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.
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.
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.
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?
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?