Miscellany For April
I began April by returning from an investment technology conference in Dallas and ended the month at a financial planning conference in Las Vegas. Much of the time in between was spent in software demonstrations and speculative conversations. It was a month of sales pitches, somewhat wild parties, and a blazing vision of the future that washed over most of my peers, completely unable to penetrate the sand they’d shoveled over their heads. I saw that the age of digital abundance has finally come to change the financial services industry, and I am overjoyed.
In the meantime, the web design business rolled on. Statistics proved that we’d made a correct assumption about out e-commerce suite, a poorly written manual led to a few hundred million plugin updates, and we inch ever closer to replacing ourselves with the next big thing.
As It Turns Out, WooCommerce Was The Right Wave
I’ve never tried my hand at surfing, but I always imagine the most important skill is catching the right wave. Working in the tech industry is like that too. It takes skill to ride the swell of a new trend without a wipeout, but no amount of skill can take you much of anywhere in calm seas. That’s why we always try to pick winning technology, rising trends, and the fiercest breakers.
When we chose our e-commerce platform, WooCommerce, it wasn’t clear which way the wind was blowing. There were, and still are, a lot of good options with the features we needed. We wanted the solution that would see the most development, most documentation, and most integration. That meant we chose WooCommerce because it had a larger community. We went where all the other surfers seemed to be headed, like we did when we chose WordPress in the first place.
As detailed in a recent WP Tavern article, the statistics say we made the right choice. Today, WooCommerce powers about 30% of the planet’s e-commerce sites.
That’s What You Get For Reading The Instructions
Like most WordPress based businesses, we use a lot of plugins to add new features and functionality to our sites. Tools like Gravity Forms, Jetpack, and Monarch Social Sharing extend the core WordPress content management system to give our clients all the cool bells and whistles they could want. These plugins are developed by a variety of individuals and businesses based on the open source methods documented by the team at WordPress.org.
Last month taught us what happens when there is a mistake in that documentation… and nobody notices it for a few years.
Security firm Sucuri, a common source of such discoveries, revealed that unclear instructions in the WordPress codex were leading developers to assume a common technique would safely prevent malicious code. It was such an esoteric issue that, despite persisting for several years, there was no evidence the problem was being exploited. However, it existed in hundreds, if not thousands, of plugins.
We noticed the issue as soon as it was revealed. Our partners and web host acted quickly to help. Everybody was safe, but we did a LOT of updates to solve the problem. Some of them, like the hurried updates to Jetpack, are still vexing us a bit. That’s the web business for you!
Who’s Afraid Of Website Builders?
It’s sort of hard to make a decent looking website… but it’s getting easier all the time. New tools, including commercial website builders and improvements to the toolkits we use, are making it easier for everyday users to make a functional website all by themselves. Since navigating the difficulty of design is a good part of our current service, it might seem a bit strange for us to admit that. The truth is, we welcome it.
We’d like the advantage of our service to be based on our dedication to the task, our continual attention to detail, our ability to step a bit out of the norm without breaking the bank, and the quality of our customer service. We don’t want to hang our laurels on special knowledge or privileged access to even the most basic tools. We want our customers to be able to do what we do, but choose to let us do it anyway.
As a result, you might notice that our service is getting more and more in common with website builders. Our use of Elegant Themes’ Divi for basic theming, our use of the Gravity Forms builder for custom data intake, and many developments yet to come will make it even easier for our clients to do their own thing if they want to. Lots of our competitors are offering the same sort of ability, from other WordPress hosts to builders like Weebly. We’re happy to be part of a trend that will slowly change the nature of our entire business and leave something new in its place.