One of the great things about being a WordPress user is that you can actually help shape its future. As a free, open source piece of software, WordPress depends on its community to push it forward. And not just advanced developers, either. Literally anyone can get involved if they find the right point of entry–which is what this post is all about.
However, before we get into the many ways in which anyone can contribute to WordPress, I’d like to take a moment and make a case as to why you should contribute to WordPress. Or, at the very least, consider it.
Why Contribute to WordPress?
There is no better way to learn something than to get your hands dirty working with it. And if that something happens to be literally any form of online publishing, then the platform you need to concern yourself with is WordPress.
Simply put: WordPress is the future of publishing on the web. It’s the present too, but I think it’s important to point out WordPress’ strong positioning for future success.
WordPress began as a blogging platform with the core mission of democratizing publishing. Over the years it has evolved from a mere blogging platform into the world’s leading content management system (CMS). Which has already made it the platform of choice for building just about any website imaginable.
Currently, WordPress is moving away from being just a CMS and toward becoming a flexible yet robust application platform. Or as Matt Mullenweg put it, “An operating system for the web.”
Services like HappyTables, Jetty, Rainmaker, and more are prime examples of this new evolution. Each one is a “platform as a service” built on WordPress. What they’re essentially selling is a customized WordPress publishing experience geared toward a particular use case.
What this means for the average user is that whatever use case you’ve turned to WordPress for in the past: blogging, business website, restaurant website, portfolio, etc. They’re all about to get a customized makeover.
Whether through individual theme/admin modifications or complete platform overhauls like the examples above, WordPress is poised to increase its market share significantly in the years to come by becoming one platform with a simple solution for every niche.
So to crystallize my answer as to why you should contribute to WordPress, I leave you with this:
Contributing to WordPress is the best way to learn (and improve) the platform that is running away with the web.
This knowledge, skill, and community will not only empower you to do amazing things for yourself, but it will also qualify you to service the widest potential customer base for online publishing related work in the world.
In this way WordPress has the potential to be your art, hobby, career, and social community all in one. And yet as great as that is for each of us individually, it’s also an amazing gift to give the world too. The more each of us contributes, the more possibilities we make available to ourselves and everyone else.
So with that said, here’s how you get involved!
How Anyone Can Contribute to WordPress
There are both official and non-official ways to move WordPress forward. I’ll be focusing primarily on the official avenues, but I’ll sprinkle in some others along the way too.
It should also be noted that all of the avenues below overlap with each other in various ways, so getting involved with any one will begin to give you an idea of the others. So no need to feel overwhelmed, just find something that interests you and dive in. Follow your gut the rest of the way.
One of the first and most obvious avenues for contributing to WordPress is through the development and design process. If you are a non-developer (and have no interest in becoming one) don’t worry. Even in this category there are important parts that you can play to advance WordPress.
The core team are the ones who actually create WordPress itself. So yes, an obvious route to take if you’d like to contribute to the core would be to submit code. However, there is a surprisingly wide range of ways you can get involved in core development.
One of the biggest areas for growth in WordPress is User Interface and User Experience Design. As I mentioned above, WordPress is increasingly becoming about custom publishing experiences and each one will need a design. Here’s how you can get involved.
Create design mockups and prototypes
Participate in discussions about design mockups and prototypes
WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg has said time and again the mobile is the future of WordPress. Or at least one very important branch of WordPress. At the moment though, the WordPress mobile apps (iOS, Android, Windows, and Blackberry) are nothing to blow you away. Especially if you are a WordPress.org user. So with that in mind, if mobile development, design, experience, etc. is something you’re interested in then there are a lot of ways for you to jump in and make a difference.
Plugins are what make WordPress so incredibly flexible. By keeping the core of WordPress as minimal as possible and adding plugins for extended functionality, WordPress has been able to be all to all people. Or something close anyway. You can get involved with WordPress plugins by…
Creating and submitting a free plugin to the WordPress repository
Themes are another pillar of WordPress development that has made WordPress the powerhouse it is today. WordPress Themes are what give WordPress installs their look and feel. They consist of theme functions, templates, and styles. They range from simple and free to complex and expensive depending on which theme you choose. Although, even the “expensive” WordPress themes are a bargain when compared to what a similar site would cost custom made.
As with every other avenue for contribution, there are a number of ways you can contribute to WordPress through themes. Such as…
Learning to create themes of your own
Contributing free themes to the WordPress.org Repository
Adding to the premium theme marketplace (in general)
The meta category of WordPress development contribution is in reference to the WordPress.org website (and family of related websites). There are a number of ways you can help make them better for the whole community.
Getting involved with WordPress support is one of the quickest and easiest ways to begin contributing to the WordPress community. At any given time you will have a certain level of knowledge that may be helpful to anyone at or below that same level. You can use that knowledge to jump into the support forums and begin taking questions.
A huge part of what makes WordPress.org so helpful is its extensive documentation. Since WordPress is always changing, updating, and getting better the documentation must evolve with it. Learning the existing documentation and helping to refine it in the future will not only vastly increase your own working knowledge of WordPress but it will make the community as a whole more self-sustaining.
Do you love to teach? Do you have a knack for simplifying the complex and laying out lesson plans? Then perhaps joining the training team is where your particular skills can be best used within the WordPress community. They create downloadable teaching materials for use in WordPress Workshops.
WordPress is becoming increasingly international with each passing year. It now has more non-english speaking users than english speaking ones and that will only become more pronounced as the years roll on. If you are a polyglot with the ability to speak and write in multiple languages then there is a ton of translation work that needs done which will open the door to opportunity for countless future users around the world.
The WordPress community is massive. It consists of millions the world over and those numbers are only increasing with each passing month. There are a ton of official and unofficial ways in which you can plug in and contribute to the world-wide WordPress community.
Finally, we come to the one and only avenue for contributing to WordPress that directly involves money (as opposed to the value of time). But even this form of contribution is geared toward propping up the community (namely other contributors) instead of a few members, leaders, or company.
For anyone interested in donating money, you are encouraged to seek out the creators of the WordPress related tools that you depend on and give to them. This is possible in many ways but the easiest and most direct is simply clicking on the donate link on the theme or plugin page for the relevant tools in the respective WordPress.org repositories.
There are so many ways you can get contribute to WordPress that the options seem limitless. There is something for individuals of any technical skill level, the biggest thing is simply having a desire to jump in and get your hands dirty. What avenue of contribution gets you most excited? How will you choose to get involved in 2015?
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Nathan is a professional writer and digital publisher. He's been using and writing about WordPress since 2010 and enjoys supplying useful WordPress news, reviews, tips, tricks, and tutorials. You can connect with him at his personal website or on facebook and twitter.