Imagine that you're a first-time web publisher. You run a small business – perhaps a fitness boutique, a creative endeavor, or maybe you're the designated "tech person" at a small museum - and you know you need to build your digital presence. Where do you start?
It's easy to take the amount of knowledge required to setup a new website – even in 2020 – for granted. Before you're ready for your first visitor, you need to:
- Select a content management platform (WordPress? Squarespace? Wix? WebFlow? Shopify?);
- Select a host;
- Pick a theme;
- Figure out what features your site needs, and what your CMS provides out of the box;
- Find third-party solutions (plugins, integrations) for missing functionality;
- Install and configure those plugins/integrations;
- Setup the site's domain;
- And build your content.
Within each of those steps, there's a litany of considerations that an expert might be mindful of – copywriting, user experience, architectural trade-offs – that are far out of reach by those for whom a website is a means to an end. These decisions can significantly impact the success of the site. Though your product or content is ultimately king, a website that fails to clearly articulate its message in a clear and polished way is, at best, untrustworthy, and often borderline incomprehensible.
For many businesses, the solution to these challenges has been relying on a freelancer or agency to do the heavy lifting. Even amongst those experts, however, there's a significant range of knowledge, experience, and effectiveness. And those for whom the web possesses the most life-changing potential – the startups, solo founders, and independent creators – may find even a knowledgable freelancer to be too expensive.
Though a website is often a tool for many solo operators and small businesses – a product of necessity, rather than desire – there's also something troubling about the notion of a platform that's the key to a business' success that's a complete black box to its principals. It's unreasonable (and unnecessary) to expect that every website owner should become a bonafide domain expert in the tools they work with, but even a cursory understanding of the parts in play – and how they piece together – is out of reach for many today. This is especially true in the WordPress world, where all but the simplest sites are, by design, a combination of third-party plugins, themes, and integrations that come together in a (hopefully) cohesive manner.
The Next Order of Democracy
WordPress' mission is democratizing publishing. Though this is often interpreted through the lens of WordPress' technical underpinnings – free and open source software that empowers you to fully own and control your website and content – that's not all there is to it.
WordPress is software designed for everyone, emphasizing accessibility, performance, security, and ease of use. We believe great software should work with minimum set up, so you can focus on sharing your story, product, or services freely.
We've made great strides in making website creation more accessible than it used to be, but we're still not there yet. To truly unlock the web for everyone, we need to ensure that all users are able to build an effective, elegant website with clarity and confidence.
Thanks to the hard work of the folks at WordPress.com, WPBeginner, Kinsta, WPEngine, and others in the WordPress community, there's a wealth of information available online. Finding that information, however, puts the onus on the website owner to know what questions to ask – and how to validate the guidance they receive. Though they've done a great part in creating the next generation of WordPress experts, removing the need for that knowledge for the average user is the bar that we should aim for.
Tell Me What I Need
Because WordPress' rich third-party ecosystem is a core strength, solving this challenge relies on curation, rather than elimination, of that ecosystem. This isn't a significant paradigm shift, but instead transfers the onus of finding and vetting the appropriate tooling from a unique process for each website (led by a self-educated website owner or a freelancer) to a one-time decision made by domain experts.
In practice, this materializes as:
- A pre-selected, opinionated family of vetted plugins and themes tailored towards the unique needs of a specific type of website or business;
- A user friendly onboarding experience, minimizing the number of discrete steps and services required to get a website online (ideally reducing it to one);
- Onboarding and educational tools directly integrated into the platform to guide site owners through the right best-practice content practices and platform customizations.
Given the rise of digital agencies focused on very specific market segments – dentists, restaurants, gyms, and more – there's a clear demand for opinionated domain technology expertise across the board. Let's give those domain experts the tools and guidance they need to empower them to be self-sufficient and take another step toward democratizing the web.