Learning about site builders (Site building study #4)

These are the results of a user research study investigating mental models related to building and customising a website. Results are split across five posts:

Background | Segments: Bloggers · Small Businesses · Site Builders | Conclusions

The research group sorted participants into three segments, based on their current understanding of how people use WordPress. These segments are based on a handful of data points and warrant further study to confirm the categories. For now, these segments allow researchers to group WordPress’ extensive userbase into behavioural categories and learn characteristics specific to each group.

For this study, we focussed on three segments: bloggers, small businesses, and site builders (people who build sites for others). Today we’re going to learn more about site builders.

Site builders are people who make sites for others. Site builders often start as bloggers or small businesses. Having taught themselves to build websites, they are now progressively leveraging their skills to earn additional income. They tend to work for friends, acquaintances, or people in their professional networks and often barter or don’t charge much for the websites they build.


Site builders have busy lives. They often juggle a full-time job with family commitments and build websites on the side. They struggle to find time to keep up with technological change. They tend to work whenever they can: during their commute, after they get home, or while their children are still at school.

Technical skills

While they can be quite technical, time limitations mean that site builders avoid using code as much as possible and look for the most efficient solutions. This manifests in different ways. They use child themes but configure them using a third-party pluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party. They write CSSCSS CSS is an acronym for cascading style sheets. This is what controls the design or look and feel of a site. or PHPPHP PHP (recursive acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is a widely-used open source general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development and can be embedded into HTML. http://php.net/manual/en/intro-whatis.php. code but tend to do it directly via the WordPress admin.

I could build a CMS myself, but then maintaining that would be a full-time job.


Site builders are typically self-taught and price-conscious. They tend to prefer free products. They tend toward experimentation—they download something, see if it works, and learn by doing. They prefer to figure things out themselves. They learn new skills as and when they need them.

I want my clients to have as much control over their website as possible.

They take pride in constructing sites and take an active role in educating their clients. They are responsible for ongoing website maintenance. They often work for a small business.

All-in-one themes

I know these settings like the back of my hand because I’ve been using them for ten years.

Site builders have very defined ways of going about building a site and are quite resistant to change. Many of them use a multipurpose, all-in-one theme with many options or a page builder plugin to build their sites. They’ve invested their time in learning the ins and outs of the plugin or theme and they use it repeatedly on every site they build. Learning a new approach or paradigm is a big investment for them, and they need to be sold on the value of that investment.

If it wasn’t broke, why are we fixing it?

For site builders, the critical part of the site building process is the beginning. By contrast, small businesses and bloggers tend to do more ongoing work on a single site and spend more of their time working on the site after the initial setup process.


  • To support themselves by making sites for others
  • To build a website as quickly as possible
  • To ensure client sites are stable

Pain points

  • Lack of time
  • Trouble keeping pace with technology
  • Site maintenance can be difficult—updates and backups are a source of stress

Typical site building journey

Plan site, build site, launch site, maintain site.


  1. Help site builders sell their clients on the value of WordPress.
  2. When introducing coreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress. changes, communicate the value of learning a new paradigm.
  3. Separate themes into visual styles and templates for increased flexibility and customisability.
  4. Implement reusable snippets that can be reused across sites.
  5. Provide shareable resources to educate & sell clients on WordPress.
  6. Upgrades should be controllable and reversible.
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