WordPress Design Thoughts

Greg Storey just wrote an article that claims:

In several ways I think WordPress has a lot going for it functionally but in order for the software to seriously gain market share the developers need to recognize that design is needed to complete the product. […] And if WordPress can’t figure this out their application will always look like the welfare option in blog software.

As this is something we’ve been focusing on a great deal in the new 1.6 release, and WordPress.com users get to interafct with the new interface every day, I’m curious to hear some feedback from the community on this.

Published by Matt

In 2002 I started contributing to Open Source software, and life has just gotten better from there. Co-founder of WordPress, founder Automattic.

23 thoughts on “WordPress Design Thoughts

  1. I personally don’t see a ton of problems with the backend UI. With even a moment’s thought I can see where things are going to be, but I appreciate categories and grouping, so who knows.


  2. As a recent invitee to WordPress.com, I have to say I’m impressed. Personally, the design aspect never really mattered that much to me. It was more about what was under the hood that made me switch (from Blogger). But, if tweaking the design, which I think is really great in the 1.6 version we use on .com, will encourage more users to swap, then sure, it’s worth the time to develop that aspect.

    I do hope, however, that WordPress.com doesn’t become THAT trendy, because I’d hate to see it become another Xanga.

    Great work so far guys…


  3. Most WordPress users are inherintly more tech savvy than most, therefore leaving the need for a “pretty” interface behind.

    But Mr. Storey does make a good point. Although 1.6 has made GREAT strides to “update” their UI, I think in order for WP.com to really make a noticeable impact with the masses, their UI will have to look more…blogger-esk if you will. I personally find no problem with it…actually, I find it very easy to use.

    A good example of my point was converting my girlfriends site over from blogger to WP. It took me awhile to explain the backend to her because the “pretty” UI she was used to that made it easy for her to use Blogger, wasn’t there.


  4. Having used Blogger.com, Movable Type, WordPress as well as Nucleus CMS, I have to say that WordPress has a very intuitive and pretty interface. My personal choice for my own blog is Nucleus, and while I love Nucleus to death, the admin UI is nowhere near as easy to use as WordPress’.


  5. I gave my WordPress.com invite to a complete newbie, and told him to let me know if he had any problems. I haven’t heard from him yet, and he’s customised the theme, changed his title and tagline, and started posting with images. The UI is very intuitive.


  6. Perhaps it’s because I’m blind, so the visual appeal thing is somewhat lost on me. But I, for one, never minded the look of the backend. I thought it was clean and worked well and I guess the need for flashy designs in the backend never really has made sense to me, since hardly anyone would see it — I always thought the content of my site was the important thing.

    That said, the improvements in 1.6 that are being shown here are pretty nifty to look upon. I checked out some of the “skins” or whatnot a few other WP users had made and what they brought in visual appeal they lost out on making it harder for me (a totally colorblind person) see what I was doing! If it comes down to flashy vs. functioning — I’ll take the functioning any day of the week. And I think most intelligent people will agree.


  7. the ui doesn’t bothe me at all – i primarily use w.bloggar for all my posting unless i need to tweak something about the site. the only thing preventing me from using wordpress.com right now is the fact that i can’t change the url of my blog – i don’t want it tied to my username.


  8. Comparing WP’s backend to MT’s I have to say that MT’s still looks better, you guys might want to keep the simple design, but maybe use more graphics to make it look better, more user friendly. Using tabs would really make the GUI look better, I think..


  9. On the administration side, while its now starting to become feature rich, the overall design does feel flat, drab and quite dull. Its definately an improvement over 1.5 but I’d like to see more done to bring a fresh feel to styling like Tiger does. I’m assuming Shuttle will do this, eventually.

    While I don’t like the Tiger layout with options in a sidebar ruining workflow and wasting space, or some of the button and font selection, it is however a lot nicer on my eyes. Overall.

    I think there’s definately room for an overall design review that takes into mind user demographic WordPress is aiming at. It just doesn’t look that polished at the moment.
    I’d actually go as far as saying that other than the new colour, and other functionality goodies, it looks less polished than 1.5 style wise. Doesn’t feel coherent yet. But then it is beta. 🙂

    On WordPress.com, the current design does the job but I can’t really stand many of the template designs… even if they did win the theme contest. They’re all a little outdated for me. K2 will be a nice improvement if thats included, but even that I don’t like the font selection on. Doesn’t work well under windows without ClearType enabled.

    What I’m saying is, you’ll never make some people happy with set designs. 🙂

    Having said that I think WordPress.com in my opinion, needs its own templates only available on WordPress.com if its to stick with fixed designs. So as to distunguish it and brand its design. The blogs all look like every other blog out there at the moment. Kinda boring.


  10. I’ve used Blogger and Movable Type, and have dabbled with Drupal and a couple of others. Moving to WP has been the best blogging decision I’ve ever made. My wife, who shares my main blog with me, also finds it very easy to use (though it was admittedly easier before I added WPG2 and Gallery2 to the mix) as well.

    I’m also previewing 1.6 on WordPress.com. I’ve made a couple of comments in feedback thus far, but, by-and-large, I really like what’s “in there.” The interface is familiar enough that I didn’t get lost, while decluttering the backend layout nicely.

    I agree with Crain, in that it would be nice to have some exclusive templates for WordPress.com, with some customization options — like being able to upload a banner image, for instance, and the possibility of adding some static blocks to the index page template (I belong to a couple of web rings, and really need to be able to include the ring code on my main page).

    In general, 1.6 and WP.com is really looking good, though. Keep up the great work!


  11. My 2¢:
    Indeed, the new WordPress admin theme looks better, due to its new color (and it’s even blue, which biases my opinion just a tiny bit 😉 ). BUT, beyond that and some functional inovations (I’ll get there), it’s just… WordPress Admin vintage, with a blue tint. I personally enjoy — and use, on my WordPress[.org] installs — the WP Admin Tiger plugin (from http://www.orderedlist.com), and I think that is a good way to go. It is polished, and graphically enrichened, without becoming heavy at all.

    As for the new nifty stuff (specially on the Write Post item), just two caveats:

    1. Maybe it has a specific purpose with makes sense on WordPressµ per se, or on WordPress 1.6, but not on WordPress.com, but, at first sight, having 2 different places where a checkbox states to control whether there will be or nto be WYSIWYG editor seems a bit confusing.

    2. The WYSIWYG editor lacks some useful buttons, like the ones related to the blockquote, ins and del elements. That would be extremely useful, and would encourage the (proper) use of those elements. I could also refer heading (h1~h6) buttons as needed, but the WordPress problem with heading goes beyond the lack of a button on the Write Post interface — I’m currently drafting a post on that, plan to publish it this week.

    Other than these 1+2 things, WordPress is indeed in the good way — and it’s been most pleasing having seen and to be seeing WordPress evolve since it was called “b2”. 😉


  12. I’m relatively new to WordPress (about a month) after running a static HTML site for a few years. I’ve never used or seen any other blog software. I chose WordPress over the other choices out there because my new host offered one-click installation and I read good things about the program.

    I’m not exceptionally talented technically, but I guess I know enough to get by. But I had my new blog up and running in minutes and in a few hours I had a new theme that I tweaked to create a personalized site.

    I find the tools interface exceptionally easy to use and don’t mind the design. I’ve been able to figure out all kinds of things like re-directs and changing the sidebar, installing a custom 404 page and indexes without too much of a problem. So, I kind of like the “flat” design interface as it makes things easy to find and work with. But then again, I don’t have anything to compare WP to.


  13. As a typepad user (not quite “former” typepad user… yet) i am still a bit skeptical about wordpress.com. although i’m not a complete technophobe, i am by no means L33t, and having to tweak options like my preffered time display using php codes doesn’t seem very user friendly. i also wasted a ton of time clicking through the dashboard trying to get to the preferences i was hoping to change. i was more disappointed to find that i couldn’t change them or if i could it didn’t matter because of how the themes are locked down. in addition to the backend being better organized, i wish the themes were editible for wp.com users. i come from a design background and one thing typepad does very well is allow me to edit the look, layout and content of my blog with no coding whatsoever. wordpress implements ajax powerfully enough that i know they could allow this and still maintain usability and compatibility. it would be a huge difference in my interest in the service.


  14. Personally I prefer the WordPress MU backend to MT’s backend, although the comparision between WordPress MU and Movable Type 3.0 is not a fair one. However I cannot comment or make a comparison with Typepad as I’ve never used it. I know enough about the techy stuff to get me by and I’ve found the WordPress MU UI (alot of acronyms there!) much less cluttered and much more straight forward, and it’s this very reason that I moved away from Movable Type to WordPress as their UI and plugins were becoming more and more difficult to use. If WordPress MU continue with the method of less tech talk I’m sure they are onto a winning product.

    Saying that, I hope that the inclusion of a broader base of plugins as standard (such as technorati tag automation i.e. simpletags plugin), and the facility to do a certain about of template tweaking should a user desire needs serious consideration.


  15. The WordPress UI is fine. There are certainly some improvements that could be made, but it’s pretty easy to use. I think my biggest gripe is that horrible dashboard. I mean, really – the info about my site is in a tiny box in the upper right and 90% of it shameless self-promotion for the authors’ weblogs. Now, I am all for cutting these guys some slack for all their hard work, but I still think they have the proportions in the wrong order. 90% of dashboard should be about my site, with a small sidebar for the shameless plugs.


  16. I have experiences as a user with: Friendster Blog, Yahoo 360, Blogger, Movable Type, Typepad (free trial), and then WordPress. After I’ve got the wordpress.com invitation, the buzz marketing was really working for me until I decided to back for good from MT into WP.

    And the other reasons are:
    1. Backend UI WP 1.6 is simplier and than MT 3.2 (for me), really. WP 1.5.2 is mostly like WP 1.6.
    2. WordPress community is great, they’re so humble, etc. I feel that there’s no gap between developers and users. The concept of utopia community is really work down here.
    3. K2. WP as engine and K2 as theme is really a great chemistry for me. I had a bad experience with one of WP themes out there once, but it’s not working with K2.

    The conclusion is good backend UI design is important matter but it’s not everything. There are many factors that we have to count them.


  17. Your benchmark is Movable Type, until WordPress gains a better interface you have a problem.

    – Changing from white/grey to blue isn’t an improvement, it’s just a color change..
    – Please loose the serif typography for WP interface, it doesn’t work, yes even for titles.
    – Until now WP interface is made by programmers, wrong. Please hire Shaun Inman, Douglas Bowman, or the guys at 37 signals and let them work on what they do best, I’m sure the community can donate to cover costs.
    – Dashboard is useless. Priority should be on blog stats, not on what other people (which I never read) write.

    + Why can’t I see post comments when editing a post? …or at least a link in the post edit screen to the comment listing for that particular post? (1.5.2 and 1.6).
    + Comment listing (on the comment moderation screen) doesn’t tell you what post is the coment related to.
    + Upload function on WP 1.5.2 is awful.

    WP is very very very easy to install (I use WP on my weblogs and I am a WP evangelist), it works really good but you have to work a lot on the interface if you want to compete head-to-head with MT and TypePad .


  18. I enjoy where the admin section is heading, with the nicer fonts and better colors. It’s a huge step from WordPress 1.5, which I’ve used *heavily* on my blog, before switching to wordpress.com ‘full-time’. While I love WordPress 1.5, I thought the admin section was just plain ugly.


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