Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, questioned why a revamp of the WordPress homepage and download page took weeks to almost finish when the same project would take one person only hours to complete using a website builder platform like Wix or Squarespace.
What happened is that a group of WordPress contributors decided to revamp the WordPress home and download pages using the WordPress block editor as a showcase for what could be accomplished with the new editor.
Everyone commenting on the proposal expressed that it was a great idea to use the WordPress block editor.
But a month later, Mullenweg questioned why it took a team of WordPress developers weeks to create just two pages.
He wrote that he had a hard time imagining one person taking longer than a day to finish the project with Software as a Service (SaaS) website builder platforms like Wix or Squarespace.
“…it’s such a basic layout, it’s hard to imagine it taking a single person more than a day on Squarespace, Wix, Webflow, or one of the WP page builders.”
The implication of his statement is clear.
WordPress Block Editor
The block editor, also known as the WordPress Gutenberg Editor, was introduced in 2018. Still, it wasn’t until 2021 when a significant feature of full site editing, the template editor, was released as part of WordPress 5.8 and the template editor.
More parts of the complete site editing experience followed over the months.
The goal of the block editor is to modernize WordPress and make it easy for anyone to install and start building a website fast.
The block editor is the future of WordPress, but it’s not quite finished as it continues to be improved upon.
WordPress Home Page Revamp
On July 8th, 2022, a WordPress contributor (and employee of Automattic) announced the kickoff of a redesign of the official WordPress.org homepage and download page, with the proposal of doing it using WordPress’ block editor.
The block editor is part of the WordPress initiative to modernize it and make it easy to design websites without learning code.
The idea was to showcase the WordPress block editor.
The announcement was well received.
One WordPress contributor commented:
“I’m very excited to see this project blossom for WordPress.
…Leveraging the homepage as a place to showcase everything modern, innovative, and empowering, that WordPress can be, would be a wonderful objective.
In other words, with WordPress, you can basically do anything – build anything.
I’d love to see the design showcase the modernization of the site editor and layout capabilities – even going so far as to do things many haven’t seen before.”
“I’m super excited about this project!”
Someone else wrote that it was a great way to showcase the editor and the WordPress community:
“The biggest opportunity I’m seeing, on the Homepage in particular, is a more cohesive WordPress story.
Aside from the power of the software itself and what it can do, there’s the whole community of people that have been coming together regularly to share in a movement.”
All the comments were positive and upbeat.
Then about eight days later, Mullenweg criticized how long it recently took to redesign the WordPress News page and noted that this project should not take as long to complete.
“This should take a week or two to launch, not months, and the most interesting part will be the stats and feedback after launch, and any subsequent iterations we make from there, not a long process before.
The /news redesign took a criminally long time.
We have a lot of .org to redesign, and a lot of accumulated cruft for example in the navigation right now — we can’t take too long on any one part.”
One Month Later… Mullenweg Criticizes Pace of Project
A month went by as the team worked together creating the two pages, and on August 1st, they shared an update in a post titled, Developing the redesigned Home and Download Pages.
The post is a cheerful update on all the progress that has been made on the still incomplete redesign.
Eight days later, Mullenweg kicks off the discussion by criticizing the effort, commenting:
“This is not a good use of time, nor does it further the actual goals of a new homepage or download page, and we have better places to spend our development time.”
The developer who is leading the redesign defended the pace of progress, writing:
“That’s less than three weeks from design to launch and I’m very proud of the collaborative work the team has been able to do. The new theme is great. The teams involved have built an outstanding theme in record time. I think people will love it.”
Others also posted support for the progress.
Mullenweg criticized the pace of the redesign:
“33 days since project kickoff doesn’t feel quick to me, but I think it’s worth diving deeper into not trying to turn Figma designs into a theme quickly (again though, that should be hours not weeks)…”
He next expressed his vision that this should be progressing faster:
“You could imagine a world where instead of taking more than a month to launch a single design, which implies a maximum rate of under 12 of these we could do in a year, we made 20-30 designs up front, ideally with very different approaches and copy, and focused our development time on measuring the success metrics of each approach, then iterated from there.”
He then compared the slowness of developing on WordPress to how fast it is on SaaS website builder platforms:
“…On the ‘hours not weeks’ to implement — it’s such a basic layout, it’s hard to imagine it taking a single person more than a day on Squarespace, Wix, Webflow, or one of the WP page builders.”
Lastly, he suggested using the existing code approach:
“So, if we’re just doing a prettier version of the same thing, make those changes in place with the existing code approach quickly and move on to something higher value.
If you are trying to further WP itself, you need a fundamentally different approach.”
Response To Criticism
The response on Twitter ranged from sarcastic digs at WordPress to support for the team working on the redesign.
The owner of WordPress complaining (to his volunteers) that a block theme takes too long and they should just update the custom HTML in their current theme… Welcome to the last five years of block editing @photomatt!https://t.co/mI4zKBnO6T
— Brian Coords (@briancoords) August 11, 2022
33 days from kickoff to launch is quick in any enterprise project.
— John Locke 🐝 (@Lockedown_) August 11, 2022
Wow. Did Matt just nuke block themes in general? That was very concerning.
— Hendrik Luehrsen (@hluehrsen) August 11, 2022
But some supported Mullenweg:
I gotta say I am with @photomatt here. 33 days for a soft relaunch of two landing pages, page builder or not, is … a lot.
I too have used static php/html for load heavy pages. That being said, devs running loose on their own, it happens in every project. No biggie, me thinks.
— Peter Carqueville (@PCarqueville) August 11, 2022
Is WordPress Inferior To SaaS Website Builders?
Mullenweg’s comment likely reiterated the WordPress vision that development should be fast and easy.
From that perspective, 33 days to recreate an existing design could be seen as less than ideal.
Could it be that SaaS website builders like Wix, Duda, and Squarespace have already surpassed WordPress?
Featured image by Shutterstock/Luis Molinero