Is WordPress REALLY customizable?

WordPress is undoubtably a staple in website design accessibility. However, how much are you actually able to customize? Two interesting perspectives on the matter come from scholar Elisabetta Adami and another from Jordi Cabot. Both authors discuss the topic in their articles in very different tones. Despite being completely different, both of their takes are captivating.

Adami argues that WordPress uses templates as a way to portray personalization despite the company controlling everything you are able to use. On the other hand, Cabot argues that WordPress offers unlimited self expression. Adami shares thoughts and theories such as “increasing templatisation of semiotic production democratises multimodal self-expression online, which was previously accessible only to elite producers; yet, technologization produces standardisation and, by being mediated by a platform, conceals the power dynamics lying behind it.” (Adami, 2018). In other words, this level of design used to only be accessible by big corporations and now, the everyday consumer or entrepreneur has access to create their own professionalized content. Allowing users to do this completely masks the hierarchy hidden behind it all, which includes website builders such as WordPress pulling all of the strings. In Cabot’s writing, he offers an opposing perspective and speaks of the content management system in a much more positive way. He even goes as far as to encourage everyone to join in on the WordPress phenomenon by saying “As a longtime WordPress user and researcher, I encourage you all to contribute to the growth of WordPress and its community” (Cabot, 2018).

Personally, I see both perspectives. Adami offers a slightly cynical perspective whereas Cabot’s is more optimistic. If I had to pick a narrative I lean towards, it would be Adami. Is she slightly pessimistic? Yes, absolutely. Is she right? In my opinion, completely. When we look at the way the world works and how technology and media is used, I feel that at the center, there is consumerism. There is always a product, or idea to be sold to audiences. In this case, WordPress allows us to “customize” our own websites however, we can only do that using their materials and widgets. We can only do as much as they allow us to and use templates that they provide. I think that it’s great that we have the opportunity to create content and design our sites to our liking but, I don’t feel it is completely tailored to each user’s vision. I feel it all falls under one vision, that of the creators and designers at WordPress.

Works Cited

Adami, E. (2018). Styling the self online: semiotic technologization in weblog publishing. Social Semiotics, 28(5), 601–622.

Cabot, J. (2018). WordPress: A Content Management System to Democratize Publishing. IEEE Software.

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