[wp-hackers] A n00b's rough road

C.J.S. Hayward cjsh at cjshayward.com
Thu Feb 4 23:13:19 UTC 2016

I posted a concern, essentially that I had to cut Wordpress against the
grain to reach the low bar of not violating even one of NN Group's "Top 10
Mistakes in Web Design." It has been said decades back, "*You can tell how
advanced of a society we live in when Fortran is the language of
supercomputers,*" and perhaps we could say in another arena, "*We can tell
the level of usability maturity when Wordpress's twentysixteen flagship
theme requires you to child-theme, or something more esoteric, if you want
anything but one single link color combined with total failure to provide
discernibly different appearance between visited and unvisited links.*"

*I was trying to think of how to say this without just fighting words, but
I have failed at that. As discussed below, I've had a rocky road in getting
Wordpress to function at a higher-level usability. Besides getting a nasty
warning when I posted on wordpress.stackexchange.com
<http://wordpress.stackexchange.com>, I was told I should tell core
developers. I ask your forgiveness if I've sent this to the wrong email
address; this looked like the best I could give without chasing down links
in individual developer sites.*

*I should add that I was just trying to write a minimum viable essay, and
did not express my profound gratitude for your, or I may say, "our",

Become an up-to-date Wordpress blogger—the hard way! (A non-religious
rant—or is it?)
Feb 4, 2016


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A lot of hard work, now yours to visit!

The "Don't be like Dave" warning about religious rants as only subtracted
value from serious forums, so I would ask the prissy to forgive me, or at
least realize that a screenshot of a religion-oriented site as meant as
something other than evangelism...

I have an announcement, albeit one that was longer in the making before.
Acting on a blow to my pride in the form of a marketing recommendation, I
moved to Wordpress as a CMS (or really, for more reasons than just being a
CMS), and part of it was a recognition that my design was not as great as
it could have been. Going with something standard usually communicates much
better than trying to invent something different enough to impress your
personality on the reader.*Some people have said in interviewing that if
you set out to make an impression, that will almost certainly be the
impression you make.*
Quick! What is "*the website*"?

The next level of nuance in usability, easily available but given an icy
reception, is that people don't really think of Corporation A's website, or
person B's blog, but as I have repeatedly heard it, "*the website*",
meaning the web as an undifferentiated whole. There is a political
perspective common to anybody who builds for the web that there is a large
federation of connected lands, where any large organization's website has
multiple connections and distinctions within their little country, when it
simply never occurs to a great many people to think of "the website" as
having intricate layers of political boundaries. So aside from not wanting
to express personality in my design beyond trying to make a good site, I
am really not fighting the reality that many visitors will not perceive any
boundary line between the territories of bloggers. There's a limited amount
of attention I get if I'm lucky. I really, really have better things to do
with that scant quota than try to fight their conception of a single,
undifferentiated "*website*".

As I was working, there were certain things I found a bit rough. The pride
it insulted was a pride that left me thinking I could write HTML better
than a CMS could, and on that point I have been coding HTML for decades and
I code much better than any CMS: not because I excel, but because
CMS-generated HTML is bletcherous and a marginally skilled intern should be
significantly better at coding some particular page.
Is wordpress.stackexchange.com preaching to the choir?

But the greatest surprise came to me today, when I was trying to ask
wordpress.stackexchange.com about some things I really didn't know what to
do with. I wrote one question, read responses, and was surprised when I
tried to write a followup:

You have reached your question limit*It looks like you might need a break -
take a breather and come back soon!*

You've asked 2 questions recently, some of which have not been received
very well by the community. Everyone learns at their own pace, and it’s
okay to make some mistakes. However, the reception your questions have
received thus far might ultimately block your account from asking questions

It's been 1 days since you asked your last question. We ask that you wait 2
days before asking again. Use this time to revisit your previous questions
<http://wordpress.stackexchange.com/users/current?tab=questions>, editing
to address any issues that folks have pointed out in comments.

*Recommended reading:*

- tips on asking great questions
<http://wordpress.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-ask> as well as our
guidance on
- which questions are allowed here

*Additional advice*

- Examining highly-scored questions in the tags that interest you is a
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*For more information*

See: Why won’t the system allow me to ask questions for several days?

It sometimes takes a few attempts at a good question in order to fully
learn how our system works, and what the community expects from folks
seeking answers. Just *do your best* to make sure you've improved the
quality of your existing questions, and we'll see you in 2 days!

What was my offense? Let me quote the discussion, including one response,
one informing me that themes aren't there to express precious personality,
and the other one was dismissing research I had tried to appeal to.

(Jakob Nielsen was one of the founders of the discipline of web usability,
who as a student of Thomas Kuhn might predict, was influential in ushering
in one paradigm shift and in holding out against the next; he has also
commented that usability studies age very well for almost any technical
studies because we do not come out sporting killer-app-style genetic
improvements on a six-month marketing timeline. He is, incidentally, one of
the strongest voices I've read against glitzy attempts to wow others
with personality.)

I wrote:

*In postings from 1996, Jakob Nielsen said that the research suggested that
presenting visited and unvisited links in two separate colors is profoundly
better than going with one-color-fits-all. He give sundry guidlines
including having unvisited links look vibrant and alive and visited links
look dull and washed out. Krug's Don't make me think! is inconsistent but
in the last recent edition, he says to pick two colors and stick with them.*

*Twentysixteen allows you complete freedom in choosing one color for all of
your links: kind of like Boss Tweed's saying, "I don't care who does the
electing, as long as I get to do the nominating."*

*I've been developing a child theme for twentysixteen, and there are some
things that were not strictly usability concerns, but the goal was simply
to get Wordpress working with its flagship thing without repeating problems
the ?yearly? "Top 10 mistakes of web design" list.*

*One UX person gave comment that with blue unvisited, purple visited links,
underlined everywhere (though the menu might not need them), all cater to a
needlessly low user proficiency level. The point he seemed to be making,
which leaves me mystified, was that my site was simply much too usable.*

*I don't think I understand Wordpress if its flagship theme does not AFAICT
respect the annual "Top 10 mistakes of web design." That article is not a
textbook; it'd a cheat sheet, and basic usability could go further.*

*What is going on in the development process if twentysixteen's pretty
usable but I have to create a manual stylesheet if I want differentiated
link colors and links usually underlined.*

*Why did twentysixteen not opt in to some basic usability guideline
observance? There's part of the picture that I don't have: for on* [remainder
of post omitted, probably through my clumsiness with some control]

One correspondent commented before writing a fuller response:

*As stated in my comment, your question in off-topic, however as for my
opinion (and I do emphasize that it is just that, I haven't conducted any
research into the matter)...*

*I find washed-out visited links distasteful - a pragmatic necessity that's
lost it's merit in the two decades since the research you cite. I have no
need for a website to tell me where I've been - especially because in the
modern web content is often dynamic and I intend to visit the same
locations time and time again (which was, again, not at all the status quo
at the time the research you refer to was conducted). I believe such links
are often a needless eyesore - the default blue and purple give lend a site
a very dated and DIY appearance, to me.*

*Usability standards for the web from 1996 are hardly "longstanding" so
much as "stale" - we're talking about principals developed right around the
time that PHP, Java, and Javascript were first conceived (not to mention
the very year that CSS appeared on the scene) let alone anything remotely
similar to their modern manifestations. Websites today look and
act nothing like they did then - and expecting the usability standards to
hold true regardless stands to impair the user experience, not improve it.*

I answered, probably not showing myself in my best colors:

*Hmm, this sounds a lot like "I'll do what would be most" (this attitude is
why there is a saying, "You are not a user"), which is painfully
frustrating to people who want research. You don't like separate link
colors; we've established that. If you were open to research, you might
benefit from reading the revision
at nngroup.com/articles/top-10-mistakes-web-design
<https://www.nngroup.com/articles/top-10-mistakes-web-design/> (© 2011).
But now I think I might have been mistaken by hoping for an answer based on
research and studies..*

(N.B. I didn't give the copyright date for the edition I read of Steve
Krug's *Don't make me think!*; it is *©*2014. I want to read his title *Rocket
surgery made simple*.)
Why such a bother?

*I remember one conversation where I said something and was then
backpedalling for the remainder of the conversation. I had talked, years
back, about a mislabelled simple sheet music that was four part vocal
harmony advertised as being arranged for piano, and the difference was
clear. The impression I gave by saying that was that I was some great
musician with the most discriminating sophistication and subtlety who could
take layers of meaning from a page of sheet music. What I experienced
was pretty much the same reason a young athlete playing baseball would have
repeated strikeouts on being forced to hold the bat by the wrong end, or a
child would frequently spill food if expected to fork in soup and use only
the edge of a spoon for cutting. It was classical "square peg, round hole."*

And that is the unhappy assessment I've had with my encounter with
Wordpress in the strict dimension of UX and usability. The marketing
proposition, if this is a marketing proposition, is that you can compete
with handcoded HTML / CSS (and perhaps JavaScript and PHP), if you're at a
level of sophistication that you're above needing such tools.

I personally *am* at such a level, but what has been clear to me is
essentially that if you want to create a genuinely usable website, subsite,
single page application, etc. with Wordpress, you do not see long and far
by standing on Wordpress's shoulders. You instead see shortly and darkly
because you are standing in Wordpress's footprints.

I've been cutting steak with a screwdriver to correct usability defects,
and having complete freedom as to which *one* color applies to both visited
and unvisited links is one area where child-theming was the only game in
town. That isn't the only or just important one; it's just that UX
enhancement to Wordpress is four-part vocal harmony played on a piano. It
is striking out because you're holding the wrong end of the bat. It is
stabbing a spoonful of soup with a fork.

I am someone very, very interested in usability and UX, and am looking for
something in the Chicago area. If you have need, I can help things be
better than out-of-the-box Wordpress...

...but Wordpress does *not* stick out by needing more work to be usable. To
again drop a name that has not been fashionable for years, the "Top 10
Intranet" awards from the Nielsen Norman group in almost every single case
made heavy customizations before it was fit for human consumption.

[image: Christos Jonathan Seth Hayward] <http://jonathanscorner.com/>
C.J.S. Hayward, Author, UX / Usability Specialist.
If you're looking for a Bible that's a little like an Orthodox King James
Version, you might consider the *Classic Orthodox Bible
If you read *one webpage* out of everything I wrote, you might read *Doxology

 *Email* <jsh at jsh.name> • *Books and Kindle <http://cjsh.name/>* • *Flagship
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