WordPress.org officially released the Twenty Twenty-Three standard (default) WordPress theme last week. We decided to take a quick peek at this year’s latest offerings and started out with the notion this would be a quick post. A highlights reel of new features. But once we got going, we couldn’t help but ponder the fact that WordPress has been around for almost 20 years and is still holding down incredible numbers.
WordPress constitutes 43% of ALL websites on the Internet. 1
Let that sink in for a second or two.
Having achieved a level of popularity nearly unfathomable by any of its peers in the CMS game for the better part of the last two decades, we thought it an appropriate time to discuss why WordPress still matters as we head into 2023.
Before we dive into the highlights of the new Twenty Twenty-Three theme, we take a few detour dives into some common misconceptions we’ve encountered surrounding WordPress over the years.
Consider this post a nod to Twenty Twenty-Three’s “Mindblowing Philosophy” motif.
Table of Contents -Click a title to jump to a section
- Introduction to WP: Being at the top, draws strong opinions
- The undisputed, CMS Champion of the World.
- Minimal has a place. Don’t sneeze at a default WordPress theme.
- Skimp demo content does NOT equate to a Theme (or CMS) lacking functionality.
- Development fundamentals still apply to WordPress.
- For those that fear WordPress.
- If you want an expert WordPress installation, stick with the experts.
- Be awesome. Avoid a trainwreck.
- Twenty Twenty-Three Theme Highlights
- Our Take on the Twenty Twenty-Three theme: The Highlights
Introduction to WP: Being at the top, draws strong opinions
We’ve found WordPress is one of those love-it-or-fear-it platforms for many business owners and developers alike. No matter if you’re a longtime lover or have tried to avoid it at all costs, one thing is for sure: WordPress is not going anywhere, anytime soon.
WordPress has not only held the #1 position as the most popular CMS (Content Management System) in the World year after year, but it’s still gaining ground.
A tireless workhorse of the Internet.
When we first came across those on the leave-it side of the WordPress opinion scale, we were perplexed. While it’s but one of many tools in our toolbox, we’ve leveraged this versatile CMS platform with numerous successful growth campaigns for businesses all across the spectrum, from single-person start-ups to SaaS enterprises that clear $30K, per day.
Whether a root site framework, traditional CMS, QMS expansion, E-commerce platform, an adjunct blog, or a combination thereof, WordPress has been a tried and true workhorse, not only for us but for a huge swathe of the Internet as a whole.
Having been in the WP game since the mid-2000s, our agency members have seen what we can now identify as greater trends pertaining to the overarch of perceptions surrounding the major CMS platforms.
We candidly philosophize on some of the broader implications surrounding the relationships these CMS platforms have with the millions of people using them to populate vast segments of the Internet every day.
We begin to unpack some shared experiences of several business owners we’ve worked with, who in the past (prior to getting on board with our Do-It-Right philosophy) have traversed some rocky development roads.
Those who can’t deliver, often blame the platform.
We can all learn from a good old-fashioned, full-blown, website deployment failure.
Most often inflicted at the hands of amateurs (underskilled designers & developers) if not due to outright neglect, the takeaway here is not aimed at those unfortunate devs.
We’re honing in on the type of feelings left in the wake by these would-be website builders. Who, despite having sold it well, fumbling through before botching the job, while proceeding to drag a good CMS name right through the mud.
Don’t be that guy!
In simple terms, we’re looking at you, the ‘WordPress Sucks!’ guy.
You know the type. We all know at least one.
The “Isn’t WordPress for noobs?” or the “Isn’t WordPress a blog?” know-it-all.
If you are that ‘guy’, ‘gal’, or ‘they’ type of WP naysayer, no worries. It’s cool. You can still hang. We just hope, that with the reading of this article we might usher you over to the love-it side of the scale. Or, at least, give you a few chuckles.. and perhaps spark a little flame of excitement that leads you to try a new & inspired website venture.
If it wasn’t abundantly clear by now, though unaffiliated in an official capacity, we’re definitely in the latter category, on the loving end of the WordPress scale.
We’ve been leveraging the use of this CMS in part or in whole with successful web projects spanning the last 14 years.
We’ve built over 100 WordPress sites.
You might call us some of the WordPress OGs.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Know the difference.
One aspect of WordPress that seems to confound some is the separation of WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
WordPress.com addresses this point with a great recent article, ‘WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: What’s the Difference?‘ where author Tanya Thibodeau says,
We shouldn’t think in terms of “WordPress.com vs WordPress.org”.
Instead, the correct comparison is WordPress.com vs a Self-Hosted WordPress site.
Why? Primarily, because WordPress.com IS a managed host. WordPress.org is NOT a host.
You can’t go to WordPress.org and “set up a website” that will be available on the Internet.Tanya Thibodeau | WordPress.com
WordPress.org is closer to a CMS repository, where anyone can download the software itself, which can then be installed with the hosting company of choice. The WordPress.org installations allow one to use the open source code to build and maintain both personal and corporate websites.
The undisputed, CMS Champion of the World.
For those just tuning in, WordPress is the most popular CMS (Content Management System) on planet Earth, bar none.
In fact, WordPress constitutes a whopping 43% of ALL websites on the Internet. source 1 HubSpot: 20 WordPress Statistics You Should Know in 2022
Pretty impressive numbers to say the least.
That’s like the equivalent of holding down hydrogen’s place in the elemental makeup of stars in the entire Universe.
And before you internet sleuths pound the comments section, ever so cleverly pointing out that hydrogen, indeed, makes up about 90% of all of the physical matter contained in the stars, while WordPress is only 43% of the known Internet…
Save your energy. We know.
Suffice it to say, WordPress makes up a very large portion of the Internet. More than any other CMS.
So when the crafty development crew over at WordPress.org drop the annual WordPress default theme, many in the online community take notice.
The standard (default) theme will be automatically applied to all new WordPress installations by default in the coming year, so it’s always interesting to see what’s coming down the pipeline for millions of websites.
Being the nerds that we are, we’re stoked to have been one of the first few hundred WordPress enthusiasts to download this annual release.
Minimal has a place. Don’t sneeze at a default WordPress theme.
Per usual, when it comes to pre-built demo content, the default WordPress theme authors prefer to leave it to the imagination of the content creators.
And who just doesn’t love a classic?
But if you want to see the deeper WordPress magic therein, you’ve got to build out and deploy some content first.
Skimp demo content does NOT equate to a Theme (or CMS) lacking functionality.
That’s right. This less-is-more approach to demo content has caused some amateur and even some veteran developers to overlook the default WordPress themes for what are considered (often mistakenly) more ‘elaborate’ or ‘complex’ themes, particularly those that come packaged with pre-built content.
We should note, however, that when used properly, demo content rules.
Demo content serves a million different functions for developers. We’re not trash-talkin’ the demo content or the content builders. Y’all rock.
But it’s here we’ll note, or perhaps harp on, the point that WordPress default themes can be as simple or as complex as just about any base framework.
Development fundamentals still apply to WordPress.
Assuming server fundamentals are covered and sound, it is what is built into, around, and on top of an authority CMS (like WordPress) that matters most in regard to how the different site elements interact with one another. i.e. How the website looks and performs on the surface for visitors.
And just like other CMS platforms, a lack of content will equate to entire sections being completely hidden or invisible (until content is added).
Here again, do not conflate a lack of content with a CMS, or a Theme’s inherent capabilities and limitations.
Why are we drilling down into this point so hard?
Having been in the Digital Marketing industry for the last 14+ years, we’ve seen many clients come to us with all kinds of preconceived notions about all of the popular CMS platforms, and WordPress is no exception.
The downside of this, of course, is that those preconceived notions can delay or prevent businesses from reaping the many rewards that come with sound CMS installations.
For those that fear WordPress.
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
The same goes for CMS platforms more broadly. Just because you or someone you know had a less-than-desirable deployment experience with a CMS or theme, it does not automatically equate to the entire CMS or theme being junk. Not by a long shot.
We’ve seen clients, who, before coming to us, have experienced website misfortunes. Those mishaps have caused these same business owners to carry trepidations towards specific CMS platforms and themes as they move into new and better business relations. And who could blame them, right?
It’s unfortunate to see companies that have held off on reaping the many benefits a CMS can offer based on bad or incomplete information.
We find that business owners are often unaware of the true causes of root misconfigurations or outright mishandlings by people they entrusted to deliver online successes. The negative sentiments are often passed onto the CMS or theme rather than the responsible designers, devs and whomever else is assuming the role of Network Operations.
We get it. We’ve been taken down a bad website deployment lane or two as well in our start-up days.
First, it should go without saying, we get it. We know the nightmare scenarios many business owners have embarked upon in the quest for success. We’re by no means belittling those experiences. We’ve had them too, to be sure.
WordPress is awesome! Take it from a team that’s rescued scores of troubled WordPress installations.
We’ve rescued more WordPress installs over the years than we’d care to remember. Some botched setups, some botched transfers, some long neglected, some hacked, and some a combination of all of the above.
You name it, we’ve rescued it.
From tedious, manual database debugging through full migrations and re-launches, we’ve even brought some installs back from the dead.
We mention this not to imply that WordPress is a shaky platform.
On the contrary, the experience of being misguided by inadequate designers and developers can leave lasting impressions on anybody.
We’ve come to understand that most, if not all feelings of ill-will towards WP, that we’ve encountered, stem from either lack of skill, planning, or oversite. Not from inherent flaws in the system.
Sure, we’ve seen the horrors that come from bad themes or plugins too, but, by in large, an experienced WordPress Developer will know what themes and plugins to avoid in the first place.
If this experience sounds familiar, let us offer some advice. Don’t add insult to injury by allowing a bad past experience to soil what could be new, fruitful avenues of growth for you and your business by leveraging WordPress or other useful CMS platforms.
The Bottom Line with WordPress.. It’s a Great Tool For Both Rapid & Long-Term Successes.
The bottom line is, many successful online business ventures, including those that we are intimately a part of, leverage the WordPress CMS as part of a greater marketing success strategy. Rapid development processes, in particular, see a myriad of useful applications with a fresh WordPress install.
If you want an expert WordPress installation, stick with the experts.
Elite WordPress authors & developers are just that.. Elite.
More often than not, especially when it comes to established, professional theme authors (such as the team at WordPress.org) when a WordPress installation is not looking, functioning, or feeling as versatile as expected or as it appears elsewhere, it most likely has more to do with the content building and/or server settings (through the customization of plugins, CSS, posts, pages, images, tags, meta, menus, media, links, etc) or the lack thereof, rather than an inherent flaw in the theme design.
Amateur WordPress authors & developers are just that.. Amateur
While some amateur developers knock themes out of the park, we cannot over-stress the importance of doing your due diligence prior to both building and launching a website for business purposes. The CMS platforms, themes, and people bestowed with setup and management should be chosen carefully, with proper vetting. Throw caution to the wind in these decisions and you can end up writing the script for your own horror-themed website deployment.
When bad, is just plain bad.
While we’ve dismissed some common misconceptions, including common external factors that can be detrimental to WordPress installations, it’s time to look at the flipside now. There are times when a specific theme or server just won’t hack it.
A lack of content, lack of landing page elements, lack of versatile content delivery options, and other website misfortunes, may very well be the result of poor theme development.
These problems can be compounded by inadequate web design and/or server setup. Not uncommon to be sure. A good base CMS framework can only do so much on its own.
Be awesome. Avoid a trainwreck.
There are a number of simple methods you can employ to avoid choosing bad themes, plugins, the people who run them, etc.
Choosing the Right Themes & Plugins
Stick with themes and plugins that are frequently updated and that have proper documentation.
Often, these well-built, trusted themes & plugins will have millions of installs and hundreds to thousands of real reviews.
Choosing the Right WordPress host
Hosting should only be set up with those hosting companies approved officially by WordPress. Personally, we like SiteGround for WP hosting, it’s one the best of any hosting providers we’ve come across in 20 years.
Twenty Twenty-Three Theme Highlights
You made it! Congrats. Putting all chuckles aside, we’d now like to give the reader a better sense of the new Twenty Twenty-Three theme features.
We took a 2-pronged approach for this section:
First, we looked at what some of the devs in the WordPress community had to say about the new default theme and highlighted a few posts we found true in our testing.
Finally, we conclude with our notes based on a demo Twenty Twenty-Three install of our own
Twenty Twenty-Three is designed to take advantage of the new design tools introduced in WordPress 6.1. With a clean, blank base as a starting point, this default theme includes ten diverse style variations created by members of the WordPress community.
That’s a fair inside assessment. The members of the WordPress.org team are generally not the ones to use hyperbolic language, but they still get their points across readily.
To build on this sentiment, when you hear things about all of the ‘new design tools in WordPress 6.1; we’re talking ‘block tools,’ Those convenient drag-and-drop-style tools similar to the functionality made more popular by companies like Elementor and WP Bakery.
When it comes to outside assessments, Carlo Daniele at Kinsta.com gave what might be the fairest general overview of the Twenty Twenty-Three theme that we’ve come across thus far:
It is a minimalist theme with no images or additional functionality. It gives its best as a starter theme to build templates and style variations and also test all the features introduced with the latest versions of WordPress. The theme could be seen as a real development and testing environment, although the minimalist style, responsiveness, and lightness make it a good option for creating blogs and websites suitable for a wide variety of purposes.
source: Carlos Danielle | Kinsta.com | Twenty Twenty-Three: A New Default WordPress Theme From the Community
Our Take on the Twenty Twenty-Three theme: The Highlights
One of the strongest reasons to build a website or adjunct website with a default WordPress theme is what is sometimes referred to as ‘minimalist’ coding.
One of the trouble spots WordPress developers can run into is the excessive accumulation of plugins or bulky theme modifications that can bog down server performance, increase page load timings, and generally inhibit an enjoyable visitor experience.
This is particularly important to both SEM and SEO efforts. Search engines will bludgeon slow-loading sites with penalties, choking off organic traffic and serving up the competition that shares equal relevance but maintains better page experiences.
On the paid search side, it can be even more important, as page load times are an important metric for Ad Rank and advertiser Quality Scores, directly impacting PPC (Pay-Per-Click) costs.
So when a default theme can remain lightweight while fulfilling numerous design and dev requirements, that’s great.
The lightweight characteristics of the Twenty Twenty-Three theme are some of its most compelling aspects. Despite being minimalist, it can still fulfill a plethora of functionings. A dynamic that’s similar to that of the “Hello Elementor” theme and the Elementor block editor plugins, which are arguably the most accomplished WP block editors on the market today.
These new default mobile blocks look hot, for real.
The biggest standout of Twenty Twenty-Three to us with just the limited amount of testing we applied to the theme thus far, has to go to the mobile styles.
The design and development challenges posed by the vast cross-sections of mobile device screen sizes and resolutions out there in the wild tend to be one of the more difficult aspects to deal with. This is true of many disciplines within both design and development, not at all unique to WordPress.
So we were quite stoked at both how quickly we were able to throw together mobile sections and how well both the aesthetic and functionality responded. We tested on a range of devices from smaller ‘mini’ models to the larger ‘pro’ lines.
Twenty Twenty-Three passed with flying colors.
article by Joshua Cohen SEMdeepdive Founder & CEO.