Three Projects to Scale Up WordPress

Back in November, Jeffro wrote on WP Tavern:

WordPress powers 17.2% of the web, Joomla powers 3% and Drupal has 2%. Everyone else encompasses the rest of the 100%. So while it seems like everyone and their mother as well as their grandpa has a site on WordPress, there is still a huge segment of the market that’s been untapped by WordPress.

At Rocket Lift we are interested in how WordPress will become more attractive to large businesses, regardless of their industry, simply by becoming a more powerful content management system. The enterprise world pays attention to WordPress now because of its reputation as an easy to use custom blogging system. The exciting potential for WordPress is to maintain its user-friendliness while it steadily becomes (even) more capable of managing more than just blogs.

In the WordPress developer community we talk a lot about our software being ready for enterprise, but we don’t yet have feature parity with many proprietary enterprise content management systems. Many powerful functions that enterprise environments require have a ways to go in WordPress — functions like workflow management, flexible views on data, and actual content management itself (within the context of a single piece of content data, such as a link or an image). WordPress also needs to become more “user”-friendly for developers.

Don’t get me wrong — I believe WordPress is making great strides and will get there soon. We’re excited to play a part, and our plugin development work is going after a mix of opportunities we see to improve WordPress in a few of these areas.

In the coming weeks Rocket Lift will release and showcase three open-source projects to improve how WordPress scales to larger sites.

Improving Custom Theme Development

First, we’ll introduce a new class-based template method that we call Fractal, which allows custom page templates to inherit and override each other, with infinite nesting. This method speeds up theme development and flexibility, and will make WordPress more attractive as a complete solution for a website with hundreds of unique layouts. Fractal is more of a signature approach than a product right now, but we hope to team up with other developers to build time-saving developer tools and a powerful theme framework around it.

WYSIWYG Bliss

“WYSIWYG” and “bliss” are two words that have never been used in the same sentence together before. The single biggest challenge WordPress presents to our clients is its What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editor, and in particular the way it (sort of doesn’t really) handle image layout. So, within a few weeks we’ll release a post layout building plugin that we call Structure. It gives content authors a lot more control over their layouts to create beautiful, magazine-like content that is responsive and works independently of your theme.

Content Strategy Goes Native

Third, we’ll roll out a plugin that helps non-technical content authors to communicate more easily with technical project team members who are focused on site architecture. We call it Cobbler. (It helps us cobble together all of the various pieces that make up a new website.) Cobbler builds private communication channels right into WordPress to indicate what content should go where, and why, and how, and directs feedback to the team members who need it.

Cat’s out of the Bag

We’re still just prototyping Cobbler, but we’re privately testing Fractal and Structure, and enjoying how they improve our experience building websites and WordPress’ ability to wow our clients. We’ll be blogging about Fractal in April and releasing Structure in beta soon. While we engineer these projects, we’re looking for opportunities to eventually make WordPress core contributions with some of their underlying pieces.

I’ve wondered about the wisdom of discussing these projects publicly before they’re ready to ship. But hey — We’re excited! So I decided to go ahead, partly because it will hold us accountable, and partly because we’ll be looking for beta testers soon.

Watch this space.

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