Am I a Platformist?

Recently, I posted a call on the dev blog for WordPress-loving icon designers who wanted to get involved with the open source project and design the new icons for 2.7. In the post I made it clear that the reason we were doing this was because of all the times I’ve had designers ask me how they could contribute to WordPress, since they weren’t able to contribute code.

I got about a dozen responses from clearly capable designers with good portfolios. One of them didn’t use WordPress, but Movable Type. I sent him what I thought was a nice email thanking him for volunteering, but letting him know that since he didn’t appear to use WordPress, we would be choosing from among the current users. He’s since written a blog post indicating that this was a divisive act. I disagree.

I wasn’t looking for the most badass icon designer. If that had been the case, we would have just hired someone outright, as we planned to do originally. The change to going with community volunteers was specifically intended to provide an opportunity for WordPress users to give back to the community and be contributors to the open source project in a way that hasn’t been open to them before. I was in no way implying that this non-WP designer’s work wasn’t good enough.

Substitute “icon design” for “coding a patch that will be used in the application.” The two are meant to be on par. My goal was to make the open source project not so code-specific, but to open up more avenues of involvement with the application. And as with the coding of patches, we generally have the best luck with people who use the application on a regular basis, are already intimately familiar with it, and have a vested interest in its improvement. The point was for the icons to be community generated (there will even be community voting on the completed icon sets), not just designed.

It wasn’t my intention at all to make this designer feel slighted, and I certainly appreciate everyone’s willingness to volunteer. I also didn’t mean for my response to carry any kind of one-platform-to-rule-them-all kind of tone. I’ve used Blogger, Movable Type and WordPress, and I like all of them for different reasons. I have friends who work for each company; I’m not part of the platform wars that sometimes spring up. I just feel that given the reasoning behind going the community volunteer route in this case (which, frankly, does carry some risk compared to simply hiring a professional), it would have been uncool of me to bring in a ringer. Which, given this guy’s experience level and the fact that he uses MT and not WP, he would have been. A ringer, that is. A designated hitter. As I said in my comment on the designer’s blog post, I’m just trying to give the existing WP community a chance to go to bat.

So does that make me a Platformist?

Shortcuts/Favorites Menu

One of the new features in WordPress 2.7 (currently in an almost-beta development state) is a feature we’ve been referring to as the Favorites Menu. The idea was that instead of having just a write new post/write new shortcuts menupage button on the Dashboard, there should be shortcuts for the screens you use the most accessible at any time so you have one-click access to those screens. The plan was to allow users to decide for themselves what would go into this menu via a configuration interface, but we weren’t able to make that happen in time for this release, so for 2.7 this will be more of a shortcuts menu than a favorites menu. That means we’re going to choose the 3-4 most commonly used screens and include those shortcuts in the dropdown menu. That’s where you come in.

For, we can see which screens get the most traffic, but for self-hosted sites running software from we’d just be guessing. Also, in some cases, even though a screen is accessed frequently, it’s only one click away in the main navigation anyway, so might not be needed in the shortcuts menu. With that in mind, the poll below lists some of the main screens in the WordPress admin interface. Please select the ones you would most like to have in the shortcuts menu. You can choose as many as you like, but please limit yourself to three or four or your vote will be diluted. If there is a screen we didn’t include on this list, enter the screens you want to suggest in the Other box. Note the poll choices use the navigation language of 2.5/2.6 so that people who haven’t downloaded 2.7 won’t be thrown by the new labels.

Future Publish

Some WordPress users know and use every feature of the application, while others stick to the few they know, missing out on potentially useful features because they either didn’t realize these features existed or they didn’t know how they worked. One feature that falls into this category is the ability to schedule the publication date/time of posts. This feature can be used to write something in advance that you want to publish later, or to write something belatedly and have it appear as if you’d written it sooner.

For example, I might write a post about something like the release of 2.7 in November before it actually happens so that I can take my time writing the post and have it ready to go live when 2.7 officially releases. I can schedule the publish time for November 10th at whatever time the release is due to go out, and my post will remain unpublished until that time. If I’m on a plane or in a car or otherwise not online when 2.7 is released, my post will still go live at the time I scheduled it. Yay!

Inversely, sometimes you might not have time to write something until after the fact, but you want it to be timestamped with an earlier publication date/time. For example, I’ve known students who use this feature to post school assignments “by the due date” if they finish a few minutes or hours after a midnight deadline but before the professor checks the class blog in the morning.

If you haven’t noticed or used this feature before, give it a try. When writing a new post, just above the Save and Publish buttons there is a small calendar icon and the words “Publish Immediately” followed by an “Edit” link. Clicking on the link will make the timestamp editable. Just change the date and/or time and click the OK button. If you choose a time in the future and then click on Publish, that’s when the post will go live. If you click Save, the post will remain a draft until you Publish it, regardless of the edited timestamp. If you choose a time in the past and click Publish, go check out your archives and you’ll find the post as if it had been there all along. Cool, right?

Now that you know how it works and how you can use it, maybe you can help us figure out how we can make this feature more obvious to new users, and what to call it. We’re spiffing up the Publish module on the Write screen, and are trying to find the right words for this feature, since so many people miss it currently. A couple of developers and I went back and forth the other day suggesting different labels to try and make it clear (without taking up a lot of space) not only that you can schedule the publish time, but that you can edit the timestamp after a post has already been published. We came up with a few ideas, but thought this would be a good opportunity to get community input.

If you want to give your opinion, take this poll. It’s short, and has 4 multiple choice questions about the future publish feature:
1. Did you know about this feature?
2. Do you currently use this feature?
3. Before a post has been published, the feature should be labeled: (choices provided in survey)
4. After a post has been published, the feature should be labeled: (choices provided in survey)

There are also a couple of multiple choice questions regarding where to put the search box and the new favorites menu. When we’ve collected 5000 responses, the survey will close, so go now and give us your opinion. Thanks for your help!  (When the survey has closed, links in this post will be deactivated.)

October 1, 2008 Update: The survey is now closed. Thanks to all those who participated.

WordPress 2.7 Navigation Survey

When Liz and I put together the navigation sections for Crazyhorse, we didn’t anticipate how strongly people would react to it (positively) or that it would be merged with the 2.7 development effort. We had been thinking of it as more of an experiment that would lead to change later on rather than a primetime-ready application, which is why some of the things we included were non-functional or required additional thought. As people who saw our WordCamp presentation know, many of the decisions we made in designing Crazyhorse were specifically chosen to elicit information during usabiliy testing rather than being intended as a final design.

WordPress 2.7 navigationSo now I work for Automattic, 2.7 is under development, and some of those things that “required additional thought” are on my list of to-dos. At the same time, the members of the development community who’ve downloaded the nightly builds have been commenting on various features and making suggestions. In order to collect as much feedback as possible, I’ve posted a survey with a few variations of the Crazyhorse navigation to see which groupings/labels people prefer. Who knows, maybe this will wind up being the first in a series of interface surveys. If you are a WordPress user and you care about that sort of thing and want to be a part of the 2.7 effort, take the survey.