This post was originally published in February 2012, if you can believe it. It has generated more comments than any of our other posts and reading through, it's just as relevant today as it was then. See the new 'Reflections for 2017' section that I have added to the end.
Reading through back issues of .NET magazine, I noticed that there’s very little emphasis on WordPress developers. This is pretty strange given that 15% of the world’s top million sites are developed in WordPress.
Most of .NET’s articles seem to focus on designing and coding static websites. .NET presumably plan their content according to what their readers demand, suggesting that this approach is shared by the wider web design community. But I believe that static sites will become less common over the next few years. The future of web design lies in platforms such as WordPress – and therefore in WordPress developers.
What’s so great about WordPress?
With tens of thousands of pre-designed themes and more than 15,000 plugins available, you can use WordPress to design almost any website for a fraction of the price of developing from scratch. And as if this isn’t enough, its open-source format allows WordPress developers to reprogram and customize WordPress to do pretty much anything they want.
For example, take a WordPress e-commerce online shop. In the old days, the options were either to purchase an expensive e-commerce package or to pay a web developer to build one from scratch. Nowadays, WordPress offers a much cheaper alternative. With plenty of WordPress e-commerce plugins available, all you have to do is install the plugin, set it up with the options you require (discounts, stock control etc.) and customize it to reflect your overall website design. And in the unlikely event that it lacks any of the features you need, WordPress developers can reprogram it to add these features. This option simply wasn’t available a few years ago but is now a popular choice for small and medium companies alike.
So why don’t more developers use WordPress?
I think there’s a widespread attitude that using WordPress – and themes in particular – isn’t ‘proper web design’. Many designers and developers like the satisfaction of designing from scratch. This is their art and the reason they got into web design in the first place.
There will always be a role for bespoke web design, and more and more companies need this to be integrated into a content management system such as WordPress. Static sites are no longer sufficient as website owners need full control over their content.
It’s not easy for traditional web designers to switch to WordPress. Converting a Photoshop or HTML design to WordPress requires different skills and technologies, such as PHP programming and an understanding of how WordPress works. Those who see themselves as designers rather than web developers often don’t want to go in this direction. That’s why as expert WordPress developers, one of our main sources of enquiries comes from web designers who need their designs converting to WordPress.
So it looks like the future of web design lies largely in partnership working between web designers and WordPress developers.
Isn’t the point of WordPress to create websites without a web developer?
It’s easy to set up a WordPress website without much technical know-how. We see fewer and fewer clients who want us to develop and manage their whole website. Instead, lots of companies and individuals are teaching themselves WordPress and building their own websites.
Some web designers and developers feel threatened by this. But I see WordPress as an opportunity rather than a threat.
5 reasons why we still need WordPress developers
- Just because people could teach themselves WordPress doesn't mean they want to. Lots of people need WordPress experts to develop their website. They might need a low cost web design service such as our MySimpleSite and MySimpleStore websites, or a full priced option.
- People get stuck and need help with WordPress.
- Companies who have developed or commissioned a custom web design rather than a theme need it converting to WordPress.
- Lots of clients need WordPress customization - modifying themes to reflect their brand identity, WordPress plugin development, etc.
- Bigger companies need an expert WordPress consultant to integrate WordPress with their existing IT systems and help them get the most out of WordPress.
As WordPress developers, we need to accept that clients want more and more control over their website. Rather than resenting their input, we should embrace this and work in partnership with our clients.
Our role has become more of a technical consultant than a traditional ‘webmaster’. We respect the tasks that clients want to do themselves, and are on hand to offer expert advice and provide any technical expertise that is needed.
By being flexible and moving with the times, that’s why WordPress developers are the future of web design.
Update - Reflections from 2017
Re-reading this article 5 years later in 2017, it's really interesting to see how things have moved on.
- The article refers to more than 15,000 WordPress plugins available in the official plugin repository. Today, that number has risen to 49,400!
- WordPress now powers over 27% of the entire internet. In April 2017, it was used on 58.8% of all websites that use content management systems.
- 25% of WordPress developers make a full-time living from the platform. Many more work on WordPress part-time, often as part of a modern lifestyle-led way of working.
- The fact that I didn't mention WooCommerce in the article is interesting. WooCommerce now powers over 41% of ALL e-commerce stores globally. Now it is owned by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, its market share is set to grow and grow. If I wrote the article again now, I would definitely recommend the opportunities available to WooCommerce developers.
- My list of reasons why people need WordPress developers is just as accurate in 2017 as it was back in 2012. Some people design their own WordPress experts, whereas others need a specialist.
- The original article refers more to developing websites for clients than to other development opportunities in the WordPress ecosystem. For example, I didn't really talk about the opportunity to develop WordPress products such as premium plugins. Since then, we have launched our own WordPress plugins business which is thriving and growing each month. Time and time again, we have learned just how many opportunities are available for WordPress developers.
How can WordPress developers find success in 2017?
Anyone who choses to specialise in WordPress back in 2012 has clearly backed the winning horse. WordPress has continued to grow into the world's leading website platform. Whole sub-industries have emerged around it, for example WooCommerce is a huge growth area with many opportunities for developers.
Since 2012, a lot of people have jumped onto the bandwagon and learned WordPress - quite rightly. However in my experience, the market for WordPress developers still has plenty of room for everyone. Each developer just needs to find their own personal niche.
The great thing about WordPress in 2017 is that the market is so huge, you can choose a niche and have a very good chance of ranking highly in Google within your niche. Even if the niche is very specific (e.g. WooCommerce password protected categories, for which we have the no. 1 spot), there's a good chance that lots of people are searching for it and you can be successful.
WordPress - a whole world of opportunities
You can offer so many different types of WordPress products and services. For example, if you don't want to develop websites or plugins then you can offer WordPress hosting, support or maintenance. If you're not a coder, try offering affordable WordPress websites using a template-based solution. If you enjoy writing about WordPress development, register with lots of affiliate schemes and earn commission for recommending specific products. (For example, our WordPress plugins affiliate program pays 30% commission.)
When I wrote the original version of this article in 2012, more and more people were starting to realise the true potential of WordPress. That's why so many people enjoyed the article and shared it on social media. Fast forward to 2017 and the predictions have all come true. WordPress isn't going anywhere and there's a world of opportunity to available to WordPress developers. Choose your niche, work hard and I wish you every success!
Now it's your turn
Do you think that WordPress developers are still the future of web design? Will it continue growing as I have predicted, or will other platforms take over? How can developers use WordPress to achieve greater success? Please leave your comments below.