I’ve been a WordPress user for over 10 years, and I love it.
For me, the beauty of it has always been its simplicity. Posts/Pages, Add New, and you’re off.
The editor was simple and uncluttered, and there was even a full-screen, distraction-free mode, where you could focus on writing content. It was a tool that was perfectly suited to the job.
And then WordPress decided to launch Gutenberg, an all-new editor.
It was given pride of place in the dashboard. You could try it out as a plugin before it was formally launched and became the default editor. Always one to rush in where angels fear to tread, I downloaded the plugin and got going.
And that’s where the trouble started. This new editor was completely different to the previous one. So a simple task became a complicated one, and distraction-free writing was a thing of the past.
It was all built around blocks, much like page-layout software. So when you added a paragraph, that was a block. A heading? Another block. And every block had a pop-up menu attached to it.
The great thing (so the breathless blurb said) was that the blocks could be easily moved. Except guess what? Pre-blocks, I could move anything anyway, simply by cutting and pasting or dragging and dropping.
In the end, I disabled the plugin, and while I was at it, downloaded the Classic Editor plugin to be prepared for when Gutenberg is unleashed on an unsuspecting worldwide user base.
I then looked at the reviews online, which were appalling. And that’s an understatement. People were begging for this not to be launched, or at least not to be made mandatory.
I wrote a short review myself and was contacted by one of the plugin developers to give more detail. I did in a long, and pretty damning, reply. Needless to say, that was the end of our conversation.
When this happened a few weeks back, the 5-star and 1-star ratings were neck-and-neck. Now the pattern (below) is clear, and if I were a WordPress person I’d be worried.
And it looks like they’re pressing ahead in the face of fierce opposition.
How does this happen? Pretty easily, actually.
I’ve seen it before in the software industry, where big upgrades are internally-focused. Product launches take on a mind of their own, and an unstoppable impetus.
And it’s not just software. It’s everything. Often, we design solutions around our own needs, rather than the reality on the ground – or the needs of customers.
We use the solution that works for our internal systems or departments. We design a workflow that works for us, not our clients. We write copy that we’d read but prospects and clients simply skim over – if that. We design complex website navigation that puts obstacles in the way.
A former colleague of mine used to refer jokingly to SPOs (sales prevention officers) who put systems in place that actually hit the bottom line. And all because it made some sort of sense within the four walls of the organisation.
Most Big Ideas doesn’t work because they’re designed from the inside out. And they often solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist (Give me a better text editor!).
Instead of rolling out solutions in search of a problem, why not look instead for actual problems? Not our problems, but our customers’.
Do they want more free time? More prestige? Do they want to save money? Make a safe decision for their business? For their family?
Do they want more customers? To operate more efficiently? Cut costs? Improve their service? Create a competitive advantage?
Are they money-rich and time-poor? Or the other way around? Do they have a solution in place that’s not currently meeting their needs? Are they swamped by choice and unsure which way to turn?
Do they need guidance? Education? Enlightenment?
Everybody solves a problem, because every purchaser has a problem.
And even if you’re in something as seemingly problem-free as the travel business there’s still a problem to solve. Where shall I go? What if it’s not nice? Is it right for me? How do I cut through the choice? Am I getting the best deal? What if I waste my valuable annual leave on a holiday that isn’t worth it?
The approach is simple, whether you’re writing copy, launching a marketing campaign, or beginning a sales drive. Find the client’s problem, then create a solution.
Otherwise, your solution may well become the problem.
If only the Gutenberg wonks had thought like that. Maybe they still can. Maybe they will.
In the meantime, I’m keeping my Classic Editor handy, and will hit the Activate Plugin button without a moment’s hesitation.