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GiveWP Plugin Users Raised Over $100 Million in Donations in 2019

GiveWP plugin users raised $106 million in donations in 2019. This is the first time donation amounts have crossed the $100 million threshold in a year. Matt Cromwell, GiveWP’s head of support and community outreach, made the announcement on Facebook last week. This is a jump from the $88 million and $41 million raised in 2018 and 2017, respectively.

“I’m constantly amazed at what we’ve been able to accomplish at GiveWP,” said Cromwell. “The team continues to excel as experts in their fields, the platform itself continues to improve and become even more top-notch. But this number we observed recently really puts the rubber to the road.”

The $106 million is not an exact total in donations users have gained in their fundraising campaigns. It only represents the numbers by users who are using PayPal or Stripe. “Both PayPal and Stripe provide partner programs where platforms like GiveWP get a small percentage of each processing fee,” said Cromwell. “This isn’t an additional amount, it’s money the processor will take either way, but shares with us because we help them generate more business.” The partners programs rely on transparency in reporting, which is how GiveWP can see the total donations made through those payment processors. “In order for us to know that they are paying us appropriately, they need to provide us with numbers to see how much revenue was processed through our platform.”

Both PayPal Standard and Stripe are supported in the free version of the GiveWP plugin, which makes them the go-to choices of payment gateways for end-users. “Authorize.net is the next largest,” said Cromwell. “But Authorize is maybe a tenth of the number of users as either PayPal or Stripe (rough estimate).” Without data from the other processors, it’s impossible to know the total donation numbers, which would be higher than the amount the team is aware of.

GiveWP currently has over 70,000 active installations, many of which power the donation system on small sites. The plugin is also used for large non-profit organizations such as Lifewater, a Christian-based organization that brings clean water to families living in poverty around the world; Libero Magazine, a Vancouver-based mental health magazine and community; and Love Button, an organization that promotes a culture of love and aims to inspire humans to act with kindness.

From the Past to the Future

Impress, the company behind the plugin, launched GiveWP in 2015 to “Democratize Generosity.” The goal was to provide non-profits and other causes the ability to launch campaigns without going through the middle-man of crowd-funding sites, which can sometimes carry a hefty fee. Handling all of this within WordPress provided a more robust and customizable solution that put site owners in control of how they ran their fundraising efforts.

It was a bold move to build to launch in a crowded market of existing donation plugins and add-ons for major eCommerce plugins. Thus far, the venture has turned out well. However, the GiveWP team is not looking to slow down.

“Honestly, from a plugin/development perspective it feels like we’ve learned everything new all over again,” said Cromwell of the journey thus far. “The things that we felt were the biggest strengths of the platform still are strong, but also now are technical debt that we’re working to revamp to continue to carry GiveWP strong into the future. Our form builder leveled up a lot when we built our own settings API (for example), but now in a post-Gutenberg era, it feels like it needs a more visual refresh. Doing that well with backward compatibility is a serious challenge.”

The team feels like much of their early success was by targeting the WordPress community. “That’s playing ‘inside baseball,’” he said. “Getting into the broader WP community and then additionally into the NPO community is where our challenge is now. So we’re flexing new muscles in marketing.”

The original partners had to pick up new skills over the past four years. They had to learn how to switch gears from simply being owners and workers to managing individual teams. “We’re so proud of our team that it’s become one of our biggest strengths as a company,” said Cromwell. “Now getting from 20 employees (where we’re at now) to 50 will be an even bigger challenge.”

The GiveWP team does not plan to focus solely on the WordPress ecosystem. They want to branch out and see where new avenues for growth will take them.

“While WordPress having 35% internet market share is a big deal, there’s still more market outside WordPress than inside,” said Cromwell. “So for the growth and strength of our company we are now building out a new fundraising SaaS which we’re excited to launch this calendar year.”

If the team manages to launch a successful SaaS product on the GiveWP platform, this year’s $106 million in fundraising could pale in comparison to 2020’s numbers and beyond.

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GoDaddy’s ‘Go’ WordPress Theme Offers a Page-Building Experience via the Block Editor

GoDaddy launched its Go WordPress theme last week. It has been publicly available through its GitHub repository for several months, but the theme review team finally approved and set it live in the theme directory. Thus far, the theme has garnered 7,000 active installs and is likely to hit the popular list, given GoDaddy’s history of releasing popular themes. It also provides translations in 27 languages out of the box.

Go is simple. After working with the theme through GoDaddy’s managed hosting onboarding process in October last year, I was admittedly a little disappointed this time around. The onboarding process made things almost too easy. I had a predesigned site without thinking about it. After installing and activating Go in my test environment, I couldn’t help but feel like it would take 100 times more work to recreate the magic I once basked in. I knew the power of the theme because I had been presented an ideal set of options that were preconfigured for me in the past. Without the configuration, the theme seemed a little less impressive.

That’s the beauty of great marketing and onboarding. GoDaddy had already reeled me in.

While the Go theme is simple, it is also powerful. A lot of that power is in its block styles. Instead of focusing on theme-specific features, the team behind the project poured their work into creating an experience that allows theme users to piece their sites together with the block editor. The theme is ideal for users who want to utilize the block editor as a page builder.

The theme has a handful of customizer options that provide additional flexibility, but the main selling point is that it gets out of the way and lets the user do the designing. I suspect we will see many similar themes in the next year as theme authors come to grips with building themes in a block world. A large part of the market will want themes that are essentially open canvases for site owners to manipulate the output of their site via blocks.

Go is also designed to work with WooCommerce, which is a large part of the company’s eCommerce hosting service. This integration should make it a nice option for small business owners.

CoBlocks Companion Recommended

Screenshot of the Features block from the CoBlocks plugin designed in the Go theme.
Features block from the CoBlocks plugin.

The magic of Go is not in the theme itself. It’s in GoDaddy’s companion plugin CoBlocks, which the company acquired last year in a deal with ThemeBeans. The plugin has soared from a mere 3,000 active installs to over 100,000 since.

CoBlocks offers everything from accordions to maps, from logos to pricing tables, and a lot more in between. It covers a lot of ground that the core WordPress editor blocks do not cover.

The Go theme is designed to go hand-in-hand with CoBlocks (can we get GoDaddy to just go ahead and rename the plugin to GoBlocks?). The theme is meant to offer a page-building experience. Because GoDaddy owns both products, it makes sense they would offer one of the nicer integrations between the plugin and a theme.

Not Ideal for Blogging

Screenshot of a blog post with loads of whitespace between paragraphs and other blocks.
A lot of whitespace between text and other blocks in posts.

The theme makes generous use of whitespace, but its overuse can often break the reading flow for blog posts. The flow from paragraph to paragraph is fine. However, the moment you drop an image, gallery, pull-quote, or one of many other blocks into the content, the theme adds an extra 140 pixels of whitespace above and below the block. It completely throws off the vertical rhythm of the post.

Go also displays the full posts on the blog posts page instead of excerpts. There are few things I dislike more when it comes to blogs. Providing an option for users to choose between a full and summary view would be ideal.

The theme does not claim to be well-suited to blogging. None of the demos for the theme show off a blog. If you’re looking for a theme to handle blogging with media mixed in the content, you will find better offerings elsewhere, such as the Blocksy theme

Limited Yet Useful Theme Options

Screenshot of the Go theme's customizer options.
Design style and color scheme options in the customizer.

The theme adds five sections to the customizer:

  • Site Design
  • Header
  • Footer
  • Social
  • Site Settings

Within each section, Go provides a few basic options, most of which are related to colors and layout. The most useful options reside under the “Site Design” section. The theme presents a design style option that changes the theme’s fonts and colors. Currently, there are five design styles: traditional, modern, trendy, welcoming, and playful. Once a design style is selected, users can choose from four color schemes for that style. The design of this system is brilliant. It gives users choices without forcing them to become designers and handpick the perfect hex code for each color.

Users who prefer to manage individual colors are not left out. The theme also provides options for overriding any of the colors from the chosen color scheme.

I was disappointed that Go opted for creating individual options for various social networks instead of using a navigation menu. Using WordPress’ built-in nav menu system for social links has become the de facto standard in the last several years, which allows users to carry their social links from one theme to the next. Unfortunately, users are required to retype all of their links with this theme.

The theme keeps does not go overboard with options but provides enough customizability to make the theme unique to the user.

How Does the Code Stack Up?

The theme offers a solid and well-documented codebase. There is not much PHP or JavaScript code, so there are few areas where it can go wrong. The theme’s strength is in its CSS.

The theme templates were primarily HTML with PHP sprinkled in. For DIY users who like to hack away at theme templates, you should not find any surprises.

Final Thoughts

Users who want to customize every page of their site will likely enjoy this theme. It is well-suited for small business owners and others with small sites. It could work well for artists and others with portfolios as well.

It does not fit with my personal taste because it does not cater to my blogging style, which is my primary interest in themes. However, I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who wants a ton of control over their site’s inner page design.

The following is a list of the available demos. There is a lot that can be done in combination with the CoBlocks plugin, which you will want to use in combination with Go.

Demos with the CoBlocks plugin:

Demos with the CoBlocks and WooCommerce plugins:

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Gutenberg Can Tackle the Problems the Fields API Tried to Solve

The Fields API.

Never heard of it? That’s OK. Outside of the inner development community, it is not widely known. The average WordPress user does not need to know about it. Before understanding how the Fields API fits into Gutenberg’s future, you must first understand what it is and the problems it was meant to fix.

The Fields API was a proposed solution to one of WordPress’ biggest problems: to build form fields in the admin and save data from those fields, developers need to know multiple APIs, depending on the specific admin screen.

Want to build a plugin settings screen? Use the Settings API.

Need some theme options? Build them with the Customize API.

Have some fields to output on the user screen? Here are two hooks and a mess of HTML table markup; sorry, no official API.

Those are just a few examples, but the truth of it comes down to this: to show something as basic as a text field to end-users, WordPress developers need to know how to do this in a variety of ways based on competing or even missing APIs.

There are historical reasons for this. New features were bolted on top of WordPress over time. In the mad rush to continue shipping features with each major update, few people stepped back and asked the fundamental question about the technical debt that would pile up over the past 16 years. Shipping end-user features helped the platform grow, but developers had to learn all-new functions and methods each time.

Adding to the technical burden, when the Gutenberg project launched, it introduced a new system in a different programming language.

The Fields API would have created a standardized system for outputting form fields and saving field data. It would work with all the existing admin screens and any new features added in the future. Developers could learn a single system and be able to build plugins that worked with practically any area of WordPress.

In 2014, Scott Kingsley Clark took over the Metadata UI Project. The initial idea was to create an API for adding custom fields (meta box fields) on the post-editing screen. Eventually, Clark and those working on the project realized the problem that needed solving was larger than meta boxes. WordPress needed an API that worked across the board. After a year, the project was relaunched as the Fields API.

After years of working on the code behind the project, Clark became burned out. He stepped down as the project’s lead in 2018. With no buy-in from the decision-makers for the WordPress project, there was little hope of it making it into core. At that point, the project was all but dead.

Gutenberg’s development was in full swing. Developers were gearing up for relearning how to add the same basic text fields and other form elements in whole new ways.

The Fields API, had it made it into WordPress before the block editor, could have alleviated the need for developers to learn a new system. However, that’s not where we’re at today. The Fields API never made it past the gatekeepers, and developers have one more thing to stay knowledgeable on.

The question is: how do we address this going forward?

How the Gutenberg Project Can Solve the Fields API Problem

What many don’t understand is that the Gutenberg project is larger than the content editor. The first iteration, Phase 1, of the project was to create a new editing experience. Phase 2 will create new admin screens for site editing using the same components for the editor. Custom text fields, select dropdowns, color options, or one of many other field types all run through the same reusable, component-based system.

That sounds remarkably similar to the Fields API. At the end of the day, the Fields API is simply a standardized method of reusing components to output form fields and save data, regardless of the screen in WordPress.

WordPress needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. Gutenberg provides us the opportunity to rewrite every admin page in WordPress using a standardized system for handling form fields.

From a technical standpoint, Gutenberg has dozens of components. These include a text control, button, checkbox, and much more. It covers the majority of use cases plugin and theme authors need for form fields. These things are not tied directly to the block system. They are simply components that can be used anywhere.

The next step would be setting the foundational layer for other admin screens. It will not be easy. There will be backward-compatibility mountains that the Fields API could have climbed for us years ago.

Given WordPress’ history, developers will likely continue using competing APIs for fields on various admin pages. And, if we’re still at that point in five years, the Gutenberg project will have failed for not going as far as it could have.

For success, the Gutenberg project needs to have a wider vision and a longer-term roadmap that addresses the issues of fields on every screen. Otherwise, projects with easier-to-learn APIs will be more enticing to developers.

The idea of Gutenberg-ifying the entirety of the WordPress admin will be off-putting to many, but WordPress has to solve its form fields issue at some point. It might as well reuse the components that will be seeing active development for years to come.

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Blocksy WordPress Theme Provides a Solid Block-Editor Experience

Screenshot of the Blocksy theme blog posts page.

Creative Themes dropped version 1.6.8 of its Blocksy WordPress theme yesterday. It was an update to a theme that is quickly becoming popular, having garnered 58 five-star reviews and one thousand active installs since it first went live in the WordPress theme directory. The theme is specifically built to work with the block editor and is a nice example of what is currently possible with blocks.

Blocksy is billed as a general-purpose theme and also works with other popular page builders like Elementor, Beaver Builder, and Visual Composer. The truth-test is whether it handles the block editor, especially given its primary audience (it is named Blocksy, after all). Aside from a few trivial quirks, the theme handled nearly every bit of test content I threw at it.

Blocksy is one of the better-designed free themes for the block editor that I have seen.

I want to use this theme for a project. Unfortunately, I have no site to use it on at the moment. I do not say this about many free, repository-hosted WordPress themes. The quality of work is on par with themes from the majority of commercial theme shops I have tested or used over the years.

The theme is not without a few issues, which we’ll get to, but it is a solid offering.

Block Design

Screenshot of post with block designs from the Blocksy theme.
A few block design examples from the theme.

With a name like Blocksy, I went into this review with a mindset that the theme better handle every test block I dropped into the block editor with grace. I wanted to make sure it lived up to its name.

I am happy to report that it handles block design as good as or better than most themes designed for showcasing the block system. It adds just enough stylistic flair, such as a unique pull-quote design, without getting in the way of the content.

One problem area is the font in the editor does not match the font on the front end completely. This is a minor issue that should be easily fixed in an update.

You can find some good examples of block design on the theme’s Gutenberg demo page.

Block Editor Sidebar

Screenshot of the Blocksy theme editor sidebar.
Custom block editor sidebar for post meta.

The latest update of the theme includes additional integration with the block editor. The team moved its old meta box, which sat below the post content editor, to a new sidebar panel. This change is refreshing.

I did not know the meta box existed until the theme developers pointed out this change in feature (I first started testing the previous version of the theme). At this point, I never look at the bottom of the block editor for meta boxes. I expect any additional settings to be placed firmly in the right sidebar area. I applaud this move. It could confuse old theme users when updating, but it feels more natural in its new home.

The team has done a nice job with this custom sidebar for the most part. The biggest issue is with the button for switching to it. By using both an icon and the “Page Settings” text, it uses more room than necessary. To fit in line with the existing UI, it should simply display an icon. The button text is also hard to read when selected, which is a minor CSS issue that can be corrected in an update.

Customizer Options

Screenshot of the Blocksy theme's customizer control panel design.
Custom-designed customizer control panel.

For users who like to have full control over the site’s display, this theme won’t disappoint. For users who dislike by many options, the number of design settings will likely feel overwhelming.

Blocksy has more design options than most people will ever need. Some options, such as letter-spacing and line-height controls for fonts may be going overboard. Ideally, those things would be automatically adjusted based on the chosen font family.

The theme also uses a custom design for the customizer control panel. In general, the custom design looks nice. However, is not good practice for themes to customize a shared WordPress UI element. Plugins with options in the customizer could break. It is best to stick with the default design.

Blocksy Companion Plugin

The theme promotes an additional plugin named Blocksy Companion. The add-on plugin provides users with additional widgets, a cookies-consent feature for the front end, and integrations with Mailchimp, Instagram, and WooCommerce. It also provides an avenue for importing custom-made demo content.

Most of the companion plugin’s features are fairly routine compared to similar themes in the WordPress theme repository. The cookies-consent feature is something I haven’t seen before as part of a theme add-on plugin.

My biggest complaint with the plugin is that it makes the “Blocksy” admin menu item a top-level item. It is a waste of valuable real estate in an already-cluttered admin menu. Plus, there is no good reason for a single theme/plugin screen to take a top-level spot when it has no sub-menus.

How Does the Code Look?

If I were describing the code in one phrase: average but gets the job done.

The theme has a lot of PHP code. Most of it is dropped into a single /inc folder and not organized nearly as well as it could be. It feels like a giant mish-mash of functions with almost non-existent inline documentation for most of them. It’s not something a developer who is not intimately familiar with the theme would want to dive into.

This is not an argument that the theme’s code is bad. It passed the official WordPress.org review process and made it into the theme directory, so it is at least doing the minimum necessary. It’s simply unimpressive, which is par for the course when it comes to most WordPress themes. Code architecture seems like an afterthought, which could make it tougher to maintain over the long haul. With a theme as much code as this one, this is more important than it is for simpler themes. It can also easily be remedied with a week or so of dev time strictly devoted to architecture.

Final Thoughts

Blocksy is a well-designed theme that does the job it sets out to do. It is ideal for users who are working with the block editor or a third-party page builder. The theme is packed with far more options than I could cover in this review. If customizability is your thing, you will likely enjoy this theme.

The team shared some of their future ideas. They have plans to add conditional headers, footers, and sidebars; a sticky header; AMP support; and more. They seem excited about the future of the theme.

Overall, I would recommend this theme for users who want a clean, relatively fast, block-ready WordPress theme.