[wp-hackers] Menus and Labels and Plugins, oh my!

Jane Wells jane at automattic.com
Fri Oct 3 15:13:36 GMT 2008

Hi guys. I'll try to respond to the main things I've seen brought up  
on the list over the last couple of days.

As Ryan mentioned, a lot of people had trouble with the Write/Manage  
dichotomy, mainly because editing a post that had been saved or  
published was a confusing thing: were they writing or managing?  
Technically they're writing, but they're also managing. A lot of  
people also found themselves writing Pages instead of Posts  
accidentally because of the menu structure. And though the top menu  
only had a few main buckets, the submenus were long. When we did the  
testing over the summer and had people complete various tasks in the  
admin panel, things that were located under the Manage menu further  
to the right were often problematic, because having such a long  
horizontal list made people gloss right over the menu items they  
should have used. They knew the items were there, because they had  
used them successfully in the past. And since we were using eye  
tracking during these sessions, we could tell that users were looking  
right at them and not registering them, kind of like you look at ads  
without paying attention.

When we did the usability testing over the summer, it became clear  
that the way many users think about using their blog is by content  
type, which is why the Crazyhorse prototype groups all the content  
types under a Content label. From there, we got feedback that most  
people don't think about "content," but about making posts or adding  
links or checking comments. "Splintering" the menu into the content  
types was done in response to the way average users think abut using  
their admin tool. When Liz Danzico and I originally lumped them all  
under one Content section in Crazyhorse, it made perfect sense to us,  
because we work in the industry and we think about things like  
content. So do many people on this list. But do your moms or brothers  
or kids? 2.7 is an attempt to make the interface relate more to how  
the average user thinks of things.

The number of menu items (again, mentioned by Ryan) on the current  
admin is 8 main categories, plus links in different header locations  
for dashboard, help, forums, and support (on .com). That's 11 or 12.  
It doesn't seem like that many because of the nice design  
differentiation that Happy Cog used so that it wouldn't seem like an  
overwhelming number of items. 2.7 will get a similarly nice  
treatment. At the same time, we're putting most navigation in the  
same general location so that people don't have to look around for  
things. To refer to the eye tracking again, those small header links,  
and even the links to the right for settings and users, were often  
overlooked even when they were seen. The current version of 2.7 has  
not been styled in any way, so it's no surprise that it looks clunky.  
When the admin has been styled and the navigation groups are treated  
differently visually, and they have their cute little icons in  
preparation for the collapsible column, it's going to be great (or at  
least *I* think so; YMMV).

There are two fundamental opinions about navigation here: start with  
a few menus and have deeper/broader subs, or have more main menus,  
with shallower paths and fewer subs. We are basically switching from  
the former to the latter to try and address some of the problems  
people have had with findability, but again, the switch from write/ 
manage to posts/links/media etc isn't really adding a bunch more  
navigation in terms of number of top level links, they're just  
grouped differently.

Re: Tools vs. Manage as a dumping ground. Personally, I think Tools  
is way cooler. Tools > Code Monkey, Manage > TPS reports. We talked  
about having a Plugin Settings under the Plugins menu, but there was  
some question as to whether people would want to put them there. I  
think it would be an ideal location, so if people are into that  
suggestion by Alex, let us know.

Re: Users menu. In response to the feedback on this list, we're  
putting the Users menu on the top level and leaving it alone for 2.7.  
However, we do want to consolidate it into Settings ultimately, and  
Ryan's point about a tabbed profile page is something I think would  
work well. For individual users, they can still get to their profile  
screen in one click from the Howdy Username link at the top of the  
screen. By putting off a change to the placement of the Users menu,  
we're trying to accommodate Plugin authors, and hopefully we can all  
work together on a more gradual transition for that profile-attached  

Re: "Wasted space" in the left navigation column. If you look at the  
amount of space currently taken up by the header and the navigation  
horizontally and compare it with the space taken up in 2.7 (well,  
when 2.7 is styled, anyway), it is significantly less, given that  
most monitors/laptop screens are wider than they are tall, and many  
people's browser windows have similar ratios. One of the main reasons  
we went with left hand navigation was to try and use less space for  
the non-working area.

Re: Separating comments and pings. Splintering the counts isn't  
included in 2.7, but on the Comments screen you can now filter by  
comments, trackbacks or pingbacks, which is at least a step in that  
direction. Hopefully we can do more around this in 2.8.

Re: Public beta. That's basically the month before launch, after  
freeze. I think Ryan said it was October 13 for 2.7?

I'll be at WordCamp Toronto on Saturday and WordCamp NYC on Sunday if  
anyone wants to vent about these things in person. :)


P.S. Why don't more people trim their posts on this list? Just  
curious, because it's a pain to follow on a mobile device with all  
those fully-included emails.

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