WordPress, initially created as a blogging platform in 2003, has undergone an extensive evolution over the past two decades. What began as a simple blogging platform for bloggers and has grown into a versatile Content Management System (CMS) capable of powering a wide range of websites.
As we explore the evolution of WordPress, we’ll also discuss the rise of the Gutenberg block editor and Full Site Editing (FSE), which is transforming WordPress into a new era of website creation and customization. While these innovations have opened doors to more extensive possibilities, they have also introduced challenges, particularly for users accustomed to the Classic Editor’s simplicity.
We’ll also consider the competition that WordPress faces from all-in-one website builders like Squarespace and Wix. These platforms offer simplicity and convenience, enticing users with user-friendly interfaces and pre-built templates. Yet, they compete with WordPress in the realm of website creation and management.
1. Evolution of the WordPress Blogging Platform
WordPress, with its origins as a blogging platform, has come a long way since its inception. As the brainchild of Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, WordPress aimed to provide bloggers with an intuitive and powerful platform for sharing their thoughts and ideas. Its simplicity and user-friendly nature quickly won over the hearts of bloggers worldwide.
Over the past decade, WordPress has grown into a full-fledged Content Management System (CMS) that caters to the diverse needs of users far beyond the blogosphere. This remarkable transformation can be attributed to several key factors.
1.1 Open Source Nature
One of the driving forces behind WordPress’s evolution is its open-source nature. This means that WordPress is not a proprietary blogging platform but a collaborative effort with thousands of contributors worldwide. This open environment builds innovation, with developers continuously improving and expanding the platform’s capabilities.
1.2 Thriving Developer Community
WordPress’s success can be credited to its vast and active developer community. Themes and plugins created by these developers have extended WordPress’s functionality exponentially.
1.3 User-Friendly Interface
One of the defining features that have endured throughout WordPress’s journey is its user-friendly interface. Despite the increasing complexity of the platform, it has managed to retain its accessibility, making it suitable for individuals with varying levels of technical expertise.
1.4 Flexibility for Various Website Types
WordPress’s flexibility is a defining feature of its evolution and is no longer confined to blogging. The platform now caters to a multitude of website types, including e-commerce sites, business websites, portfolios, and community forums. It offers a versatile canvas for users to create, mould, and adapt their online presence according to their needs.
However, this evolution has not come without its own set of challenges, particularly as it has shifted its focus from the familiar Classic Editor to the revolutionary Gutenberg block editor.
Did I forget to mention that Gutenberg and the block editor continue to have controversies and are not well-liked by many people?
2. The Rise of Gutenberg and Full Site Editing
Let me bring our attention to one of the most significant developments that is reshaping the blogging platform: the Gutenberg block editor and Full Site Editing (FSE). These two elements have not only changed the way users interact with WordPress but have also redefined website creation and customization.
I should mention that the Gutenberg block editor is part of the core of WordPress, but there is also a Gutenberg plugin. Considered to be an ongoing beta plugin, it gives you access to the latest features for block and full site editing, as well as a peek into what’s to come in the core of WordPress.
2.1 Gutenberg Block Editor
The core developers of WordPress have brought us Gutenberg in WordPress 5.0. This brings a revolutionary approach to content creation. It replaced the traditional editor with a block-based system. Instead of writing content in a single field, users now have the ability to construct pages and posts by arranging various content blocks like text, images, galleries, and more.
Feel like doing a quick Poll?
The move to blocks was a substantial change from the Classic Editor by introducing what was described as an intuitive and engaging way to structure content. Gutenberg empowers users to create diverse and dynamic pages with greater flexibility. Yet, it also meant that users, particularly those accustomed to the Classic Editor, had to adapt to a new way of working.
Gutenberg does have a lot of controversies and is not well-liked by many people. I look forward to your Poll/Vote to see where you stand on the block editor.
2.2 Full Site Editing (FSE)
Full Site Editing takes Gutenberg’s capabilities to the next level by extending its block-based approach to the entire website. With FSE, users can now control not only the content of their pages and posts but also the overall design and structure of their entire site, including headers, menus, footers, and sidebars.
The introduction of FSE has positioned WordPress to compete directly with third-party page builders and all-in-one website platforms. Users no longer need to rely solely on external themes and builders to achieve the desired look and layout of their websites.
However, the transition to Gutenberg and Full Site Editing hasn’t been without its challenges, especially for users who have been long-time fans of the Classic Editor.
3. Why Gutenberg and FSE Compete with Page Builders
The introduction of the Gutenberg block editor and Full Site Editing in WordPress signifies a major shift in the way users approach website creation and customization. While these innovations have brought newfound power and flexibility, they have also introduced a learning curve, particularly for those who have a history with the classic WordPress editor.
3.1 The Learning Curve
The transition to Gutenberg, with its block-based approach, has been a pivotal moment in WordPress’s evolution. Although, many would disagree. For long-time WordPress users who have grown accustomed to the simplicity and straightforwardness of the Classic Editor, this shift can initially be daunting. Writing, formatting, and structuring content in blocks represents a new paradigm that may take some time to adapt to.
The learning curve is notably steeper for users who have developed their workflows and processes around the Classic Editor. For many, the transition means relearning familiar actions, and in some cases, reimagining how they structure and present content.
3.2 Impact on User Experience
The user experience (UX) of Gutenberg, while powerful and flexible, can, at first, appear complex. It is a substantial departure from the linear and more linearly laid out editing style of the Classic Editor. However, the shift aligns with broader trends in web development, moving towards more intuitive and visual editing experiences.
For newcomers to website creation and those who haven’t experienced the classic version of WordPress, Gutenberg offers a more intuitive entry point. The block-based interface, which resembles popular visual builders, can make the entire website-building process more accessible.
3.3 Challenges for Long-Time Users
One of the key challenges Gutenberg poses is to long-time users who may find the transition burdensome. This is particularly true for those who have established websites using third-party page builders, which offer familiar drag-and-drop interfaces and extensive features.
Users who have developed their websites with third-party builders may find that the Gutenberg experience initially lacks the same ease of use and feature set they’ve come to rely on. The question arises: Is Gutenberg robust enough to compete with these established tools?
As we explore this question, we’ll also touch on how Gutenberg’s UX and functionality try to align with modern web development trends. The rapid changes in the WordPress platform underscore the push towards a more intuitive and visual website-building experience.
4. The Future of Page Builders in WordPress
The introduction of Gutenberg and Full Site Editing (FSE) in WordPress has revolutionized the way users create and manage content. But how does this transformation affect the role of third-party page builders, which have long been the go-to solution for many WordPress users seeking advanced customization options?
4.1 Coexistence of Page Builders
One notable aspect of WordPress’s evolution is that third-party page builders continue to coexist with Gutenberg and FSE. At least for now. Many developers have recognized the value of maintaining compatibility with these established page builders, ensuring users can choose their preferred tools. This compatibility allows users to leverage the best of both worlds, combining the power of Gutenberg and FSE with the features of third-party page builders.
4.2 Long-Term Implications
The coexistence of these tools raises important questions about the long-term implications. As WordPress continues to transform and Gutenberg becomes more tightly integrated into the platform, the need for third-party page builders may diminish for certain user segments. This evolving landscape may pose challenges for third-party page builder developers to keep their products relevant.
The question of whether Gutenberg and FSE will replace third-party page builders entirely remains open. While Gutenberg’s UX and functionality align with modern web development trends, it’s important to consider that third-party page builders have their unique strengths and a large following.
4.3 User Flexibility
A significant advantage users retain is flexibility. They can choose the approach that best suits their specific needs and preferences. For those who value simplicity and a seamless experience, Gutenberg and FSE offer compelling alternatives. Meanwhile, users with more advanced requirements or those who have built their websites with third-party builders may continue to utilize these tools.
4.4 Ongoing Relevance
It’s important to acknowledge the ongoing relevance of third-party page builders. These tools have played a crucial role in empowering users to create complex, feature-rich websites with ease. While Gutenberg and FSE are becoming central to WordPress’s future, third-party builders cater to different needs and skill levels.
The coexistence of these tools represents a dynamic balance between native and third-party solutions. The direction WordPress ultimately takes will depend on the evolving needs of its users and the adaptability of both page builders and native features.
5. WordPress Without a Blog
It’s probably time to dive into one of the remarkable aspects of WordPress is its ability to not be a blog. I even wrote an article “How To Use WordPress Without A Blog” back in 2019.
While it began as a blogging platform, it has since grown into a versatile Content Management System (CMS) capable of accommodating a range of website types. WordPress is no longer confined to its origins as a blogging platform but has expanded to cater to various web projects.
5.1 Versatility Beyond Blogs
WordPress’s transition from a blogging platform to a CMS has broadened its scope, allowing it to power a multitude of websites. Whether it’s a small business website, a corporate site, a portfolio, or a community forum, WordPress offers a versatile platform to create and manage content. This adaptability has made it a popular choice for individuals, businesses, and organizations across different industries.
5.2 Small Websites with Just Pages
While WordPress is renowned for its capability to manage more advanced websites, it’s equally suitable for small websites with minimal requirements. In many cases, all a website needs is a collection of static pages such as a homepage, an About page, a contact page, and a few others. WordPress’s simplicity and user-friendliness make it an excellent choice for these straightforward projects.
The beauty of using WordPress for small websites with just pages lies in its ease of use. Users can effortlessly create and edit pages, organize their content, and apply basic design elements, even if they have limited technical knowledge. Its intuitive interface makes it accessible to beginners, and the availability of themes and plugins further enhances its functionality.
Whether it’s a personal blog, a small business site, or a one-page portfolio, WordPress provides a platform that can scale from the simplest to more advanced web projects. It’s no longer a blogging platform.
6. WordPress’s Extensive Design Capabilities
WordPress has evolved far beyond its origins as a blogging platform, and this transformation is particularly evident in the vast array of themes available on platforms like ThemeForest.
Many of these themes, in essence, sell not just themes but entire websites. They achieve this by harnessing the power of page builders such as Elementor to create visually stunning and complex designs that redefine the possibilities of WordPress. Some even have their own proprietary page-builder built-in.
Themes from ThemeForest and the elite authors that exist there are professionals at eye-candy. One theme in particular has almost unlimited possibilities—Avada.
Are you sitting down? It has made $63+ Million from over 900,000 sales. Check out their live demos to see the levels of complexity and flexibility using WordPress as the underlying foundation. However, be prepared if you decide to get Avada, it’s very complex if you build your own website.
6.1 Beyond Themes: The Rise of Comprehensive Website Designs
Themes available on platforms like ThemeForest go beyond the traditional concept of themes as simple style templates. They encapsulate entire website designs, including intricate layouts, diverse content elements, and even interactive features. These themes, often referred to as “full websites,” are designed to give users a complete, ready-to-launch website experience. Quite different from WordPress being just a blogging platform.
6.2 The Role of Page Builders
The key to achieving these impressive and comprehensive website designs lies in the use of page builders like Elementor. Page builders allow for a highly visual and intuitive approach to building and customizing websites. They empower users to create and modify content with a simple drag-and-drop interface, eliminating the need for advanced coding skills.
6.3 Unlocking Complex and Visual Styles
By integrating page builders into themes, developers on platforms like ThemeForest can achieve mind-blowing demos and complex visual styles. They can create intricate layouts, stunning animations, and interactive elements that elevate the user experience to new heights.
This combination of robust themes and user-friendly page builders is a testament to the transformation of WordPress. It has become a platform capable of producing sophisticated websites, not just simple blogs. WordPress’s shift towards offering a more complete web development experience has positioned it as a competitive force in the world of website creation, capable of rivalling all-in-one website builders.
One has to consider, though, are page builders that easy? I mean, can anyone who is not a designer, create a website like you see from ThemeForest demos?
WordPress’s Transformation into a Versatile Web Foundation
WordPress is no longer merely a blogging platform; it has become a foundation for building advanced and complex websites. Its extensive design capabilities, combined with the power of page builders, enable users to achieve intricate layouts, interactive features, and complex visual styles. This shift has positioned WordPress as a stronger Content Management System (CMS) in the web development arena, capable of competing with, and often surpassing, the capabilities of its rivals.
WordPress’s evolution can be attributed to several key factors:
- Open Source Nature: Its open-source nature has encouraged constant innovation and collaboration from a vast global community.
- Thriving Developer Community: The extensive developer community has contributed themes (Rough Pixels is one) and plugins that extend WordPress’s functionality, enabling it to cater to a wide range of website types.
- Dashboard Interface: Despite its growing complexity, WordPress has maintained its user-friendly interface, with the exception of the block editor. Incidentally, the dashboard will be going through a major transition soon.
- Flexibility for Various Website Types: WordPress’s flexibility allows it to cater to different website types, from e-commerce sites and business websites to personal portfolios and community forums.
As you consider your web development needs, remember that WordPress is no longer just a blogging platform—it’s a dynamic and multifaceted tool for creating actual websites.