I’ve been blogging with WordPress since December, 2011, so I still have access to the old WP dashboard. I still prefer the old WP dashboard… because it works, but today I thought I’d give the ‘new’ interface a try.
The task: to find the shortlink [abbreviated URL] for one of my older posts.
I found the post in question [an interesting journey in its own right], and then went looking for the shortlink command:
[Click the screenshot to see the full sized image]
It wasn’t under any of the options on the menu to the right, so where was it? I knew it had to be there somewhere and kept looking.
I finally found the shortlink feature…hidden behind this tiny, clear-as-mud icon :
…with an even clearer context sensitive description of ‘Edit post URL’
Now, I didn’t want to edit the URL, I wanted to copy it, but for lack of a better option, I clicked the icon. A popup appeared with the option of copying the post URL. Eureka!
This is what the URL looks like when it’s pasted into the address bar of a browser:
Not exactly short, but at least I found it…
Now, let’s compare the new version with the old. The screenshot below is from the old dashboard interface:
As you can see, the feature I want is clearly labelled…in words, shock horror.
When I click ‘Get Shortlink’ this is what happens:
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a shortlink. If you use Twitter like I do, the difference between the two URLs couldn’t be more stark. The ‘new’ version is long, the ‘old’ version is short. Now, you can get a ‘short’ URL by using the online app ‘Tiny URL’, but why bother when you already have the option in WP itself?
I’m all for progress. I’m all for software interfaces being pitched to the newest of users; giving them lots of help is only fair because they’re the ones who need it the most. I even like nice, clean interfaces where there’s little clutter to distract the eye. Unfortunately, the current WordPress interface ticks only one of those boxes – the lack of clutter.
I know they say that one picture is worth a thousand words, but the WordPress GUI [graphical user interface] is not empowering new users because:
- Advanced, and not-so-advanced features are hidden behind icons that have no intrinsic meaning – i.e. the icon doesn’t look like the thing it’s meant to represent.
- This results in users not even knowing what is possible,
- Learning to associate a random looking icon with a particular function requires a great deal of trial and error on the part of the user,
- Learning by trial and error involves making mistakes,
- Making mistakes takes curiosity and a great deal of courage,
- Most new users are terrified of making mistakes, therefore they don’t venture past the functions that are ‘obvious’,
- Obvious functions usually involve words with which new users are already familiar.
I’m not sure if this is still a buzzword amongst the young but…fail, WordPress, fail.
I’ve been teaching both children and adults for a very long time, and the one thing I know for certain is that humans of all ages learn best when new material is linked to old material.
For example, if I wanted to teach someone the difference between a post and a page [on a blog], I might say that a page is like a billboard because it’s permanent, whereas a post is more like an article in a newspaper – i.e. constantly changing. The analogies don’t have to be perfect, they simply have to tap into something the user already knows. Once the similarities are established, it’s much easier to learn about the differences.
So how does this teaching theory relate to the WordPress GUI? It doesn’t, and that’s the problem. The new GUI makes one piece of new information dependent upon a second piece of new information, and that usually leads to poor learning outcomes.
I can only assume that the WordPress GUI is aimed at very young people who may already be familiar with certain symbols from their use of mobile phones. But where does that leave the older user, or those who use their blogs on pc’s and laptops rather than mobile phones? Come to think of it, does anyone actually pick out the words of a post on a mobile phone? I can’t think of anything more tedious.
Anyway, that’s my rant for the day. Now I’m off to use old fashioned words to write another how-to book.