Warning: This post may offend WordPress fanboys. Feel free to grab a handkerchief and move to a seated position. I recommend a towel for fanboys, but everyone else should be fine. References to the previous redesign refer to the Happy Cog redesign in WordPress 2.5 released in March, 2008 and WordPress 2.6 released in July, 2008 (only a few months ago). Handkerchiefs ready then… everyone say EVOLUTION… (another Kodak moment).
WordPress 2.7 is coming out and it’s smoking hot by all accounts with some sweet under the hood changes, a new Dashboard, and a brand new administration interface that will make it more usable. Did they say more usable? What area of usability research has ever said changing a content management administration area’s interface several times in a year will equal greater usability? Most users I deal with struggle with their email applications – small to medium businesses and smaller Not for Profit organisations.
In fact, as someone who has to deal with client education I’m going to have to field a number of business related client calls that are going to ask me WTF happened to the buttons? Where the hell did that feature move to? Is this the same program? What have I done to them while they were asleep? To many of them there will be an attribution of fault laid on my professional doorstep.
There are a number of problems that can be identified here:
- WordPress is getting feature creep – I’d like a pool if you could add that? And a horse?
- WordPress has mixed up usability and change – one makes my life easier and the second Makes Me Think! Makes My Clients Think! The usability for existing non-technical users might not be so hot.
- WordPress is listening to a developer an academic community not all of whom are delivering their product commercially to clients.
- WordPress have forgotten most clients aren’t developers – most clients struggle at the email level. Most clients are definately not us.
In a bright new world where everyone is a technical expert I’d have to smile and say I welcome the redesigned redesign of the WordPress administration section. But I don’t, especially in the name of usability. It is never good for software to keep moving things dramatically around. The trick is to improve features and improve code without impacting the user at all. True, the new interfaces may aid usability for someone opening it for the first time in 2009,
although it has only been claimed not proven although testing at Ball State University’s Center for Media Design appears to say I am wrong on that score. But, in my opinion, for the real world – usability will negatively be impacted because of the change.
From a business perspective I now have to ask myself whether I need to change my preferred platform for small to medium business because WordPress doesn’t offer my non-tech-savvy client base the stability. Training manuals need to be rewritten from the ground up, as well.
I can only say that usability
is a little more complicated than listening to ten thousand people with a wishlist in your developer forums and making a pretty design with some fancy new spangled widgets in the wild might not necessarily match the testing results that have been conducted at Ball State. So, please, tell me that the WordPress 2.7 administration interface redesigned redesign is prettier and more efficient. But don’t tell me it’s more usable. Usable to who? And when?
This should have been discussed, thought out and executed when they were dealing with Happy Cog on the last iteration. Seriously, altered interfaces are going to impact the end users. These end users are mom and pop everybody, not the developer community. The developer community will keep asking you for everything. Everything! Users will only ask you for consistency and understandability so they can change content.
Any time you significantly change the user experience you are going to put cognitive barriers in front of your real world users (not developers, users). But yes, the new interfaces are very pretty. Unfortunately they will cost me commercial hours explaining, retraining and redocumenting them for my existing clients (again).
OK all the WordPress fanboys can unblock their ears and blow their snotty handkerchiefs that not everyone is elated. There, don’t you feel better? Now say it after me – usability improvement my arse! Please show me the metrics of that study for existing users.