Adrian Short

Design, citizenship and the city

Some pleas to reduce WordPress misery

with 2 comments

This blog runs on WordPress and I have a love/hate relationship with it.

Actually, it’s just a hate relationship really. I hate the way it works, I hate the scrappy, crappy codebase and most of all I hate myself for not finding something better, or in lieu of that, making something better.

Phew.

WordPress 2.7 is currently in development and the wireframes show some improvements in the admin interface. That’s to be welcomed. However, as an encouragement to take usability further here are a few pointers for other improvements.

  1. Generally when I log in its because I want to write. I care little for the Dashboard. Take me straight to the new post editor or at the very least give me the option of configuring the admin so that it does it. A cramped “QuickPress” box isn’t a substitute for the real thing.
  2. Stop telling me about how much spam you’ve caught. The purpose of a spam catcher is to make it disappear, not to bother me further with reports on how successful the spam catching is.
  3. Matt Mullenweg’s thoughts on his breakfast, USian politics, the Amazon Kindle or indeed WordPress itself form no part of my workflow. If I want to subscribe to any WordPress development blogs I’ll do that in my feed reader. This functionality doesn’t belong in WordPress anywhere.
  4. You’ve just bought a brand new Moleskine notebook. Unwrapping it and opening it up, you discover that someone has already scrawled on the first page, “This is an example of a handwritten page in your new Moleskine notebook. You can write pages just like this yourself. Try it!” You then have to rip out the example page to actually get started. WordPress should employ effective blank slate techniques, not stuff the database with example content on a new installation that users have to delete before they can use it. Ditto, bookmarks in the links section.
  5. The default theme should be as minimal as possible both to encourage users to switch to something else and also to provide the simplest possible starting point for theme development.
  6. Uncategorized isn’t a category, it’s information architecture leftovers. Make the app work with no categories and start like that by default.
  7. I’m not your pardner. Please don’t address me with “Howdy”.
  8. Is it a blog? Is it a CMS? No, it’s a “state-of-the-art publishing platform“. This means nothing whatsoever. WordPress rapidly needs to work out what it is and who it’s for before it goes even further down the route of being jack of all trades and master of none. If this is the state of the art then the art is in a pretty poor state altogether.

Written by Adrian Short

October 13th, 2008 at 11:32 am

Posted in Usability, Web design

Tagged with ,

2 Responses to 'Some pleas to reduce WordPress misery'

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  1. Ouch!

    Some of the things you hate are the favorite features of others. We’ve never tried to be bland or generic in our approach, which means that some people will be horribly offended and some will be delighted by some choices big (news feed) and small (howdy), but I’d prefer that than something generic and soulless with no personality, character, or ties to the larger community.

    Second I’d say if these things bother you so much it might be worth investing in some minor changes like bookmarking the write page, using the setting to change the news feed, or one of the plugins to de-howdify your admin and relieving you from significant misery. If you need help with any of these just drop me an email and I’ll arrange for someone to walk you through everything.

    The beauty of WordPress is in its customization, not its defaults. The average WP blog has 4.96 plugins active and the distribution is huge. My WordPress is probably completely different from your WordPress, and that’s a beautiful thing. There is no one size fits all.

    Matt

    13 Oct 08 at 3:46 pm

  2. Of course you can’t please everyone all the time but that’s all the more reason to be explicit about who you’re trying to please most and to create beautiful defaults for them. I’m not suggesting that WP should be characterless and impersonal. More that it should favour what I imagine to be the mass of users — people who get a few dozen visitors a day, a handful of comments per post if they’re lucky and whose overwhelmingly most common reason for logging in is to write a new post. The mass aren’t developers or even tweakers, they just want to post and go.

    One-click plugin installs and core upgrades in 2.7 will be a big step forward. It’d be better still to see writing rather than monitoring put at the heart of the application. If you’re after character, start being “cool blog software” rather than a “state-of-the-art publishing platform” and strip the power user features out into plugins or options in the admin UI. WordPress Lite?

    Adrian Short

    13 Oct 08 at 5:13 pm

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