My Understanding about the Declining Growth of WordPress and its Plugins

Post Status has recently published a post titled Is The Growth Of Active Installs of WordPress Plugins Declining in 2021? which rang the bell in some of the community members and people I know. As a business guy, I love data and graphs about trends and the growth of products. Themeum, the current brand I work for, had mixed experiences over the past couple of years. I am sharing my understanding based on the data and trends I have seen on the LMS and Gutenberg market competitors, plus the industry leaders in WordPress.

Here are the reasons I think are behind the change of the WordPress trend in Google, Builtwith, and other tools. Please note that these are my ideas and understanding. It would be very long to track the actual reasons and get the data to back my statement.

1. Growth of the businesses!

Businesses grew tremendously during the pandemic, and they needed to scale fast. The technical requirements grew to the extent that those no longer can be managed using plugins or developing new solutions on top of WordPress. So, people had to move to custom solutions or spread their operations across different platforms.

For example, a small-scale company could use the WP ERP plugin to manage its day-to-day operations. Or use WooCommerce to sell their products and use Affiliate WP to track affiliate sales. But when you have to handle a large number of customers, data and share that information with different stakeholders in the company, WordPress was not enough. So, you had to move your CRM over Hubspot, your projects over Basecamp or Trello.

Similarly, when you could not get enough traffic to your site and downsize your employees, you’re forced to move over to big platforms like Amazon, Alibaba, or other local big platforms.

So, an increase in revenue and going almost out of business forced people to change their strategy. So, the new businesses thought it would save their time and effort if they started their operation inside big platforms. Because they already have everything in place along with delivery and payment handling systems. The existing businesses had to move to big platforms as well to minimize their operational costs.

2. Competitors

There are 5 different alternatives for every single plugin out there. Especially, Gutenberg reduced the dependency on page-building tools and completely removed the monopoly of the design tools. The demography of Asia also played a huge role because we have many young people who want to become entrepreneurs who are trying to better solutions than Elementor, WooCommerce, etc. So, their market share is getting distributed slowly into new plugins.

There is a tiny amount of businesses that closed their shops. New companies are coming to the market every single week!

3. Stability

Elementor, WooCommerce, and some other tools had security and performance issues recently. And with every new major update, some other plugin or theme breaks or starts acting weird or becomes incompatible. So, it adds stress to the technical teams of the business.

I know the developers and plugin business owners will not agree with me on this topic, but I am a user advocate and always try to speak on behalf of them. You can search on the Facebook groups of plugin buyers and users, and everyone will agree that they have faced compatibility or stability issues with WordPress plugins at least once a year and had to struggle at least for a week.

4. Developing own solutions

The mid-sized businesses have started developing their own solutions to avoid these compatibility issues and use WordPress as a framework only. The fuss about headless WordPress encourages people to come out of the “there is a plugin for that” culture and build their own solutions for their needs. Thanks to the freelance platforms, the cost for hiring a developer and building custom solutions has reduced a lot. More people know there is a site called Github where you can get resources for free. Stackoverflow is also very rich compared to the last decade. Developers share their thoughts, ideas, new solutions on their blog, making it easy to find alternatives.

5. Being careful about expense

People are focusing on the essentials and not trying to spend on hobby projects or spontaneous ideas. I believe everyone gets an awesome idea in the middle of the night, buys a domain, and fires up a WordPress installation within an hour. These also add up on the active installation of common plugins and the WordPress market itself. I personally believe WordPress is the go-to solution for everyone starting with a new idea.

6. Limited time

Kids used to spend time at school, and the parents used to eat outside during meetings and hangouts. Now we have to cook at home, take care of the kids, and get depressed and suffering from fatigue and other mental issues because of being at home all the time. So, we are not working on new ideas and not investing in new side projects like music albums, event websites, and raising funds for wild animals and forests.

7. Wix, Squarespace, Patrion etc.

Yes, I know they are different, and they are not making a big dent… WordPress users do not go there. Have you noticed the promotions on YouTube and with micro-influencers? If they didn’t promote aggressively to take CMS market share, WordPress would have definitely grown at least 2-5% more.

8. Management Flexibility

Some of the plugins have remained the same and did not adopt the new features available in WordPress. System admins and agencies that maintain 20-50 sites prefer remote management to update plugins and change their configurations using their custom scripts.

Some plugin businesses went to the SaaS model to stay away from compatibility and server configuration issues.

Does it mean WordPress is at it’s peak?

No. The growth just became a bit slower because of the above reasons, and let’s admit it, the world or the world economy is running slow in terms of new investments. People are extra cautious, and it is totally normal.

Simply put- the growth is slow, but it is still positive!

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