WordPress continues to grow – in community and technology improvements.
In fact, according to 2015’s State of the Word address by WordPress Co-Founder Matt Mullenweg, WordPress “now powers 25% of all websites in the world,” – a number that increases every year. (Here’s a cool infographic on “Stats of the Word”.)
With everything WordPress offers, its growth isn’t surprising. People love the platform’s:
- open source software
- huge, supportive community
- flexibility and customization options
- extensive plugin library
- support options
- theme libraries
We’re in WordPress every day helping our clients maintain, support and improve their websites , so we see what changes are budding now and will come to fruition next year.
Here’s what we expect to see (and a bit of what we hope to see) in 2016’s world of WordPress.
1. WordPress Boom
The features listed above, coupled with constant improvements, will send more users flocking to the CMS over the coming year.
We’ll find more people using WordPress for custom sites due to the increased flexibility of building your own website.
For example, the release of WordPress version 4.3 in August highlights an easy-to-customize interface update.
Not only did WordPress step up its CMS interface with this update, it also improved its general usability – an area that lagged in comparison to some of the simpler proprietary platforms like Squarespace.
Software improvements such as those have paved the way for our next prediction.
2. WordPress for Applications
In 2016, we’ll see a surge in the use of WordPress for app development and testing.
Developers will use WP for prototyping data-driven applications and building out front ends before diving into deeper development work. Before fueling the dev stack, you can save time and money by first building applications in WordPress.
A surge in WordPress applications is evidenced in the WP REST API, which allows you to easily grab and edit your site’s data. In fact, the About section of wp-api.org states:
WordPress is moving towards becoming a fully-fledged application framework, and we need new APIs. This project was born to create an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand and well-tested framework for creating these APIs, plus creating APIs for core.
StoryCorps, a storytelling platform, uses the WP REST API to connect their mobile app to their website. This is just one example of apps using this API. You can see others here.
If you have the WooCommerce plugin on your WordPress site, you’re using the WP REST API to create, read, update and delete store data.
So, what exactly does the REST API mean for WordPress? As WPMU DEV’s Rachel McCollin states in this WP predictions post, “it means that just about any application could interact with WordPress in the future.”
This brings us to our next prediction.
3. Deeper WordPress Integration with Marketing Automation
As a marketer, you’ve seen and understand the general trend in the marketing industry to build websites that are fully integrated with your marketing automation platform and CRM.
WordPress is winning the marketing-integration race with a vast and rapidly expanding plugin directory and APIs that unite it with all of the top marketing tools.
A few years ago, it was a big deal that the ORBTR plugin allows you to see the behavior of leads in WP. It even connected with app integrator Zapier, which we still use now to connect all of our fav marketing tools.
Now, as sales and marketing teams work together in a web marketing world that requires more intelligence on lead behavior, marketing automation platforms are everywhere with more affordable plans. There’s even a free version of HubSpot called LeadIn, which integrates with a number of website platforms, including, you guessed it, WordPress.
While it’s fantastic that we can now integrate all of these platforms using tools like Zapier and plugins like Gravity Forms, the process is still a bit clunky and takes a bit of manual effort.
With the software changes coming to WordPress, we expect the development of more seamless marketing automation integration.
While it’s going to get easier to integrate marketing assets like CTAs and forms; for now, this is still the best way to do it.
Of course, baked-in integration isn’t immediate and won’t include everything, so plugins remain valuable – bringing us to our next prediction.
4. Improved Support for WordPress Plugins
Plugins are aplenty – and important.
According to Mullenweg’s address, “Over 9,000 plugins were added to the official repo in 2015, and they have cumulatively [been] downloaded more than 1 billion times since the start of the repo.”
We predict (and hope) that as WordPress grows as a do-it-yourself platform, plugins will become more supported, and there will be more standardized vetting of supported plugins.
Right now, anyone can create and distribute a plugin. For more visibility, you can choose to submit it to the WordPress Plugin Directory, in which case, it will be reviewed before it’s added. But, the review process is vague with a few restrictions and some guidelines, “but mostly they say how not to be a spammer,” according to the WordPress plugin creation page linked above.
For security, you’re definitely better off finding a plugin from the directory, but, right now, here’s how WP describes the vetting process: “Within some vaguely defined amount of time, your plugin will be manually reviewed. You may be emailed and asked to provide more information.”
And, according to the plugin submission page as of now, “Currently there are 76 plugins in the review queue, 50 of which are awaiting their initial review.”
Don’t get us wrong, there are a ton of awesome plugins – we love them, we use them, and we recommend them to our clients. But we also see the downside of plugins if they’re not secure or if support is lagging.
For plugin support, WordPress recommends its Plugins and Hacks forum. We love the WordPress support community and tout it as the best of any CMS, but with the plugin expansions predicted here and evidenced by the WP growth, we hope and expect to see the CMS take a more active role in plugin support.
Otherwise, you can always continue to seek support from the plugin provider – or WordPress support companies like us!
Speaking of us, let’s get to our next prediction.
5. Higher Demand for WordPress Maintenance
With the growing popularity of the platform, people will realize that their WordPress site needs to be maintained. As a result of the demand, in addition to managed service providers like WPEngine, we’ll see an influx of support companies like us, Maintainn, WP Valet and WPLift.
We’re already seeing it happen now.
Sure, WPEngine, Pressable and the like can alert you to a problem, but solving those problems often requires additional tools and resources.
What happens with some of our clients before they come to us is a back-and-forth between the marketing team and their internal IT team after their website breaks. The IT team removes some malware, but doesn’t get it all, so the site temporarily works again. Then IT is called in to fix it again. They remove the malware but haven’t fixed the source of the problem – whatever caused the malware to begin with – and it happens again. At this point, the valuable time and expense of the IT team is exhausted as they’re pulled away from other important tasks, and the marketing team seeks outside help from a support company.
You can create your own website maintenance plan, but to ensure a higher level of maintenance and security you’ll want a professional team of WordPress experts and developers by your side.
Problems are often caused by WordPress plugins (discussed earlier) or WordPress core updates, which brings us to our next hope, I mean, prediction.
6. More Reliable WordPress Update Process
Similar to our plugin-support prediction, this is one that might fit best in the “hope” pile, but we’ll see.
WordPress updates are one of the reasons that website maintenance is required – because they can break your site or leave it vulnerable to hacks and malware. We wish it wasn’t so, but that’s just how it is with WordPress. As they say in Game of Thrones: It is known.
We’ve already seen WordPress.com update improvements with the introduction of auto-updates for plugins. And thanks to WordPress version 4.4, minor WordPress updates are now installed automatically, but major updates still require installation with the manual push of a button.
Currently, when a major update is required, WP sends a notification email for you to push the button. Sometimes, the button doesn’t get pushed promptly or at all – leaving your site with an unsecure, outdated version.
Sometimes, people just go ahead and push the button without backing up their sites and lose data. A prominent warning on the Updating WordPress page reads, “The upgrade process will affect all files and folders included in the main WordPress installation. This includes all the core files used to run WordPress. If you have made any modifications to those files, your changes will be lost.”
These aren’t the only issues people face when managing WordPress updates. Until the process becomes more user friendly we recommend that you always update-with-caution and hire a professional team to manage all core updates for you.
With more people turning to WordPress to build their own sites, the platform will eventually institute a more user-friendly and reliable update process. We envision a day in which WordPress users will have a TurboTax-like experience with their WordPress site – with clean email reminders, live walk-through instructions, and help options along the way – but it will take time to get there.
7. Modernized Design and Development
WordPress 4.4 (aka Clifford) is a harbinger of more design and development improvements that lie ahead in 2016.
Along with the REST API, WordPress 4.4 introduced responsive images and a new embed feature.
Embracing the mobile shift, and maybe Google’s mobilegeddon algorithm update, WordPress has finally updated to responsive images. As McCollin pointed out in her article, this isn’t just images looking smaller on mobile devices; the images are actually smaller – eliminating the need for extra plugins, like EWWW Image Optimizer, and enhancing overall website performance.
Separately, WordPress 4.4 makes your website an oEmbed provider, which means you can now automatically embed content from one WP post into another by simply pasting the link into the other WP post.
We expect to see more design and development improvements this year that enhance the user experience and website performance on mobile devices.
We Look Forward to WordPress in 2016
While these are our predictions for where WordPress is headed this year, we’re also excited for the unknowns – the surprises.
As our WordPress community expands, so does the talent within it – and we can’t wait to see what they, maybe you, come up with next.