Who and What I’ll Be Following in 2018

2018 will be a big year for WordPress. Here's my list of top topics and people to be following in 2018 to stay in the know and some of the most influential things happening in WordPress this year.

You might see a lot of lists like this cropping up at the beginning of every new year. A list of “WordPress celebrities” that you should follow. Often, articles like this are just long lists of twitter profiles that are reshuffled and recycled year over year. Why should you follow these people? No one knows! They’re just the people to follow.

This is not one of those lists.

This is my list. These are things and people that I’m personally interested in. This is a list of topics that I believe will be extremely influential in the WordPress space in 2018. Within each topic, I list the people and/or companies that I believe will have strong contributions to that topic. In my WordCamp and conference travels and daily conversations with WordPress professionals, these are the folks that come up again and again as doing awesome work worth following.

So if you’re interested in WordPress like I am, here’s who to follow and why you should in 2018.

Gutenberg

By every metric imaginable, Gutenberg will be the most influential thing that happens to WordPress this year. Not only that, but by my estimation, it’s the most significant thing to happen to WordPress since custom post types… or maybe even the introduction of plugins.

Whether you like Gutenberg or not, it is coming to Core. I personally have been DYING for a better, more modern writing experience in WordPress. After all, how can the WordPress motto of “Democratizing Publishing” be lived up to when our writing experience feels like 2002?

Granted, there are many concerns about integrating Gutenberg into Core which are very valid. When a CMS like WordPress powers 29% of the internet, it’s hard to imagine revolutionizing the editing experience and NOT breaking a few thousand (or 10’s of thousands of) websites.

With that in mind, there are a lot of awesome developers and WordPress educators who are already creating some excellent resources and writing on the subject of Gutenberg. If you want to be well-informed on Gutenberg, and prepared for its inclusion in Core, then these are the folks you should be following in 2018.

Zac Gordon — Learn Deeply

Zac Gordon

Who He Is:

  • WordPress Instructor,
  • Developer,
  • WordCamp Speaker,
  • Yogi
  • All around good guy and more

Where to Follow Zac:

Zac is an instructor, an educator, and an excellent developer. I met Zac in person only recently, and I can already say I need more of Zac in my life. He’s a kindred spirit — he likes being “Generally helpful” like me.

In 2015, Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic (the company behind WordPress), challenged all WordPress professionals to learn Javascript “deeply”. Zac took that challenge seriously. He developed an online education platform for everyone to learn Javascript, called javascriptforwp.com 

One of the things that make Gutenberg so radically different is that it is javascript-based with React as the primary framework (we’ll get to that a little later). That makes Zac’s JS4WP courses so much more valuable and relevant now.

But Zac decided to take it a step further and created Gutenberg.courses. If you are a plugin or theme developer, or a freelancer who wants to serve their clients best in a Gutenberg-world, then sign-up for Zac’s Gutenberg courses today. He’s an excellent educator, and he’s following Gutenberg development very closely and teaching as he goes.

Josh Pollock — Caldera and BlocksWP

Josh Pollock

Who He Is:

  • Founder of CalderaLabs and now BlocksWP.com
  • WordPress hardcore developer
  • WordCamp speaker
  • A guy I call “friend”

Where to Follow Josh:

I’m crazy-lucky to call Josh Pollock a personal friend. I lean on Josh for everything from venting about life and politics, to geeking out on Star Wars, to teaching me how deep the rabbit-hole of javascript frameworks really goes.

Josh is the founder and lead developer of CalderaWP, the people behind Caldera Forms — a great form builder that I’ve blogged about (here, and here, oh… and even here). It’s also a plugin that has had a pure javascript interface for several years already. When it comes to understanding how Javascript interacts with the WordPress admin — Josh knows the pain-points well because of his years of work on CalderaForms.

One of my favorite interactions with Josh recently, was when he and I chatted all about Gutenberg. He was a hard-core skeptic; and I was (and am) a believer. He had really valid concerns, and he kept saying “I’d love to be proven wrong”. I’m not sure he’s been proven wrong yet; but he’s come around since then, and one of the things I appreciate about Josh is that once he’s a believer, he’s all in.

Josh is working on a new project called BlocksWP.com with another friend of mine — James Tryon (of wapu.us fame). It’s going to be a place where you can find all kinds of great and useful Gutenberg extensions and “blocks”. You’ll want to follow what they do; you’ll learn a lot and get cool free (and maybe paid) stuff along the way too.

Ahmad Awais — The Enabler

Ahmad Awais

Who He Is:

  • Advanced front-end developer
  • Meetup organizer in Pakistan
  • Admin of the Advanced WordPress Facebook Group
  • Gutenberg and React developer

Where to Follow Ahmad:

Ahmad and I go back a few years. I’ve learned a ton from his writings and his endlessly generous spirit for the WordPress community. He’s one of my most trusted Admins for our Advanced WordPress Facebook group.

Ahmad was “first to market” with a powerful Gutenberg block creation boilerplate. I believe Gutenberg was only in version 0.5 or so when he released it. Since then Gutenberg has changed a lot, and Ahmad has been keeping it generally updated.

More recently, he released a zero-config Gutenberg block toolkit. I’ll quote his site so you get the full impact of how valuable this tool is for Gutenberg developers:

[The CBA toolkit] is a way for you to start building Gutenberg blocks without having to configure or setup anything. It’s a zero-config-js #0CJS toolkit with a single dependency in your projects — which will stay up to date.
~ Ahmad Awais

Needless to say, if you’re interested in developing on Gutenberg, you’ll get a huge headstart by following Ahmad and leaning on the free resources he’s pushing out all the time.

Tammie Lister — Gutenberg Evangelist

Tammie Lister

Who She Is:

  • Automattician
  • Gutenberg Evangelist Extraordinaire
  • Gutenberg Experience Designer

Where to Follow Tammie:

I don’t know Tammie very well personally, but every interaction I’ve had with her was pleasant and informative. Tammie works for Automattic as an “Experience Designer” — or user-experience expert. Early on, in the development of Gutenberg, the core developers had a hard time communicating the vision of Gutenberg very well to a mass audience. That led to a lot of miscommunication and frustrations. I don’t know the internal discussions at all, but I know that at one point, Tammie was asked to step in as the official Gutenberg evangelist. From everything I’ve seen; she’s benefitted the project immensely.

The best place to see Tammie in action is the Gutenberg Github repo. If you browse any issue that has more than half-a-dozen comments on it, you’ll most likely see some anxiety creeping in, and then Tammie chiming in with focus and calm. She has a great way of quieting personal attacks and focusing conversation on goals and outcomes instead.

I’ve also appreciated the work she’s been doing on a Gutenberg starter theme and her own theme called “Logical Gutenberg“. If you are a theme designer/developer, make sure to read Tammie’s articles on “Gutenberg inspired redesign” and “Gutenberg design basics“.

React

I mentioned previously how Gutenberg leverages React as it’s primary framework. This is a big shift for WordPress development as a whole. WordPress developers have been pretty comfortable just knowing tons and tons of PHP with a dash of jQuery for a long time (we can just ignore Backbone, it’s there but no one really cares). But with Gutenberg taking over where PHP metaboxes once were, virtually every WordPress developer worth their salt will have to learn React now.

Quite honestly, there’s not a whole lot of prominent WordPress professionals who are leading the charge in React. But I can say, that every developer I’ve spoken with who wants to get into React is mentioning this one name:

Wes Bos — Full-Stack Educator

Wes Bos

Who He is:

  • Full-stack Developer
  • Educator

Where to Follow Wes:

If you want to learn about Node, ES6, Vanilla Javascript, or React, it won’t take you long until you get a recommendation for Wes Bos. When it comes to educators, he’s prolific. I’ve just scratched the surface of everything he’s got on React and Javascript and I’m hooked. He’s a highly skilled developer who presents his material clearly with excellent communication.

Other React Resources

Besides following Wes, I’m also trying to follow the React project itself. There was a bit of #wpdrama for a while when it looked like Facebook (the creators of React) were trying to give themselves a backdoor to make React prioprietary, or at least sue users of React if they didn’t like what they were doing with it. That was a bad move that folks like WordPress (meaning Automattic) and Apache took badly. Because of that and other trust-issues I have with Facebook, I want to keep watching development of the project. Here’s a few resources on that:

Customer Service

As Head of Support at WordImpress and GiveWP, customer service is something I take personal and professional interest in. I believe that the WordPress community is just starting to taking customer support seriously for the first time. There have been several prominent service companies who’ve done excellent work in customer support with WordPress for years; but product shops have failed miserably for a very long time. I’ve noticed that my Support talks at WordCamps get more and more attendees now; and I get a lot more people genuinely interested in what I do and how I do it. This is in contrast to previous years when every conversation I had was “Oh man! You do Support!? Better you than me!” WordPress is growing up in this department; and the following folks are great resources for anyone — like me — who’s serious about their product support.

Zach Skaggs

Zach Skaggs

Who he is:

  • Head of Support and Product at WPNinjas — aka Ninja Forms
  • Top notch Support specialist
  • All around good guy

Where to Follow Zach:

I’ve always been a big fan of James Laws at NinjaForms. He’s smart, a hard worker, humble, funny, and runs an amazing WordPress product shop. So when he introduced me to Zach I knew this was a guy who’s brain I had to pick. Since then, I find myself pinging Zach over and over about hiring, firing customers, and more.

Zach has a great blog that I read religiously. If you want to understand the dynamics involved in not only providing good support, but also leading a team of professionals with excellence, follow Zach.

Jeremy Watkin — Customer Service Life

Jeremy Watkin

Who he is:

  • Customer Service Expert
  • Educator
  • An old college buddy

Where to follow Jeremy:

Jeremy is an old college buddy of mine. He and I both had a passion for music and dorm-room antics. We hadn’t chatted in years and years, and suddenly, he popped up on my Facebook feed and was talking all about customer support. Turns out he’s become quite a prolific support specialist and educator.

CustomServiceLife.com is where he blogs and vlogs and provides all kinds of insight into the tools and tricks of the trade. Jeremy has worked with teams far larger than mine, so a lot of his writing is beyond what I need at the moment, but it’s still excellent for me to get some insight into how large support teams scale and continue to keep high-quality support for their customers.

HelpScout

The HelpScout Blog

Another blog I read religiously is HelpScout. It’s the Support ticketing software we use at Give. They have an excellent blog that provides great insight and resources. I love their attention on healthy employees and reporting.

Whether you use HelpScout or not, it’s a highly valuable blog worth adding to your newsfeed.

eCommerce

eCommerce has been a rising subject in WordPress for years now; but I’m predicting that 2018 is going to really rocket WordPress into a new level for many different reasons.

The biggest reason is that in order for any eCommerce site to thrive, it’s got to have excellent hosting. Developers have known this all along, but getting great hosting without having to know “all the things” has been elusive for a lot of business owners who aren’t developers. This is why Shopify (and even Squarespace to some extent) have been able to grab more marketshare in the eCommerce space over the past years.

The other major department that WordPress shops will be getting into more and more is business insights. WordPress shops have been run very DIY for a long time. But the WordPress marketplace is maturing rapidly. The best and most profitable way to grow your business is to know your business inside and out; know its areas of weakness and its best opportunities. New tools are emerging for WordPress eCommerce owners to gain valuable insight into their business. 2018 will see more and more of such tools.

The folks below get that, and are working to empower WordPress users and developers to do eCommerce better than ever before.

Bryce Adams — Metorik

Bryce Adams

Who He is:

  • WordPress Developer
  • Entrepreneur
  • Ex-WooCommerce employee

Where to Follow Bryce:

This is a project by Bryce Adams. Bryce worked at WooCommerce for several years until he decided to branch off and build Metorik. It’s currently one of the top eCommerce insight tools for WooCommerce and I believe 2018 will show more and more adoption of it. Follow Bryce because he’s a great guy with tons of talent; follow Metorik to see how business intelligence can transform your WordPress business.

Pippin Williamson — Sell Bird

Pippin Williamson

Who He is:

  • WordPress Developer
  • Entrepreneur
  • Founder of MANY successful WordPress products.

Where to Follow Pippin:

I’ll say right upfront — when I first met Pippin, I was a total fanboy. I loved everything he did. He was one of the few people in all of WordPress that I wanted to sit down with and pick his brain for hours if possible. I’m fortunate that he’s a crazy-generous guy and now, years later, we’ve picked each others brains tons. As a developer and a person, I hold Pippin in very high regard.

In the world of eCommerce, Pippin built several highly successful eCommerce platforms designed and built specifically for WordPress. Over the years he’s continually shared what he has said are his successes as well as his utter failures. With all that knowledge and experience in mind, he announced in late 2017 that SellBird was coming along nicely. I’m expecting a release in 2018; which will be a big deal. From all indicators, it seems SellBird will be a SaaS, which is exciting. The maker of EDD will be releasing an eCommerce SaaS. That’s big. Follow Pippin, follow SellBird.

Vova Feldman — Freemius

Vova Feldman

Who He is:

  • WordPress Entrepreneur
  • Developer
  • Really smart guy

Where to Follow Vova:

Vova is a force. When you meet Vova, prepare to dig into a topic with vigor and detail. Vova doesn’t do anything half-assed. Ever.

That is obviously also in everything you read from his company: Freemius.com. Freemius is leading the pack when it comes to understanding the WordPress product market. No one has done the research as thoroughly, or has as much data as Vova and his team.

If you’re not familiar, Freemius provides WordPress product creators with tools to collect data on their users as well as provides an eCommerce platform for users to purchase your products either on your website or directly in your plugin admin screen.

I like the Freemius product; but I LOVE the Freemius blog. It’s some of the best, most thoroughly researched writing about WordPress in existence. I’ve already been following Vova and his team for years now; and I’m expecting that there will be a lot more awesome content, research, and tools coming from Freemius this year. Follow Freemius if you want to know what’s happening with WordPress products from a business perspective.

Christie Chirinos — Business Maven

Christie Chirinos

Who She Is:

  • Entrepreneur
  • Business Professional
  • Cat lover

Where to Follow Christie:

I know Christie because of my friend Josh Pollock. When he decided he needed to level up his business, he partnered with Christie for her intelligence, professionalism, and work ethic. It’s probably the single best thing Josh has done for his business. Josh and Christie have taken CalderaForms to a new level; something Josh simply could not have done on his own. Christie knows her stuff.

So I’ve been watching what CalderaForms is doing because there’s very few WordPress product shops I’ve seen that have increased their revenue and adoption so quickly as they have under Christie’s hand. I was also fortunate to sit in on Christie’s talk at WordCamp US this past year on Financial Forecasting. If you are looking to grow your revenue, this is a must-listen and must-take-notes talk.

Follow Christie. She’s smart and skilled, and a wonderful person too.

Web Hosts and eCommerce

This year will be the year of WordPress eCommerce for web hosts. It’s already begun.

LiquidWeb announced a new hosted WooCommerce offering already in late 2017. Watch for news on that; I’m sure throughout this year we’ll hear more and more about LiquidWeb’s findings in terms of having a hosting platform keyed-in specifically for making your WooCommerce shop thrive.

WPEngine also announced this year that they just got a new investment of $250 Million. Their announcement doesn’t say specifically that they will be working on hosted WooCommerce; but that’s my bet. Let’s see what big news they unveil later this year with that new influx of cash.

TeamGive

Lastly, watch me and #TeamGive this year. Really, we’ve been working hard on new awesome things; and I’m so proud of every person on the team. Here’s a quick list:

  • Follow Devin Walker (Twitter  |  Website), our founder and Head of Product. He’ll be pushing out some awesome new things this year; everything that you see coming from us has his fingerprints on it.
  • Follow Jason Knill (Twitter), our Head of Marketing and Finance. He’s leading our Marketing and Sales team in awesome new ways.
  • Follow Ben Meredith (Twitter  |  Website). Ben’s my Senior Support Technician. You’ll see him dropping knowledge at WordCamps and throughout our GiveWP blog. He’s a truly funny individual, admirable father, and brother in Christ. P.S. It _might_ be his birthday today.
  • Follow Ravinder Kumar (Twitter). Ravinder amazes me with his development skills, and how genuinely nice he is. If you want to be impressed, check out the work he’s doing on our version 2.1 Forms API (Issue | Branch).
  • Follow Kevin Hoffman (Twitter). Kevin has been working hard on our latest product: WPBusinessReviews. Through that process, he’s learned a ton about ES6, and WebPack. Kevin is also a great contributor to Gutenberg via his thoughtful and strategic questions.
  • Follow Taylor Hansen (Twitter). Taylor just joined our team. You’ll see some awesome content coming from our team this year, and that will be in large part due to her diligence and creativity. Follow Taylor to learn all about content and social media marketing.
  • Follow Michelle Ames (Twitter). Michelle also just joined our team. Internally, we’ve been calling Michelle’s job “Customer Czar”. She’s jumping in and creating this new position really. Watch for Michelle at WordCamps and via our blog; she’ll most definitely been sharing powerful business and customer insights everywhere she goes.
  • Also follow Mehul Gohil, Deepak Gupta, and Maruti Mohanty. These guys round out our team with their development and support skills. We couldn’t get it all done without them.

#TeamGive has a lot in store this year, but here’s a few things I can say already with confidence:

  1. Give 2.0 was just released, and it’s awesome, with a new database structure and the best email management experience I’ve seen in a WordPress plugin to date.
  2. Give 2.1 will be released with a new Forms API which will revolutionize the way we make forms with Give. Watch for that ideally before Summer this year.
  3. WP Business Reviews will be launched as soon as possible. It’s probably one of the slickest user experiences I’ve seen in a WordPress plugin. If you own a business and a WordPress website, you’re going to want to get WP Business Reviews to show off your social and/or product reviews. Sign up for the launch notes here.
  4. We’re working toward a big announcement at WordCamp US this year. I won’t say much now, but it’ll be the most complex project we’ve built to date and we’re CRAZY excited.

Here’s to an awesome 2018!

2018 Animation

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0Who and What I’ll Be Following in 2018 by Matt Cromwell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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