When WP Engine acquired StudioPress this past summer, one of the main objectives was to accelerate the development of Genesis and grow the community of builders who use it.
Just over a month ago, we introduced Genesis Shapers—a hand-selected and diverse group of people representing companies from across the community who have come together to be a representative voice in the strategic direction of the Genesis roadmap in addition to the feedback we receive directly from customers, across social channels, and through Genesis WP on Slack.
Those who are a part of this inaugural group of Shapers include:
Bill Erickson, Carrie Dils, Gary Jones, Greg Boser, Jennifer Bourn, Jon Brown, Jonathan Jeter, Lauren Gaige, Lee Anthony, Robin Cornett, Sara Dunn, Sridhar Katakam, and Tonya Mork.
Following up our in-person meeting during WordCamp US in Nashville this December, we held our first monthly Slack meeting earlier this month in the Shapers Slack channel.
David Vogelpohl, the Vice President of Web Strategy at WP Engine and StudioPress brand lead, sent out a list of assertions that the StudioPress core team came up with ahead of time, and in our meeting, we discussed the following:
- What do we mean by “customizable and integrated site-building experiences will win”?
- Should we evolve our use of the word “Developer” to be more precise on developers vs. implementers vs. designers?
- Is Genesis a “front-end framework”?
Customizable and Integrated Site-Building Experiences
With the release of the Gutenberg in WordPress 5.0, content creators and novice site administrators have more power than ever before. This begs the question “do we even need developers and designers any more?”.
David led with his thoughts about this:
“My take on the discussions that led to this assertion was that, unlike experiences built with simplified and closed-source CMS, successful brands will want fully custom designs and integrations with their systems and mar-tech stack. In other words, business owners still won’t build their own sites, but will continue to rely on designers and developers to build experiences which they can use to customize their sites and manage them in the future.”
I tend to agree with this assessment—that those solutions are more for (though not limited to) a DIY, solopreneur type of user. Brands, small businesses, and professional entrepreneurs will likely opt for a custom design since their needs are more than probably more significant and at some point, might run into limitations with the Squarespace/Wix experience.
Jennifer Bourn, the founding partner, and designer of The Bourn Creative had this to say:
“Legitimate, successful businesses will continue to hire out their websites because they know what their time is worth and where it is best spent.”
She goes on to say:
“Genesis can’t operate in a vacuum and needs to have integrations with third-party solutions in a seamless way. The more Genesis enables site owners to connect their digital worlds, the better.”
Carrie Dils, WordPress developer, and consultant, at CarrieDils.com, responded:
“I would think that Genesis doesn’t get in the middle and just lets WP handle integrations”
The consensus from the Shapers was agreement with what Jennifer said, and that providing updates and ongoing support for 3rd-party integrations such as Beaver Builder, Elementor, and other plugins is a critical part of the future of Genesis. But Genesis should compliment existing integrations and experiences within WordPress rather than replace them.
Developers and Implementers and Designers Oh My!
With more than 250,000 StudioPress customers and hundreds of thousands of people managing over 600K powered Genesis sites, the user base of Genesis is well represented. Many folks are just that—users, who purchase a theme to use for their blog or website.
Beyond them, however, is another sector of users, who—while yes, “use” Genesis for their blogs or websites—also “use” Genesis and themes as part of their design or development business.
There were many opinions on what to call folks who “build” with Genesis. Among the many terms that were discussed aside from the common designer and developer, we came up with these: builder, assembler, implementer, and web technician/architect.
Jon Brown, WordPress Developer at 9seeds, said:
“Builder seems the least demeaning… but I refer back to thinking it’s irrelevant except in marketing personas.”
I love how Jason Cohen, founder, and CTO of WP Engine, differentiated the connotation of assemblers vs. builders:
“Some assembly required,” you think “Ugh, crap!”… but “Made for builders,” you think “Cool, I can make whatever I want!”
Gary Jones, VIP Developer at Automattic, pointed out:
“Squarespace: Build a Website – Website Builder”
“Wix.com: Free Website Builder | Create a Free Website”
“These services are targeting the folks we’re talking about here.”
There was a lot of back-and-forth conversation about the names in which we refer to folks who use/build with Genesis. We felt this was important to discuss not for the sake of marketing personas, but rather to understand the wide variety of people who build with Genesis to help us inform the features and roadmap to best serve the people who rely on Genesis every day.
Is Genesis: Front-End Framework?
To be, or not to be, that is the question.
As we kicked off this part of the discussion, Bill Erickson, who provide custom WordPress design and development services, jumped in:
“It’s a theme framework.”
Short and sweet, which I like. I agree with Bill and have always considered Genesis a theme framework. But with the evolution of Gutenberg and page builders, I believe it needs to be—and is becoming—more than that.
Carrie made an interesting point, to which Jon immediately concurred:
“Front-end framework makes me think of Foundation or Bootstrap or that sort of thing.”
True story—as Foundation claims itself to be “The most advanced responsive front-end framework in the world.”
Jonathan Jeter, Director of Technical Production at The Richards Group, added:
“I’ve always called it a WordPress framework because it provides underlying features on top of WordPress which keep people from having to edit core files on their own.”
This comment is something I have always felt strongly about. Genesis is a framework, it works with WordPress, and uses themes to display the visual element of a website.
As we look toward the future of Genesis, and the path that our R&D is taking, one thing that Gary mentioned resonated with many of us:
“Not a development suite. Just a collection of related items that work with each other. Think Adobe… *That* collection is the all-encompassing solution that many folks want.”
Great food for thought, isn’t it?
The conversation weaved its way through and around the application in the real world—from the use of widgets and impending movement to blocks, while also addressing whether or not those who build with WordPress do it exclusively.
All in all, it was an hour packed with great insight and was time well spent. It was for me, and I certainly hope it was for the Shapers. I look forward to the next Slack meeting we’ll have, and once again plan to share a recap here as well.
We want the Genesis community to be the most open and transparent community in WordPress. It was one of the most significant factors—and most compelling reasons from WP Engine—to pursue their desire to acquire StudioPress.
We’re happy to be able to deliver on that goal through the feedback we receive from the Shapers group and from you through your feedback in social channels, on Slack, and through your feedback as customers.
We are deeply appreciate everything the Shapers and you do to help make Genesis and the StudioPress themes better.