Some Thoughts on the WordPress Philosophy

Have you ever considered and/or read the actual WordPress Philosophy? It’s worth a read if you haven’t.

I’ve been reflecting more and more about the core and foundational thoughts around WordPress, especially since I’ve been generally “away” and more removed from that direct community than I have been in the past, and with more clarity how I engage with the platform as a whole, both professionally and personally (and for my upcoming app Desk that will connect to it).

Here are the main points of their philosophy and my own personal thoughts:

1. Out of the Box

WordPress believes that great software should work with little configuration and setup – it’s done a fair job so far but there are still opportunities for improvement. I absolutely love this tenet because it’s the only one makes sense for product development.

Outside, of course, of signing in/signing up the app should just work.

My internal mantra for this particular angle has always been this:

Do not let them fail.

If there’s a reason why they could fail then I haven’t done a good enough job shoring those avenues up.

2. Design for the Majority

Most users of WordPress are not technical, at all. Publishers need to be able to publish without problems, quick, fast, and easy. Now, this may necessarily leave some of the more advanced users behind and although I’m not interested in doing that for any app that I create it’s quite possible that it’ll be “too simple” for the experts.

Thankfully, with Desk, even the experts need a simple publishing system so I think I’m going to please all types of writers with this one (but there will always be a minority wherever there is a majority).

3. Decisions not Options

I loved this philosophy while I worked with 8BIT (WordPress-centric company) and I still do today. Customers and users need to just make decisions instead of being given too many options that just distract.

I want to design products with that in mind at all times. I believe that WordPress seeks to do this but to a certain degree they are handcuffed because they provide the entire platform for their users.

WordPress Theme and Plugin developers need to simplify their offerings even more to not add to the noise. I think my previous partner, Tom McFarlin, does this pretty well with his new line of products.

4. Clean, Lean, and Mean

WordPress believes that a set of solid and simple features is core. Keep it fast and keep it quick. That’s why they move outside the box and hope to hit about 80% usage on the core features and options – in other words, if the majority of users don’t use a feature then they’ve failed.

I love this tenet as well since I believe that most of a functional app should be liberally engaged with – there shouldn’t be too much that isn’t touched (or you’ve wasted time building and opened up the opportunity for more customer confusion).

I think WordPress, as a product, can do more in this area and figure out some smart ways to tie things down in areas that aren’t touched often, especially areas that are “one and done” like the Settings and general administrative / setup areas.

5. Striving for Simplicity

Duh. There’s no need for complexity, but here’s the thing that I’ve experienced first-hand: It’s easier to build simple the first time and then make more complex (but with a hyper-judicious review) and infinitely more difficult to make the complex more simple.

Over time I’ve learned to keep things trim most of the time but the temptation to introduce neat “features” is always looming. Product complexity is a demon that must be killed consistently and often.

Consequently, it is more of a challenge to stay simple than to be complex. Great product designers and developers know this all-too-well.

6. Deadlines are Not Arbitrary

love this and I have shared my belief of “time boxing” pretty much everything. Release cycles, dates for completion, “sprints” – call them whatever you want. You need goals and you need to hit them, time and time again.

But the point of this isn’t just internal management – it’s for the customer as well so that they can better understand and expect when to party like rockstars with the next release. Building software isn’t easy – and managing our customers expectations is just as challenging; deadlines for developers and application builders will help customer fall even more in love with the product.

I mean, everyone loves to be loved. Right?

7. The Vocal Minority

I haven’t done this too well but I’ve always attempted to up my “listening” game when applicable. I believe that WordPress at large does a great job of soliciting feedback from the vocal minority, which includes those that aren’t vocal and who aren’t users of WordPress, yet.

The question, of course, is whether the vocal minority are saying the right things and not just being trolls.

8. Our Bill of Rights

All I have to say is that I have loved Open Source and continue to love Open Source, even when it backfires in my face. I also love proprietary just as much, but for different reasons.

I want to be a user of great software. I want to build great software. I’m just like you.