March 21st, 2022
Who is WordPress actually made for? Join our host, WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden Chomphosy, as she explores this controversial question and three things that can help find the answer.
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- WordCamp Europe call for volunteers
- WordPress Photo Directory team
- Médecins Sans Frontieres
- International Committee of the Red Cross
- International Rescue Committee
- UN Refugee Agency
- World Central Kitchen
- Tech For Ukraine
Josepha Haden Chomphosy [00:00:00]
Hello everyone, and welcome to the WordPress Briefing: the podcast where you can catch quick explanations of the ideas behind the WordPress open source project, some insight into the community that supports it, and get a small list of big things coming up in the next two weeks. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. Here we go!
Today, we’re talking about who WordPress is built for. I was talking to a group of contributors last week and we encountered some questions around just who WordPress is built for. And it’s a question that you’ll find any time that you’re working on user testing or on triaging tickets, and especially when that comes up when you look at the big picture, roadmap sorts of things. The easiest answer for this question is, of course, everyone because WordPress’ mission is to democratize publishing and that should be available to everyone.
Josepha Haden Chomphosy [00:01:11]
However, everyone is a really big target and certainly doesn’t help get your mind around the people that you’re wanting to actually build it for, the people that you actually want to be able to use your product, your software on a day-to-day basis. So let’s take a look at the one question that can help us figure out who it’s built for today and how we get it to being something that’s built forever.
Firstly, there’s a basic premise of open source that informs this thought. And that premise is that we are citizens of a community of contributors therefore the decisions are made by the people who show up. In general, I believe that to be true, though, I also believe that some basic qualifications are needed.
Josepha Haden Chomphosy [00:01:50]
So with that in mind, the one question that can help us figure out who a software is built for is this: how do your active contributors see themselves? I would bet that most contributors to open-source software projects, like WordPress, are developers of some sort, it is sort of written right into the definition of the project.
If you work on software, then you need developers. And what I love about WordPress, in particular, is that we do work to include contributors who are not developers. Yet it still remains true that there is a fairly high level of technical knowledge required to actively contribute.
Josepha Haden Chomphosy [00:2:25]
Which kind of brings us to the second half of the original question of how can we make sure that WordPress can be something that’s built for everyone? The answer to this one is easy to say, hard to do, and that is to make sure to include them as co-creators in the development process.
We’ve talked about co-creators in the open source before. It’s this idea that people who use the software every day are likely to know the biggest pain points. So if you want your software to be used by people who don’t know HTML, talk to a bunch of people who don’t know HTML about how it is to use your software.
If you want your software to be mostly used by enterprise agencies, talk to enterprise agencies, but also ask them what their clients hate, because everyone has more than one stakeholder. And I know that I said this already, but it bears repeating that, obviously, this is all very easy to say and hard to do.
Josepha Haden Chomphosy [00:3:20]
So what is my best guess for the how-to-do part for WordPress? There are three things.
The first is testing. This not only helps bring in new contributors and helps train future contributors, which I’ve talked about on the podcast before. But testing also gives us a higher chance of actionable feedback from folks who don’t necessarily spend time directly in the WordPress project.
Frequently the feedback that we do get that is just kind of undirected and ad hoc is exactly that– it is undirected and ad hoc and is then hard to follow up on and make sure that we understand what was wrong and how we can help fix it. And so testing is important for that. And testing it turns out is important for a bunch of things. When you’re working in open source.
The next thing is support. So checking in with support teams at hosts, as well as the hardworking support teams in the project. And that can really help us to get early indications of what difficulties exist now. They have routinely seen problems and issues that are raised in support forums, and from their everyday users that they are providing support to.
That probably could be fixed in WordPress if we had a good understanding of just what was not going right, how many people really needed it to go better, and what our targets were to fix that particular problem.
Josepha Haden Chomphosy [00:4:45]
And the third thing is communication. I know that I’ve gone on record in many places as saying that most of our problems at the end of the day are communication problems. And I’m going on record about it again here in this podcast, establishing better communication patterns with users is key.
That can be a multi-year project in itself. And even after that, it’s going to be an ongoing journey. But it is one of the many things that WordCamps and other WordPress events have given to us over the years, an opportunity to really hear from and see the struggles that people who are not building with WordPress every day, or literally building WordPress every day are actually having.
Josepha Haden Chomphosy [00:5:34]
So now that you’ve heard my small list of way too big things, that brings us to our regular small list of big things. The first thing is that WordCamp Europe is still looking for volunteers. If you’ve never done that before, I think it’s quite fun. You get to meet a lot of people and the team of organizers is super fun, but I’ll leave a link for you in the show notes.
We also have a new code-free way to contribute through the photo directory. That team is just getting started and still is working toward building out its programs. So now’s a good time to drop in and just kind of see what they are up to. And finally, a reminder that we do have contributors who are affected by the war in Ukraine right now. I will reshare the list of humanitarian organizations in case you missed them a couple of weeks ago as well.
Josepha Haden Chomphosy [00:6:21]
And that my friends are your small list of big things. Thank you for tuning in today for this WordPress Briefing. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks.