WordCamp Europe 2017: “WordPress Speaks All Languages”

WordCamp Europe took place over the weekend in Paris, France. The global conference, which brought together 1,900 developers, designers, professionals and enthusiasts from 79 different countries all over the world, sheds light on the globalization of WordPress and highlights the diversity of the community.

Sessions covered topics ranging from internationalization, to security, design, the open web, and beyond. Inclusivity and an idea to think global was a theme which echoed throughout the event. Several of the talks offered advice on how to be successful (and impactful) within an increasingly global online community.

Online community basics

Polyglots team lead Petya Raykovska kicked off WordCamp Europe with a presentation on WordPress beyond borders – discussing the cross-cultural communication required to build a passionate global community online.

“WordPress speaks all languages” Raykovska said. The CMS – which today powers 28 percent of the entire internet is increasingly global – is translated in more than 160 different languages. Even more that that, in 2014 the number of non-English downloads surpassed the number of English downloads and only continues to rise. By now, many plugins and features first appear in another language and are then translated into English. This heavy focus on multi-languages support opens up opportunities for WordPress worldwide.

Not only is WordPress used globally, it is also created globally, Raykovska pointed out. It’s built, maintained and modified by people all over the world, each with different perspectives and expertise to bring to the table.

To maximize the productivity within the increasingly global WordPress community, it’s important to understand how to communicate across different cultures. Raykovska recommends a simple recipe for engaging with online communities: sympathy, empathy, and compassion. This may seem basic, but, in Raykovska’s experience, it significantly improves cross-cultural communication.

“The WordPress community somehow happened to me at Contributor Day at WCEU 2013,” she said. Raykovska was embraced by the community, finding her place among the Polyglots team and learned first hand that anyone can get involved with WordPress and make a difference.

“In the WordPress community, decisions are made by those who show up.. and dare to speak up,”Raykovska said.

“Creativity comes from unlikely juxtapositions”

Global Head of Computational Design and Inclusion at Automattic John Maeda presented on design in technology as it relates to global inclusivity. Global is an important word here, “as this means that you are designing for many different cultures and people… In the WordPress world – it is definitely global,” he said.

Maeda suggests that the problem with design today is in the way we understand it. “We tend to see it as a field that is supposed to make things look good,” he said. “In the tech industry, we make the technology first, and the design is an afterthought.”  Instead Maeda suggests that design should be part of the product development.

“If you bring design into the process early on, you will design something much better for real people,” he said.

In technology today, the average approach to design is largely antiquated. This is based on the fact that, in the past, the only consumers of technology products were technologists, Maeda pointed out. But today, it extends beyond that. Everyone is online and everyone uses technology. “You’re no longer just designing the technology for technologists – you’re designing for real people,” Maeda said.

Being thoughtful and inclusive in design is fundamental if you want meaningful results. “In general, your team must represent your target market,” Maeda said. So if your target market is a specific culture or type of user, be sure to include that group in the design process. Maeda suggests that, when it comes to computational design – or the process of encoding design decisions using a computer language – WordPress designers are better equipped.

“The WordPress ecosystem creates computational designers .. it’s a huge advantage that the world needs.”

Designing for the user is a huge step towards a more inclusive web and WordPress, as an incubator of computational designers, can help pave the way.

Moving towards a more open web

Inclusivity is a hallmark of open-source software. During the Q&A session at WordCamp Europe, Matt Mullenweg, Co-founder of WordPress, discussed the future of WordPress and how it relates to the open web. As release lead for 2017, Mullenweg highlighted the big shifts in the core software that improve the overall user experience of WordPress.

With the Gutenberg Editor, blocks will replace widgets and all of the fundamentals in WordPress. This will improve the user experience in WordPress by providing an easy way to create more dynamic content.

Even more than that, the Gutenberg Editor simplifies the WordPress user on-boarding process.

“WordPress makes you learn a lot of concepts – short codes, widgets, etc…  with the new Gutenberg Editor, you only need to learn about blocks once,” Mullenweg said.

WordPress is at the point where it has more competition than ever before – both proprietary and open source – Gutenberg, plus the help of WordPress plugins, empowers users to build totally dynamic web experiences, Mullenweg pointed out.

Not only does this make WordPress a strong competitor to other CMSs, but by lowering the barrier to entry and improving the user experience, it is pushing us towards a more open web – empowering users to own their publishing experience.

 “Since the beginning, there was recognition that we weren’t going to make the web win by saying open source is better…. we knew that we had to beat the proprietary solution in the day-to-day functionality of how you interact with the software,” he said.

WordPress is an increasingly global community. WordCamp Europe affords attendees the opportunity to think differently – to collaborate and learn from each other and gain new perspective.