The Biggest Challenge For WordPress?

WordPress’ biggest challenge over the next two years, and where we’re focusing core development, will be around evolving our dashboard to be faster and more accessible, especially on touch devices. Many of our founding assumptions about how, where, and why people publish are shifting, but the flexibility of WordPress as a platform and the tens of thousands of plugins and themes available are hard to match. We might not always be the platform people start with, but we want to be what the best graduate to.

Via WordPress And The Top 100


30 responses to “The Biggest Challenge For WordPress?”

  1. “more accessible, especially on touch devices”

    Did Matt even use 3.3 ??

  2. That’s interesting, I would have thought it would have been to evolve core data handling to make it easier to transition around – I’ve been noticing that as themes with custom post types and built in gewgaws become the norm, it becomes much harder to move from one theme to another – for example I’m working on a site using a theme with 7 custom post types including its own slideshow functionality – it’s very nice in many ways for what we want, but basically the two options for moving away from it are rebuilding from scratch or paying the theme makers to fix what we don’t like and build in other functionality that we need.

    I think this kind of situation is getting more common, and will start hitting the less technical users in a way that could end up undermining the platform’s reputation.

    But hey, I’m sure posting from a phone is also very important.

  3. Thanks Jeffro, I hope that’s not a concession to Tumblr or anyone else. WordPress have done well to stay nice and easy as a first blog or site, while becoming more, and we ought to keep the bar low for beginning with WP.

    While we’re thinking big challenges for WordPress, we ought also, IMO to focus on BuddyPress and/or distributed social possibilities (what of SocialRiver? et al.) for WP. There must be half a billion people using or registered in one or another WP site. If we can flip the switch on distributed social in WP we can rule social, or rather we can let everyone rule their own social (own their data, identity, control their privacy, etc.). Looking at you, Zuck.

  4. I think media handling is key – whether for touch or desk. Video and audio are not going away but it’s a bit tricky to handle much volume with the media library and uploads directory as it is now. IMHO, plugins are an issue as well. So many wonderful plugins but even with the forums and ratings, it’s a bit of a crap shoot as to what will function as intended. I LOVE WordPress and have used it to go well beyond a simple blogging platform.

  5. If the core is developed faster than the themes and the plugins, then the poor user is left behind and will not update for fear of breaking something they cannot fix or cannot afford to have fixed.

    There are too many variations already with theme and plugin conflicts. And switching away from an outdated theme can be time consuming and costly (time and money).

    Progress and improvement are great until you start drowning people in the wake.

  6. The biggest challenge they needed to do is to remove all cluttered files/folders off from root, just have 4 folders and one php file, such as index.php and that’s it. The less, the better. Let’s hope WP 3.5 or 4.0 does that.

  7. One of the issues that we see is the speed at which WordPress is updated, coupled with the speed of updates and support provided for plugins. The problem is that most of the plugins are a hobby for the developer. Therefore, they do not have the time or money to support it entirely. WordPress updates are released that break parts of the plugin and the developer (at some point) gives up and the project becomes abandoned.

    I am seeing more and more notices on plugin descriptions within the repository that state something like “I am no longer maintaining this plugin, if you would like to take it over let me know”. But there are also so many other plugins where the developer has not replied to anyone in over a year. Even if the plugin has been updated recently, it may still not work due to a WordPress update.

    This experience is not good for users, they use a few similar plugins to find the best one for them, settle on one and add all their data. Only then do they find that it does not work properly and they have to start from scratch. Naturally, this fills their database with junk data that they will never need again.

    It is becoming a real pain to see so many plugins abandoned and most of them you have to install and test only to find they are abandoned.

  8. I was hoping for more focus on security issues.

    Naturally the webmaster have the biggest responsibility, but WordPress could be made much better in regards to security.

  9. WordPress, is still and will remain the best CMS and blogging platform for many. Innovation keeps a company afloat and prepare it for future challenges all companies face along the way. I find the mobile platform interesting, too.

  10. The biggest challenge I feel is to truly make this great product something that literally anyone can use and use well. I think for that to happen we would need to move towards more and more real WYSWYG editing – preferably on the pages / posts themselves.

    Clients often still seem to have difficulties with basic WP actions and I still see too may sites with a basic install unedited in any way – for me that shows that often the lay person is still a little intimidated by the backend.

  11. The problem is that most of the plugins are a hobby for the developer. Therefore, they do not have the time or money to support it entirely.

    @David – Alas, that annoys the hell of out me. If you make a plugin and release it on the repository, users have a reasonable assumption that you will:
    1) Update it
    2) Patch it
    3) Support it

    Unless you say otherwise, congratulations! You’re supporting a plugin! Hobby or not, you have responsibilities.

  12. Touch support is important, but it not really a challenge:)

    They need to tackle a real challenge like a proper Media API/Uploader. Its a dismal experiences for users and developers alike.

  13. One of the most useful improvements for end users would be to have good, practical user manual for new users on that is updated as WordPress is updated. A consistently challenging aspect of handing a site off to a client is giving them instructions to do basic things such as add/edit post, create links, add media etc.

  14. @Peter Hanley
    Peter you make a valid point RE less technical users. I prefer using plugins for gewgaws (esp SEO tools and the like), custom content types etc and I think this is a better route to follow for theme developers than to include these in the theme (as a general rule).
    But at the same time these designers should be lauded for the effort they put in. Perhaps they could be encouraged to notify prospective users there may be difficulties if they change the theme (when appropriate).
    For my own sites I like fiddling with code, but I hesitate to do it for clients – the next person to support their site should be able to do so without a lot of bother…
    Back to the topic of this post: I would prefer to see this implementation as a plugin, rather than core technology, and more emphasis placed on developing options to extend WordPress as a fully fledged CMS – but once again keeping the big value of WordPress alive – an easy to use platform for everyone, not only the techs. (We tech types have Drupal to satisfy our technical desires). So once again, perhaps a set of well developed and thoroughly tested plugin options to boost the flexibility could be the better option.
    My two cents worth of comments!

  15. Matt Mullenweg said:

    WordPress’ biggest challenge over the next two years, and where we’re focusing core development, will be around evolving our dashboard to be faster and more accessible, especially on touch devices.

    This is a pervasive phenomenon in computer science & engineering, today – to prioritize the case of the ‘small/mobile device’. Or as Matt identifies them, “touch devices”.

    It’s pretty hard for me to grasp, or get my head around, the suggestion that the context of a desktop computer, and that of a cell phone, can be addressed as equivalent. That serious software people are shoving all their chips into the kitty, betting on cell phones as desktops, and desktops as cell phones. That they are betting the farm that the cell phone and the desktop can be married at the point of a shotgun, and everyone will live happily ever after.

    I’ve scratched my head at this unlikely-seeming proposition for awhile now, watched it evolve at Ubuntu/Canonical, read how Microsoft and Apple (not such a long stretch) are working feverishly on their own versions. KDE and Gnome are turning themselves inside out to be part of the trend. And taking real damage to their ‘actual’ desktop usership.

    In fact, “touch devices” were highly developed in the mid-1980s. Hobbyists built mis-named “light-pens” with a discreet optical sensors in the tip, a small electronic shaper-circuit in the barrel, and a cable or wire that reported to the computer. This light pen (touch device) would identity a spot on a raster screen (computer monitor or TV) to within a single pixel … and the computer then provides visual feedback of what is being pointed at (with a cursor … yeah, before the mouse). There were dozens of commercial and freebie models, in the 1980s.

    Early IBM PCs were the market for a large range of special voice-recognition chips, and the Commodore-64 et al had built-in Analog to Digital converters which in part met the interest in software development for small-vocabulary voice-input (you spell individual letters, resulting in a sort of “ASCII-speech”).

    This is old stuff. OLD. Alternative input devices and IO formats have been the rage for decades. We had a very highly developed community built around the Palm-Pilot devices. Several tens of thousands of mostly small but often impressive programs rather strikingly like WordPress plugins were written and shared freely. Called ‘hand-helds’, they were of course touch devices.

    Yet now, ‘all of a sudden’, the “touch device” tail is swinging the desktop computer dog’s-body. Really? Amazing as it seems, there is no doubt that Leadership has gone all-in for it.

    On the face of it, the phenomenon seems to be a illusion or mirage. To have cell phones is great. To have desktops is great. To think these two things are, can be, or ought to be transmogrified into essentially ‘the same thing’, seems like one of those unforced errors on major steroids.

    Is the real explanation ‘the girls’?

    Is it really that computers have historically ‘scored’ so abysmaly with females … and now they are growing up inseparable from their (cell) phones? That no “sane” leader in the computer industry can fail to try to make his (yes, his) product seem equivalent to a cell phone? Whether it makes a lick of sense or is at-all likely to suceed?

    So … now “choice” is Bad, authoritative designers are informing us. Why? Because you can’t have very darn much choice on a cell phone, obviously. Because girls Like cell phones. Because cell phones are the only form of the computer that has ever aroused a meaningful level of enthusiasm from the female gender.

    Is that what this is really all about?

  16. The way media is stored and folders organized in WP can only be described as Paleolithic.
    I adore WP – but is it really usable if you have a lot of photos or media that needs to be organized by groups or folders? Number one on my wish list would be flexibility & options in how I can organize my media.

  17. @Karen

    [Is WordPress] really usable if you have a lot of photos or media that needs to be organized by groups or folders?

    This is a favorite challenge of mine, too. And, although he is better known for his musical interests, WP founder Matt Mullenweg also is a serious shutterbug. He has a photo collection well up into 5 figures, and has struggled “publically” with how to manage them.

    The direct & honest answer to this question (‘How useful..’), in a nutshell, for you, me & Matt, is ‘Not very’ … tho by thinking outside the box, and being flexible, ‘oneself’ (instead of insisting that the key flexibility is in the tool), useful approaches/solutions can be had.

    Number one on my wish list would be flexibility & options in how I can organize my media.

    WordPress achieves or is able to offer “flexibility & options”, primarily through plugins (and sorta through themes … of which there are ‘photo-blog’ types (etc) specifically aimed at the ‘images problem’).

    WP itself might offer ‘some’ solution (in any given area), but offering a ‘pick & choose’ or ‘mix n match’ array of solutions is usually going to be left to plugins.

    There are plugins that (try to/purport to) offer what you ask for. And they do it in different ways, using different strategies. I have installed several of them and looked at their Admin interfaces and database tables.

    But again, the honest truth is that the general idea of ‘organizing’ images is a tough nut, even for such entities as the CIA and FBI. Our military and Pentagon struggle valiantly with the same media-issues that confront us. Hollywood quietly pulls their hair out.

    It is said that in any challenge or confrontation, the first step should be to “Know the enemy“. Just what are we actually ‘up against’, when we set out to organize photographs?

  18. Ted,
    I’d love any of your suggestions for plugins that make the task of image management any easier. Many thanks in advance!

  19. @Ipstenu – I have been checking on our customers who request support for our plugins and services. Most customers seem to have outdated plugins, some of which are only compatible with wordpress 2.5. Some customers (around 80% of customers who contact us) have 40% of outdated plugins. I am amazed at how many people have outdated plugins, but with wordpress not telling customers which plugins are out of date. I would love to see admin warnings about plugins that are out of date so that customers are informed of this issue.

    However, having said that, when my staff warn customers that their plugins are out of date, 80% of customers do absolutely nothing at all. Many actually refuse to remove the out of date plugins, claiming that they need the plugins functions, even if that means instability issues within the site.

    However, even after saying that, I know how many people use each version of our plugins on wordpress and the majority of them are using very old versions, even though we have much newer versions available and they are told about them within wordpress.

    What I would love to see is a warning when customers are using plugins that are not for their version of wordpress.

  20. @Karen

    The first such plugin that I have retrieved from my archive is Media Library Categories, by Hart Associates.

    To get that link into the WordPress Extend directory, I searched in Admin; clicking Plugins, then Add New, then typing ‘media categories’. There are ‘a number’ of very similar titles (263 total returns, tho they will soon include off-topic items).

    I then modified the search-term to ‘media tags’, and at the top of the list of 540 returns are 2 titled “Media Tags”. (Images are of course refered to as “Media”…)

    To minimize the likelihood that future WordPress changes might bring heartbreak & anguish to someone who builds an edifice on top of options or facilities provided by 3rd-party plugins, try to pick from titles that are popular with others, and seem to be well-used (or that are very close to what WordPress itself does, anyway). WP will try to avoid leaving such installed user bases ‘in the lurch’, as will an involved & active plugin-author.

    Likewise, try to avoid ‘too-clever’ or ‘unusual’ or proprietary approaches which WordPress will feel less obliged to support or avoid ‘breaking’.

    Be cautious. Move slowly. Do your homework, first. This is one of those areas or fields where it is said: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”. :)

    Good luck!

  21. @Ted Clayton – The problem is finding one and seeing that it is popular. The popularity does not show on a time basis and while the plugin may work today, it may break when the next wordpress release is made. There should be something within wordpress that informs the user that the plugin(s) they are using are out of date and do not work with their version of wordpress.

    While the rest of us will look at plugins in depth, testing them on a test install, most users do not do this, especially new users which wordpress seems to be aiming for. New users have a bad habit of assuming all plugins work with wordpress, so they add all the plugins they want and then wonder why their database is so large and their site doesn’t work properly.

    I wish I could show you some examples of customers where they have so many outdated plugins, it is insane.

    If wordpress is targeting new users, they need to make it more user friendly and inform the users of incompatibility issues with plugins. They have already started to do this by warning users when they add the plugin, but after the plugin has been added, there are no further warnings that the plugin is out of date unless an update is available.

  22. I think we may have hit the nail on the head. I was talking to one of my friends who was getting a warning to upgrade firefox. He waned to bypass the message and I told him that the best way to do that was to upgrade. He said he did not want to upgrade (he had a very old version of firefox) and when I asked why, his reply was “I am of the mentality that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. To be frank, I was shocked at the lack of understanding and unwillingness to upgrade.

    Here are a few examples of others with the same attitude:

    A quick search on google will show many others who have the same mentality. Some even complain that they can not entirely disable updates. I think this is one major issue that wordpress might want to address. However, is it really up to wordpress or is it up to the end user. If wordpress are targeting new users, I think this mentality will need to be addressed otherwise the users will experience issues and naturally blame wordpress, plugins or their theme.

    While professionals such as ourselves know what needs to be done, many new users do not and they expect wordpress to look after its self. We have a monthly checklist for all of our sites and the sites we manage which includes every corner of website maintenance you can imagine. This ensures that the websites are all in the best possible state.

  23. @David

    There should be something within wordpress that informs the user that the plugin(s) they are using are out of date and do not work with their version of wordpress.

    I read @your message to Ipstenu with considerable interest. Thank you for doing the work to survey users of your plugins, and for sharing the results.

    There are ‘reasons’ why WordPress does not support Karen’s desire to “arbitrarily” organize her photos. Any single such prospective solution will leave many/most prospective users dissatisfied, since folks have many different ideas & (often unrecognized) assumptions about what they want to achieve, in organizing pictures.

    Likewise, there are ‘reasons’ why WordPress is not currently implementing an ‘Out-of-date’ notification for plugins, built-in. It’s a trade-off that delivers certain good things, at the cost of various undesirable effects.

    As your survey makes clear, huge numbers of folks using WordPress are running ‘out-of-date’ plugins. When notified about it, even by the developer himself, most choose to do nothing. Where does that leave you?

    Would it be any different, for WP to notify users that their plugins are out-dated? You couldn’t get them to update, just by informing them: how would it be any different for WP?

    You (the plugin developer) could install “Death Code”, to prevent a plugin from working after a certain date. When that date arrives, you will suddenly have many unhappy customers, and your days in business will probaby be brief.

    WordPress can require that each plugin be properly credentialed, and refuse to run any that aren’t ‘approved’. Then, they would suffer the wrath of users, instead of you. ;)

    David, your own research & data show clearly that simple “notification” that a plugin is out-dated, does not lead to up-dating. The customer sees that her out-of-date plugin is actually still doing what she installed it to do, and she sees that you are not going to hit her with a big stick … and so she continues doing what she is doing, old plugin & all.

    There are strong benefits for WordPress, that authoring plugins is something that can be done by people who would scarcely qualify as ‘programmers’, and certainly are not ‘developers’. It enriches the WP platform, that in the repository are many plugin-codes that are ‘hobby-grade’, and could not be offered or supported by a ‘proper’ developer.

    Could we get rid of the riff-raff plugin authors? Clear their crappy little codes out of the Extend repository? WordPress could make the decision to do that, and install the means to enforce new policies. Maybe one day they will go that way, but obviously they are currently accepting a certain amount of messy ‘downside’, for the fertile upside factors that come along with a relatively ‘wide open’, ‘Come One, Come All’, ‘Wild West’ environment.

    And indeed, why should the WordPress core-code perform this update-notification service, when it is such a nicely-defined role for a Plugin? We have developers who seem to be doing a good job, authoring & maintaining plugins to provide this function, for those who want it. Please see eg, in the WordPress Extend plugin directory, Update Notifier.

    There are several other notable plugin-maintenance plugins available (which I use), typically authored by high-quality plugin-authors, for any user who cares to be diligent about their installed plugins. It is not necessary for WordPress itself to do this.

  24. @David

    … “I am of the mentality that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. To be frank, I was shocked at the lack of understanding and unwillingness to upgrade.

    Firefox’ basic public-relations problem is not that a few users will still be running “a very old version of firefox”, but rather that all users are being forced to upgrade very recent versions of the software, very frequently.

    Users have long tended to harbor suspicions about the motives of software developers, particularly when they are asked to allow the developer greater access to & control of their own computer and the resources installed on it. That is how many perceive the new mandatory update policy of Firefox.

    Scratch the surface of public attitudes toward the Internet, and we find concerns about its potential to serve as a tool of ‘Big Brother’. We are bombarded by news of sleezy and underhanded maneuvers on the part of such recognizeable developers as Google and Facebook, to, if I may be forgiven the crudity, “screw” the user.

    There is a significant, on-going loss of credibility with the public, for developers who claim that they need more control over end-users.

  25. @@Ted Clayton – I couldn’t agree more. Firefox updates can be a pain due to the frequency of them. But do we not face the same issues with the frequency of WordPress updates? While I welcome frequent updates, each update means that a number of plugins will be left behind. But then again, if a developer does not update a plugin for a pending version of WordPress, they may not be as quick to patch security issues. However, it seems that so many fantastic plugins are being left behind with each WordPress milestone release.

  26. @David

    “If wordpress are targeting new users…”

    Certainly, WordPress wants to attract ‘more’ users. Certainly, in the past, WordPress has been oriented toward less-technical and less-experienced (ie, “new”) users. WP was presented as an easier program to install, and to use, than its competitors. That was it’s ‘claim to fame’, and still largely is, tho it is no longer actually a small or simple program.

    What WordPress’ leaders intentions & goals are today (and for tomorrow) are less clear.

    The money-quote at the top of this post (from Matt Mullenweg, WordPress founder and lead developer) ends with the statement: “We might not always be the platform people start with, but we want to be what the best graduate to.”

    That’s an ‘interesting’ statement. ‘Traditionally’, WordPress has for sure been regarded as “the platform people start with”, and that tends to still be the case. WP established its reputation, as being much more suitable for people to “start with”, because other platforms were seen as too-technical and overly-demanding of the user.

    In fact, other platforms and their users openly mocked & ridiculed WordPress, because it was relatively simple, and easy. “Hey – if you can’t handle a real Content Management System, you can always try WordPress! BWA-Ha-ha-ha-ha!!!!”

    That is, they laughed merrily until the day it became too-obvious that ‘toy’ WordPress had eaten their lunch.

    It is possible to interprete Mr. Mullenweg’s words to perhaps mean that WordPress will henceforth cater to more-sophisticated users, and maybe even try to shed the ‘simple’ users who have traditionally made up so much of its user-base.

    I am inclined to ‘dismiss’ this more ‘portentous’ way of interpreting the quote, and lean toward taking it as ‘innocent cheerleading’.

    Afaik, WordPress is in fact the tool for ‘simple’ users, has come to wield global influence by virtue of its acceptance & use by the unwashed masses, and has no intention of slaughtering the Golden Goose.

    Still … stranger things have happened. There are problems & shortcomings with WP’ defacto user-base. They are mostly freebie-folks, and don’t have a budget to spend. WP must contend with general evolution of the Web scene; must look to how it might ‘capitalize’ or ‘go public’, one day. Maybe WordPress’ formula-for-success must change.

  27. @Ted Clayton – “Update Notifier” does not seem to have been updated since 2010-9-20, but if it does not need to be updated, there would not be an update completed. However, I would expect them to alter the “Compatible up to:” if it works with the latest WordPress releases. If someone with the latest version of WordPress tried to install this plugin via WordPress, they would see a warning saying that it did not work with the version of WordPress they were using.

    I honestly think that this is a huge challenge for WordPress as they seem to be targeting new or less experienced users. In my experience I would say that these users are the ones who have a higher tendency to be using outdated plugins.

    Please let me know if you want statistics or examples and I will see what I can do.
    Many thanks

  28. @David

    “Update Notifier” does not seem to have been updated since 2010-9-20…

    My apologies, David; I was afraid something like this might happen. ;)

    I’m not on my own platform, and don’t have access to my stuff right now. I ‘winged it’ by searching for the term that sounded like the plugin I use to do this (and which I do see come up in my Admin Updates, ‘regularly’). I regret puttin out a possibly weak pointer.

    Thanks for pointing that out, for everyone who might read this.

    The point does stand, though, that there are nice plugin tools to help keep on top of all our plugin-chores. (These tools become important/essential, for people who collect large numbers of plugins. For those who have only a dozen or 2, it’s not hard to keep track ‘manually’. With 100s, tho … one starts searching for tools to help with it.)

    And yes … it is not unusual for abandoned plugins to continue working for long periods. If code is written ‘conservatively’, is simple and makes few assumptions about WordPress, some plugins will work close to ‘forever’, without being updated.

  29. @Ted Clayton – No apology needed, I had hoped you did not think I was getting at you. It was a long day and I read my reply a few times to make sure it didn’t seem ungrateful or written by a troll. The fact is that many plugins do something within wordpress which is unaffected by updates and the plugin continues to work way into the future, but the developer does not update the listing within the repository.

    At the end of the day, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Even if WordPress had notifications for outdated plugins, some users would complain and would create plugins that turned the notifications off.

    The users need to accept a level of responsibility when using WordPress. After all, you get out what you put in. Too many times I have seen people run WordPress almost on autopilot and then wonder how or when it got infected when it has never been updated since the day it was installed.

    Sometimes plugins seem like the new gifs. Remember when people would get a free account with geocities or tripod and fill it with moving gifs and then wonder why it took so long to load? Heck, even when you’re building with lego, you have to pay attention to stability issues so that the thing you are building does not collapse.
    Using WordPress, like any software, is a learning process.
    Code is poetry, but not everyone can read poetry in a nice, flowing manner. Some websites are not poetry, they are noise.

    I still remember the first time I used WordPress and it only had one theme. It seems so long ago looking at WordPress today. Sometimes I wonder if I should print out the first page of coding and frame it.

    If WordPress is the place users usually come to after using another system, what other system do they usually use first? Are there any stats on it? I would have thought that users would have used something basic first such as html, a forum or something that is not self-hosted. Many users seem to come to WordPress due to the one click install available within cPanel.

    I am getting off topic, but I do think that WordPress is attracting newer users. Do you know if there are any surveys or stats on WordPress users? Was the statement Matt made based on stats? I would be interested to dig through some user stats for WordPress.

    I absolutely agree that people may “graduate” to WordPress. I have converted many people from blogspot, blogger, multiply etc. simply because WordPress is (in my opinion) the best option.

    Thank you very much for your time and insightful replies. I have immensely enjoyed our comments.

  30. Well, I’m using the WordPress app for Android and I really like how it works. The only thing that I miss there would be at least main plugins support (like WordPress SEO). The reason for that is the following. Even if I can create a post on the fly (when not at my PC), that post is not totally ready because I can’t tweak everything up. I’m sure other guys are having a similar issue. Thanks.


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