updated: January 4th, 2016 / Ross Johnson / 17 Comments

Paying Respect to the “WordPress Assembler”

Having recently returned from WordCamp US, I find myself wondering if we’re not paying enough respect to an important part of our community. Having met lots of new people, I noticed that how one uses WordPress comes up within the first few minutes of conversation. Many of those I met responded by saying they were a designer, developer, blogger or end-user. There was a group however that would struggle to describe what they were, often citing that while they weren’t a designer or developer they provided business with WordPress solutions or consulting.

I see two problems with this situation. First, the group often seemed embarrassed to admit they weren’t didn’t design or develop. Second, they had no idea what to call themselves.

More than Instruction Followers

This group has loosely been referred to as the “WordPress Assembler,” which is an adequate but less than stellar title. From my perspective, it has a slightly negative connotation. It describes a process rather than a skill. You might as well call them “WordPress Instruction Followers.”

But let’s address the first problem. People who know how to solve complex problems without cracking open Photoshop (or Sketch) or writing a line of code are incredibly valuable. There is clearly a segment of the market that needs WordPress solutions and can’t do it themselves but also can’t afford to hire a freelance developer or agency.

Furthermore, sometimes their solutions are ingenious and better than building something from scratch. At 3.7, our project manager Declan is quick to proclaim that he’s neither designer nor developer. Yet, when we’re developing a solution for a potential client he can often recommend the right combination of plugins to achieve their goal without having to write custom code. Where my mind immediately jumps to “how would I build this” he thinks “what exists so we don’t have to?”

Case in point, recently we had a client who needed to sell space at monthly events. Each event there would be a variable amount of small, medium and large tables a vendor could claim. My solution involved multiple custom post types, storing inventory in post meta, updating totals through a custom form, etc… etc… Declan’s solution? Use Gravity Forms and a ten line code snippet easily found online to manage inventory. Which is a more elegant solution?

I’m often amazed at what people can accomplish with what currently exists without a single line of custom code. I spoke with one gentleman who was days away from launching a “build your own landing page” software as a service using off the shelf plugins. Amazing!

By providing more accessible solutions to the organizations who can’t spend thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars we get more people into the WordPress ecosystem. If there weren’t people who wanted to take on this type of work those organizations would be looking at SquareSpace and the like.

A More Appropriate Title

To give them proper respect we should also give them a respectful title. Assembler does not do them justice. I propose “WordPress technician.” Technician speaks to the expertise required to select the right combination of tools to achieve a defined objective. These people are not following a series of instructions to assemble a prepackaged solution. They are architecting the stack, configuring everything to work in harmony and delivering a functioning solution.

I hope to see more technicians in the future and I hope they’re proud of their contribution to the community.

17 thoughts Paying Respect to the “WordPress Assembler”

  1. Pingback: Paying Respect to the “WordPress Assembler” | WordPress Coders - Articles

  2. Hey, Such a nice thought!

    How about ‘WordPress Hacker’? I have meet some devs who consider themselves as WP hackers.

    By WordPress Hackers, I mean ‘People who are creative to find a solution to problem with the help of the resources that are available online.’

  3. “WordPress Hacker” is pretty cool too. Maybe that’s a less formal way to describe the skill set? You might not call yourself a hacker in front of clients but when talking to other WPers?

    Ross Johnson
  4. Yea, ….. Word ‘Hacker’ would be a big no-no for clients!

  5. I think a term which describes the ‘Assemblers’ good is ‘Webmaster’. The term is maybe a bit outmoded, but should be well understand by non-technical clients…

  6. Hey Marco, thanks for your thoughts.

    I wonder if “webmaster” still doesn’t do them justice. I’d describe someone who’s able to update and post content as a webmaster. Being able to solve complex problems using currently available tools is a completely different skill set entirely.

    Ross Johnson
  7. I like it! Technician! I also refer to it as being a Webmaster.

  8. And, in many other IT fields, provided the “assembling” was done at a high-enough conceptual level, and offered an elegant solution, you might even be referred to as an “Architect”.

    Of course, I think the Architect term might be best suited to a WordPress person that not only finds the right combination of plugins and code snippets, but also ensures the end-product can scale by following industry standards, provides interroperability when needed, etc

    Of course, we could also use the term “WordPress Specialist”. I myself, having been a Certified IT Specialist, had to demonstrate specific technical skills through certification as well as demonstrate client situations where my skills were used in a way that showed my knowledge, and this required 7 years of on-the-job experience as well.

    I do agree that “assembler” has a pejorative connotation.

  9. In Drupal there is a think called a “site builder” that matches what you are describing. They are familiar with key modules and how to use them to build things, but they don’t do any direct coding of functionality, perhaps a little bit of work in templates.

    Peter Shackelford
  10. Site builder is better, but I think still think it lacks some of the credibility that this group deserves. I don’t know how many people would be proud to describe themselves as a site builder compared to a Drupal or WordPress technician.

    Ross Johnson
  11. I liked this!

    What about WordPress Engineer?

    It is really engineering to fit all the parts together and make them work.

    WordPress is no easy task to put together, there are so many different pieces or plugins that may fit or not fit together…

    Alain Aubry
  12. Great article and good points.

    Can you provide a link to the code snippet implemented with your gravity forms solution. I am looking at doing the same thing.


  13. Hey Alain, thanks for the comment.

    I see where you’re going with engineer, I wonder if people already associate developers with engineers however? It’s not an uncommon synonym for developer these days.

    Ross Johnson
  14. WordPress Technician is a good title, and it is great that you are bringing this topic up for discussion.

    We’re building a marketplace for “WordPress Technicians” to supply productised services which focuses on plugin/extension system integrations.

    To date we were considering using the description “WordPress Systems Integrator”, but Technician is probably a much customer and Google search term. 🙂

  15. Systems Integrator has a nice ring to it as well! It definitely describes the skill set, I’d be happy if either were adopted.

    Ross Johnson
  16. Most people I know, who fulfil this role, refers to themselves as ” WP hackers”, because they hack websites together, but a more apt title would probably be “WP Builder”.

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