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.

4 thoughts on “WordPress 2.5 and Usability: For Whom?”

  1. Finally some ok opinions on this matter, which does not scream “I hate it”…
    I’ve been thinking about this too; if you did not know wordpress in the first place, would you truly dislike this new design? I got no answers though.

    Personally I think one of the reasons the Wp.org community does not mind that much is because they (we) can change the look completly. With plugins like “fluency admin” and so on, and even make our custom stylesheet. So it’s not really a problem at all.

  2. Judging by wp-hackers, a fair proportion of the .org community weren’t too keen, but those people have four choices: upgrade in the hope that they’ll adjust to it and the knowledge that they can always go back to 2.3, stick with 2.3, install an admin plugin, or switch tools.

    WordPress.com users, on the other hand, have only two options: put up with 2.5 or switch tools. That’s why we’re seeing so much anger from them; they’ve had no choice about whether or not they adopt the new dashboard. The ability to switch colour schemes to the ‘classic’ version was supposed to be a sop to the change-averse, but I don’t think it’s working that way because their discomfort is not with the change in colours so much as the change in functionality. The colours are just the violent orange icing on a cake they don’t like.

    As for new users — new users swallow anything because they don’t know any different. They learn to use whatever’s presented to them, however much of a mess it is.

  3. Personally I think the new Dashboard reminds me of mind sweeping. You must click on a link to understand what it is about, and unfortunately the Dashboard has 12 menus in you include content boxes.

  4. Thanks for the comments. As for me, I like some things about the new design, but am getting more and more annoyed with the below-the-fold placement of categories and tags on the Write page. I’m wondering if it’s possible to Greasemonkey some sense into it.

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