WordPress: It Takes a Community
WordPress isn’t just software. It’s people.
And not just any people. Unlike most software you use to run your business, WordPress wasn’t built by a team of dedicated developers who work for a single company. In fact, there are tens of thousands of people involved in the WordPress Project in nearly every country in the world.
- Over 1100 people were involved in developing and testing WordPress version 5.3.
- There are over a half million people participating in over 1500 WordPress meetups in 66 countries and 535 cities.
- Hundreds of WordCamps are organized around the world every year, and attended by thousands of people.
- Millions of questions are posted, and answered by hundreds of people, on the WordPress.org support forums.
That means WordPress isn’t like Microsoft or Adobe or Google. Instead, the WordPress Project owes its continued success to the efforts of an army of volunteers all around the world. These are people just like you who come together to build, teach, promote, and share.
Let’s take a peek at how the community works and how you (and your business) can get involved.
Introducing the Community
When asked about the WordPress community for this article, Andrea Middleton, Open Source Community Organizer for WordPress.org, described the community in this way:
Our welcoming, inclusive, active, and highly participatory community really sets WordPress apart. Thousands of WordPress enthusiasts all over the world, in hundreds of countries and speaking hundreds of languages, spend their free time helping others make strong connections, get inspired, and contribute to the massive project that is WordPress. By giving back to the free and open source software that’s made so many businesses and websites possible, members of the WordPress community ensure that WordPress will continue to thrive and democratize opportunity for years to come.
In the documentary Open | The Community Code, other members of the WordPress community speak out about how the community works.
For a better understanding of all of the pieces of the community, here’s a breakdown of the different teams that work together within the WordPress Project and how you can get involved.
Who Builds WordPress?
The WordPress core team builds and maintains the software itself. These people discuss what the next version should include, write the code and test it, and eventually deploy the code in the next WordPress version release. The core team also crushes existing bugs and keeps an eye on security exploits.
Beyond the software itself, hundreds of people contribute their time by building themes and plugins that expand the functionality and design options WordPress can offer. Many of these developers release their code for free in the theme and plugin repositories. But to get their contributions added to the repositories, there are theme and plugin teams to ensure they are compatible and don’t contain any dangerous code.
If you’re interested in helping build the next version of WordPress, you can jump in by helping test and debug code. The core development team offers a handbook that provides all the basic information you need to know to get started. You can also assist with design, accessibility, or mobile experience. Or you can write plugins and themes to make WordPress even better.
Helping People Use WordPress
One of the reasons WordPress has been so widely adopted is its ease of use. But like with all software, there’s still a learning curve.
Fortunately, the WordPress community has tackled this need from the start.
Check out the copious documentation right on the WordPress.org website. When you go to the WordPress Support page, you will find a number of helpful resources that will guide you through using WordPress. These include detailed help pages on:
- Getting Started (including information on the current version of WordPress)
- Installing WordPress (what you need to install and instructions)
- Basic Usage (how to use WordPress, how to write posts, and other helpful information)
Even the fancy tutorials on how to use Gutenberg was written by members of the WordPress Project’s documentation team.
Meanwhile, many people have difficulty with an aspect of WordPress. Maybe they’re running into a plugin conflict, or they struggle to implement a theme properly. That’s where the volunteers behind the support forums come in.
When thinking back to his early days in the forums, Support Team Member James Huff recalled,
I started using WordPress in 2004. I ran into a problem right away and asked on the forums. While I was there, I started answering whatever threads I could, mostly installation questions, since I knew I had at least done that correctly.
Since then, I began answering more questions, often related to things I wanted to figure out for myself too. Eventually, I wound up helping on a regular basis, and now contribute about 10 hours a week.
I enjoy helping people use WordPress to build sites that may positively impact others down the line.
The great thing about the forums is that anyone can jump in and answer questions. All you need is a WordPress.org account and the willingness to share your knowledge. Questions can range from things as basic as installation and setup to specific issues with themes or plugins.
As part of the WordPress community, you can take part in free WordPress meetups and low-cost WordCamps all around the world. These are opportunities for members of the community to discuss a variety of topics appropriate for developers, designers, and users of WordPress.
Meetups are local events that will allow you to get to know fellow WordPress users, ask questions, learn new tricks, and maybe find new clients. Meanwhile, WordCamps are like meetups on steroids. Usually taking place over one or two full days, these are low-key, inexpensive “conferences” with a combination of speakers, workshops, social activities, and often contributor days, where you can get your hands dirty with any element of the WordPress project (no coding experience necessary!).
Community Organizer Velda Christensen, who organized WordPress meetups and WordCamps for many years, noted,
I’d been involved with open source for over five years before I met the WordPress community. It was inclusive of everyone, from developers and systems administrator, to brand new bloggers, hobby enthusiasts, and business owners, each bringing in their perspectives and strengths. That diversity has helped WordPress grow and thrive more than code alone ever could.
Once a year there are larger WordCamps in the US, Europe, and Asia, which are much larger affairs. In 2020 you can look forward to the following regional WordCamps:
- WordCamp Asia: Bangkok, Thailand (,Feb 21, 2020 – Feb 23, 2020)
- WordCamp Europe: Porto, Portugal (Jun 4, 2020 – Jun 6, 2020)
- WordCamp US: St. Louis, MO (Oct 27, 2020 – Oct 29, 2020)
And like everything else, you can volunteer to help organize WordCamps in your neck of the woods. In fact, the organizers for the 2020 WordCamp in St. Louis, Missouri just put out a call for volunteers. Visit the WordCamp US website if you’d like to be part of the organizing team.
Where Do You Come In?
Whether you’re a WordPress newbie or you’ve been around since the early days, there’s a place for you. Every aspect of the WordPress project has room for new volunteers.
Some easy entry points include:
- Jump into the forums and start answering the easy questions.
- Volunteer to work the registration table at a nearby WordCamp.
- Provide meeting space for your local WordPress meetup.
- Offer to proofread documentation or test new WordPress code or plugins.
- Help translate WordPress
If you own a company or run a nonprofit organization that benefits from WordPress, allow your staff to volunteer on company time. Just a few hours a month adds up fast, and you will be able to give back to the software that helps your business grow.
All of these opportunities allow you to help make WordPress great. They can also allow you to develop new skills in any of these areas to build your resume.