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.