The Future

Which brings me back to the future of my company, Glass Mountains. Certainly in the next 5 years, the main focus will be on WordPress.

There is a universe of WordPress websites out there and all those sites need:

  • Maintenance
  • Bug fixing
  • Proactive development
  • Business alignment
  • Redesign & major upgrade every once in a while.
  • Security assessment
  • Performance work
  • (and increasingly) GDPR/CCPA compliance work

..and of that universe of WordPress sites, we only need a tiny, tiny, fraction.

I think we will see an expansion of what Glass Mountains does in the educational field. In 2020 we started #TheWPshow and there are lots of other possibilities & opportunities.

So, let’s see if I’m right….check back in 5 years 😉

Joel

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