WordPress and the perception of the work of developers
This weekend I stumbled upon a blog post from wptavern.com, a site dedicated to WordPress ecosystem and community. Up until a portrait of ProcessWire in one of their articles I haven't even heard of the WPtavern, but I'm sure it is a well visited site with certain influence in the community.
Aforementioned article quotes web developer Mario Peshev, both specialized in WordPress and frameworks such as CakePHP. He notices both in his accounting books and work experiences that the money is not being made by WordPress related jobs, but by the other framework services he offers. The article's author states:
It seems curious that Peshev would regularly receive more offers for CakePHP work, originating from older code he’d written, versus requests for WordPress, which powers more than 23% of the web.
No, it is not. The spread of a tool does not automatically equal big potential does not automatically equal good income for seasoned developers of this tool. Whilst CakePHP is an application framework, WordPress is an article- and media-management tool. That offer gap is totally explainable.
But besides from the faulty comparison between WordPress and pure bred PHP frameworks WPtavern's article deals with the public perception of WordPress and development work as a whole. And that got me thinking: Can dissemination and undoubtetly ease of use and setup act on customers who just aren't aware of the value of (custom) development work?
According to the article, that already happend. Users buy a premium plugin for $ 25 and expect custom modification work on it to be in range of $ 15. And when reflecting on my own rare WordPress jobs in the past, its observation is totally valid. Often times, clients supplied a purchased theme and estimated the modifications of it relative to the theme's price (German speaking readers: Here's blog post from Gerrit van Aaken dealing with this phenomenon, among other topics).
In short, WordPress ease of use and sheer amount of plugins backfires:
He [Peshev] outlined a typical scenario that plagues many development agencies. Because users can piece most of their sites together without help, they figure the rest should be easy.
This effect is true to both the WordPress community and to the web developer community at large. Although Google became "the internet" for some people, WordPress must not become "the web app" and installing plugins and themes "web development" in people's perception.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against ease of use for end users. Not at all, this should always be the goal, and that is also ProcessWire's aim. But devalueing the worth of the engineering and architectural parts of web developers work will harm said developers - and eventually the systems they create. This is especially true for the motivation-driven world of open source software.
An ecosystem full of (sometimes matching) plugins and themes, and a community that creates said ecosystem has a responsabilty towards the industry - especially when it becomes mainstream and a house hold name for the branch of editable websites. To misquote Spider-Man, As for Wordpress, 23% market share and big marketing powers come with great responsabilites. Although this article appeared on a site dedicated to WordPress I'm not sure that Automattic and the WordPress community is aware of this.