WordPress 3.3: Hot or Not?
At WPMU.org we always like to ask the important questions, and really, there is only one burning question at the minute: WordPress 3.3: Hot or Not?
It’s been a week since WordPress 3.3 was released and I’ve been keeping on top of the buzz to find out with the WordPress Community thinks is:
- Not hot
Drag and Drop Media Uploader
One of the things that people are really excited about on 3.3 the new drag and drop uploader. As someone who uploads a lot of media onto a WordPress website I know what a pain-in-the-ass the old uploader was. Now it’s possible to just drag and drop from my desktop into WordPress. Super-sweet.
Adding images and videos from my computer is so much easier with the new WordPress 3.3 drag and drop functionality. I can drag images or videos directly from my computer desktop and drop them inside the box of dotted lines. It will automatically upload files. You can drag and drop as many files as you want. It will upload them sequentially directly below the box. If you are old school, you can still click on ‘Select Files’ to upload files.
Uploading is now made easy, simple and fast no more the painful up-loader, like 1st clicking the type of upload (Image , video , others etc.) and then wait to upload. Is now very easy and simple with the drag and drop multiples uploading process or you can also try the browser upload if you feel any problem. That’s really cool step.
Improved Permalink Performance
Anyone who uses /%postname%/ for their permalink structure will have been taking a hit on performance. This has been particularly problematic for large websites. You can check out this post for more information. Of course, that post is now history as the permalink issue has been fixed which is going to make a lot of people happy!
For as long as WordPress has been around, if you had a large number of pages / posts and were using /%postname%/ as your permalink structure, you were suffering a pretty big performance hit. When users accessed your pages, and when you published or edited your pages, there was a bit of waiting to do. The problem only got worse the more content you had. Luckily, the WordPress team have sorted this issue out, and there are now “massive performance gains” to be had with this update if you’re using that structure.
2011 has been the year that everyone in the WordPress world has been talking responsive design. Responsive design is a design practice that uses liquid layouts and media queries to ensure that a website looks gorgeous on every device. We’ve really seen this taking off, with an explosion of WordPress themes using the latest responsive design techniques. If you followed my series on building a WordPress website on an iPad then you’ll know the difficulties that I came across using the WordPress dashboard. The latest WordPress update is the first move towards a responsive WordPress admin. The new media uploader, along with responsive design, go a long way to solving this problem.
It’s so much easier to edit posts or create new posts with WordPress 3.3. If you have a long list of Categories, you can select a category and scroll up/down to find additional categories to add. The new responsive admin page reflows content to fit the screen you’re using. The only gripe I still have about the mobile admin is that I still cannot add widgets to a sidebar by dragging and dropping. That still needs to be worked on. Below is a screenshot from my iPhone accessing my WordPress admin.
Responsive design — that is, using liquid layouts and scaling media to fit any screen size — is moving into the mainstream in a hurry. The past year has seen several high-profile websites relaunched with responsive designs, but WordPress 3.3 is likely the most widely used site yet to embrace responsive design.
Shiny Contextual Help Menus
Part of making a product easy and intuitive is providing great documentation to ease people through it. WordPress have made that a whole lot simpler with the redesign of the contextual help menus. And theme developers are already leading the way with using the new contextual help menus – check out the new help menus on Chip Bennett’s Oenology.
It’ll be interesting to see how different developers put this new functionality to use. Check out this info from Otto on how to set them up.
The Help Tabs has a bit of a facelift and better organization. Feature pointers and contextual help Feature pointers give you support for help, which is great, you don’t have to go to another place to find out what a certain thing does. Similarly contextual help is more useful to people learning on the fly.
Ever set up a theme, got all your widgets in place and then thought “actually, I don’t like that theme afterall”? And so you change the theme, go to have a look, and all the widgets have disappeared. Sadness! :/ They’ve left your sidebar and moved to the inactive widget section. This will happen no more with WordPress 3.3, making quite a few people happy.
One of the most annoying things about changing themes was that sometimes the widgets would vanish. Actually, they got moved to the Inactive Widgets sections and you’d have to manually drag them back to the sidebar. Now they stay put.
As someone who spends every day faffing around in the WordPress dashboard, I am a big fan of the new flyout menus (unlike the hover menus on Google’s new look, which I HATE). They took me all of half a day to get used to. I do see a bit of a contradiction between the move towards responsiveness and the inclusion of UI features which don’t work well on touch devices, but whatever. They go swoosh-swoosh and I can get to stuff easily. Still, despite my enthusiasm the reception to them has been mixed. Even while WordPress 3.3 was in beta this battle raged on the support forums. If you want to keep them expanded check out this tutorial on WP Beginner about how to do so.
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Flyout menus! This has to be my favourite update, anyone that has a WordPress website with multiple plugins and add-ons will be used to having a few menus open and needing to close them to navigate easily (I usually have Settings, Appearance, Plugins, Pages and Posts open).
In a nice aesthetic improvement, the side menus now pop out. When you roll over a menu item, a nice side menu pops out. Another cool thing: when you click on a menu to open it the regular way, once you click on another menu item, the previous one will close. So you don’t have this long list of open menus. Nice!
Old menus were working great, this is more a regression considering also accessibility problems for disabled users or users with touch screen devices. Not to mention that you will need more time to get to the panel you need. In any case, it will take some time to get used to it, but in the end, you have to get used to flyouts, I doubt that they will be removed in next version.
Again, I think the tooltips are a cool addition. They’re a great way for theme and plugin developers to give their users some additional help with their product. Having installed WordPress on quite a few local installs now they are beginning to grate on me though. I wish there was some way that WordPress could telepathically sense whether the person at the computer knows about WordPress or not, and then turned them on or off accordingly. Seriously, is that too much to ask?
On the subject of new user experience, there are some neat feature pointers that help users navigate new features. You can bet this feature will be advantageous to theme developers as well.
Admin pointers are the small boxes that are displayed when user selects a menu/link. Comprising of all relevant information regarding the new features, these little display boxes are genuinely of great help.
Pointer should help with introduction of changes and features. While they look nice, after few days and several test installations, I find them extremely annoying. I expect that when plugins start using pointers it will make a mess on the page after upgrade. And I expect that we will soon get plugins to always disable pointers.
Decreased Overall Performance
Unfortunately this is a biggie :( Dev4Press have carried out a performance benchmarking test of four major WordPress releases since WordPress 3.0. They noted that while WordPress 3.2 saw some excellent improvements in performance, in WordPress 3.3 admin performance has gotten worse. Many users who use /%postname%/ will actually see a performance improvement on the front end. While the methodology did come under question by various people in the comments, the same tests were carried out on each version of WP and there has been a decrease in performance in the latest version. Anecdotally, I’ve spoken to WordPress users who have noticed a decrease in performance.
I am sure that some developers will say that these results are not important. I agree that half a second is not much in terms of speed and that most users will not even notice the difference, but it shows that current development of WordPress is not done right. Adding new features and sacrificing speed and resource usage is not a good way to go.
Toolbar / Site Admin Header
The admin bar got a whole lot of crap when it appeared, and plenty of people were shimmying over to their user options to switch it off (I like it, and I like the new toolbar, but sometimes I am in a minority…). But now the admin bar has been transformed into the toolbar and it’s not longer possible to remove it from the dashboard. Also, WordPress have added a whole bunch of links back to WordPress to the toolbar – nice for hardcore WP users but not so nice when building client sites. There is, however, a hack you can use to remove the toolbar. Check out this tutorial from WP-Tutsplus for help.
What I don’t like so much about the toolbar is that the site title on the admin page has been wrapped up in it. I can see the logic behind it (see Jane Wells’ discussion on this thread) but that doesn’t mean that I find it fun. I miss my site title! I spend 8-10 hours a day on WordPress and I wants it back. Phil, one of our support guys, missed it so much that he went and made a plugin. You can install it to make yourself happy :)
All looks good apart from that awful Toolbar (Admin Bar/Header) thing, and the lack of any facility to hide it. Pre 3.3 we had a “hide” option, now we don’t. WordPress used to be about user-options but it seems that they’re in recession now too.
Plain and simple, this is a change for the worse. This is the first time I have been tempted to hack core to make a change – there’s no reason whatsoever that I should be forced to modify core WordPress files, especially to bring back a single option that was removed for what still seems like very shaky logic.
The Burning Question
I’ve not covered all the features here, just the ones that people have been raving about/hating on.
What features of WordPress 3.3 do you think are hot? Which ones do you absolutely hate? Have you got a broken site? Do you love the new update? Tell us all about it in the comments!