The last time WordPress – the popular open source blogging platform – changed their user interface, they got a reaction. And it wasn’t positive. Even diehard fans were questioning the reasoning behind the changes, trying to figure out ways to work within the new construct, or simply throwing their hands up in despair. So, it comes as little surprise that the latest release, WordPress 2.7 – codenamed “Coltrane” – has had a great deal of time and energy focused on improving that interface. But could the WordPress development team win back the adoration of those angry users with yet another interface change?
Personally, I experienced a similar reaction when I saw Coltrane demoed in front of the WordCamp Portland crowd in September. Jaws were dropping. I swear there were “Oohs,” “Ahs,” and spontaneous applause. (Which I guess is appropriate for a release named after a jazz legend.) Everyone – from new user to WordPress developer – was downright giddy.
WordPress 2.7 delivers an interface that is nearly impossible to hate – because each user has ultimate control over the way the interface is arranged. Practically anything you can touch on the interface can be changed. Don’t like something? Put it away. Drag it somewhere else. Resize it.
The new release also offers features that users have been requesting, including things like “sticky posts” – posts that remain stuck as the first post on a blog even as additional posts are published – and the ability to do more from the dashboard. If the first word to describe Coltrane is “customizable,” then the second word is definitely “thoughtful.” Across the board, users can complete more activities with fewer clicks.
All the shiny newness on top hints at changes to under-workings, as well. There have been several changes to APIs, bug fixes, and inline documentation added to assist in development and support.
But for as impressive as the new release is, I’d offer that the positive reception has less to do with the technology and the functionality. I think it’s far more visceral than that. I’d say it has more to do with the fact that users felt that the WordPress interface team – led by recent Automattic addition Jane Wells – listened to their concerns and worked to resolve them. What’s more, they allowed users to be involved throughout the development process.
With WordPress 2.7, WordPress users feel like they’re part of the team again. And that goodwill could gain WordPress far more ground than any of the new features.