WordPress has a perception problem.
Let’s talk candidly about it.
My friend Mario recently talked about how expectations don’t meet reality.
Another good friend of mine, Morten, wrote about how WordPress is not as easy as it seems.
My friend Curtis, who helps WordPress business owners through coaching wrote about how people think WordPress is an easy way to get rich quick, which also isn’t true.
The truth is, WordPress is easy to get started with, but past a certain point, then it gets much more difficult rather quickly.
I’ve identified a few scenarios where people who aren’t familiar with web development or WordPress have misconceptions. Let’s talk about the realities.
Scenario #1: The Business Owner
Non-tech-savvy folks repeatedly hear that WordPress is easy to work with, and that they can have a website up and running in minutes. After all, WordPress itself is free, open-source code, and there are tons of inexpensive themes they can get started with. Piece of cake, right?
So they go home and try to build a website with the theme they’ve purchased. But getting it to look the way they pictured it in their mind is trickier then they imagined. So they spend months trying to configure their website on their own, only to launch with something that they aren’t happy with, or they give up entirely.
The whole situation is frustrating, because their expectation was that it was going to be easy.
Scenario #2: The Non-WordPress Developer
Developers who have never worked with WordPress hear that it is easy. They have visions of learning WordPress in an afternoon, and instantly transforming into WordPress experts. Some developers believe that by jumping on the WordPress bandwagon, they will become six figure consultants in a month or two.
Then reality sets in.
They have customize or tweak something that they don’t know how to do. The theme they are working with isn’t one they are familiar with. Perhaps the template hierarchy is confusing in a particular instance. More than one experienced developer has been frustrated because they weren’t familiar with WordPress.
Web development in general is challenging, but why is there a perception that WordPress will not be challenging?
When people say that WordPress is easy, they should really be saying that WordPress is easy to learn.
It’s only truly easy if you already know how.
Much Is Taken For Granted
Many non-WordPress developers underestimate WordPress. Compared to other CMSs like Joomla or Drupal, the learning curve is easier — but it still exists.
Even for dedicated WordPress developers, that’s a lot to keep up with. This is why it’s baffling that many people (developers and laypeople) expect to learn WordPress in an afternoon and have a website the next day. Spoiler Alert: It often ends in tears, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
WordPress Is Deceptively Easy To Get Started With
One of the greatest strengths of WordPress is also one of its pitfalls. It is easy to get started with WordPress, if you simply want to publish with an off-the-shelf theme and call it a day. But most people require more than that. Many developers use a combination of themes, plugins, and coding to solve problems. Some developers specialize in building custom coded solutions to complex problems.
WordPress has a whole spectrum of knowledge and user types. These range from people who simply activate a theme all the way up to building custom plugins and themes or working on WordPress core. There are several different roles in the WordPress ecosystem: site owners, implementers, plugin and theme developers, consultants, programmers, and core engineers. Some people build the tools, some people know how to use the tools, a smaller number of people know how to do both.
Setting Reasonable Expectations
WordPress is a large ecosystem, with many levels of fluency. Like martial arts, it’s easy to start, but takes time and effort to master.
Normal people hear that WordPress is easy. Non-WordPress developers tell people that WordPress is easy. So normal folks go to marketplace theme sites and see how amazing the demos are. But when they go to set up a site on their own, most normal people struggle.
I’ve read that regular folks that tried to build their website on their own were only successful 2% of the time. My own personal journeys would bear that number out. The mindset that WordPress is easy, therefore it’s not worth much is a fallacy. But this misconception costs business owners in missed opportunities because they have spent months, or even years trying to build a site either on their own or getting someone to do it for next to nothing.
The perception is “WordPress is easy”, so they waste a ton of precious time trying to do it themselves. The psychology is: if it’s easy, I can do it myself. If I can’t do it myself, there must be something wrong with me. Therefore, I should keep working at this until I figure it out.
The time that the non-developer wastes on trying to build their site could be more efficiently used doing what they do best.
Delay is increasingly expensive.
— Carl Smith (@carlsmith) December 14, 2014
The world does not stop moving when you do. Business is competitive. Your industry is competitive. Time is your greatest asset — you can never get more of it.
If you feel overwhelmed by WordPress, that’s OK. There is nothing wrong with you.
If you’re a business owner, reach out to a developer for help. If you’re a developer, reach out to a WordPress dev who understands the problem you’re trying to solve. If you need help finding a specialist, hit me up, and I can point you towards the right people.
Above all, never, ever be scared to ask for help with WordPress. We have all been novices before. No one is going to judge you because you needed help.
WordPress is getting more powerful. 23% of all the websites in the world are running it, and that number is rising. Ten years ago, it was a simple blogging platform. But WordPress has become a content management system powerful enough to run enterprise level websites. 6% of WordPress usage is currently as an application framework, and that number will continue to rise in the next few years.
WordPress is like anything else: the more you work with it, the easier it gets. But things are never easy the first time you try them.
Remember learning is a journey, not a destination.