So over the past few months, perhaps even more than a year now, I’ve watched many people within the WordPress community, even Matt Mullenweg himself, talk about how WordPress, if it is to grow (some have even said survive) has to start competing with applications such as Squarespace and Wix in terms of ease of use and functionality.
While I agree that WordPress has suffered much recently because of bloat, lack of crystal clear goals and features built upon features, I have to disagree with this sentiment.
As a side note, it is worth pointing out that I make my living from developing WordPress websites and doing client work with WordPress full-time for a large advertising agency, The Richards Group. We do more than just WordPress in our development team and have capabilities in almost every modern tech and language used in the space.
But the problem that I see with considering these our competitors isn’t that we aren’t facing customer loss or competition from them. It is that WordPress, in the public’s mind, is still a blogging platform that you might be able to build a site with.
We work with clients all the time who haven’t considered WordPress as a CMS or platform choice because to them, it is a simple blog platform. Some have seen sites hacked together from it but have no idea if that is a huge hack job or if it can actually handle it. But even worse, we still talk to multitudes of clients that are outright hostile to WordPress because of its perceived (many times unfairly) limitations and sins.
While part of me wants to ignore the public’s perception of my beloved WordPress, I also see a huge downside to this approach. Just ask Microsoft if perception can cause pain in both profits and market share after the first year of Apple’s “I’m a mac” campaign. And while I’m not saying that the WordPress Foundation necessarily needs to grab a 30 second Super Bowl time slot (although I have heard multiple people say so on Twitter and they might not be wrong), something must be done to start to change the public perception of the software that so many of us depend on to put food on our table.
Simply hoping that perception catches up to present reality or relying on the slow accumulation of clients using it to turn the massive ship isn’t working. I think it falls not only on us (as we as WordPress developer tend to evangelize this message rather heavily) but on the Foundation and on Automattic as one of the leaders in our space to begin to spread this message often and loudly.
Want to actually compete with Squarespace and Wix? Let’s focus on marketing and message as much as we focus on technology.