Can The Appearance->Widgets Be Returned?

Team WPMU,

I know, I know -- Upfront is a visual editor and everything is accessible via the front end. I get that. However, early testing with clients has proven that method to be utterly confusing to them. And, by "utterly" I mean "absolutely paralyzing."

While this system is fairly good for designers, and provides a very malleable template (even more so as I get used to it), because the interface is so alien it's application is becoming limited. For example, when building a site for a business that will be fairly static, Upfront will work fine. But, when building a site for an active blogger who is used to using the WordPress interface, Upfront is not going to fly.

For those who use and adjust widgets (as many fitness bloggers I support do), the lack of familiar features and usage parameters is a serious problem. Think of it like migrating from a Mac to a PC -- or, even worse, a Mac to Redhat -- and you'll see where I'm coming from. The user -- the relatively non-technical user -- is not going to "get" Upfront. In addition, they will have a very hard time helping themselves, as the workings of this site do not compare to that of others (i.e. asking other bloggers for help online doing something will only make for more confusion).

I HIGHLY recommend the return of standard usage features to the Upfront system. Most specifically, the ability to have standard widget locations (sidebar, etc).

I understand that would probably be very difficult to do, given how the system is made. However, and I am very serious here, I can't use the Upfront framework in full production for the majority of my clients until that happens. The difference is simply too great.

A lot of wordpress users who seriously blog are experienced with the wordpress platform. They are not overly technical, but they have learned how to use and navigate the system. Generally, by starting on wordpress.com and then moving out to their own self hosted site. Some come from blogger (I get a lot of clients from blogger) who are looking to upgrade to something more powerful and attractive. They are all used to a certain way of doing business.

Upfront does not follow that way. At all.

For Upfront to be successful, in my opinion as a service provider, it can't simply abandon the established tools and methods.

I would much rather see widget placement limited to certain areas (sidebar and footer), and have those areas be created in Appearance->Widgets when a sidebar/footer is made using Upfront. That way there is still some visual building, but the application of those areas is still in the standard user interface.

For example, when adjusting a region using Upfront on a blog post to create a right side sidebar, the designer could be given the option to "declare this a sidebar" . If the designer selects "Yes" that would create a sidebar area in Appearance->Widgets called "Posts Sidebar Right Side". The user could then adjust and interact with the sidebar widgets in the normal method.

I recommend standard widget placements be:

Pages (right, left, header, footer)
Posts (right, left, header, footer)
Global (right, left, header, footer)
Home Page (right, left, header, footer)

I doubt if everyone would use all of these locations -- but, if they do, that's OK. StudioPress themes with genesis have nearly that many. As long as they are labelled, they will be understood.

The important thing here is that the farther you get away from the standard methods of wordpress, the less adoption you will have and the more support requests providers will receive.

I have already had blog specific clients refuse an Upfront site. They don't care how cool it is. They don't want to learn another method of doing their business.

These people are serious bloggers, making thousands a month in sponsored posts. They aren't interested in the technology behind their site. They want to be able to do their work in the methods they are used to.

Learning a new method is a waste of time for them. And, making a site they don't want is a waste of my time.

I'll continue to experiment with Upfront -- I like it, personally -- and I'll use it for some brick-and-mortar business clients. But I can't use it for blogging clients (a majority of my business) unless something changes.

Again, I don't want to be bashing the system here. As I said, I like it. I just can't use it for my clients as it stands right now.

Rob

  • Vaughan

    Hi Rob,

    Many thanks for the detailed feedback, whilst I do agree with you on some points. I'm not a theme developer myself, and I also find upfront to be very complex in some ways. I guess we're so used to the way Wordpress is, and upfront is quite revolutionary in that respect and certainly does take some getting used to.

    We are aware of quite a few issues with plugins though, and the developers are working hard to try & rectify the many issues we have had reported.

    I will certainly pass on this feedback to the developers for you. Hopefully we address a lot of these, but as i'm not the developer I can't speak for them personally. But we do value all feedback.

    Hope this helps

  • jetmac

    Thanks, Vaughn!

    We get so caught up in the awesome things we CAN do, that maybe we need to take a step back and think about what the general public is ready to accept. I think this might be that moment with Upfront.

    To give some indication, when I talk about the Upfront framework to others, I liken it to Windows 8.0. That was a brilliant, and daring, change in direction for Windows, that had many, many sparks of technical brilliance in it. But it failed -- miserably -- because they refused to understand that the general public didn't care about a bold new direction of computing - they just wanted their computer to work.

    With ThirdScribe and FitScribe I provide a concierge service to author bloggers and fitness bloggers. I see close up that lack of technical skill in a significant amount of highly prolific bloggers. They know how to write, but most can barely comprehend how their site works. I can see the promise Upfront brings to the industry. But, having provided customer service for a broad base of users, I can tell you that only the most advanced wordpress users are ready for this. Not because it's difficult, but for the same reasons Windows 8 was really only for advanced users -- because it is VERY different. Too different, IMO, for release to the general public. The training I would have to provide is simply too great -- and they don't want training to use their website. They just want to use it.

    If Upfront was a theme builder, like Dynamik, I could definitely see the appeal. A designer could quickly and easily crank out some really nice looking stuff, then wrap it up and give it to a user in a package that they can intuitively use, but not have a potential to break. Upfront takes the opposite approach and these powerful tools are essential to the site's function -- and, if my clients are any indication, that is a very dangerous approach.

    Windows has spent years climbing out from under the failure of Windows 8 -- and their answer is to pretty much go right back to Windows 7 with a few modest updates.

    My hope for Upfront is that WPMU understands this idea immediately, and quickly pivots in a direction that allows this great idea to flourish. Firmly remember that any theme can't be made for designers -- it must, instead, be made for the end user. The non-technical end user.

    Great ideas come in leaps, but change is in baby steps.