14 years after its initial release, WordPress continues to get better and better with age. With 2017 now here, we have new trends to look forward to.
Although you may have already started noticing some of these (for example, video headers in the Twenty Seventeen theme), some are going to make their mark in the months to come. Our crystal ball has been working overtime to see what’s in store!
In this post, we’ll uncover a number of trends to look out for in 2017. Let’s begin with a long-standing topic that’s now coming sharply into focus.
1. The Rise in the Number of Mobile-First Websites
As you may be aware, consumers are taking to mobile platforms as their preferred medium for web browsing, online shopping, and interacting with followers on social media. As a result, 2017 is set to see a rise in the development of mobile-first websites to cater to a growing number of mobile users.
It means WordPress developers will have to shift their focus to designing for mobile first and foremost. They’ll need to consider elements such as general website design, site structure, and functionality. There are plenty of developers who are adopting solutions such as Bootstrap to create mobile-first themes, and with Google favoring mobile-first websites, it’s safe to say that this design trend is here to stay.
Although there are already a number of fully responsive themes available, 2017 is expected to send that number through the roof. As for how to get onboard, there are plenty of tutorials on the web to help (such as UXPin’s detailed guide) – although deconstructing a ready-made theme could prove fruitful too.
2. A Focus on Encryption and HTTPS
Firstly, something you should already be aware of: HTTP is unencrypted by default. This means the data you send and receive from across the web can potentially be intercepted along the way. HTTP paired with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) gives you an encrypted (and therefore, secure) way to transmit and receive data – HTTPS.
Back in 2014, Google announced HTTPS to be a ranking factor in its search engine results. Services such as Let’s Encrypt have made it easier for developers to acquire and implement SSL certificates on their WordPress websites. Furthermore, Matt Mullenweg has already confirmed that only hosting providers offering SSL by default will be promoted by WordPress going forward – so there’s no reason to not make the switch.
If you’re not yet using SSL, and you’d like to take a look at Let’s Encrypt, there are two options available to help you get started – you can set it up yourself, or sign up with a hosting provider who’s already enabled it behind the scenes.
3. An Increase in Multipurpose and VR-Optimized Themes
Multipurpose themes are popular among WordPress users and developers, enabling them to build almost any kind of website complete with a killer design and relevant functionality. WordPress is now used on over 27% of the entire web; and with the influx of new users working within varied niches, it means the demand for multipurpose themes is higher than ever.
In addition to multipurpose themes, a new type of theme category is trending in theme markets – Virtual Reality (VR)-optimized themes. Though the concept of VR is tied closely to gaming, it’s more than just that. In the near future, we’ll be browsing the internet through our VR devices – and WordPress is already looking to take advantage.
WordPress.com sites are already beginning to support VR images and videos, but self-hosted sites are also getting into the mix. While integrating VR into WordPress isn’t a new concept to some developers, there are now some promising modern solutions available, such as the WP-VR-view plugin:
This lets users add Photo Sphere, VR images, and 360-degree videos to WordPress – and it’s compatible with Google Cardboard too. The plugin also enables smartphone users to switch between its regular mode and VR mode easily.
4. The Growth in Popularity of Video Headers
Video headers aren’t exactly a new concept, though more themes are now offering the functionality right out of the box. However, the trend has caught on thanks to the default WordPress Twenty Seventeen theme:
Adding any kind of video content to your site can have an impact on its overall performance, and video headers are no exception. It’s important to take factors such as the video’s file size and quality into account for better optimization. Video headers haven’t reached their saturation point yet, though the growth in popularity will (hopefully) result in optimized themes in future.
Getting started is pretty simple. As we discussed, the Twenty Seventeen theme is a free and simple option to see if it works for you. As with mobile-first themes, deconstructing it is going to be vital to understanding how it all works. In the near future, we’ll hopefully see more WordPress themes that not only support video headers but offer performance optimization too.
5. The Development of a Software as a Service Business Model
For our final trend, let’s talk business. While the traditional way of selling your services has been a one-off payment, several premium WordPress service providers have begun to transition to a Software as a Service (SaaS) model.
SaaS is a relatively new concept that has already caught on in WordPress circles. Solutions such as OptinMonster enable users to use their products on a subscription basis, which lowers the entry bar and ultimately increases sales and profits.
Admittedly, for some developers anyway, the talk of money is a taboo subject. However, you still have bills to pay and mouths to feed – and a recurring income from a small group of users will ultimately trump one-off payments from a large number. Sustainability is the key.
To begin thinking about this a little more, firstly weigh up the pros and cons of the SaaS model. Reading the opinions of WordPress aficionados such as Chris Lema may help you make up your mind. Once you’ve made a decision about whether transitioning to a SaaS model is right for you, taking the right steps to implement it properly is crucial.
WordPress plugin development based on a SaaS model is already becoming popular, and we’re expecting to see it rise even further in 2017. After all, advanced functionality at an affordable rate – what could be better than that?
WordPress is a constantly evolving platform, and 2017 has already brought some major trends to the table. The future of the platform is looking bright, and the developments and trends that are already here bode well for the next 12 months.
Let’s recap the WordPress trends we’ve seen so far:
- A rise in the number of mobile-first websites.
- A focus on encryption and HTTPS.
- An increase in multipurpose and VR-optimized themes.
- Growth in the popularity of video headers.
- The development of a SaaS business model.
Are there any upcoming trends that you’re excited about? Let us know in the comments section below!
Image credit: Deedster.
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