WordPress has been around since 2003. And the content management system (CMS) has undergone massive changes throughout its life. Today, it may be unrecognizable compared to its earliest versions.
Signs of that evolution are everywhere. The block editor means we no longer need a page builder plugin to make custom layouts. And thanks to the site editor and block themes, it’s possible to build an entire website without writing a line of code.
Almost every major aspect of building and maintaining a website has changed. And there is every reason to believe that the process of innovation will continue. What is in WordPress today is just laying the foundation for tomorrow.
But how will WordPress change? While we don’t have a crystal ball, we can see many areas that are ripe for improvement. Some may be resolved by updates to core WordPress, while others may be addressed by the plugin and theme ecosystem.
With that, let’s try to predict the next opportunities for innovation in WordPress. They may not qualify as sex, but they are important nonetheless.
Accessing Website Data
Data storage and retrieval has long been a challenge for WordPress developers. Sure, everything is stored in a single database. But things can get very complicated in a hurry.
Standard posts and pages are quite easy to import or export. But when you move into the realm of data generated by plugins, it’s a different story.
That’s because plugin authors have many options for writing to the database. On the surface, this freedom seems positive. It allows developers to store and retrieve data in a way that makes the most sense for their needs.
But for the rest of us, it can be a nightmare. Each plugin we install manages data in its own way. Therefore, it is almost impossible to put together a coherent report – unless you are proficient in PHP.
For example, let’s imagine an e-commerce website that also has members-only content. We could install WooCommerce to power the online store, and a separate membership plugin restricts access to content.
If we want to export data related to one of these site functions, it is quite easy. But what if we combine all aspects in one report? That’s not easy. Data can be stored in different database tables and in different formats. Even with the help of plugins designed to export data, it often takes custom code to do this.
The barriers to access to data are large and complex. But there is an opportunity for a great WordPress core or plugin developer to put it within site owners.
Theme Block Must Be Created
The idea behind the WordPress Site Editor (aka Full Site Editing) is simple: to empower anyone to build a custom website within a code-free environment.
The feature officially became part of core WordPress in version 5.9. Since then, a steady stream of newfangled block themes have been released. Meanwhile, the feature’s functionality and user experience are constantly being refined.
Progress aside, there is still a rush of users to jump to this new way of building websites. The theme market continues to be saturated with Classic Themes. Additionally, developers may still be wary of allowing key layout elements for editing.
What is missing is a very compelling reason to move. Some of that could be material to enhance what the Site Editor is capable of. But perhaps a transformative product (or 100) is also needed to attract the interest of users.
Imagine a block theme that is both powerful and versatile. One that offers a wide range of style variations to suit many use cases. And hopefully its author will have learned from the mistakes of the third party theme market in the past.
A theme that is sleek, performant and easy to customize could be just the thing to attract users. Fortunately, the market is wide open. That means there is a lot of competition in this space.
Bringing WordPress Top Performance
Website performance is complex. It starts with a high-powered server optimized for speed. Then there is the website, where code and assets must be used effectively. Add databases and calls to third-party APIs into the mix, and there are a lot of bottlenecks.
The WordPress Core Performance team has been established to help bring the CMS up to date. And they have already made significant progress in the area of query filing.
Still, the WordPress ecosystem makes the process more complicated. Themes and plugins can vary greatly in terms of resource requirements. Some make multiple database calls, while others make extensive use of scripts and styles. And even items that perform well on small sites may struggle at scale.
There are a variety of cache plugins available to optimize website performance. But neither they nor WordPress core can include a thriving theme or plugin.
With that, some (mostly) developers have decided to bypass the ecosystem by running barebones installations. With the WordPress back-end handling content creation, the static front-end removes database calls from the equation. This can result in lightning-fast page loads, and unfortunately some plugin functionality won’t carry over.
Tools that simplify the process of building WordPress websites without one would be welcome. And bonus points for those who can maintain plugin functionality (shopping cards, forms, etc.) going on the static side or through a hybrid approach. A lot of progress is being made, and it will be exciting to see what happens in the future.
That doesn’t mean your WordPress core shouldn’t focus on speed, though. For most users, the reality is still a traditional installation that uses a database. Every step towards higher performance counts.
Looking for the Next Thing in WordPress
The predictions above represent opportunities that already exist. One or more people can take on these challenges and create a solution that will make WordPress better / easier / faster. But they are far from the only ones out there.
The great thing about open source CMS is that developers are only limited by their imagination. Therefore, we could see innovations that have not yet been considered.
As WordPress matures, the need to create a powerful and seamless experience increases. A community full of creative minds are hard at work, plotting the next big thing. We can’t wait to see what they are up to.