Boring, Boring WordPress: Why WP is Falling Behind

Another week, another set of plans for a new WordPress release and another massive anti-climax.

Colleen was not impressed by the latest updates to WordPress
Colleen was not impressed by the latest updates to WordPress

Yet more confirmation that while Medium is reinventing how we publish online, people are freaking out about Ghost purely because it offers a nice, simple experience and third party platforms like Squarespace are ripping it up… WordPress continues to persist with an interface that looks like a database application from 2005, with some quasi-modern color changes.

Sure, WP may be powering 20% of the web and growing, but it’s standing still. Maneuvering more like an ocean liner than a zippy yacht.

And that makes it both vulnerable to competition and complaints, and the biggest challenge to all of us working with the software, the question of how long will users stand this kind of experience and lack of progress.

I mean let’s take a look at the exciting new additions coming to a 3.8 version near you.

An MP6 Coat of Paint

The aim of the MP6 plugin was to “simplify” the WordPress admin area, perhaps with projects like Ghost in mind.

MP6
Oh, hooray, it’ll make plugin authors up their game by having to redo everything, woot.

And yet it completely fails in every way. In fact, it doesn’t even try.

Sure, it adds in (finally!) a responsive experience to the admin area beyond just shrinking a menu, but that’s about as revolutionary or interesting to your average user as watching paint dry (after all, they are using the WordPress Apps, no?).

It’s a dressed up admin theme. Changes nothing. Boring.

Dull as Dashboard

The Dashboard plugin (two ratings, four unanswered support threads???) is really gonna rock your World. Erm… Not.

Observe as it transforms your MP6 flavored dashboard from:

Your standard MP6 dashjboard experience
Your standard MP6 dashboard experience.

To:

The 'all new' sexy dashboard, yeh!
The “all new” sexy dashboard, yeah.

Yep, it’s really just cosmetic and not even awesome cosmetic at that.

Maybe it’s got “less bloat,” maybe it works nicer, but really, to the vast majority of users it’s just a bit of a design tweak.

And hey, it’ll be interesting to see where Matt places his pet news site in that config.

THX, But No THX

And then there’s THX38.

THX
Useful if you have lots of themes, perhaps.

You know when there’s a nice WordPress.com feature (wp.com has already got MP6, of course, so what were the chances of it not going into WP proper!), let’s just say it’s a nice wp.com feature and include it?

Because to the vast majority of WP users, a nicer theme preview and selection experience is about as useful as, well, something that’s not very useful at all.

Widget, Um, Clicker?

I don’t know how this one even merits a mention.

Widgets boring

So let me get this straight. It allows you to click on, as well as drag, widgets?

That is all.

Yawn…

Change For the Sake of Change

We posted about these features on Facebook and the response wasn’t exactly overwhelmingly positive:

Facebook
A thumbs down from Facebook users.

Thinking Inside the Box

If you want your software incrementally improved, looking a bit nicer and acting a bit better, then this release is for you.

If, however, you’re looking for something more interesting, something perhaps, like what Automattic is doing with WordPress.com, then you’ll be disappointed.

And if you’re looking for the future of web publishing over the next 10 years then you should probably look elsewhere.

Image credit CC Jason Scragz

Comments (109)

  1. Scathing! And although I do like the widget feature, I agree that has been much ado about nothing.

    So, while we wait for some excitement from Automattic themselves, hopefully WPMUDEV will come up with their own brand of exciting new themes (hint, hint) and keep up the great work on the plugins :).

  2. Have you downloaded and installed Ghost? I have and it wasn’t easy.

    It certainly isn’t ready for anything yet, so much is missing it is unusable. Take a look at the list on the roadmap, it is simple at the moment as it really doesn’t do anything, when it is fully functional I’d like to see how the simplicity is maintained?

    • I agree with you ALAN F. I do also agree that wordpress has been its worse enemy on innovation always playing close to the breast.

      However if “GHOST” is to evolve into a usable item for the masses– well it will have the same demon to battle.

  3. This post really doesn’t make sense.

    In the first few paragraphs your primary point is that MP6 is just a fresh coat of paint, then continue to say that a more radical (Ghost/Medium inspired) redesign is in order. Then in the “Change For the Sake of Change” paragraph, you argue against radical user interface changes and concur with a disgruntled user that WordPress’ interface iterates too rapidly.

    You fail to understand that with a project the size of WordPress you can’t have it both ways. If you innovate too rapidly, novice users become overwhelmed; but if you move too slowly you risk becoming obsolete. I think WordPress has struck a decent medium where change is happening, but not at a pace that quickly inundates the skills of long-time users.

    Remember, WordPress is an open source project and a lot of these new features (that you’ve scathingly discredited) have been developed by volunteers. Instead of sitting back, calling their hard work crap; why don’t you offer some constructive criticism or, God forbid, actually contribute in some way.

    • I haven’t scathingly discredited any of these features, I’m just questioning whether they achieve the stated aim of WP 3.8 being ‘experimental’.

      My beef isn’t with contributors, it’s with the level of vision being applied here, my hope is that some constructive criticism (which *nobody* else is providing) does go some way to contributing towards the improvement of the platform.

      • “my hope is that some constructive criticism”

        Clearly someone has never explained to you what “constructive criticism” means.

        Constructive criticism is where, you not only specify:
        A. Why you disagree with something BUT ALSO
        B. How you suggest it be fixed

        You never suggested any changes.

        All you’ve managed to do in this post is complain.

        So by the Merriam Webster Dictionary’s definition, all you’ve managed to do is *whine* in this post.

        Nothing constructive here, nothing actionable, just a bunch of complaints.

        If you’re going to troll, whine, and complain about the direction of an open source project, man up and get a list of things that could be done instead. I have yet to see you make an alternative to the MP6 idea.

  4. WordPress is opensource and is proven to be one of the better products in this realm. What is a fail in many cases are the vendors who prey on new webmasters by generating less that usable support products, poor updates and customer support.

  5. I would also love to see WordPress up it’s game a little.

    The stuff that goes on under the hood at Incsub is amazing. What things would you like to see happen to WP4.0 and beyond James?

  6. Give me an easy way to create custom, simple, tailored back ends for clients. Give me built in Multi Language support (Something more user friendly than WPML). Let me create custom post types, taxonomies and custom fields on the fly (ACF interface is a pretty good start!!). This would be me a happy camper.

  7. Perhaps you should draw inspiration from the ergonomy of the “THX but no THX” administration panel to enhance the ergonomy of your “premium” plug-ins :).

  8. There’s something familiar about this post. Hmmmm…. lol

    There is one thing I didn’t mention in my comment that is frustrating. I’ve been seeing more & more plugins falling behind this increased roll out schedule. While the changes might be enough to lull one to sleep, they appear to be causing the repository plugin dev’s to give up on some very good add-on’s.

    Or maybe I’m just an unlucky searcher?

  9. 20% of the internet and growing? Hmmm, it seems to me WordPress must be doing something right. The purpose of WordPress has never been about having the most innovative features in core. That’s why plugins exist. So many people and companies around the world depend on WordPress which means only incremental changes are acceptable. Too many themes, plugins, (and ultimately websites) would break if WordPress decided to be less “boring” and change functionality and introduce loads of new features. The purpose of WordPress is to be stable, powerful, and flexible. Which is why it’s so successful. This is also why you have a company. If WordPress wasn’t simple and “boring”, there wouldn’t be 30,000+ plugins in the repository as well as hundreds of theme shops and plugin companies like yours.

    But honestly, I think you already understand this. I think you’re just trying to write a controversial post to stir things up on the blog.

    • I agree with pretty much everything you say Tim, but I’d add two things.

      - While these changes are incremental and boring in terms of functionality, they actually aren’t incremental in terms of ‘look ‘n feel’, they are significant, and for us (and the other companies) as well as the established userbase the visual element is, IMO, a big deal that you shouldn’t screw with unless you are introducing good reasons to do so (simplicity, transformative changes etc.)

      - I wrote this because it came up at a wpmu meeting yesterday, people care about it and just because it’s dissenting / controversial doesn’t make it invalid

  10. haha great hateration, good job :-)

    You guys will say anything buzzworthy to get WordPress in your articles, are you ranking for WordPress by itself yet? AH nice like #8 – great work!

    You had me worried since we use WordPress primarily, but since your ENTIRE BUSINESS IS BUILT AROUND WORDPRESS it seems a touch extreme for you to tell others to “look elsewhere” LOL – fearless! :-)

    Anyway maybe a couple more actually helpful articles are due:

    1. Is there anything on the WP road map worth discussing?

    2. What are the top 5 features the community would like to see added?

    Thanks for all your great work!

  11. I find this to be disconcerting due to the fact that the founder guy of this WordPress centered website wrote this article and says, “And if you’re looking for the future of web publishing over the next 10 years then you should probably look elsewhere.”

  12. Wow, tough crowd. An inspiring commentary about a platform that of late has been somewhat less than inspiring. Just a way of throwing down the gauntlet. Perhaps Matt will be inspired to comment.

    • Totally agree with you. This post is about the fact there are competitors out there and we can’t sit back and be complacent.

      There’s nothing wrong with stirring the conversation. This is just one way to get people talking about what features we need and want in WordPress.

      • “operate on a strict ‘ignore’ policy to pretty much everything we write or do”

        If I wasn’t linked from Twitter I would as well. WPMU posts are complete garbage.

        An article providing “constructive criticism” without the “constructive” part.

        Yet another failed attempt by WPMU to stir up controversy in a desperate attempt to regain any shambles of relevancy for WPMU.

  13. Several of these comments seem to imply that one should not point out problems if one does not also have a solution – obviously a ridiculous expectation.

    Unfortunately, the WP community can’t solve this problem by itself. The issue is a shortage of vision, which the community can certainly influence (for example, via provocative blog posts) but not ultimately determine.

    Judging by the responses, I also think people are confusing the author’s frustration with some desire for “more features.” We probably all agree that features = plug-ins. What’s needed is platform improvements – more power, flexibility, and reliability – exactly the stuff WordPress is known for.

  14. So personally, I’m ok with boring. Boring and predictable is what I’ve built a business around. Up until two years ago, my web dev company had built 400+ websites all built around Joomla.

    That was of course until they rolled out version 1.6 which was a complete re-write with no clear upgrade path. The first few upgrades were beyond painful and it became crystal clear that I couldn’t charge enough to upgrade clients to the new platform — and worse — clients were not willing to pay.

    After the first few hacks, we had to do something. So we offered below market prices to “upgrade” to another platform. Something that had a more clear upgrade path and would be easier to upgrade at that.

    We lost our ‘buns’ — but we had to do it to keep clients.

    A year later, a lot of sweat, blood and tears, a HUGE loss of hourly rates, and all 400+ sites migrated to WordPress, I’m happy to say that I’m just fine with boring, minor incremental upgrades.

    WordPress — Matt — If you at all read this. Keep doing this. You will keep me and my clients happy and hacker free. I (and my clients) just want a platform that’s easy to implement, easy to design for and most important — easy to upgrade and maintain.

    Now if you could work on security… that would be my “next” on the wish-list… plugins help, but it would be best if it were built into the core. Something that blocks login attempts, ip address and entire countries from back end and front end effectively. ;-)

    • I agree with everything you’ve said up to this statement…

      “Now if you could work on security… that would be my “next” on the wish-list… plugins help, but it would be best if it were built into the core. Something that blocks login attempts, ip address and entire countries from back end and front end effectively.”

      The WP Core is already very secure and WP has a team of security specialists that are constantly working on this. I think adding login security built into WP is a good idea and would be simple and quick to implement. Blocking IP addresses is a waste of time. We spent months experimenting with this – it is time consuming, ongoing till the end of time and causes performance hits for a website. The much better approach is a whitelist approach to something known that does not change and does not have infinite possibilities – ie millions of IP addresses in the wild vs whitelisting something known that you can control that does not have infinite possibilities. Basically you reverse the condition. Only allow this vs do not allow infinite unknown possibilities that you cannot control and that are everchanging.

      Ok now for the main logical reason that I do not think WP branch off and spend too much time focusing on offshoots of the WP Core. I hope this does not come across as self interest statement and the logic of what this statement is understood as intended. We have spent the last 3 years working on WP Security. WP could hire additional staff to take this on and I imagine they could do this much quicker – say in 6 months to 1 year. Then that dedicated security staff would be responsible for maintaining support for that new aspect of WP. So logically what makes the whole plugin world of WP so fantastic is this – you can have plugin developers working for years perfecting a plugin and handling all support for whatever area of WP that plugin adds to. This takes the burden off of WP so that they can continue to focus on the most important aspect of WP – the Core. I hope this does not come across as a self-serving statement and the logic is understood. ;)

  15. I certainly agree WP needs more than a coat of paint. Maybe that is planned for WP4.

    It’d be nice to see a WP Concepts site, where UI/X designers could submit their concepts of what the WP backend should look and function like.

  16. I, too, would like to see more out of WordPress. But a problem is that other services (Squarespace, for instance) doesn’t have the clean, fully functioning ability to import your WordPress site.

    Graphics are FUBARed, SEO lost, some formatting change.

    So it’s hard to move. :(

  17. I didn’t really like MP6 from the time WPMU first announced it.
    Omnibox would have been nice, but that is already in Jetpack and still doesn’t work that well. Maybe if they could integrate a search engine that actually works then it would be good.

  18. From what I read you’re not complaining about WP, you’re loathing the editor/publish part of it. I think we all do, in almost any CMS and a platform like Medium has been a real eye-opener in how things could, and perhaps should be done. That being said, you can’t expect WordPress to be on the forefront of publishing technology, simply because it’s too big. We all know that WP updates rarely consist out of new features. It adapts, it doesn’t innovate. The innovation is largely our own responsibility in the form of plugins, functions and ideas good enough that they might be incorporated in the core one day.

  19. I haven’t considered this before. But this is always the risk of the leader. Blockbuster, Microsoft, IBM… etc.

    I really wanted to start writing on Medium but I can’t do it on my phone. I definitely can post on WordPress on my phone.

    But I get you point. WordPress has potential competition in the future. They’ve got to figure out a way to stay fresh.

    Good article!

  20. I’m not really a fan of Matt and Automattic, but this post just reeks of link bait, with no purpose but to get lots of page views. And it’s sad to see all of the people that have been unknowingly suckered into participating in a discussion on what is essentially a spam post. It’s all of the linkbait spam posts like these that are one reason why I will no longer be following your site and will not be renewing my subscription to WPMU when it next comes up for renewal. If you’re so desperate for clicks that you need to write spammy linkbait posts like this, well, I can only shake my head and move on.

    • We don’t have any advertising here (well, apart from for our stuff) so pageviews are irrelevant as a rule… however if you’d like to link to us to express your outrage that’d be awesome!

      Also, you don’t actually have a subscription (unless you’re using a different email address / account for it).

      • Really? Pageviews are irrelevant to you? You don’t use your blog to build brand recognition and to sell your service? Sorry, but “pageviews are irrelevant” is just plain BS.

        And yes, I am using a different email address than my subscription account is under (my subscription is under my work email, this is my personal email).

    • Hmmm? Last I checked, Andy (and others), accusing someone of link-baiting isn’t a valid argument. And offensive to those who agree with this article – and many intelligent folks have.

      Just because it is a provocative subject and that you disagree with this opinion, again, doesn’t make it link-baiting.

      Accusing of link-baiting makes it look like you can’t deal with criticism of WordPress, so you just want to shout it down.

      It makes you look like the person who sticks their fingers in their ears and goes “Na na na na na na na na na can’t hear you”

      WP is not perfect. Don’t shout down people who point this out.

      The point of this article was to initiate discussion with the very, very valid point: “Is WP moving too slowly and risking getting overtaken?” . And that it has! Core WP members have discussed it on another site – some quite rationally.

      Don’t shoot the messenger just because you disagree with him.

  21. I’ve worked with and developed many themes and plugins – and while I do value some of the plugins that wpmu have developed – at the same time I’ve never faced more problematic code nor had to deal with such a power hungry plugin system – aka the wpmu dashboard plugin, which tries and fails to take over WP to shape it to it’s own twisted idea of how this excellent program should be.

    The continual nagging reminders ( self-promotions ), the large renewal fees, the arbitrary limitations on the number of “licensed” clients ( amazingly this includes localhost installations! ) and above all – and this really was the main selling point – the slow and generally disinterested support mechanisms – mostly manned by community members desperately hoping to reach 1000 points so they can avoid paying the overpriced renewals..

    What else can I say – WPMU slamming WP is well beyond biting the hand that feeds – WordPress is a versatile, powerful and FREE CMS that our clients love – and with reason :)

    • IMO our dashboard plugin is awesome, instant installation, support and upgrades from WP… rocks out.

      We don’t put any limitations on licensed clients any more, I’ve updated your account to reflect that (should have been automatically updated)

      And our support response times are *under and hour* for *any WordPress question or answer* from a full time staff of 12 people (plus all the developers)… and all I can see for your support tickets are you being helped out by staff!

      https://premium.wpmudev.org/forums/profile/ql_studio

      We’re not slamming WP, we’re just offering up some criticism… somebody has to!

      • Thanks for the answer @James.

        When I install a free plugin and it has problems, when I request help – the plugin author is generally the one to reply – in most cases this is the person who wrote the plugin and the same person who is best placed to address the issue and provide a fix.

        WPMU has a “buffer” of community members who – and this is where you get your response times from – speedily come to my assistance – they are kind, open and helpful people, who really want to help.

        But, in most cases, these people can’t provide a fix – only suggestions for how to test and standard procedure.. often plugin authors take up to a week to answer and in some cases are not open about if or when they do find problems in their code – or even about when or why they issues plugin updates – the process have a thin veil of secrecy ( because this is a premium market place and they are essentially employees.. ) and this does not make for a better development environment.

        As for the removal of limitations – I really hope this is true – and this will be the one deciding factor if I will renew or not!

        As many have pointed out, criticism without meaningful suggestions has little value.

      • Oh – and as for the WPMU dashboard – “heavy” is the only word that comes to mind..

        WordPress has a hookable plugin and theme update environment – we hook into it to provide updates for non-repository hosted themes and plugins – why can’t you do the same and so remove the feeling of having WordPress and WPMU as two environments fighting it out inside the WP admin..

        As with many other plugins which add heavy and unnecessary top level menus to WordPress, instead of aiming to complement and co-operate with the admim UI – WPMU feels like an external application stuck on top of WP.

  22. Linkbait post… If we are talking about progress and changes, let’s take a look to your themes unchanged for years, at this time even the free themes from WordPress repository are much better looking…

  23. You mention looking elsewhere… but where? Joomla? Drupal?

    My clients want something that they can learn and use. They don’t want half-baked development projects that might not work in 6 months time. And, they don’t want to go through as steep of a learning curve as the aforementioned CMS’s seem to need.

    So my reply to you, is why don’t you start a competitive plug-in site for a different system? After all, if WP is going to be dead in 10 years, the replacement must already be in development now, right?

  24. Communication Tip #26: Talk to your customers about solutions, not problems.

    I am a lifetime developer client here. Can confirm – I am a communication and marketing professional for past 30 years. It bothers me to hear the you spend your time moaning to be about the platform upon which your success and mine depends. I am in the process of closing down Joomla sites that I’ve been running for clients for years. I invested in your company because you offer enhancements to WordPress that are requirements for my clients. I do not want to hear about how Ghost and Medium are surpassing WordPress. I want to hear how you are using my investment in your company to enhance WordPress to keep up with Ghost and Medium.

    Your attitude in this article has shaken my confidence in WPMU-dev. I’m now keeping my eye out for other vendors who focus on making my job easier, not suggesting that I made a mistake by committing to the WP platform.

    I’m not sure what you intended your call to action to be, but it caused me to immediately open Ghost, Medium, and Squarespace accounts to see if they were viable replacements for WPMUDEV.

    • There are plenty of WordPress vendors for themes and plugins outside WPMU.

      WPMU isn’t a representation at all of the WordPress community feelings toward the matter. While the WordPress volunteer community is building awesome new plugins like MP6 and it’s numerous extensions, WPMU has a long history of complaining about how the community operates, without actually contributing to it.

      • Would be grateful to know of other WordPress vendors for themes and plugins outside WPMU who contribute to WordPress community. Our association, the International Social Marketing Association (i-socialmarketing.org) is ready to move away from Joomla, and on principle, we will not associate with a company with a history of complaining without contributing. So far, have tried envato’s themeforest, with mixed results. But at $420 a year as the price point, there has to be someone out there with less mouth and more muscle.

        • Well i’m not really sure what type of a vendor you’re looking for really.
          There’s hundreds of theme companies, even more plugin companies.

          Based on your comment you’re looking for themes. Be aware Envato’s Themeforest is a marketplace. Ergo there’s multiple vendors on there. Just find one you like and stick with them. Outside of that, there’s other large theme companies like Mint Themes, WooThemes, OrganicThemes, etc.

          • Thank you for your suggestions, Chris. I had invested in a developer subscription to Elegantthemes, based on a recommendation by WPMU (ironic, isn’t it?) They have several clever themes, but none which I have found to be usable for my clients. Elegantthemes does have a few (4) plugins, but nothing that justifies comparison to WPMU-DEV’s plugin offerings. And when I try to combine use of their plug-ins with another vendor’s themes, chaos and confusion ensues.

            The type of vendor I’m looking for is one which which offers a one-stop solution for grassroots virtual associations with a global reach. I have several of these probono clients, and we have several common needs. We need to be able to be low-bandwidth. We need to be able to allow members to self-publish. We need to be able to collect donations and manage membership subscriptions. We need to be able to provide a system in which the platform, plug-ins, and themes work together and stay out each others’ way. We need to be able to provide an administrative platform that volunteer managers who are familiar with the underlying platform can use without intimidation. Most of all, we want to *encourage* groups of people around the world to reproduce our system at low or no cost and adapt it to their specific cultural and social needs and preferences. And no, we don’t need fries with that.

            Thank you for taking the time to respond and for your advice. If you can think of any vendors which are not “one-hit wonders,” I’m sure we would all like to know about them.

        • You’re comments are really hitting home for me. I came to WPMU with high expectations. I really thought this was going to have a significant impact on my developing and I have thus far only used 3 or 4 plugins. With my renewal coming up I’m questioning the impact WPMU is having on my work and this article really isn’t encouraging.

          I want WordPress to be secure, stable, simple, and efficient. I’m thrilled by the community and their abilities to innovate WP without WP doing a thing.

          I understand where the article is coming from, but I think from a customer’s point of view, we’re relying on WPMU and other great developers to do the great innovations and I would have thought that maybe the developers here were helping out as part of the WP development teams. The community is what makes WP great and if we should be looking at new platforms in the next ten years we only have ourselves to blame.

  25. I think WP developers need not to change too much. Over releases, a few new features proved themselves useful (for example: the builtin Gallery system, the menu system, I would say) and some of them pretty useless to my taste (the admin bar, for example).

    So it’s a good thing the WP developers offer a stable and slowly evolving system so that we programmers need not to spend hours and hours of unpaid time to learn the new.

    New products might be revolutionary, but they need to prove their superiority over time… this is something we will see.

  26. Wow – this sure has stirred the pot. All I can say is I though WordPress is for end users. Without customers using WP developers are not needed. WP is not to feed the need for developer ego. It’s hard enough with end users having to upgrading their theme, plugins, and WP constantly. Some theme developers are doing an awesome job simplifying things for end users. But most customers can’t handle large scale changes all at once, even though big changes can be fun and interesting to the devs.

  27. If you’re not impressed with the amount of new features being added in 3.8, please remember that the release cycles have been compressed, meaning there is not as much time to cram things into a release.

    Widgets are slated to get a huge improvement in 3.9 with the inclusion of widgets in the Customizer, allowing you to preview changes to widgets without them going live for everyone until you are satisfied. See the Widget Customizer plugin.

    • Yeh, compression is good (maybe, we’re getting a bit Chrome-esque here too) and that does limit options… but where’s the longer term more exciting options?

      Widget improvements is great, as is customizer stuff, but surely we could have a moonshot or two thrown in… even if they didn’t pan out in the end.

      • IMHO, better to be realistic and ship than to shoot for the moon and disappoint. I think the core developers learned this lesson painfully with the failed Post Formats UI of 3.6. So now shooting for the moon is what the new features-as-plugins initiative is all about: the features-as-plugins are the longer-term more exciting options. We are shooting for the moon, but we aren’t giving anyone false hopes of something for sure being included in the next core release. What’s more, these features-as-plugins can be used today, even before they get merged into core or even if they never do get merged. You can use the Widget Customizer plugin today.

        • I’m curious … as you keep adding all of these wunder-toys to the core, at what point will WordPress’ hosting requirements exceed the shared servers that I’m guessing the bulk of that 20% market share are using? How long before the system requirements are a VPS? Will the dashboard come with a caveat “two plugin limit or the white screen of death”?

          I think WordPress should (and of course they may very well be) concentrating on more lean and less mean. ….. or not!

          • I actually disagree a bit there Bob – as bandwidth and processing power increases, and costs fall (EC2 anyone?) I think that while lean-ness is important, we now have the opportunity to take a step forwards, especially with .js, and be a lot more ambitious.

            Not bloatware, fsure, but not 2.6MB either any more.

          • There have been various attempts at conversion to cloudbased software, Adobe, Microsoft Office, and QuickBooks come to mind. In all of those you’ll see users reticent to switch, maintaining their desktop versions (that’s a key option in all) and who are generally dissatisfied with the online version. So I don’t think it’s a matter of availability or capacity, but rather that accessibility isn’t keep pace.

      • That’s a cool idea, and I think there’s a lot of people who’d like to see that too :)

        I’d encourage you to propose it at the upcoming 3.9 dev meeting in #wordpress-dev. It’ll be announced on http://make.wordpress.org/core in the next few weeks.

        There are already a few plugins in the repo that do that, including a popular one by scribu, so you’d have a big head start on it. Most of the work would just be in making the proposal and converting the code to make it fit into Core, and I’m sure there’d several others who’d want to work on it with you.

        With a little bit of effort, you could make the kinds of improvements you’d like to see in WordPress.

  28. I am a PHP developer. When I have to look into WP code, I am everytime asking yourself – how could such a code work at all??? It is simply impossible to maintain such code, because it is outdated, not structured and sucking in all aspects. WP is working simply because it is so popular, and A LOT of people commiting into and fixing problems.

    But, you all guys should understand that in this point it is simply impossible to make any major changes into WP code! Any change will break something, and will definitely break lot of plugins.

    So, if you want something better than current WP, I would start looking around, because you WP will not bring you anything serious. They did all what possible with current core.

    • It’s very structured if you spent more than 10 seconds looking at it. WordPress is written in a way where enhancements are made, and backwards compatibility often never broken.

      Frankly, your entire first paragraph reads something like “since I can’t name a specific point about why I don’t like WordPress’s code, let’s label the entire thing as horrible”.

      To suggest that it would be impossible to make any large changes is utterly false. The community has chosen not to aim to colossal changes that disrupt the workflow of the WordPress users.

      MP6 is simply the first step in an iterative approach, so that new users don’t get slammed with a gigantic change. If you want to move faster than MP6, there are other plugins that have diverged the backend way further.

      • Very structured? I am talking now about the user side.
        Remember, that is just a script to pull posts and pages and display it, running hooks on each stage. Now look at the code again. Still structured? Hmm… may be you just never saw good code :)

          • Unfortunately, none of them are good enough. Good example of well code design is XenForo.
            I believe WP authors now KNOW how to make good code, but it will break compatibilty with anything so they will probably never make any serious change. That is what I was going to say in my first post – nothing to blame anyone and nothing personal.

          • So, we’re comparing a 10 year + CMS to a 2 year old one. Thats 8 less years of backwards compatibility. Come back in 8 years, and we’ll talk again about how XenForo’s code looks.

          • That is what I talk about! It is impossible to make a revolution based on current WP core. I hope WP developers understand it and doing something about it, else there going to be a new star on CMS market.

  29. I love WP and make a living using it, but there’s nothing in this article that really isn’t true. Nothing’s perfect, especially in the world of software, and trying to please 20% of the internet is an impossible job.

    WordPress doesn’t have agilty due to its scale, but that’s been by design, not accident. It’s now like steering a battleship with a committee at the helm deciding where to go and what to do. For a change to occur in WP that would knock someone’s socks off and be revolutionary, as the author seems to want, it’s going to take an event or market that absolutely demands it and not an everyday “would-be-nice” feature request or update.

    Personally, in time I can see Ghost growing to the point that it is a serious contender to WP fairly easily.

  30. I want a content management system, Ghost is a Blog system. The only think I know 100% is I’ll never be using Ghost no matter how sexy it is… unless it becomes a CMS, which they state will pretty much happen NEVER.

    I don’t care what WP does in the backend, I’m loving what I do to the front end – I make the magic :P

  31. I am a bit miffed by the comments about competitors. How can a free open source product have competitors; alternatives maybe yes, but competitors not.
    Only people who ride on the free WP wave and try to make a buck out of extending it, can have competitors.

    • Make no mistake; WordPress.org and Ghost.org may be foundations, but Automattic and the company that will run hosted Ghost are businesses, through and through, and are reliant on user volume and market share.

  32. I usually would not bother to associate my name with an article of this nature, but I see that some folks actually took some of this article to heart and are worried about WordPress in general or this article has somehow negated everything that is true and wonderful about WordPress. So I think this statement will put those folks minds at ease.

    I maintain client’s WordPress sites that bring in $1,000,000+ per year in customer sales/revenue – year after year with increasing income every year.

    I don’t really think there is anything else that needs to be said.

    Thanks,
    Ed

    • Ed, how does that negate the argument that WP needs to improve in more than just superficial ways?

      That is the sort of thinking that got us lumbered with Internet Explorer 6 for so long. Microsoft said “We rule the market, we don’t need to change. We’ll just keep IE the way it is and ignore user complaints.”

      Thank god Firefox came along and shook them down. Although it has taken ’til IE11 for IE to really regain relevance.

      If WP keep on the path they’re on, in 10 years, they’ll still have 20 or 30% of the market, have many million dollar sites, and yet, be irrelevant and viewed as a dinosaur mostly used by corporates and those who are stuck with them coz change is expensive or difficult or just couldn’t be bothered.

      WP has become obsessed with marketshare. Fear of losing it is constraining their decision making.

      To stay relevant in the technology world, you don’t have to be the marketshare leader, you just have to keep rocking the boat.

      • Well what do you think needs to change or be added? I think WordPress is amazing right now as it is, does everything I need to make my clients happy, does everything I can think of that needs to be done and I can’t think of anything else that I would want added or changed.

        So if you have an idea then share it. I have not really looked around to see if WP has a list of requests and ideas from folks that are good ideas that have put on the backburner. If that were the case then I could see a strong argument that WP is not going for it or pushing the envelope in that case. My assumption is that WP adds new things in a logical progression based on the most essential element – the WP Core. Most things happen in the background without anyone being aware of what is going on, new changes, improvements, enhancements, etc. So it may appear that on the frontend / user side of things that not a whole lot of “new” stuff is being added.

        We do stages where we move forward with the plugin we are developing and add new frontend / user side features and then for a version or two we fix any bugs that arise from those new features and also perfect and optimize the new code in those new features. So it’s kind of like 1 new frontend step forward and then a couple of backend steps to ensure we nailed everything and to add new backend things we did not think of or imagine during development. Of course bugfixes go on all the time – no such thing as a crystal ball in the coding world. ;)

        Anyway logically I assume WP does similar phases of development. And of course the most important focus is going to be the WP Core backend (stability, reliability, etc.) vs the frontend (new features, bells & whistles, new thrills, etc.). Seems logical based on how we do our development phases. :)

  33. You’ve made me think back on how WordPress has changed and the only “big” change for users on the admin side was the shifting of the menus from the top bar to the sidebar. And that was ages ago.

    Using WordPress all the time means I’m used to how things operate, but it’s when my clients ask me how to do something that I can see how complicated things really are.

    On the front end… well, that’s just themes (more or less).

    On the admin side, though, provide some way to make creating plugins less of a chore for developers.

    For example, I had a lot of back and forth with a client when setting up Appointments+. Some sort of wizard (geez, old term) to cover the initial setup would have been helpful. Scratching through long setup pages is a drag for me and a mystery for clients. But my point is there isn’t a “wizard” because the systems are not in place to make it relatively simple for plugin developers. Some plugins have these things, but only the cream-of-the-crop, and they were likely specially created. Take those specially created bits and roll them into a framework and structure for all to use.

    A great framework would go very far in improving things by taking some weight off plugin developers backs. My own experience with the Genesis theme framework saw my theme creation and maintenance times halved (once I got the nack), which is kinda testament to the power of a framework that’s well made.

    Here’s to the future!

    • Yeh, we’re working on a new experience for Appointments+ (much improved) as we speak, it’s a great example of where some ‘out of the box’ thinking is required.

      It’s an amazing plugin technically speaking, but in terms of UX it struggles away from a tech savvy user… watch this space.

      But the *real* difference will come, IMO, when the platform or the product around it adapts to a more usable setup overall, a framework of use (and not just of code) could be a great step towards that.

  34. WPMU is great place to get great plugins. Clean, styled real nice, good support dotdotdot – I can’t afford the yearly description, but the set and forget $19 option works for me.

    Thanks for the post too James, it made me delve deeper into Medium, Ghost, Squarespace.

    I guess you could’ve saved yourself some grief by saying “WP needs a coat of paint” but that’s nowhere near as ‘sexy’ as We’re-WP-developers-and-we-think-WP-is boring-s*#%!

    I’m sure it would be easy enough for WP core to bring out a more current styled UI in WP5. Or small changes such as removing borders from buttons, squaring boxes, enlarging fonts, flattening etc.

    It really is just adding a splash of 2013 to the administrative css and js to bring it up to the modern interactive experience we’re enjoying using layouts of those like Ghost, Medium, Flipboard, Windows 8 lol, and not doing much more than that. I don’t think there would need to be any drastic changes made to the fundamental functionality of WP.
    I could be wrong. I think functionality-wise WP is scalable as! But yeah, fricken boring to interact with.

  35. 3.8 is also the first release of the “plugins-as-features” idea, on a rather compressed schedule compared to before. “Bigger” features aren’t expected to be fully-baked in one release cycle. The 3.6 Post Formats incident likely wouldn’t have happened because it would have been obvious earlier that the idea wasn’t ready for 3.6, then punted for consideration in 3.7, etc.

    Omnisearch is an example. It was deemed not ready yet, so instead of forcing it to be ready on a rushed schedule, it can continue moving forward without impacting the 3.8 timeline. The Twenty Fourteen theme is an example; it may not make it into 3.8 if it isn’t ready in time.

    Should WP loom at bigger ideas? Sure. Does 3.8 not meeting someone’s idea of what that would be mean WP won’t/can’t? I dont think so.

  36. Just being honest, but the article mentions some petty stuff to me and no justification for a huge slap at them. Seems to be real risky to just bite the hand that feeds you by telling everyone to essentially adopt another program all because of crazy stuff like drag and drop elements in the widget page?

    The supplied information in the article (which wasn’t much but nagging at petty things) alongside the comment replies add up like this to me:

    WPMU is more than likely upset that future updates are going to further ruin some if not all plugins. Heck I would be mad too spending thousands of hours developing and now facing a greater amount of unjustifiable hours back into them restructuring.

    So this is basically Custards last stand with guns blazing.

    I hope this isn’t the case cause I have invested a lot of hope that your stuff is going to do as it says and accomplish the goal I HAVE to accomplish.

    If this is the case, coming out and expressing real concerns would be best right now with some dignity. There’s a lot more riding on this than just your sales. Good luck dude, you started it.

  37. I’m not sure the conscious intention of this post is for linkbait. It could be simply the bad blood between James and Matt that goes back years. Every post I have read from James seems to be on the emotional side and reflect this reality a bit, whether he means it to or not. It’s his blog so he is entitled to opine whatever he wants, but let’s be clear that any semblance to journalistic objectivity is pretty much long out the door.

  38. James,
    Your views are interesting and worthwhile. I admire your moxy to say something that controversial. On the forums I’ve been on, if I give a dissenting opinion, even if it’s very diplomatically worded, the whining immediately begins.

    In admin, as a developer, I can code around most of these problems – all sorts of ways to present WP admin to a client, even if just giving lower permissions, custom admins, alternative interfaces, no admin at all, etc., there really are plenty of admin alternatives. Although I suppose that from a non-tech end-user perspective, the options are few. :-)

    Dave

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