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03 18 2008

The official WordPress blog posted up a nice sneak peek into the WordPress 2.5 release, and intriguingly enough, most of it seems to be an interface update thanks to the fine folks from Happy Cog. Excitedly, I grabbed the release candidate and installed it on my laptop to play with. While the experience was primarily positive, there were some things that irked me. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but the ones that I felt most passionate about are here.

Navigation


Figure 1: New Navigation

Splitting up the navigation is a great improvement over the previous system that was difficult to use for both the new and seasoned user. However, the issue which immediately grabbed my attention was the decision to make design one of the primary tabs, rather than grouping it with those of lesser importance off to the right. I really doubt people go into the current presentation tab in the current WordPress interface, and the contents of the design tab are the same. Once you have installed your theme there is really no reason to be playing around in there, much the same as a plugin for most users. In contrast, the other three primary tabs are the things people spend nearly all of their time in.

Another item of note is the Visit Site link next to the name of the blog. It’s shape and size is visually commanding when it isn’t all that important. Also, while it may be more of a personal preference, I have never liked the term visit. Especially for my own sites, I prefer the previous verbiage of View site.

I do love the new comment notification in orange, it rightfully grabs your attention so you take care of it. I can not count how many times I’ve failed to take care of that stuff simply because nothing reminded me of it.

Write/Edit Screen


Figure 2: The Write/Edit Screen

The most important screen in the whole application is also one of the most drastically changed. While I love some of the new additions, such as the permalink preview and tag path there are a lot of things here I find questionable.

Much of what used to be in the sidebar moved below the post. Unfortunately, this gives equal precedence to setting a post’s timestamp as it does custom fields. Get those things out of my way so the user can focus on the more frequently used tools.

The new add media tools are excellent, and a great addition, but why can’t the rest of the GUI based editor have the tooltips? While it’s not as important on the more obvious things, from personal experience the more icon has been troublesome, why not use the already developed tooltips from the media bar?

The removal of the Save and Continue Editing button was odd at first, but I’m happy to find that the Save button now has the same functionality (which is more intuitive to a new user). However, I’m still scared of how close the Publish button is to the Save button. It would be nice to have more space between them to help prevent accidental publishing.


Figure 3: Below the post box

Since the categories section moved beneath the post, I now have to click into the categories section to do something that nearly every blogger does prior to posting, assign categories or tags. Thankfully, this is solved with a cookie that remembers which one I like to keep open, but what about using that information to put the one that I use more often above the other if I only keep one open? Less scrolling. My other problem here is that I now need to click Add new category to give me the form to add a new one, this seems to be an extra step that could easily be avoided.

With the reduced amount of options in the right hand column, it would be nice if it were fixed in place and scrolled with the screen, so that when I am quite a ways down the page filling out my custom fields I don’t have to scroll back up just to hit save and make sure things are working as expected.

Manage Screens


Figure 4: The Manage Screen

Making these more consistent is one of the best things for new users, and I really don’t have much to comment on. But I do wonder if removing the low-contrast comment icon in the header row in favor of a text based label wouldn’t be a bad idea. It would be more consistent and solve that contrast issue while being more informative for a new user.


Figure 5: Plugins Screen — Which one is activated?

However, the plugins screen no longer has an easy way to tell if a plugin is activated or deactivated. Consistency is great but this is a hindrance once you have a few plugins installed.

The choice of common settings for permalinks are still poor for both SEO and human use, why not improve these recommendations?

Conclusion

Overall, I think the new interface is a great improvement, but there are many things that leave me wondering if it’s had enough polish yet. I am sure the folks at both WordPress and Happy Cog will make the final release a great experience, and I am excited that they are having a period for feedback prior to that release. How do you folks feel about the new interface?

Forty

Responses

  1. Wordpress 2.5 definitely looks intriguing. I’m really not a fan of the brightly colored control panel. I always liked the simple blue theme as it was soft on the eyes. Being someone who does most of his writing after 11PM, this was appreciated. I can see myself being blinded while trying to write a blog post that late.

    The menu schema could’ve been better represented, I think. For the most part, I think that the main navigation is the way it is (with Design as a parent) for consistancy’s sake. Everything you manage is under, obviously, the Manage parent. That being said, I think it would have been a better decision to switch Design with the slightly deemphasized yet slightly more important Settings link to the right. Not only would having Design and Plugins next to each other be more uniformed, it would also add emphasis to the more commonly used Settings menu.

    When viewing the Plugins page, I can easily tell which plugins are enabled and which are disabled by looking at the enable/disable link to the right. However, for a new user, this may be confusing and I agree it could be represented better than it is.

    Nice post and a great look at what’s to come in the world of WordPress.

  2. However, the issue which immediately grabbed my attention was the decision to make design one of the primary tabs, rather than grouping it with those of lesser importance off to the right. I really doubt people go into the current presentation tab in the current WordPress interface, and the contents of the design tab are the same.

    I thought that same thing when we started this project and I was dead wrong. Apparently it’s one of the most used features of the entire admin. We did lots of interviews and research at the beginning of our work, and found that people are constantly changing their designs.

    The WordPress gang is already working on some of the other things you mentioned (this still being a release candidate and all). Plus, this was such a big undertaking, with a full rewrite of the front end code, that some of the smaller details will get addressed in due time. Posts like this help tremendously!

  3. @Jason Santa Maria: Pleasure to have you here. I should’ve mentioned that I didn’t have any user testing data at my disposal but I’m rather shocked to hear that the statistics were high enough to warrant that decision. Interesting.

    Can’t wait to see what the end result turns out to be, glad I could be of help. :)

  4. Just installed the RC1 (perennial early-adopter) and despite one or two plugins choking (which is to be expected) all is well. The backend makes a whole lot more sense and the new interface (great work Jason) is sweet, only a little on the big ‘n’ chunky side for my taste (bit of wordpress tradition).

    One thing I will miss is re-ordering the ‘extras’ in the write post view - it’s now a long, long way down to some of the options.

    Also one oddity - the bulk upload functionality (awesome addition) is not available in manage > media. It would make a lot of sense here as well as in write/edit post.

    Interesting to see this at the same time as the preview re-design of Expression Engine 2.0 which isn’t looking quite as tight to my mind. Admittedly both are skinnable but a ‘professional’ backend is a big selling point when deploying into business environments…

    Cheers.

  5. I do not know if I like the idea of having the categories etc underneath. I would rather them be besides the main content. Its not being used and so now its just a waste of space imo

  6. Nice summary. I have yet to install this and play, but so far it looks pretty good to me. (I never really liked the blue all that much, and probably won’t miss it.)

  7. Regarding the placement of everything in the main column (Categories, et al): you would also be amazed at how many people completely missed everything in the sidebar before. Some people didn’t even know those options existed. Moving them to the main column helps with the flow of the page and helps them be included in the flow of posting. I agree about being able to rearrange them, that was something we had planned early on, I imagine it’s just a matter of time before it gets implemented.

  8. @Jason Santa Maria: While it may be a little out there, what about being able to close ones that we don’t use? Even if this is something only available from the writing settings it would be nice to reduce not only clutter, but to gain back some valuable vertical screen space.

    For example, on Typesites I make use of categories, the excerpt, and custom fields. If I could remove or hide the other items it would make things simpler.

    I suppose the real object of my discussion is more personalization of the write/edit screen. Many users will have different preferences and tastes, and the default can only satisfy some, not all. I think the new screen is a great benefit for new users, because as you said, some things were often overlooked. But for veteran users a level of basic customization is priceless.

  9. I totally agree, Kyle. You should submit a request and ask about it.

  10. Look, tell me they didn’t take out the slug field. Properly edited and curated post slugs are the difference between some twit who just hits Publish and the pros.

  11. Why wasn’t Steve Smith of OrderedList contracted for the redesign?

    He developed the BEAUTIFUL Tiger interface for WordPress over 3 years ago!

    http://orderedlist.com/wordpress-plugins/wp-tiger-administration/

  12. @Tim - I guess because he doesn’t care to work with WordPress any longer, and has moved to Mephisto.

    @Jason Santa Maria: Thanks for letting us know why that decision was made. It would be good to get a detailed accounting of the redesign process and the data behind those decisions, if only to have some real substantive answers when we end up asking, “What were they thinking!?”

    Me, I’d have put the “Presentation” on the right next to the “Plugins,” since they are both used for site development, and kept the content development stuff grouped on the left. My “flow of posting” would be broken by having to scroll to the bottom to enter a category or other advanced field. And I very much prefer fewer clicks and less hidden access (e.g. radio buttons over drop-downs) to WordPress functions, even if they are functions I use infrequently. (I’m not intimidated by clutter, and I don’t want someone else hiding my interface in the clutter closet.) I wasn’t completely thrilled with Tiger Admin, either; though I liked how it handled the plugin screen. And I liked the Barunio admin theme, though it conflicted with my plugins.

    But stuff like this is just me. Obviously, what makes sense to me doesn’t make sense to everyone, and in that I think I am in the mainstream; so I agree that being able to customize the admin area should be a high priority.

  13. Honestly, i think the 2.3.3 Interface is fine. It does me well at least. :P

  14. Am I the only person who thinks this is a major step backwards in the UI.

    There is hardly any contrast. I’m confused at what to do.

    I’m highly disappointed to see this is the quality of work that Happy Cog delivers.

    Francis

  15. Moving the post time stamp away from the sidebar would be a real deal breaker for me, as I write posts in advance. I already have my blog setup in a way where everything “just works”. If upgrading to 2.5 means my current themes and plug-ins will break, then I for one not be rushing into this, no matter how slick the new interface looks like, and man does it look real slick.

  16. @Tim: I gave the Tiger admin panel a go for while, but switched back to the default interface because, well, I couldn’t stand the Tiger panel.

    @Francis: I disagree, there are some areas of definite improvement, including the consistency between manage screens, and the dashboard overhaul. Breaking up the navigation may seem like an odd choice to people who have used wordpress for a long period of time, but it makes much more sense to a new user, and all the same items are still in the navigation that veteran users are used to, they’re just separated a bit more.

    Overall, I think it’s an improvement. As with any new interface, there’s some things you’ll have to change slightly as an existing user, but I believe it’s beneficial in the long run, even for those who have to adapt.

  17. Overall I think this is a great start at a new design. I am much more impressed with this design compared to Veerle’s for Expression Engine (although I prefer Expression Engine over WordPress).

    @Jason Santa Maria I too do not understand why “design” would be a main tab. Who did you survey, developers? The average user would not be in there that often. It’s actually a disadvantage for developers that do not want their clients touching any of the code and design. Even so why is the “design” tab before the “comments” tab? Write, Manage, and Comments are all about the content - design is development. I am also curious that if from the surveys users completely missed everything in the sidebar then why is that the location where you decided to place the two most important buttons (save and publish)? If all users NEED to refer to the sidebar to use those buttons, they would find other sidebar elements as well. I personally do not mind the extras being below the write box but the reasons for it make no sense.

    The plugin page needs a distinct active verses non active indication.

    Overall great job.

  18. Thank you for your evaluation, Kyle. I also appreciate all the work done on the interface and all that jazz. For what it’s worth now, I never thought that the previous backend design was ugly, just plain neat and clean. It never interfered with my friends and clients writing great articles in the least.

    Main concern with all the changes is the WRITE /EDIT screen where most of my MUST USE tools for friends and clients previously on the right column were moved to below the posting area (arrgghh). While I can appreciate the designer’s concerns for the prospective new users, what about the legion of current WordPress users?

    If the logic to move the categories, tags, etc to below the post area was to help help the new users to add categories, tags, etc. before posting, how is it that the Save and Publish buttons are not below all that? In my humble opinion, the new design increases the chances that new users will make the mistake of publishing before categories, tags, etc. are added to the post.

    I hope that the designers and coders can integrate a function where users have the option to place the aforementioned tools back to the right column… or a plugin. Thank you.

  19. A great summ. man! ;)
    I still haven’t tried this on my wordpress blog but i like a lot the new web interface.
    I’d like to have some app to admin my blog from my desktop too (maybe air applications).
    Does anybody know about it?
    tks for your job.

  20. Great review, Kyle - very thorough, and I agree with pretty much all of your criticisms. Let’s hope some of them get addressed between now and the actual release.

    One thing I hadn’t noticed (simply because I only played with the interface for 10 minutes) was the removal of the ‘slug’ field, which Joe Clark pointed out. I agree with him 100% that this was a mistake, and a glaring omission IMHO.

    Interesting that you never liked the ‘Tiger’ admin. Despite its quirks, I’ve always found it much neater than the WP default (although I doubt I’ll use it anymore after switching to 2.5).

  21. Re: Slugs… Actually looking at underlying page code in 2.5rc2 shows that the “edit-slug-box” is a div (currently without content) just below the title - As Jason stated early on this is a still a work in progress, so let’s just hope this gets turned back on soon.

  22. In WordPress 2.4 RC2, the slug field is now relocated and relabelled. The permalink field appears below the post name field, and looks like so:

    Permalink: http://localhost/wordpress25rc2/welcome Edit

  23. I meant 2.5… (This blog’s font is difficult to read at a high resolution.) Also, in 2.5 RC2, I think the example content is bugged. You have to delete the pre-existing “About” page so you can recreate the page with an editable permalink.

  24. RE: Slugs: The slug appears directly below the Title field after you enter a title. It automatically fills one in by dirifying the title, with the option to edit it as well.

  25. Overall love the new design, but feel strongly that the write page has taken more than a few steps back. It is now designed for the absolute beginner in mind stripping most functionality away and moving it to nether regions….which is very likely exactly what wordpress had in mind…. unfortunately, if you any of formerly sidebar functionality, you’re out of look….. look for a “Resore Sidebar Functionality” plugin to come out soon….. I’m sure I’m not the only one shaking my head….

  26. W2.5 is much cleaner, I like the style. and there is a fluency admin plugin that is also very nice.

  27. Hello from me, too! :-)

    I just made the upgrade from 2.3.3 to 2.5. Looks that everything went smoothly.

    A few thoughts on the new admin interface:

    I’ll cite one of the commenters above:

    I hope that the designers and coders can integrate a function where users have the option to place the aforementioned tools back to the right column… or a plugin. Thank you.

    Yes, this is one of my main concerns, too! And Id’ like to see such a function/option:)

    I am using WP since 2.0.5, for more than a year. I liked in the ‘Write’ page particularly two things:

    1) First, that almost everything of importance, related to writing a post (post slug; post category; post date & hour; allow/disallow comments & pings; etc.) was nicely located in the sidebar. This saves screen estate and it’s very useful for you to be able to edit all related info to the blog post you write, alongside the text field of the post itself.

    2) Ability to re-arrange and close/open boxes in the sidebar.

    Now: 1) Almost everything related to post is located below the text field, and also labels became very big (which is not useful at all!), this also leads to almost empty sidebar (why?), and 2) now I can’t anymore re-arrange the boxes…

    So after making the upgrade, I’ve lost one of the things I liked the most, in the ‘Write’ page of WP 2.0-2.1-2.2-2.3.

    I am not that good in PHP, so I cannot invent a way of moving some of this stuff below the textfield back to the right side column. But I believe, a lot of WP users will be more than happy to be able again to have the boxes at the right, alongside the text field…

    Thanks for listening to my suggestion… and sorry for not-that-perfect-language:)

    PS OK, at least, I will be fine, if documentation on how we can move Categories, Tags back to the right, could be written:) I’ll then struggle for myself trying to do it, maybe via a new plugin or something..:)

  28. Thank you for taking your time to put together this great review, Kyle.

    BTW, if you get a moment, would you comment on my blog? http://www.willsherwood.com

  29. Nice review, I love the interface but can’t help thinking all the colours are too wishy washy. on some screens it is really hard to use it. i struggle even on my macbook which i think has a pretty decent screen.

    for the default theme it would have been far better to keep with the old colours or something with a bit more variation.

    I use the secondary admin theme which i find far more easy to use.

    Dave.

  30. I love word press 2.5 I’m running 2.53 and it’s great.
    I use it on my web 2.0 graphics blog for portfolio designers.

  31. I agree with most of what you have said here. Definitely WordPress 2.5 is more user friendly. I feel like saving a lot of time while working on the new version. And light color combination has given it more fresh look.

  32. I was trying to figure out why my interface is different than others I saw. It looks like I have the latest version. But I actually like the other version better!

    While typing on the older version, you can hit “save and continue editing” and stay on the same screen so you can just continue typing. Arranging the widgets is much faster and simpler with less navigation required. If you change your mind about what goes in the left sidebar and what goes in the right one, you just switch them around. On the new version you have to remove them all from one sidebar, save, view the other sidebar, and put your widgets back. And maybe re-fill the fields as well!

    Anyway, maybe I’m missing something. But I like the other interface better …

  33. Hi,

    I’ve started using wordpress just few months back (may be when wordpress 2.5 got released) and I like this interface of WordPress. It’s very user friendly and interactive.

  34. Well, the new WordPress 2.7 has been released this week and it is even more user friendly, highly configurable and has got quite a lot of pizzaz. Maybe you could review this one. Nice review of the 2.5 though.

  35. Very interesting! I think W2.5 is much cleaner and I like the style.

  36. Very interesting! I think W2.5 is much cleaner and I like the style.

  37. Very interesting! I think W2.5 is much cleaner and I like the style.

  38. You are right. But the latest wordpress releases have improved a lot. WordPress is a great cms without a doubt.