Normally I don’t get excited about WordPress updates because they tend to be pretty incremental (and cause a lot of stress). WordPress upgrades usually add a few features and a lot of bug fixes, which is great but not very exciting.
But I have to admit that I just took a look at Matt’s post on what lies in store in WordPress 2.5, and I’m actually excited about the new version. People like the team behind Automattic always amaze me with their ability to think outside of the box, and innovate beyond what has been expected and accepted.
Those of us who have been using WordPress for a while are used to the WordPress admin, to the point where we probably don’t feel like much is lacking. It seems that new users find the admin confusing and cumbersome, and therefore Automattic has streamlined it in a way that is smart and intuitive.
So here’s an overview of what’s in store as reported by Matt, with my commentary:
I barely glance at the Dashboard when I enter the admin of my blogs. Most of it is useless, with the incoming links section being the only thing that grabs my attention. In 2.5, the WordPress dashboard will focus on the most relevant tasks at hand for the blogger: a quick summary of what’s published and scheduled for publication, the latest comments and incoming links, blog stats, and WordPress updates and news.
A really exciting addition is the ability to add our own RSS feeds to the Dashboard. That means that users can set their Dashboard to present them with information related to their blog topic, for example, or a project management blog can pull in RSS feeds related to their project. Cool.
As I mentioned above, as a longish-time user of WordPress, the navigation in the admin doesn’t bother me. I know where I need to go to get things done, but apparently the navigation can be confusing, and could be improved. So they’ve improved it by separating the main tasks that we do, like writing, managing posts and pages, editing the blog’s design, and managing comments, from the tasks that are used less often.
The only thing I would have done differently is move the blog design editing section to the secondary section. I don’t know about you, but I NEVER edit my theme files from the admin. That just seems too risky. I prefer to make all changes offline using a good editor so that all of the most current theme files are on my hard drive, and if I make a mistake, I can easily undo it.
The new Write Post/Page page loses a lot of the clutter of the current layout. Matt says that the new write screen “only displays the information that you’ll use most often.” This concerns me a bit, because I actually use a lot of the stuff that is there, and if I don’t use it all the time, I like to know that it’s there. Hopefully the new layout gives users easy access to everything, even the stuff used infrequently.
What is cool is that the Write page remembers how you left it the last time, and what’s even cooler is that the visual editor now has a full-screen mode!! Although I rarely write posts within WordPress anymore (I use and love Windows Live Writer), the full screen mode will make writing posts within WordPress a heck of a lot more enjoyable than scrolling within the current tiny editor. Matt says this is his favorite new feature, and I have a feeling I’m going to agree.
The changes to the management pages seem to be in terms of removing clutter and making useful information more accessible. It’s hard to judge this one without seeing it, but I imagine it will be an improvement in usability.
The most visible change to the WordPress admin is, of course, its style. The fonts have changed a bit, and the colors consist of lightish blue and lightish orange. While I am a sucker for change when it comes to web apps and the like, these colors seem kind of washed out and hospital-like. But no worries! If you like the old look you can restore them by selecting “classic” under Options.
Even better – you can now have a per-user Admin color scheme! That means that every user on a blog can use their own stylesheet in the admin. PlanetOzh has a little tutorial explaining how.
Testing it out before release
I don’t know if Automattic has ever done this before, but Matt has asked people to test out the latest release and report back with bugs. This is a smart move, since generally new versions of WordPress almost always need to be upgraded immediately to fix bugs and security issues. Hopefully this strategy will mean that we can enjoy our new version of WordPress for a while before having to upgrade.
What’s amazing about WordPress is that they manage to continually add more features while decreasing clutter. The addition of features does not translate into a weighed-down, clunky interface, which is more than a lot of web applications can claim. I can’t wait to try it out!