WordPress Is Not Easy

WordPress has grown flexible and complex over the years. Yet, people still believe it's easy to use. Why?

When we think of a content management system (CMS) today, most of us think of WordPress. WordPress began as a blogging platform more than a decade ago. And as of May 2015, more than 60% of websites with a CMS are running on WordPress. That's nuts.

I build websites for people, and I hear two sentences frequently:

  • "I just want a WordPress site."
  • "Make it like WordPress. WordPress is easy."

I wrote a blog post for Topic Design on a topic somewhat related to the first sentence, but I want to address the second sentence in this space.

WordPress is popular, and WordPress is flexible, but WordPress is not simple.

So why is it I continue to hear sentences like, "Make it like WordPress, WordPress is easy"?

We humans do this a lot. We learn something. We spend a lot of time learning something. Then, one day, we have a good understanding of that thing. And, magically, we then forget we ever went through a learning process.

That's why when people say, "WordPress is easy," they really mean, "I know how to use WordPress."

And once we understand that something works one way, it's difficult to imagine it working another way. You can apply this logic to virtually anything that requires learning. The religion you practice. How you drive a car. The way in which you put dishes in a dishwasher.

Ignoring other options or solutions may be efficient in some cases, but it's also lazy. And, given the assumption that people rarely create a masterpiece on their first try, this type of behavior will rarely result in the optimal process or solution. In other words, temporary satisfaction is okay (the minimum viable product approach), but it's not the ultimate answer.

While I've encountered people who prefer WordPress because they know it, I've also been with adults when they are introduced to WordPress for the first time. They are overwhelmed. It's gotten so big and complex that being introduced to it for the first time is confusing. This is a side effect of flexibility, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it being so complex is what opened space for products like Ghost and SquareSpace to compete with WordPress, and that's a good thing.

So, in not assuming WordPress was the best because it was the most popular, I asked myself a few questions about WordPress.

  • Why are pages and posts on the same level as settings and users?
  • What's the difference between a page and a post? Aren't they all just pages?
  • Why are there so many menu options by default?
  • Why does everyone start with the same default theme?

The thing is, if I asked these questions to someone who's worked on WordPress, they would have an answer for each one. It would be their opinion, and it wouldn't be wrong. It's simply the way they chose to build their software.

But it's just as much not right as it is not wrong. There are other ways to solve the problem of quickly creating websites and blogs. There are other ways to organize a menu. There are other ways to handle templates, plugins, themes, user permissions, and so forth.

Understanding is the result of learning. Understanding can lead to the appearance of simplicity. Forgetting these things came from learning is laziness, not fact or efficiency.

So, challenge yourself. Challenge the way in which the product you're using works. Never be permanently satisfied with good enough.

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