// Internet Duct Tape

Who Moved My Cheese? The New WordPress Admin Interface

Posted in Programming and Software Development, Technology, WordPress by engtech on April 18, 2008

WordPress Tips and Tricks

Two of my blogging heroes and inspiration Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky have joined together on a new venture called StackOverflow: overflowing with awesomeness. They are also doing a weekly podcast, and you can download the first 45 minute podcast here (8 MB). In the discussion, Joel makes a great comment: Windows Vista gives you change without giving you any value. As a Windows XP user there is no compelling reason to upgrade because you’re going to have to relearn where everything is, but you don’t get any new and compelling features or applications to offset that.

People don’t like change, to the point where you can write a book about it and sell 5 million copies.

This perfectly explained my resistance to the new WordPress 2.5 admin interface: it changed where everything is without giving any perceived value. The value in the new UI is that it is easier for new people to find things, but as someone who has been blogging with WordPress for two years I found myself continually getting irritated and bitching about it on Twitter.

WordPress Admin Bitching

(See how the text in that image is impossible to read on the webpage? That’s the 500px problem in a nutshell. And there’s NO WAY FOR ME TO FIX THIS because we can’t change our blog themes on WordPress.com.)

General

  • Not enough contrast between colours.
  • WordPress 2.5 Colour Contrast

Editing Posts

  • Instead of having everything in the sidebar beside the post, you have to scroll down the page to add tags, categories, excerpts.
  • Inserting a link is no longer Ctrl-K, it’s now Alt-Shift-A.
    • As Chris says, “This is muscle memory by now!”
  • Hitting Tab in a link list no longer indents the list, now it jumps down to Tags. You have to use the Indent button from the Advanced Menu instead and there doesn’t seem to be a hotkey for this.
  • New interface for uploading media and images, with Gallery mode.
    • More fields to fill out than before, and no way to permanently change the default settings to what you want. The defaults should be configurable by the Settings >> Media menu.
    • This would have been a great feature two years ago when if you uploaded an image that was too wide for your theme it would break Internet Explorer 6. It is still a great feature, but annoying.
  • Delete button is right beside the save button. Causes some people to worry they’ll accidentally delete a post.
  • The new editor is supposed to prevent your code from getting screwed up, yet I was able really munge my code by switching between the Visual and HTML editors. I haven’t been able to reproduce it, so I’m willing to concede it was my fault some how. :)

Akismet

  • You can no longer view the comments marked as spam with Akismet. I’ve tested this on self-hosted WordPress and WordPress.com and it’s broken in both of them.
  • What happens is that every “page” in the page shows the same 20-40 comments. See screenshots. Notice that I have Greasemonkey turned off so there shouldn’t be any scripts causing this to happen.
  • Akismet Is BrokenAkismet Broken

Who moved my cheese? My first week with the new WordPress 2.5 admin involved lots of frustration and much swearing, not to mention that I had to update my Akismet Auntie Spam and WordPress Comment Ninja Firefox scripts to work with the new interfaces.

Because of issues I had with the new features (hotkeys changed, image uploading takes longer, Akismet interface) I perceived that the new interface changed and I’m not getting any value from it. Who moved my cheese? Why do I have to deal with things being moved around without getting anything from it?

Of course, a week later and I’m enjoying the new admin interface once I’m past the learning curve. I do think things are more intelligently laid out, and I especially like the new list interfaces to managing comments. But that doesn’t discount the psychological impact that I didn’t feel like there was a good reason to learn the new interface.

As a software developer, it’s something to keep in mind. People don’t want to relearn your interface unless their are enough compelling features that they see the value in it. Give them a carrot while they’re looking for their cheese.

26 Responses

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  1. Kilted Eric said, on April 18, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Think of it this way, getting past the learning curve helped to excersies your brain! Its like Sudoko!

  2. Ian Stewart said, on April 18, 2008 at 11:40 am

    “See how the text in that image is impossible to read on the webpage? That’s the 500px problem in a nutshell. And there’s NO WAY FOR ME TO FIX THIS because we can’t change our blog themes on WordPress.com.”

    Try drag-and-resize after it’s in the writing pane. Or try switching to HTML-view and removing the height and width attributes.

  3. phil.gs said, on April 18, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    The Ctrl-K thing is really annoying, as is the stuff below the write panel. Of course, I only upgraded yesterday, so maybe I’ll find the value eventually.

    Also, when inserting a link, the “http://” part isn’t select. If you just cut-and-paste from a different tab, as I do, you end up with “http://http://”. Highly annoying.

    So with the previous version, inserting a link required four keys total; now it’s up to seven.

    Definitely negative progress.

  4. engtech said, on April 18, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    @ phil.gs:

    Ugh, I didn’t realize they broke the http://http:// thing again. That was an old bug, too.

    I’ll have to watch out for it.

    Thanks.

  5. engtech said, on April 18, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    @ Ian Stewart:

    This 500px is something that blogger “does right” compare to WordPress.

    The way Blogger resizes the image leaves it entirely legible. Like my screenshots on http://idt-labs.blogspot.com

  6. Linda Timney said, on April 18, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Being a non-technical newbie to blogging and WordPress, I kind of noticed, and kind of didn’t notice the dashboard changes. But the net effect for me was that I suddenly found myself able to make changes I’d been wanting to make, kind of seamlessly. Things like adding widgets (features, search bar etc) suddenly became just so click-click-click EASY. So from my non-tech point of view, I’m sorry that it’s been a pain for you, but you are sufficiently capable and experienced to be able to overcome these things much more easily than me. And while I wouldn’t normally deliberately inconvenience anyone, I’m totally stoked to be able to do stuff I couldn’t do before.

  7. Chris K said, on April 18, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Ahhh… I thought the Akismet thing was just me! That started happening before 2.5 and I just figured one of my half-baked plugins was to blame. :-)

    It ain’t fixed, but I’m glad it’s not just me.

  8. Nita said, on April 19, 2008 at 12:45 am

    I like the new format, but not the smaller font and the cluttered look. Overall its a good change. Actually I love change as its more interesting. I was enjoying myself re-learning everything! There are some things I don’t like but I have so much faith in WordPress, I know they will fix those things.

  9. raincoaster said, on April 19, 2008 at 1:01 am

    I certainly haven’t seen the http/http issue in more than a year, certainly not since the change. Sure hope they fix that Akismet issue, but it is not exactly in their best interest to do so.

    This is just an impression I’ve gotten from the new dashboard, but it seems more Mac-intuitive if you know what I mean. If there’s a question I have about something operational, generally I click on my first guess and I’m right. That wasn’t the case before.

    The uploading, however, needs a huge overhaul. Regardless of browser, I simply cannot get the Flash media uploader to work, nor can a lot of other people. One wonders if they actually tested this on real machines running real programs, or just on simulators, because that should NOT have come as the surprise it did to Automattic.

  10. engtech said, on April 19, 2008 at 8:32 am

    @ raincoaster:

    Yeah, I’m giving the overhaul a thumbs up the more I use it. I really love the new comment admin panel. It looks very slick, and Comment Ninja integrates really nicely with it.

  11. engtech said, on April 19, 2008 at 8:34 am

    @ Chris K:

    heh, I went through the exact same thing. The first time I noticed it was on a self-hosted copy of WordPress on a local machine. When I imported my blog I got hit by the 16 MB import file limit and I had to manually hack it down to size.

    So I thought I’d broken Akismet then.

    I was a little bit relieved when I noticed it was broken on WordPress.com as well. :)

  12. engtech said, on April 19, 2008 at 8:35 am

    @ Linda Timney:

    That’s awesome to hear Linda. I’m glad to know that it’s having the effect they were looking for.

  13. Roads said, on April 19, 2008 at 8:59 am

    I like the sleek design, but amazing that the image uploading still doesn’t really work. The uploader is writing different code and is still stripping out alt and title tags. Which is annoying.

    So much so, that I wrote about it over at timethief’s new site.

  14. Vaibhav said, on April 20, 2008 at 2:07 am

    I don’t mind this release at all. It has been good for me. None of my plugins broke and most had upgrades available (and thanks to auto-upgrade, that was a breeze).
    (http://blog.gadodia.net/a-review-of-the-latest-wordpress-25/)

    I love the added Gravatar support. I think overall the old Admin panel was depressing compared to what it is now. I hate what they have done to the Widgets administration (however).

  15. whall said, on April 20, 2008 at 3:31 am

    I’ve been thinking of upgrading but knew that spotmilk doesn’t work in 2.5 so I had decided to put it off for a while as I look for another replacement admin theme. Now that I read this, I’ll put it off longer.

    And I think it’s a very inaccurate characterization to say that Vista makes things different / harder but brings no added value. I moved to Vista about a month ago and I am so addicted right now I can’t see straight.

    You might ask “what value was added” so here are some of the ones for me:

    1. Search. Oh. my. gosh. search. It’s everywhere and I save TONS of time each day being able to find anything in email, disk, web, etc. It’s even in the save-as and open dialog boxes.

    2. UAC. Everyone complains about it, but it has a single useful purpose: stop spyware and unintended consequences. Result? Windows doesn’t get broken as easily. Show me someone with XP for more than a few months who doesn’t have something screwed up somewhere, and that person probably doesn’t use their system much or install many apps.

    3. Visual interface. I love Aero. Everything just flows a little better, a little faster and very suave.

    4. Standby. On XP, it took minutes to go to standby. On Vista, it takes seconds, and it’s quite obvious what’s going on – press power button, screen fades to black and then the box is ready to do whatever.

    those are my biggies.

  16. raincoaster said, on April 20, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Wow. Reasons to love Vista? File that in the category of Things I Never Thought I’d See On The Interwebs. Interesting.

  17. raincoaster said, on April 20, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Also: actually, I came here to say that your title summed up the situation with the upgrade so perfectly I wish I’d thought of it myself.

    Of course, if I had, I’d have simply posted that, along with “It’s not your fucking cheeze at all, it’s Matt’s, duh” over and over, so maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t.

  18. engtech said, on April 20, 2008 at 9:33 am

    @ whall:

    “UAC. Everyone complains about it, but it has a single useful purpose: stop spyware and unintended consequences. Result? Windows doesn’t get broken as easily. Show me someone with XP for more than a few months who doesn’t have something screwed up somewhere, and that person probably doesn’t use their system much or install many apps.”

    *Raises hand*

    I’ve been running this XP install since 2004 without having any spyware or viruses without using anti-virus software. I use it for several hours every day.

    The only reason why I can’t say I’ve been using it since 2002 is because of a physical drive failure that forced a reinstall.

  19. engtech said, on April 20, 2008 at 9:36 am

    @ Vaibhav:

    Oh wow, I hadn’t looked at the Widgets admin yet.

    The old one was bad, but the new one looks like a million click to get anything done.

  20. engtech said, on April 20, 2008 at 9:38 am

    @ whall:

    The Vista thing isn’t even my opinion. I haven’t used it for more than a few hours myself. You can take it up with http://joelonsoftware.com if you want to.

  21. Netty Gritty said, on April 21, 2008 at 9:06 am

    hello engtech,

    low contrast is really an issue. i spammed my own comment twice while trying to moderate spam comments. mine was right below it in two separate cases. comments waiting to be moderated should NOT have been in such close proximity of the good ones.

    i love the existence of the gallery feature, although it does leave a lot to be desired.

    i wish wordpress were more intuitive than before, but i assume it’s still not, to most newbies.

  22. [...] new admin interface on WordPress.com all of a sudden last month, because as engtech points out, there was no carrot offered to users to compensate for them moving our friggin’ cheese. That’s why I have resisted upgrading to the latest version of WordPress here at Hoyden – [...]

  23. Manoj Sterex said, on May 03, 2008 at 5:01 am

    You might ask “what value was added” so here are some of the ones for me:

    1. Search. Oh. my. gosh. search. It’s everywhere and I save TONS of time each day being able to find anything in email, disk, web, etc. It’s even in the save-as and open dialog boxes.

    2. UAC. Everyone complains about it, but it has a single useful purpose: stop spyware and unintended consequences. Result? Windows doesn’t get broken as easily. Show me someone with XP for more than a few months who doesn’t have something screwed up somewhere, and that person probably doesn’t use their system much or install many apps.

    3. Visual interface. I love Aero. Everything just flows a little better, a little faster and very suave.

    4. Standby. On XP, it took minutes to go to standby. On Vista, it takes seconds, and it’s quite obvious what’s going on – press power button, screen fades to black and then the box is ready to do whatever.

    those are my biggies.

    OMG! You are not addicted to Vista. You are blinded and brainwashed by its looks! (That’s what Miscrosoft aims at doing with all their releases anyway!)

    1. Search? Lol! If you are messy person with very little organized way of storing things on your PC, then you’d go for search! I don’t remember the last time I used the search on my XP!

    2. I have XP for almost an year now (without formatting/repairing/re-installing) and its working just like a breeze. If you know how to handle your system, you definitely don’t have to upgrade to Vista for this reason! Besides, I have a Kazillion applications installed which actually makes my 4-year old CPU work hard!

    3. Lol! Get WindowBlinds and ObjectDock for XP; it will emulate Vista completely! No need to upgrade for the looks, they wear off anyway! Lol!

    4. I can’t believe that the time your PC takes to go into StandBy mode has influenced you to upgrade to Vista. OMFG! Please don’t add this as a reason for anyone to upgrade when you are sharing your thoughts anywhere else. ROFL!

    Sorry engtech, had to pour my thoughts about Vista. Coming to the new WordPress admin interface, it is kind of irritating and at the same time, it is somewhat refreshing. But the changes that they have done to the editor is a waste! Re-mapping the short-cut keys was uncalled for!

  24. engtech said, on May 03, 2008 at 10:20 am

    @ Manoj Sterex:

    I think the remapping of the shortcut keys was likely unintended. They’re using a 3rd party open source project called TinyMCE for the editor, and that might have been a consequence of upgrading TinyMCE.

  25. Richard said, on May 03, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Show me someone with XP for more than a few months who doesn’t have something screwed up somewhere, and that person probably doesn’t use their system much or install many apps.

    Another raised hand.

    Two XP laptops, a Toshiba I’ve had since 2002 and one IBM Thinkpad (with an old style serial port) I’ve had for much longer than that, both used daily. Thinkpad connected to my test equipment and the other one used for engineering electronics and such (schematics, printed circuit board designs, reports, etc.) Neither have ever failed and both have close to 40GB of programs and files on them (both upgraded with 80GB drives just a few months ago since they both had only 30’s).

  26. Richard said, on May 03, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    Should have mentioned: New Dell Vista laptop which gave me the grey screen of death three weeks after I got it. Programs that were installed on it? Just what it came with. It now has XP.


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