Last week Andy Adams posted a great post – The WordPress Talent Shortage Might Be a Pricing Problem. I hadn’t met Andy before, noticed the post through Brian and Jeffro, but I read it three times and I do agree with a lots of his thoughts and conclusions.
I’d like to propose that the shortage of developers might actually be a pricing problem. Specifically, WordPress salaries and rates are not high enough to draw talent.
What is the level of our experts?
WordPress Development Experts
General concepts such as unit testing were known for about a decade in other communities, and we started paying any attention over the last year or two in WordPress. WordPress.org is still on SVN (attempts on moving part of the process GitHub are made, and merging pull requests as well) and everything is moving slowly. I still see some UNIX groups and tools using CVS as version control, but that doesn’t make them anything other than dinosaurs.
However, the smaller ones that don’t have resources have the excuse for not moving data, but the platform running 23% of the Web is a different story.
There are only a few people with any practical development experience or any understanding of other developed industries – Java, .NET, Ruby or Python communities. There is so much more going on there that we look like some kids playing in the sandbox while the adults run corporations. And by a few people I actually mean a few thousand people more or less, probably 10-20K tops, but that’s about 1% of the people offering WordPress services as I pointed out in my last posts.
WordPress Development Rates
Some of the latest studies revealed by Matt noted about $50/hr on average for WordPress development freelancing and such. As Andy says:
I’ve never heard of a professional Ruby on Rails developer with rates under $100/hour.
In contrast, when I hear of a WordPress developer over $100/hour, it’s notable.
I don’t live in the States and that’s even valid here. WordPress development rates are way, way under $100/h and Rails guys are usually over $100/h.
A few people tend to disagree under Andy’s post, but let’s not forget that we are in the 1% of the community that are more vocal, read those type of posts and usually live a different life, so to speak. That doesn’t really represent the community AT ALL and has nothing to do with the actual average rates of any sort.
WordPress In The Long Run
If more and more people start offering WordPress services without any prior experience, things are not going to get much better. I’m all for allowing people to build their own small websites without having to pay, or just being able to learn how to blog, but not offering services without any experience. That’s simply wrong.
People think that I’m over-exaggerating. I actually meet people on a daily basis who were in finances, PR, any random business and decided to start offering WordPress websites to their clients. I saw one today. I met another one yesterday at the coffee shop. I heard a convo the day before, too. It’s happening on a daily basis.
Given the pricing issues in our community, that doesn’t help either.
I also know (personally) a bunch of core contributors or lots of plugin developers who left the project as they were either frustrated with the community standards (in terms of technical understanding or supporting open source projects), or got bored by the lack of any challenging or exciting improvements in the code or devops ecosystem, or just decided to stop playing games and take care of their families by using some platform with a better established business ecosystem.
And it pains me to say that I know several great developers who don’t do WordPress for a living since they can’t find a decent job that pays enough, and work in the bank industry or other places, being unable to help our community.
But there’s nothing we can do except working together on educating the people around us and be vocal about the quality of plugins and themes in our ecosystem. We get frustrated when people are joking with us during technical conferences, but there’s a reason for that. If we keep on supporting the poorly coded products and people offering services without any technical background, we shouldn’t be surprised by the outcome in two or three years from now.
And don’t be surprised if experienced developers start brainstorming (or already do) as Andy does:
The market rates for quality programmers are very high right now. I regularly see salaried remote positions for Rails and/or front-end developers with salaries over $100,000 and excellent benefits.
I’m not the best of developers, but I’m qualified to possibly land one of those jobs.
I’m faced with a tough call: do I abandon WordPress because the market is pulling me elsewhere?