I’ve worked with professionals in several fields, and garnered a pretty opinionated stance on the differences between a few web ecosystems. They’re strong opinions, but they’re rooted in a diverse experience with different pieces of software and the personalities that are best suited to expertise with each.
As a result, I have a fairly high opinion of WordPress developers. The quality of the product, and the stunning community that builds it were what first attracted me to freelancing with WordPress. Given time, they helped attract me to jumping ship from .Net to work full-time on WordPress and PHP.
I recognize a lot of what we, in the WordPress community, do wrong, but I also want to highlight several things we do right.
1. We Understand our Customers’ Problems
WordPress isn’t always the answer, and a majority of savvy WordPress developers recognize this and are willing to say so to their customers. WordPress has a very strong brand, and often the first request out of a client’s mouth is to either use WordPress or explain why we’re not using the software that proudly powers 25% of the Internet to build their site.
Still, WordPress isn’t the answer – the answer is a “streamlined publishing platform” that dovetails neatly with existing workflows. WordPress becomes this due to its highly pluggable nature and the talent of the developers in our industry. We understand that our customers’ problems revolve around publishing and content management workflows, and we adapt our software and approach to fit.
2. We Lead with Technology
Our clients aren’t stupid. They know what WordPress is and the power it holds in the market – it’s a starting point they frequently request by name. But rather than lead with just WordPress, we lead with the flexibility of the platform.
The database is already defined and optimized. User authentication is already set up and provides flexible permissions for any implementation. The content management UI is well-documented and pluggable, allowing for any adaptations the customer might need.
Leading with the flexibility of our tools empowers clients to focus on defining their project needs instead of asking endless questions to build faith in the foundation upon which we’ll be building.
3. We Value Content
Over the past few releases of WordPress, the core team has worked tirelessly to protect the integrity of content. Post locking, asynchronous auto-saves, revision history – these features are all intended to help protect a writer’s content from user or network errors. WordPress also keeps track of the content being edited in a local cache so nothing is lost in the event that the Internet disappears.
Many quality WordPress devs also dogfood their product – in addition to building publishing platforms, we use the same platforms. Frequently. As in every day.
4. We Know our Strengths
I used to work in sales. As a result, I’m a fairly competent salesman if I take a few concerted minutes to shake off the rust before making a sales pitch. Not every engineer is a salesperson, though. One may find her strengths lend more to back-end engineering and delving deeply into heady logic issues – putting this developer face-to-face with a (prospective) client would likely yield awkward silences rather than a sale.
Thankfully, the WordPress community is filled with incredibly smart people who know both their own strengths and their weaknesses. Sales experts focus on business development. API experts focus on back-end engineering. There is little need for anyone to be a jack of all trades, and being able to focus on our strengths makes the community all the stronger.
5. We Know our Customer
WordPress developers, more than developers in other ecosystems, recognize that they are not their customers. We recognize that, while being paid to solve a problem for our direct customer, our responsibility also includes solving problems for our customers’ customers.
How do we increase the visibility of popular articles? How do we lower the barrier to entry for leaving a comment, populating a shopping cart, or passing along a product referral? All of these directly effect our customers, but they also relieve pain points for their customers.
6. We Support our Work
The WordPress.org support forums. The WordPress Stack Exchange. Twitter. Blog posts. Product support forms. The avenues theme and plugin developers expose to customers are many. We don’t always have time to help every single customer – particularly free customers – but we do build out support channels that help support everyone.
7. We Build a Long-term Strategy
If you’ve ever met a WordPress developer without a long-term business strategy, you’ve met someone who won’t be involved in the community for too much longer. Quality developers often have some sort of long-term goal and a strategy for reaching it, be that publishing a book, securing a position with a larger WordPress agency, or publishing and maintaining a premium theme/plugin.
WordPress itself has always had a lengthier trajectory for its development; the plugin and theme markets that both support and build off WordPress also pave the way for well-architected strategic plans. We ask every day whether or not WordPress has remained relevant and competitive – carrying that conversation on as it pertains to our WordPress-derived products happens almost automatically.