WordPress 2.5 and Usability: For Whom?

Of the many topics in the WordPress.com support forums prompted by the “2.5” redesign, the largest currently has 167 responses. There’s a lot of repetition and agreement in there. That’s not a criticism of (most of) those who’ve repeated and agreed, since the forums are there for the bloggers. But it does make for some tedious reading.

So I was struck by a recent contribution, which expressed a fresher concern.

The only thing that worries me is how the changed dashboard and entry pages will feel to an absolutely new, tyro blogger with little or no web experience. Will they be frightened away?

I think that the new design (not the new bugs) will feel better to a new blogger than did the old design. I’d be interested to hear if anyone’s done any testing on this.

I get the impression that the WordPress.org community is less bothered about the new design than is the WordPress.com community. I can think of several reasons for this. For example, the .org community comprises those who upgrade the WordPress software for themselves, and so will install 2.5 when they’re ready.

So, I’m thinking that: if we plotted approval of 2.5 against blogger experience, we’d see a U-shaped curve. Those who approve least tend to be moderately experienced bloggers, of which there are many at WordPress.com.

I should add that the U-shaped curve thought is a rather tentative hypothesis about what we’d find if we gathered data from WordPress bloggers on a couple of variables. There would of course be “outliers,” such as WordPress.com bloggers who love the new interface and novice bloggers who hate it.

WordPress 2.5 Usability Review Review

The main goal of the recent WordPress 2.5 was to to increase usability. Unfortunately, some, particularly at WordPress.com, have initially experienced the new release as a decrease in usability.

So when I saw, via the discerning engtech, that there was a WordPress 2.5 usability review, I checked it out. There are some remarks that seem to me valid, such as those about colors.

Overall, though, I’m disappointed with the review. There is no mention of the fact that, when writing a post, we now have to page down to assign it to a category. I am far from alone in preferring the Categories box to be at the side of the Post content box, as it used to be prior to 2.5

The review itself has some barriers to usability. I shuddered at writing such as “color that is contrastful to the rest of the design, possibly a complimentary color” (should be “contrasts with the rest of the design” and “complementary,” although the second error is nowhere near as annoying as the first).

I also object to the lack of a link to any other page at the site (noscope.com). The front page consists mainly of many large images: thumbnails, with links to larger images, would have made it more user-friendly.

Perhaps some of the above is harsh. But those who preach usability should be prepared to be judged on usability. That includes WordPress, although I should add that I consider some of the judgment of 2.5 to be hasty.

WordPress 2.5

Since WordPress 2.5 was released over the weekend, there’s been an avalanche of posts. This is my little snowflake of a contribution.

As Reuven Lerner remarked, the emphasis of the new release is on usability. That’s usability for the blogger/admin: usability for the reader depends on the theme, and on other administration choices.

I’m running 2.5 on one of my other blogs. I still find the interface a lot cleaner. I can even see how categories and tags being shifted down the post page, which I don’t like, can be seen as part of the spring cleaning.

I really appreciate the upgrade to plugin management. The plugins screen told me that a new version (1.1) of the Yahoo Media Player plugin was available, and a few clicks later, I was running the new version, with no need for any explicit downloading and uploading.

Usability has long been considered a weakness of free/open source software. It’s good to see GPL’d projects, such as WordPress, making usability a priority. WordPress.com, where this blog lives, should be getting 2.5-ized soon.

Standards for Gestural Interactions

What do the Wii and the iPhone have in common, besides being two of the hottest gadgets of the year? You can communicate with each of them via gesture. We will probably see more such devices, and so there is a need for standardization of gestures.

Not owning either of the above-mentioned devices, I didn’t realize the need for standardization until Read/Write Richard posted about it. I don’t think I’ll listen to the podcast he recommends; podcasting about gestural interaction seems like one of those “dancing about architecture” things.

I did follow the link to Dan Saffer’s call to arms (or, I guess, fingers), and read it with interest. Perhaps gestures for “spread to enlarge” and “pinch to shrink” will become as familiar as cutting and pasting.