One of the best things about going to WordCamps like WCEU is the ambient information that filters through. What are the talks about? What conversations have you heard before and what’s new? What excites you? WCEU 2018 was one of the best I’ve ever been to and left me with a strong sense that we’re smack-bang in the middle of a transition to a brand new era of WordPress. As ever with WordPress, the project partly sets the agenda for the rest of the web, and partly reflects trends within digital generally. And I think that the future of WordPress is something to get very excited about.
There’s a very compelling set of technologies and uses that combine to create a new paradigm for the project and the people who use it. I love an acronym, so I call this new paradigm ‘WordPress GRAPH’ – here’s what each letter in the acronym stands for and means:
This is the new content editing experience for WordPress. It’s revolutionary.
Potential impact: it is likely to disrupt the page builder market (and soon after the whole site building experience within WordPress). Gutenberg will – over time – offer a number of key advantages/offset a number of risks:
- Gutenberg will be core WordPress so it will be far better-supported than proprietary page builders. All future themes and plugins will be designed to work with Gutenberg. So there is strategic value to moving to this new standard
- Not moving at some point potentially means a decline in the overall editing experience as the velocity of support and development for non-Gutenberg options decreases
- Gutenberg offers significantly better, richer and faster experiences that are best in class
- Gutenberg’s block structure lends itself extremely well to constructing rich, multimedia pages with extensive integrations and behaviours – a natural evolution of WordPress’ role as digital glue
- Gutenberg will support the following trends by giving users the ability to control how the content within WordPress interacts with those technologies within websites and elsewhere
- Interesting fact: Gutenberg doesn’t need WordPress. If you want to integrate into another platform, you can do that – here’s a demo site of it as a standalone app: http://gutenberg-standalone.surge.sh/. There are even rumours that competitor open source CMSs are looking at it as an option going forward!
Potential impact: leading WordPress agencies like Pragmatic are already using React to build highly interactive, dynamic user interfaces to achieve things like:
- Using WordPress as a headless CMS (see later) to separate content management from content presentation. Historically, WordPress has directly powered both front and back end experiences. An industry trend is to separate those concerns so that a front end website application is firewalled from the backend content management system. There are a bunch of benefits here, particularly around better user experience, app-like interactions and the enable of Progressive Web Apps (again see later)
- React is great for showing non-text content like interactive graphs, charts and animations that allow developers and designers to leverage multiple different data sources and formats to provide incredibly rich experiences
- Interesting fact: when WordPress threatened to move away from using React due to a non-open-source-compliant software license, Facebook changed the licensing within weeks.
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
AMP is a Google-backed open source software project that stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages – and does what it says on the tin.
Potential impact: could affect (positively or negatively) website visitor growth by impacting organic SEO performance and customer content engagement stats.
- AMP can deliver content down to users very significantly faster than using responsive mobile pages which should result in an uptick in views and engagement
- Future-proofed, improved SEO: Google are pushing this heavily and we suspect that non-AMP sites will start moving down the Google index pretty soon
- Moving to AMP is now much easier due to a WordPress plugin (still in beta). For content publishers that restrict content behind registration and paywalls, the AMP Access protocol can link with Identity and Access Management solutions like Blaize to ensure content entitlements are respected
- Your customers will receive mobile content much faster.
PWA (Progressive Web Apps)
A way of making a website behave like an app with an array of features as described below.
Potential impact: a fundamental technology for contemporary websites that also offers a bunch of immediate benefits:
- Viewing content offline (especially combined with AMP) allows customers to access and view content far more reliably whilst out and about e.g. commuting or travelling
- Allows for notifications for e.g. new features or offers to help drive engagement with customers
- Allows for storage of data offline so that interactive features like data sets, charts or databases are always available
- Gives the option for sites to be ‘added to home screen’, creating an app-like presence on smartphones and tablets
- There’s a demo site here: https://ampstart-iframes.firebaseapp.com/templates/travel/travel.amp (notice how quick it is – it’s actually a site that combines AMP, PWA, Gutenberg, React and Headless!).
Headless CMS via the JSON REST API
A Headless CMS is a content management system that has no built-in front end website, allowing content to be retrieved primarily – or only – in a programmatic way by using front end technologies like React mentioned above.
Potential impact: strategically, the ability for WordPress to act as a world-class CMS means that it is far more flexible as part of a contemporary digital system.
- It used to be that digital content lived on a website, but that time is now long-gone. Digital content needs to be pushed out through many channels: website, apps, social, chatbots, voice search, big data, social – and even pushed into offline workflows for print
- WordPress’ core capability has always been around managing content – the REST API now allows full headless use of CMS, giving content editors the same great content experience, but enabling far wider reach of that content
- The new Gutenberg editor mentioned above specifically supports this through the introduction of ‘blocks’ – you can imagine an editorial team that regularly uses pull quotes to add emphasis to key messages. Headless + Gutenberg to push that content into – for example a ‘quotes of the week’ email or app experience
- The REST API for WordPress goes far beyond simple headless CMS usage and allows complete control of a WordPress application so that WordPress can be leveraged for any of its core APIs such as user authentication and content management – further it can be extended to add features such as ecommerce or marketing automation
What does GRAPH allow?
- It makes WordPress a strong contender in the Digital Experience Platform space. A lot of folks still think of WordPress as a blogging platform, but the truth is that it’s not even really a website platform any more than it’s a world-class web application platform. With the multitude of IDAM, marketing automation and personalisation services that are pre-integrated through plugins, WordPress plays a central role in creating a modern enterprise digital experience stack.
- The challenge for a lot of enterprises is that with software solutions, they end up paying 100% of a huge license fee to use 10% of the features. A WordPress-based digital platform gives enterprise the chance to spend nothing on license fees and plough 100% of their investment into discretionary work streams that directly match their business requirements. WordPress GRAPH gives enterprise more flexibility than ever before to take the bits of WordPress they want (for free) and replace, extend or enhance the bits that add value to their digital platform.
- WordPress GRAPH brings WordPress in line with cutting edge web application development trends and practices, giving assurance that companies building on the WordPress platform will continue to be able to leverage that investment well into the future.
I hope this has been a useful and interesting look at the next ten years of WordPress. Start a conversation – add comments below please!