Full disclosure: my company just launched a new web site using WordPress and I am in an ecstatic envelope thinking about how easy it was.
But really, can we remember any time when the power of publishing was put directly into the hands of content creators with such simplicity and grace? I’m not talking about the day you first discovered you could write html and upload it and say “voilá” to the world. Plain html was serviceable but only a webmaster could love the way it looked. Remember, it was HyperText Markup Language. You were supposed to be able to create links. Formatting was complicated.
Formatting is still complicated. And we’ve seen a number of takes on making this web publishing gambit that much easier for the content creator. Lots of code jockeys have tried to minimize the need for other code jockeys who, bless them all, tended to take forever and cost like the space shuttle (back in the days when space shuttles were flying, anyway). We saw Dreamweaver, Microsoft Frontpage, more lately Joomla and Drupal all put up screens that were supposed to make web publishing easy and productive for folks who had something to say (and show).
Trouble was, while some of them weren’t even very good at formatting, they all fell way short of being simple and direct. And way short of being tools that non-developers could use to build sophisticated web content and update it quickly and with a minimum of bother.
WordPress has solved these problems pretty neatly and one gets the sense it’s a “once and for all” coup for WP until the web changes or until the next amazing tool comes along (though I think WP is on its way to becoming an industry standard).
We have gone from an age where mounting even a simple site had all the grit of a good thriller with a few nightmares thrown in; to an age where you can buy a rock-the-house template for nearly nothing and then add some widgets and start loading up your content. And the stuff looks really good when its done right.
Not only that, it doesn’t get screwy when you update it. It’s the way this whole thing should have been from the start but of course it couldn’t be.
WordPress cut its teeth as a bloggers’ tool and that’s why it emphasized simplicity. Coming up from the pimordial ooze of the blogo-soup, it had to get one thing right. And that was to let bloggers type in their words and plop in a picture without knowing anything about technology and without being too enamored of fancy flashy visuals. It accomplished this really well. And because it came up as a bloggers’ tool, it is, as far as I can tell, pretty much an open source tool, kind of the way Apache’s Open Office is and the way Ubuntu is. You don’t pay hefty licensing fees for WordPress. You just build killer sites.
I think the increasing simplicity in sites generally may also be due in part to a visual ethic exemplified by the WordPress interface. It’s a mature approach that says: “never mind the dancing babies, how about something that really communicates and is easy on the eyes?” If we want dazzling effects, we will go see “Abe Lincoln: Vampire Killer”, thank you very much.
Lots of sites both big and small are getting built on WordPress these days. It seems to have taken the smart web set by storm. It’s the new black.