WordPress 2017: The Year in Review

2018-12-13T21:52:17+00:00Categories: News|Tags: , , |

Today, I wanted to take some time out to look back at the major milestones, news and trends have shaped WordPress throughout this year, the theme and plugins trends that have evolved throughout the year, and also look at what to expect for WordPress in 2018.

WordPress in 2017: The Milestones

March: WordPress Plugin Directory Gets a New Look

The WordPress.org Plugin Directory.

The WordPress.org plugin directory was relaunched with a brand new design and an improved search algorithm after almost a year in the making. While the redesign was welcomed with mostly positive feedback, there were some initial hiccups around how plugin stats were displayed and the tabbed layout.

WordPress contributors also said they felt their feedback was ignored despite the WordPress Meta Team consulting with the community. But after a few more iterations of the redesign and useful updates for plugin authors, the consensus now is that the redesign was a success.

June: WordPress 4.8 Released

New widgets in WordPress 4.8. Credit:WordPress.org.

Named in honor of jazz pianist and composer William John “Bill” Evans, WordPress 4.8 delivered admin improvements that some might describe as minor, but if you ask me they’ve made my life using WordPress so much easier.

The most visible features included link improvements, 3 new media widgets covering images, audio, and video, an updated text widget that with visual editing support, and an upgraded news section for the dashboard displaying nearby and upcoming WordPress events.

For developers, this version didn’t disappoint. It delivered more accessible admin panel headings, Multisite updates, a text editor JavaScript API and a media widgets API.

As usual, there were lots of fantastic volunteers who contributed to this version – 346, in fact – including 106 who were contributing for the first time.

June: WordCamp Europe in Paris

WordCamp Europe 2017 was held in Paris, France.

Despite being promoted as “the largest WordPress event to this day” with more than 3,000 expected attendees, WordCamp Europe fell short with just 1,900 people actually attending the two-day conference in Paris. Compared to WCEU in Vienna in 2016, there were 5% fewer people. Organizers blamed the relatively low attended on a 24% no-show rate, selling tickets too early and the expensive French location.

Still, those who did attend had an amazing time meeting friends and colleagues and, of course, learning from the excellent presentations on offers. Many, many WordPress folks shared their memories in wrap-up posts you can find on the WordCamp Europe 2017 website.

WordCamp Europe 2019 will be held in Belgrade, Serbia.

June: Gutenberg Released for Beta Testing

The Gutenberg editor.

WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg launched Gutenberg at WordCamp Europe and ever since it has caused a stir in the community. Matt Cromwell from WordImpress.com was th efirst to share his impressions of the project, which aims to replace the visual/text editor in WordPress with a new post and page building experience that uses blocks.

A lot of other people have shared their opinions about the plugin, both good and bad, even prompting Mullenweg to defend the project. At one point, it was anticipated the plugin would be merged with WordPress 4.9, but work on improving it as a standalone feature-as-a-plugin continues.

While there have been big advances in how it functions and performs, a lot of work still needs to be done if it is going to really transform how we work in the backend of WordPress to publish online – and help the CMS compete with platforms like Wix, Squarespace and Weebly.

No doubt there will be more strong opinions about the project as the team behind it works towards including it in WordPress 5.0.

September: WordPress Reacts to React – and Wins

Drop it like it’s hot: WordPress said it would stop using React.

The Gutenberg team started looking for a new JavaScript library, albeit briefly, after Mullenweg announced the WordPress community would stop using Facebook’s React JavaScript library over concerns about a patent clause in the social media giant’s open source license.

In a blog post, Mullenweg explained he had hoped to officially adopt React for WordPress, given that Automattic had already used React for its WordPress.com app Calypso, and contributors had started using it for Gutenberg.

It didn’t take long for Facebook to do an about-face. Just a week later the company re-license React due to the backlash from the open source community.

November: WordPress 4.9 Released

WordPress 4.9 featured new site-building improvements. Credit:WordPress.org.

The latest version of WordPress, named “Tipton” in honor of jazz musician and band leader Billy Tipson, features a stack of updates designed to help publishers and improve the software’s performance.

The Customizer has been given a big update with all-new design drafts, scheduling, locking and preview links. There’s also code syntax highlighting and error checking aimed at creating a smoother site building experience. Other additions include a new gallery widget and improvements to theme browsing and switching.

December: WordCamp US in Nashville

The dust has only started to settle after WordCamp US on December 1-3, but by all accounts it was a huge success. Mullenweg delivered his annual State of the Word address, which highlighted the achievements of the past year while setting the direction for the year ahead for WordPress.

The big news was that WordPress has grown another 2%+ this year – it now powers 29.1% of the web. Mullenweg said he planned to keep his “lead hat” on for another year and see the Gutenberg project through all the way to inclusion in the core WordPress software.

WordPress Themes in 2017: The Design Trends

Trends can also say a lot about the times. Trends ebb and flow in web design and development, but a sMadeleine Morley at The American Institute for Graphic Arts says:

“A trend never simply emerges for a single year and then disappears in a puff of smoke. Instead, an aesthetic becomes popular gradually, even mysteriously, over time before fizzling out slowly without much notice at all.”

With that in mind, what has 2017 been all about? If our theme marketplace is anything to go by, minimalism and simplification are here to stay – at least for the time being.

This year has seen the beginnings of a resistance to the flat design movement, with more of a focus on originality and individuality in the use of custom graphics, illustrations and iconography.

Semi Flat Design

First there was skeuomorphic design and then flat design came along and dug its heels in thanks to Google’s Material Design. This year, however, has seen somewhere of a disruption with “semi flat design” becoming more and more popular.

So what is it? Well, it’s not flat and it’s certainly not skeuomorphic. Semi flat design adds more dimension to themes using subtle shadows to add a hint of complexity while still retaining the clean feeling of a flat design.

Freeman – Creative WordPress Theme for Agencies is one such theme embracing this design trend. Notice the shadows that lift the website examples to the right of this homepage design:

The Freeman theme.


Microinteractions have become so ubiquitous in web design this year that any theme that doesn’t have them is boring. What are they? Essentially, a microinteraction is a small product-related moment that accomplishes a single task.

Whether it’s to inform a user that a button has been clicked or a form has been sent, microinteraction help add magic to sites and delight users while enhancing the user experience.

One of my favorite examples of a site that does microinteractions really well is Werkstatt – Creative Portfolio Theme. The fullscreen demo of the theme features a glitch effect for a unique user experience. Click through to see the effect in action.

The Werkstatt theme.

Geometric Shapes and Patterns

A trend leftover from 2016, shapes, patterns and lines continued to make their way into the most popular designs in our marketplace. Reminiscent of flat design, this trend added a cute and quirky feel to themes using modern design.

I’m a big fan of how Fusion – Creative Multi-Purpose WordPress Theme has made use of patterns, shapes and microinteractions to really make its homepage variations “pop.”

The Fusion theme.

Louder and Brighter Colors

This year marked a big shift away from muted, neutral colors to brighter and bolder designs. Not only has this helped cement the branding of some of the themes in our marketplace, it has helped give them a fresh look that’s on trend how tech companies like Dropbox and Spotify have redesigned their websites.

A great example of a theme leading this particular design trend is Halcyon – Multipurpose Modern WordPress Theme.

The Halcyon theme.

Authentic Photography

Who needs stock images when great quality photos are everywhere these days? These days, anyone can spot a stock photo. Likewise, free images resources like Unsplash have become so overused that you’ll find photos from the site everywhere – not a great look when you’re trying to be original.

Fortunately, since everyone has a smartphone these days it’s easy to take a great quality photo yourself. And if you don’t have an eye for photography, check out the fantastic images over at Envato Elements.

Check out Baker – A Fresh Theme for Bakeries, Cake Shops, and Pastry Stores for a mouth-watering example of how genuine, authentic photography can really sell a theme.

The Baker theme.

WordPress Plugins in 2017: The Technology Trends

One of the great things about WordPress is how extendable it is – if there’s a feature or function you need for your site, there’s a plugin for it.

As the web has evolved to keep pace with web design – and also make our online lives easier and more productive – plugin authors have stepped up to the challenge, releasing some exciting solutions to our plugin marketplace this year.

But while new plugins have gained in popularity, old favorites have shown the test of time and continue to dominate the top 10 best-selling products. As we close out 2018, here are the top trends in WordPress plugins.

Page Building and Drop and Drop

The WPBakery Page Builder.

It might’ve had a name change, but WP Bakery Page Builder (formerly Visual Composer) is still by far the most popular page builder plugin in our marketplace with almost 340,000 sales. The drag and drop plugin makes short work out of customizing any website.

When you search “page builder” in our marketplace, the results show a total of 398 plugins, revealing just show in-demand drag and drop solutions are for WordPress.


Bitcoin, the world’s first decentralized digital currency, was first invented 8 years ago. While it’s not all that common to see websites that accept Bitcoin payments, the fact is 1.5% of Americans have used it or are currently using Bitcoin – that’s 4.8 million people.

Image:Bitcoin trading concept.

So it’s no surprise that plugin authors have developed a variety of solutions that enable websites to accept digital currency as payments – and integration cryptocurrencies with WordPress in other cool ways, including:

  1. Displaying market information
  2. Payment Gateways and Accepting Payments
  3. Accepting Donations
  4. Gaming
  5. Mining

eCommerce / WooCommerce

Image: Computer Table Hands Girl Credit Card Concept.

WooCommerce is the most popular eCommerce platform on the web, now powering over 28% of all online stores. One of the best things about this free, open source solution is that there are hundreds of extensions available to help you add greater functionality to the core software – everything from tools to help you better manage your store, display shipping information at checkout and grow your marketing efforts.

Over the past year, 648 new WooCommerce plugins have joined our marketplace, bringing the total number of extensions we have available for WooCommerce to 2,276.

Live Chat

Just some of the live chat available in our marketplace.

This year has seen live chat become an essential tool for eCommerce and support teams. The great thing about live chat is that you don’t have to wait around for someone to reply to your email or phone call – you can chat to someone right now – actual people answering your questions in real-time. What’s more, it allows support team members to multitask while helping multiple customers.

There have been 42 new chat plugins added to our marketplace over the past year, helping websites provide more support options and also integrate customer support with social platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp.

What’s in Store for WordPress in 2018?

One word: Gutenberg. In his State of the Word this year, Mullenweg said his 3 big focuses for the year ahead would be around Gutenberg and core development (WordPress 5.0 is due out next year), specifically, Gutenberg editing, customization and a new theme.

While all of that will be keeping Mullenweg busy, in other parts of the WordPress ecosystem I suspect will see more shifts in the product market as plugin developers reassess their business models and some edge closer towards adopting a SaaS model (as Envato has this year with Elements) and big players like GoDaddy continue eyeing off small companies that are ripe for the picking.

Other things to keep an eye out for: cryptocurrencies and mining with plugins/websites as Bitcoin continues to rise in price, jostling in the managed WordPress hosting space as Automattic gets a foothold, and the continued rise of WooCommerce as the most popular eCommerce platform. When it comes to WordPress, the future is bright.


NOW READ: More of our wrap-ups of 2017

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Jenni McKinnon

About the Author Jenni McKinnon

A copywriter, copy editor, web developer, consultant, course instructor and founder of WP Pros(e), Jenni McKinnon has spent the past 15 years developing websites and almost as long for WordPress. A self-described WordPress nerd, she enjoys watching The Simpsons and names her test sites after references from the show.
View all posts by Jenni McKinnon