Back to Reality: 4 Things to Expect from WordPress in 2019

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2018 is over – in fact, we’re nearly to May already. After the big WordPress 5.0 launch around Christmas, coupled with a quick break to recharge, the focus is now on how the platform will develop during the next year.

As with previous years, there are some exciting developments in the pipeline. Some you could have seen coming from miles away, while others are a little more unexpected. In either case, it’s important to know what’s coming, so you can start making preparations now.

In this post, we’ll take a broad look at what the entire community of developers, clients, designers, and site owners will see from WordPress over the next 12 months. Let’s jump right in!

1. A Greater Reliance on the Block Editor

First, let’s discuss the Block Editor, as it’s now central to WordPress’ ongoing development. The switch over from the Classic Editor didn’t exactly go smoothly. Now that developers have begun to work on improving the feature, however, it’s easier to see the value of WordPress’ newest implementation.

By default, the Block Editor reshapes the currently-existing editor functionality. This means it’s ready to go straight out of the box. However, just as plugins enhance the core platform, block collections are doing the same for the Block Editor.

In fact, we’ve already seen these collections begin to seep into the WordPress Plugin Directory, under their own “Block-Enabled” category on the main page:

The Block-Enabled page on WordPress.org.

Practically all major plugin developers – such as Yoast and Automattic – have been creating their own blocks, which comes as no surprise. There are also third-party collections, akin to the plugins that added extra elements to the Classic Editor. Atomic Blocks is a good example:

The Atomic Blocks plugin.

With this plugin, you’ll get new elements such as Testimonial and Customizable Button blocks. The expectation is that these tools will eventually become a new breed of page builder, potentially even surpassing the currently-established names.

In addition, many theme authors have been getting onboard as well. For example, Genesis is fully compatible with the Block Editor, and there are also block collections available to extend the defaults found within the theme. Overall, the future is bright for the Block Editor, and the base functionality should only get better over time.

2. Developments Related to Community Feedback and Marketing

As we mentioned earlier, the WordPress 5.0 launch was not exactly uncontroversial. As such, Matt Mullenweg noted that there were things the entire team could have done better, and the decision was made to expand the leadership team to improve on some of those issues.

To this end, Josepha Haden and Joost de Valk became WordPress’ Executive Director and the Marketing and Communications Lead respectively. In a nutshell, their roles are:

  • Executive Director. The Executive Director is concerned with the health of WordPress, namely as it relates to community and contributor feedback. A core responsibility is to track and act upon any majority feedback received.
  • Marketing and Communications Lead. This role is a little more self-explanatory, and will primary focus on how WordPress is presented to the outside world. As such, some of its first projects are related to the WordPress.org website – among other areas.

One of the first tasks Josepha Haden undertook was to survey the community on what they need in order to more easily contribute to WordPress. As you can imagine, plenty of suggestions were made. The hope is that these new roles and projects will enable the WordPress leadership team and the broader community to work together more effectively.

3. Expanded Service Offerings from Popular Web Hosts

This next topic is something that’s just recently entered into the WordPress community’s public conscience. It’s a new concept in web hosting, and one that hasn’t been entirely defined yet. Even so, you’ll find some hosts already leading the way to provide what’s become known as a Digital Experience Platform (DXP).

We’ve previously covered this idea, and the concept as a whole was also explained well by Noel Tock at WordCamp Europe in 2018. Ultimately, DXPs are based around marketing to individual target customers, wherever they may be online. This development came about because of the pervasive feeling across the industry that many clients are not interested in the traditional ways of using WordPress.

There are three main reasons for that shift:

  1. Plugins are losing value, due to increasingly complex themes.
  2. Clients have more specialized requirements for their websites.
  3. There are a number of alternative website-building platforms vying for attention.

WordPress itself is working on mitigating these issues, but marketing and branding also play a key role. Businesses essentially need to be everywhere online, and many have switched focus from targeting new customers to cultivating relationships with their existing clients.

DXPs are designed to help businesses better compete in this new landscape.

4. A More Accessible WordPress

Finally, let’s talk about accessibility. We’ve covered the topic numerous times over the past few years, and it’s an important consideration due to the inclusive nature of WordPress as a whole.

Unfortunately, the platform’s own accessibility has always been ‘hit and miss’. There was no real accessibility team until recently, for example. Although that oversight was righted, the introduction of the Block Editor arguably set the clock back in this area.

That’s because the Block Editor is built using JavaScript, and many users with accessibility-related needs have JavaScript turned off in their browsers.

However, there has been funding allocated from Automattic for an accessibility audit, despite the fact that the previous one was canceled indefinitely. What this means for the platform remains to be seen. However, there are plenty of positives to look forward to once the results of the audit are released. In other words, we expect plenty of action to be taken on improving the platform’s accessibility in 2019 and beyond.

Conclusion

2019 is zipping by, and WordPress is coming along for the ride. The new momentum arguably started with the WordPress 5.0 launch and is set to continue until next Christmas. If you’re not up to date with what to expect from WordPress in 2019, now’s the time to get started.

In this post, we’ve looked at four key areas the WordPress team will be focused on this year. As you can imagine, the Block Editor is a priority, and we’re likely to see its integration improve. Accessibility has also been a primary concern for the community, so you can expect it to receive an increased focus. Speaking of the community, the appointments of Josepha Haden and Joost de Valk are going to be pivotal over the next year, as will the burgeoning concept of Digital Experience Platforms.

Are you looking forward to what WordPress has to offer in 2019? Let us know in the comments section below!

Featured image: MartyNZ.

Tom Rankin is a key member of WordCandy, a musician, photographer, vegan, beard owner, and (very) amateur coder. When he’s not doing any of these things, he’s likely sleeping.

The post Back to Reality: 4 Things to Expect from WordPress in 2019 appeared first on Torque.

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