I’ve been sitting on this post for a long time. In fact, I started thinking about this complex issue around the time when the discussions were centered around WordPress security and end user responsibility. The complexity extends way beyond end user responsibility in that, the bar to use WordPress has been lowered to a point where anyone can use the software. As an experienced user of WordPress (two years) I’m beginning to wonder how WordPress plans on handling this burden of inexperienced users as they far outweigh the number of experienced users. I don’t mean to insult any user types but that’s just the way the situation currently is.
So how has the bar been lowered?
Third party scripts such as Fantastico and Simple Scripts automatically install WordPress with little to no user intervention required. This means users don’t need to know about MySQL, PHP, or FTP in order to get WordPress up and running. Throw those skills out the window.
Upgrading is a breeze. Whether it is core upgrades, plugin upgrades, theme upgrades, they can all be done without using FTP. Instead, users make a couple clicks with their mouse and way they go.
WordPress has a built in text editor which provides an easy way to format text to your liking while providing a way for you to see how it looks in real-time. This means that instead of knowing HTML tags to format text in content, you only need to highlight the text with your mouse and press the corresponding format button.
There are other examples but I need to move on with my point. Don’t get me wrong, I love all three of the examples I provided as an end user but I see a set of circumstances that may or may not come true. When WordPress was just a small project, the core userbase was made up of developers. Today, I’d guess that 75% of those who use WordPress are end users while 25% are developers. Developers are smart people and they understand how things work. These are the people the 75% rely on for help. What happens if the majority of support these folks offer every single day becomes answers to questions such as simple HTML, uploading via FTP, upgrading, etc. Couple that with the fact that WordPress is becoming more and more user driven meaning the software will continue to be dumbed down to make it as easy as possible for everyone with a voice to make it known on the web and you have a scenario where the developers move on to a new project that has that feeling of being small with the majority of the user base being developers. This would leave the WordPress userbase consisting of not only end users, but fewer people who know the ins and outs which I think would hurt the community over time.
I think of this issue as a double edged sword. Make WordPress so easy to use that I can publish content with my eyes closed but on the flipside, I don’t have to know how to upload files, I don’t need to know how upgrades work, I don’t have to know HTML to bold text or italicize it, etc. As the bar to use WordPress continues to be lowered, how will the smart people cope with the ever increasing demands for support, especially for questions that would be considered common knowledge before using a CMS like WordPress such as HTML and FTP?
I don’t want to see WordPress become complex but at the same time, I don’t want to see the community turn into a bunch of end users that have no clue as to what they’re doing and that is who I have to rely upon for help. I suppose my only hope is that there is a constant flow of up and coming knowledgeable people in the WordPress community taking notes from the current crop of WordPress rockstars. If not, then I will harvest the current crop and continue to plant knowledge in the WPTavern forum!
Remember when Nirvana hit the big time and suddenly realised they didn’t like most of their mainstream fans (instead of attracting just cool grunge fans they starting getting jocks and metalheads at their shows).
Anyway, shoddy analogy but the core message is you can’t attract the masses and also choose your audience. The worst possible thing is when a online community starts taking an exclusionist stance on those who need the most help. Lets not kick the slowest kids out to the special class, lets find a way to help them without slowing the rest of the class down.
Take a page from Microsoft *gasp* and build automatic updates into WordPress.
Here’s how it should work:
– by default, WordPress will auto-upgrade 7 days after a new release. Each day the admin screen nag *as well as* an email nag to the admin account will remind them of this countdown. On day 7, boom, you’re upgraded.
– advanced users who want to manage their upgrades themselves can turn this feature off via wp-config.php