Themers, Themes and the Content Creation in WordPress

My colleague, Michael Arestad, wrote an excellent post awhile back called, The shape of WordPress shapes the web. In it, he poses the questions:

Should the design of content creation in WordPress expand past blogging?

If so, what would the creation of content look like? Would the shape of the editor be determined by the theme? Would it be something more flexible involving direct manipulation? Could it be a mix of both?

Those are tough questions, but fun ones to think about, especially without the limits of the current content creation process. Some of what I envision for a better experience there already exists – in bits and pieces in different content management systems and platforms. Some of the reasons WordPress lacks a more optimal content creation process doesn’t have to do with just user experience, design or code, but also some of its contributors. I’m talking about themers – myself included.

From my vantage point, themes cause some of the biggest frustrations for the people who use WordPress every day. As we all know, born as blogging software, WordPress has evolved into a full-fledged content management system and its contributors have it looking more and more like an application platform every day. With that fluidness comes freedom. WordPress can do a lot. Sure, the post screen available at post-new.php has its limits, but that hasn’t stopped anyone yet. Meta boxes, custom fields, widgets, special classes, page builders and more have all tried to make the process better. But nothing has stuck, and everything has felt like a patch instead of a cohesive experience. And worse, open up any WordPress site that extends beyond a blog and you’re likely to find them all handling content in slightly different ways. Everyone loses here. The people who use WordPress, and those who make it and build tools from it.

I certainly don’t think the perfect content creation process exist for all the types of content that goes into WordPress. And I don’t think pulling in ideas and concepts from other sources is the whole answer. If the design of content creation in WordPress expands past blogging, it will take experimentation, user testing and a lot of collaboration to find something that works. So how do we get there? We have to start – together.

I know that we as themers can do a better job of bringing consistency to the themes we build, both individually and as a community. We’re doing a better job than we once did, reducing theme options, sticking mostly to the Customizer, keeping content types in plugins, etc. but more work remains. We’re all creating themes in our own worlds, but something better lies ahead. We need to sketch, design, build and create outside of themes, and with each other. WordPress Core needs you. Maybe you start working through some tickets. Or revive a stalled feature plugin that’s needed. The opportunities exist everywhere, and content creation doesn’t get better without themers.