What’s Next for WordPress?

by on September 1, 2011 · 6 comments

WordPress is on fire. Latest stats show that almost 15% of the sites on the Internet are powered by WordPress. And out of every 100 new domains registered, 22 of them are for WordPress websites, which indicates continued growth.

WordCamp SF 2011

After attending WordCamp in San Francisco a week and a half ago, I was planning to do a blog post right away. I live blogged some of it on Google+ here. But I really wanted to have something more complete on Expand2Web.

So I took some time to reflect after listening closely to Matt’s State of the Word address, and talking to a bunch of cool people at the show.

Here are three big changes that I think we’ll see develop over the next year for WordPress:

1. The Reading and Writing experience start to become one

Today, when you want to change something on your WordPress page or post, you can click Edit Post on the top admin toolbar if you are logged in. This takes you to the familiar post editor within WordPress. You make your changes, Preview them, and then Publish them live when ready.

But imagine if you could just make your changes directly while viewing your page. You’re browsing a page on your website and think, “hey, I want to change this text a bit…” If you are logged in, you just highlight the area and start making changes! That’s probably going to take a little longer than 1 year, but I think things will start moving in this direction.

Another thing Matt mentioned in his keynote was improving the way you modify WordPress Themes. The proper way to modify a theme today is using Child Themes. The problem with Child Themes, is that they can be a little hard to implement for people not familiar with FTP and editing a little code.

If you want to see how it works today, I’ve put together a video that shows you how to make a Child Theme based on any theme in WordPress. Here is the video:

And here is a link to the full blog post – How To Create Child Theme in WordPress.

Matt envisions you being able to make changes to a theme within the WordPress Admin panel, and having the Child Theme automatically created for you, seamlessly. I think that would be a huge win for theme developers and site owners.

2. Improved photo uploading experience

Another thing I am hoping to see this year is a much improved media uploading and management experience in WordPress. If you’ve ever had to upload a lot of photos using the WordPress Media Library then you know what I’m talking about.

Matt mentioned that he has 30,000 photos on his website/blog. Can you imagine uploading this many using the current Media Library? Well, he said he felt the pain and they are working to improve it dramatically.

In fact, he mentioned that they would like to make uploading much more like Google+. (If you are not on Google+ yet, visit my profile there and I’ll invite you.)

Google has really nailed the photo upload, display and management experience on Google+. As a result, it has attracted a TON of photographers and designers.

Google Plus photo galleries are elegant...

Image uploads and galleries on Google+ are elegant. Try it out to see what I mean!

So I’m hoping to see some great improvements in image/media uploads and the ability to manage and rearrange galleries in upcoming versions of WordPress.

3. Responsive Design

Responsive Design was buzzing at WordCamp this year. I hadn’t really heard of this before now.

But after attending a few sessions and seeing it in action, believe me – Responsive Design is the new Mobile – and much more…

Responsive design allows you content to adapt to a given environment. What this means, is that instead of having a specific design for people viewing your website on their PC, and another for mobile viewers, and another for iPad viewers, your design adapts your content to whatever the size of the screen is.

This is super important – look at all the device formats emerging. Take a look at the Android phones out there, all with different screen sizes. Same with Windows Phone 7 devices. And now there are many different Tablets emerging to challenge the iPad. That means we will have a ton of different screen formats you need to worry about, unless you design your site to automatically adapt not based on specific device sizes, but based on the screen size itself.

So the goal of Responsive Design is to provide the best user experience on any platform with structured content that adapts to its given environment.

Sara Cannon’s presentation on this was excellent. I’ve included it here:

If you want to see a responsive site in action, here is a website that was designed to adapt to the screen size. Open it up in your browser and try resizing it – notice how the content adapts based on the window size. You’ll even see the navigation menu move from the side to the top when the screen gets too small!

Click here to view a site that implements Responsive Design (resize your browser window while viewing it to see how it adapts)

Sara is in charge of designing future versions of the WordPress Admin UI in this way. So I can see this type of design coming not only to the WordPress Admin UI but also to WordPress themes very soon. The Twenty Eleven theme, for example, already has responsive design elements baked in.

Note: I still think mobile Apps are still important, but as far as adapting your website to mobile device formats I think this is the way to go.

This is something we’re going to be doing the SmallBiz theme as well.

Ok, this ended up being pretty long. If you’re still with me, thanks for hanging in there! I’d like to hear what else you would like to see from future versions of WordPress?

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Don is an entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley. He founded Expand2Web and is the publisher of the Expand2Web Blog, and the GetFiveStars Customer Feedback and Reviews service.

Don has written 313 articles on Expand2Web

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Eileen lonergan September 2, 2011 at 3:42 am

Fingers crossed for the implementation of a batch uploader for images, that would be super handy. I also love the idea of an edit function right in the reading mode. My number one pick would be the ability to seamlessly upgrade. I am afraid of upgrading some sites that have a lot of content or customizations. It is astounding to me how much has changed in the 2 years that I have been using WordPress, serious committed talent behind this platform!


Don Campbell September 2, 2011 at 10:30 am

I hear you Eileen. In WordPress 3.2 they introduced incremental upgrades which does help the update process go more smoothly. But it is still far from seamless.

One of the things Matt mentioned in his presentation was how Google Chrome updates itself in the background seamlessly, to the point where you don’t really know or care what version you are running. So I know it is on their minds…


Mohsin September 7, 2011 at 10:30 am

Great reading your thoughts Don!

I’m not sure if this will ever come, but I would love to see a log of filters and actions running on a website from the back-end admin panel. This will help developers analyze the execution flow and see how the theme and the plugin functions shape it. It would also help new developers like customize themes quickly.


Greg Turner September 8, 2011 at 10:49 am

There is more to Responsive Design than developing a theme that is responsive to the visual characteristics of a device. It is also a matter of being responsive to the functional capabilities of the device. For example, a phone number displayed on a page should be clickable when the page is displayed in an iPhone and when clicked, it should dial the number.


Don Campbell September 8, 2011 at 10:56 am

Yes – very good point Greg.

That’s what we do in our SmallBiz Theme – we touch-enable it so that if you touch the “Call” button, it initiates a call from the device, and if you touch the “Directions” button it launches the map with directions.

Thanks for adding that important point!


Adam J. Blust September 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Great points, Don.

As I begin to try to use WordPress to replace some of the custom development I used to do for clients, I believe strongly that to be a successful general-purpose CMS, WordPress needs to bring custom post types and custom fields further into the core product. You shouldn’t need a plugin – or programming – to create a custom post type, populate it with a wide range of field types (date with date picker, image or file upload, etc.), and then use the system to display those new post types in different configurations, as easily as you display regular posts and pages now.


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