May 5, 2017
Running a full service digital agency has become a lot more complicated in recent years; firms are facing a whole new set of challenges with the rise of out-of-the-box solutions like Shopify, Squarespace and Medium, clients moving work in-house and global competition from inexpensive freelancers – to name a few. To stay ahead, agencies must continuously deliver unique, cross-platform customer experiences that leverage the latest technology, all while maintaining low costs and fast turn-arounds.
Now powering nearly 30 percent of the Internet, WordPress offers a unique set of benefits for cash and time-strapped agencies to thrive in today’s business environment. From its ubiquity and rate of open source innovation to its highly scalable and flexible architecture, and its flourishing plugin ecosystem through to its recently-added API capabilities – there’s no shortage of reasons to adopt WordPress into your firm’s day-to-day workflow and services. However, all change carries risk, so it’s important to approach the integration as a gradual process, rather than an overnight switch. You’ll want to clear blocks of time for your developers and designers to be able to think about how the software is going to fit into existing workflows and the overall stack, as well as give them plenty of room for learning and experimentation. You’re also likely to want to limit yourself to greenfield projects to kick things off, rather than struggling to retrofit existing work.
Don’t worry, the time and resources your firm invests promises high ROI, faster project deliveries, more reliable and speedy sites and high customer satisfaction. With that in mind, here are six opportunities for your agency to start leveraging WordPress, starting with the potentially most complex. As you and your team get more familiar with WordPress, you’ll find yourself moving through them with increasing confidence and ease.
1. Use WordPress as a Quick Prototyping Tool
Prototyping is a natural environment for quickly learning the basics of a new technology. As a mostly internal process (at least in terms of what’s going on under the hood), it’s a low-risk scenario in which your team can cut its teeth with. Marketing teams can setup reusable templates to quickly build new landing pages to share around with stakeholders for quick iteration. After a quick round of feedback, hit publish and you’ve got a new campaign live, no mess, no waste, just reward.
The next time you’re looking to knock out a quick prototype on a project, task your team with delivering it in WordPress to start getting a feel for the platform’s possibilities and limitations.
2. Produce Marketing Sites in Record Time
Everyone knows time is money, and fast project turnarounds are the key to happy, repeat clients. With the availability of innumerable, easily customized lightweight themes that require minimal coding, WordPress is the perfect solution for quickly delivering campaign websites and testing out new strategies.
While the client’s corporate Web properties may be built on custom code or legacy systems like Sitecore, those options can be incredibly expensive and time consuming to build on. WordPress jumps over these hurdles, especially when leveraged as a headless CMS – meaning information from the rapidly executed campaign site can be funneled into the client’s existing Web properties.
Working with a managed WordPress hosting platform can give turnaround times an additional boost through built in staging features. The team at Tivoli Partners, a loyalty marketing agency based in Charlotte, NC, have been able to churn out high performing websites for clients with increased ease and agility by using one of these managed platforms.
“Since we started using WP Engine, we’ve developed two new client sites in the past three months using the staging feature. In the past, we would spend hours setting up a staging portal, but now it really is just one-click. WP Engine’s ease of use even made one of our Wix clients comfortable with a move to WordPress,” said David Bell.
Unless a particular instance specifically demands another technology, introduce WordPress as your de facto marketing site solution moving forward.
3. Avoid the Cost and Complexity of Custom Code Where Possible
Once your team is comfortable developing quick solutions for relatively straightforward use cases (like marketing sites), you can start aiming a little higher. The huge range of existing high quality plugins available for WordPress means there’s nearly always an easy solution when a specific user-facing functionality is required.
WordPress offers solid off-the-shelf solutions for specific areas such as publishing and eCommerce. Rather than getting your developers to reinvent the wheel with custom code, look to leverage the intrinsic flexibility of WordPress with an appropriate plugin-based solution. For example, MemberMouse allows you to sell products and memberships, set up members-only areas and even offers retention metrics. Another popular plugin, WooCommerce easily sets up fully customizable eCommerce sites.
4. Integrate with Front-End Frameworks
At some stage, you’ll want your team to get intimately familiar with the workings of the REST API to prepare them for the future of the platform. Look for projects where you can use WordPress as a great admin and back-end solution for clients; then, look to marry it via API to standalone front-ends powered by Angular, Ember or React. Your developers get to leverage the hot new front-end framework of today, while keeping a centralized repository of content in WordPress that has a wonderful editor-writing experience that is simple and easy to use. WordPress has never been more flexible with the recent introduction of its REST API.
This is an approach that offers an excellent learning opportunity for all concerned, and is already gaining ground among top agencies and brands.
5. Connect the Dots with Legacy Solutions
The highly anticipated REST API has now opened the doors to a broader programmatic world for WordPress. It allows for many exciting new options, such as the aforementioned headless CMS, so you can manage all of your content from one central location and push it to any of your platforms – in an app, on a website or anywhere else.
That’s the theory, but what about practical applications? Let’s take a closer look at exactly how the REST API’s potential is being realized in the real world.
The New York Times, for example, has been using the REST API since 2014. WordPress is now its de facto “Breaking News” framework for managing content, even though it uses a separate front-end website to display the pieces. StoryCorps uses the REST API to fuel its mobile app to manage a customized content structure and easily scale up without being tied to a specific operating system, such as iOS or Android.
WordPress plugins like Editus use the REST API to enable site owners to write and edit posts directly on their websites’ front end, instead of drafting articles within the WordPress back end. This is again possible thanks to the way the REST API decouples creation and maintenance from the end product.
The REST API pushes WordPress beyond the bounds of a traditional content management system. By enabling complex data communication with external applications, WordPress is now a viable foundation for running much more than a simple website.
What you do with this ability is only limited by your imagination.
6. Go All-in on Large Projects
As your team’s skillset broadens, you’ll be increasingly confident about pitching WordPress as a complete solution for larger engagements. With the right mix of specialties on your team and the flexibility in integrating technical alternatives that the REST API offers, you should be in a great position to take on large and lucrative projects.
In conclusion, embracing WordPress is a natural choice for many digital agencies, but as always, the devil is in the (actual implementation) details. Considering the steps and opportunities above should help you start working out a practical roadmap that’s tailored to the needs of your own setup.
Taylor McCaslin is an Austin-based multi-disciplinary technologist with seven years’ expertise in digital product design and development. He currently serves as product manager at WP Engine, a WordPress digital experience platform. Previously, he held developer and UX design roles at Indeed.com, LIN Digital, Bazaarvoice. Taylor regularly speaks at technology and WordPress events around the country.