For those who follow the WordPress industry, you’ll know that the past year brought big changes, including the arrival of a certain WordPress block editor called Gutenberg. Launched at the end of 2018, Gutenberg has given creators a new way to interact with their content and made the experience more enjoyable (for some).
In 2019, WordPress releases focused on improving the editor and adding new blocks. Website owners can now do a lot more with posts and, increasingly, more with pages too.
For theme and plugin creators, Gutenberg has brought on a bit of an existential crisis. This kind of functionality is what many themes and plugins have built a following around. I believe there is a ton of life left in the theme and plugin ecosystem and that this next iteration brings new opportunities for creators to delight users.
We’ve begun to see the WordPress industry take notice too. In 2018 and 2019 there were some major acquisitions targeted at Gutenberg. Liquid Web acquired iThemes in 2018 and WPEngine acquired StudioPress, the makers of the Genesis Framework, as well as Array Themes, the makers of Atomic Blocks. In 2019, GoDaddy acquired ThemeBeans, the makers of CoBlocks.
Each of these acquisitions is aimed squarely at the future potential of Gutenberg. It’s the kind of vertical integration that’s often seen in the traditional media industries but a first for WordPress. Hosting companies, backed by thousands of active WordPress customers, are bringing design and creativity in-house.
So, what does this all mean in 2020? What can asset creators and website owners expect? Here are my top five predictions for what’s going to be happening in the WordPress space this year.
1. Gutenberg Grows
This year, the WordPress development team is hoping to launch a new repository for Gutenberg. Their aim is to make it as easy as a one-click install right from within the post or page you’re working on.
I expect that we’ll see many asset creators jump into this block repository with gusto. With a distribution method in place, this will also create opportunities for premium blocks and templates. What blocks do you think will be the most popular in this new repository?
2. Elementor Wins
While Gutenberg is growing in usage, it still has a long way to go to compete with some of the more established page builders out there. Chief among them is Elementor. With 3M+ active installs of its free version alone, it has become the leading third-party page builder in the WordPress world.
Here at Envato, we’ve been offering free Elementor Template Kits through our Envato Elements plugin. This year, we’re inviting our incredible community of theme and plugin creators to the party too. This will mean a lot more choice for WordPress and Elementor users. I expect Elementor will continue to win in the premium page builder space this year.
3. Privacy, Privacy, Privacy
Do you remember when a few years ago when GDPR happened and everyone started updating their privacy policies and sending you emails?
This year, California is doing the same thing, which is creating more emails and a lot of focus on the privacy features of WordPress. As with GDPR, I predict there will be a demand for assets that support website owners with more sophisticated privacy features.
I also predict there will be an increased awareness and scrutiny on assets to see how they handle and manage user data and Personal Identifiable Information (PII).
4. Accessibility Friendly
WordPress has been making significant strides in the area of accessibility. The UI has undergone some major changes in recent updates to reflect greater awareness of accessibility needs.
With more laws and legal rulings coming out that favor web accessibility, it will continue to grow in importance for website owners and asset creators.
I predict designers, developers and users alike will be looking for ways to be more inclusive and accessibility-friendly.
5. Disruption Ready
Vertical integration, industry consolidation and company longevity are the perfect conditions for disruption.
Many of the most prominent plugins and ways of working with WordPress are getting older. That maturity brings stability and a depth of extensibility that many people value. However, it also creates space for others to reimagine solutions to historical problems.
Ecommerce, forms and events calendars are all areas that I believe are ready for new entrants.
So, while there is a lot of change happening behind-the-scenes with the WordPress industry, on the front-end there are some amazing opportunities. Asset creators who can navigate the changes brought on by Gutenberg and Elementor will do really well and those who adapt to the demand for greater privacy and accessibility will grow too.
Well, there you have it. My predictions for what will happen in WordPress in 2020. What do you think? Join the conversation via my Instagram and on the Envato Instagram account and we’ll check back a little later in the year to see how things are tracking.