With the news that the controversial change to Menu management in WordPress has been tentatively approved for merger into core, WordPress is following Microsoft’s footsteps in making a major mistake when it comes to user interface: fragmentation.
Despite overwhelming negative feedback from the WordPress development community on merging the Menu management into what is currently the theme Customizer UI, the change was still tentatively approved. I get the impression that the core team members pushing for this change feel that the negative feedback is due to people simply disliking change. Wrong.
“For Menu Customizer, this idea has been part of the project from the very beginning. My GSoC proposal (3/20/14) states ‘If the Menu Customizer provides all of the features of the existing menu management screen, while clearly demonstrating that it is a better solution than the existing screen in user tests, it could potentially replace the existing screen entirely for users that can access the Customizer,’ and there has never been indication that this isn’t the direction we should move in, other than the general and ongoing resistance to the Customizer as a whole that we’ve seen from many community members (which I think is more of an educational issue).” – Nick Halsey
My issue with moving menu management into the Customizer has absolutely nothing to do with fearing change. Change is inevitable. WordPress has to change.
It also has nothing to do with having an extreme dislike for the Customizer. Do I think the current Customizer implementation is perfect? Definitely not. It could use a lot of work. It needs to be refined.
My issue is WordPress is making the same mistake that Microsoft did with Windows 8 by splitting things up into 2 distinct user interfaces. That is simply a bad direction to take.
We all know how this played out for Microsoft. It worked so well they had to skip Windows 9 entirely and go right to Windows 10 in order to try and distance it from the terrible user interface mistakes that they made with Windows 8.
WordPress the open source project needs to decide what the future of the admin user interface is. It needs to pick a direction and it needs to go all in with it. This piecemeal approach of splitting up functionality between the Dashboard user interface and the Customizer user interface is an extremely poor direction to take from from both a user interface and user experience standpoint.
I have no issues with a Customizer style approach to the admin UI. In fact I think it’s the direction that WordPress should go in. If you think i’m crazy, do yourself a favor and take Squarespace for a spin. Squarespace uses a similar user interface to that of the Customizer in WordPress. It looks fantastic.
The Customizer works in similar fashion to the Squarespace UI but it’s far less elegant in just about every way. A WordPress admin using the same approach as the Customizer would be fantastic. But only if it’s overhauled to be as usable, and elegant as what Squarespace has done. Ideally WordPress would do it even better and one up Squarespace.
Is deciding to do a complete overhaul of the WordPress admin an easy decision to make? Absolutely not. Is it going to be an easy thing to pull off? Hell no. In fact it’s a scary proposition. But nothing worth doing is ever easy and creating a great product never comes without risks.
It’s time for WordPress to shit or get off the pot when it comes to the Customizer UI.