There is no doubt that WordPress controls roaming content management systems (CMS). It has grown so large and so long that even a small drop in market share is considered significant.
There are plenty of benefits to being the top dog. WordPress also enjoys an extensive ecosystem of plugins and themes, a dedicated community, and little influence on the web. Try as they may, competitors can hardly make a dent in what WordPress is doing.
That does not mean that they are all roses, however. As a market leader, WordPress faces a unique set of challenges. Part of it is due to the large number of users and use cases. But the fact that it’s a free open source app that relies on volunteers also plays a role.
Put these factors together, and WordPress seems to have a position unlike any we’ve seen on the web. Having all these things in mind and continually improving and pushing the network is a huge task.
So, let ‘s take a look at the biggest challenges facing WordPress (as I see them), as well as the impact of its size on efforts to tackle them.
Moving Forward Without Breaking Heritage Sites
When you think of the competition in the CMS space, there are both open source and proprietary players. The proprietary apps have more control over how their product is used. In theory, this makes it easier for them to launch new features and attract users with them.
WordPress does not have such luxury. For example, a Squarespace or Wix site is hosted on a single platform. WordPress sites can be hosted almost anywhere. So it has to work in many different environments. This also affects performance, with some potential changes based on factors such as server operating system and resource allocation.
And then there’s backwards compatibility. Undoubtedly WordPress websites still exist from the 2000s and 2010s – with older themes and plugins in tow. Changes need to be developed and rolled out in a way that minimizes fracture potential.
While suggestions have been made to do things like automatically convert uploaded JPG images to a smaller WebP format, there is pressure back from the public due in part to hosting variables. And even with the advent of the Gutenberg block editor and Full Site Editing (FSE) they had to be rolled out in a way that respects current sites.
No matter how useful one finds a particular feature, there is definitely a bigger hill to climb for WordPress compared to other CMS.
Prioritize Features and Bug Fixes
New shiny features usually get all the publicity. And in recent years, WordPress has focused on building new tools to make the creation and design of rich content easier. The goal is to help the CMS compete with DIY site builders and sport a more modern interface.
While that is a noble cause, it is also a huge and costly undertaking. Browse through the Trac WordPress system, and you’ll find dozens of bugs and improvements waiting to be resolved – including some that have been around for many years.
The heavy focus on the block editor and FSE has removed limited resources from other areas of the software. The volunteer force of the participants is doing a great job, but they are thin stretches. So, despite slick editing experiences (which are constantly improving), other concerns are being left out of the party.
The result is that usability improvements and small bug fixes are weak. Over time, these things escalate and hinder users.
You can see it in the reactions when WordPress suffered a drop in market share. Whether these issues were related to the eventual small fall, the news certainly made people talking about their pet peeves.
Striking a balance here was challenging. While WordPress has to meet modern expectations, the lesser details cannot be ignored. More volunteers might help, but there would be more focus on screens outside the editor.
Strive to Be Everything for Everyone
Is WordPress a DIY site builder or a custom development – oriented tool? That may depend on who you ask.
Traditionally, the CMS has catered for those looking for flexibility. The ability to build themes and plugins, use off-the-shelf products, or a combination of these solutions has attracted many web designers to the platform.
This approach has helped drive WordPress to the top of the market. A whole economy was built on the concept of making the software the way you want it to be.
At the same time, the project is moving towards a codeless future. And developers had to adapt to construction products that fit this methodology.
We seem to be stuck between two worlds right now. Somehow, WordPress has to continue to have that flexibility to do-nothing without intimidating non-technical users.
It’s an awkward mix and makes some difficult decisions. The big question is whether these very different groups can be kept quite happy – let alone happy.
The Growing Pains of Market Leadership
WordPress has reached a level of popularity that no other CMS can match. While not as ubiquitous as Windows on desktop or Android on mobile, it is now the software of choice for powering much of the web.
When you think of its humble beginnings as a blogging platform, the journey to market leadership is even more significant. But now that its position has been fixed for several years, challenges must be addressed immediately.
There will be a lot to say about how WordPress handles these growth pains about its future success. The software needs to be more user-friendly for new users without losing their street credibility for customization. And innovation needs to extend beyond just content and site editing.
Most of all, it has to pay attention to what is happening within its ecosystem. This is something that truly separates WordPress from all others. Therefore, finding new ways to inspire and empower theme and plugin developers is crucial.
To some extent, all popular software have challenges to overcome and come to a crossroads at some point. And the more app, the harder the path forward.
The good news is that WordPress has done it so far. It is expected to evolve in a way that keeps it on top.