The Positive and Negative Aspects of Developing Products for WordPress

Published in WordPress.

It’s been a few years now since we at Nelio can say that we made a living developing WordPress plugins. It all started in 2013 and since then both WordPress and our knowledge of the platform and its ecosystem have evolved.

It is not the first time we’ve talked about the good and bad things you’ll find when you develop for WordPress, but today it’s time to look back and think about what it means to be a WordPress product developer. And what a better way than to do it by listing some of the most positive and negative aspects that you’re going to find out there.

You may not entirely agree with everything I’m going summarize in this article, so remember to leave a comment below with your own opinion. Your feedback is always welcome.

πŸ‘πŸ» There is Market

WordPress market share continues to grow. This is a fact, and no one is going to be able to rebut it. Just take a look at the numbers that you’ll find on the Internet to see that in recent years WordPress has become the absolute leader in content management systems for the web.

WordPress market share. Source: W3Techs

This certainly indicates that there is a wide market for developers who want to create their products for WordPress. The potential consumers of your developments are there waiting.

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» The Competition is Fierce (and Free)

The problem is not that WordPress doesn’t have a market for your products. It does. However, the competition you’re going to face is fearsome. And standing out from the rest to win the game is not that easy.

As developers we tend to get stuck into the technical side of our products. We love to talk about code, programming languages and the latest technologies. But we forget that all this is only a small part of the whole process of creating a product.

The most difficult thing is to get our product to reach the target audience and make it shine and make them see it with better eyes than other existing products. And this is where WordPress makes it difficult for us, as there will always be a free solution that partly covers the need that your payment product solves.

Instead of playing the price-throwing game (a game in which you’ll always have to lose), focus on understanding your users’ needs so you can give them more value. It is easier said than done, but that’s the way it is. Otherwise, your business is destined to die.

πŸ‘πŸ» The Risk of Undertaking is Low

In other areas, undertaking involves an initial investment that is difficult to assume: renting a premises, renovating it if necessary, hiring personnel, processing permits or licenses to carry out the activity, and a myriad of additional issues…

Entrepreneurship as a WordPress developer is much simpler. All you need is a computer and a website. And the website is optional, since you always have the possibility of uploading your products to the WordPress directory or to a marketplace (such as, for example, Envato).

Metrics of Nelio Content.
Metrics of Nelio Content. The metrics offered by WordPress.org are very helpful to users, but they don’t tell much to developers.

If after a while you see that you have failed and you don’t get the numbers, you will only have wasted your time. You don’t need a large infrastructure to set up a profitable business developing for WordPress. And that’s a huge positive point.

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Opinion About WordPress is Not Always Positive

In all these years as a WordPress plugin developer I have heard so many opinions. On the one hand we have those who think that WordPress is the only possible option and that there is nothing better to create a website, whatever it is. On the other hand, as it could not be otherwise, we have the WordPress haters, for whom this platform should disappear and never be used again.

Reality, as always, in the middle. Neither WordPress is the panacea, nor the demon. WordPress has many good things, and some not so good. Like any system that prides itself. However, be prepared to receive negative comments about your product just because it is a product developed for WordPress.

The point is that WordPress started as a blogging project and has evolved into a much more general tool. However, many opinions have been remained anchored in the past and think that WordPress has not advanced. Today’s WordPress has little to do with WordPress 10 years ago.

πŸ‘πŸ» The Possibilities of Extension are Endless

Developing for WordPress is a gateway to the programmer’s creativity. You can do the same thing in many different ways. You have a lot of options at your disposal to extend WordPress to meet the needs you want.

If you don’t know what to develop, you can create a theme, a plugin, or even a block for the new WordPress editor. But you can also create custom content types combined with custom fields and additional taxonomies. Or why not? even create a custom dashboard that replaces the default WordPress one.

You set the limit. Although it may seem that developing for WordPress pigeonholes you, the truth is that it does not. Any web development has a place within this platform.

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Following Good Development Practices is Optional

The drama of WordPress development is put by the diversity of ways you can do things as well as the diversity in the profiles of the programmers that the platform attracts.

Although WordPress defines a whole series of good practices in its documentation, the truth is that not everyone follows them to the letter nor is there a system to control that these are complied with. This leads to situations in where your products will stop working because of third parties.

That this happens to you is very frustrating and unfair, but that’s the way it is. And if you develop for WordPress, do not doubt that you will end up suffering to a greater or lesser degree. Our job as developers is to follow good practices and make a disclosure so that those minimum standards are met, both informing users and other less respectful developers.

πŸ‘πŸ» The Evolution of WordPress Doen’t Stop

In order for a system not to become obsolete, it is vital that it continues to receive updates on a regular basis. In the case of WordPress, lately it has been ruled by a system of updates that publishes new versions every 3 or 4 months, along with the release of minor versions more frequently.

In this way we ensure that the security of the project is still something that is taken into account and taken care of, and that possible bugs in functionality that are found are fixed.

Demo of the new concept of block areas that we will have in future versions of WordPress. Source: Make WordPress.

In addition to the updates, the vision of the project continues to look forward, with the inclusion of the block editor and the future integrations of the blocks outside the editor itself. It is clear that the life of WordPress is long.

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Backward Compatibility is a Burden

WordPress is a constantly evolving system, so new features appear with each new version. And sometimes it also changes the way things are done.

This means that as a developer you have to adapt your products to the change. The clearest recent example is the new block editor. Such has been the controversy and the impact of the launch of the new editor that many people have decided not to use it.

Therefore, if you are a developer and work in some way with the WordPress editor, you will have to make your product compatible with both the block editor and the classic editor. This is quite annoying as it usually involves having to keep old or duplicated code.

πŸ‘ŽπŸ» Getting Started Can be Complicated

If you are starting with WordPress and want to develop your own products, the programming is different from what you might have expected, since practically everything is based on the system of actions and filters.

Your code gets into pieces at those specific points of the WordPress execution where you want to execute it, through the use of actions that launch your code or filters where you get one or more parameters and modify them.

At first it’s a bit hard to get a global view of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it this way, but once you get used to it, it is easier than it seems.

πŸ‘πŸ» You Are Not Alone

The worst thing that may happen to you when you develop products for a specific platform, such as WordPress, is that the documentation is non-existent or of poor quality. Luckily for you, in WordPress you will find an infinite number of resources so that, if you want to (and you should want), you can improve your programming skills and follow development guidelines and good practices.

It’s true that for very new things, such as everything related to the WordPress block editor, documentation can be somewhat confusing or even non-existent in some cases. But don’t worry about it, since you have the possibility to ask both in the Make WordPress Slack and in the support forums.

Even on Twitter you’ll find threads like the one below that give us the basics to learn React. In a few tweets!

It is clear that WordPress has behind it a huge community willing to share knowledge and help you solve your problems, also in terms of development.

Featured image from JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash.

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