More Widgets User Testing

Last night, I create a user test for the recently updated widgets prototype. About 30 minutes later, I had this super awesome video of a real person using the prototype and talking about his thoughts and experience: (beware the loud cough at the beginning)

This one went very well. And it seems that the idea of dragging widgets into sidebars is engrained in existing users. I’ve even caught myself doing it a few times, and I built the prototype specifically to avoid that interaction. It makes sense, as dragging widgets into place has existed in WordPress for over 3 years.

Ben Giordano on Widgets in WordPress

Yesterday afternoon, I had the opportunity to spend some time with my friend, and owner of FreshySites, Ben Giordano. We spent about an hour talking about WordPress, widgets, and more.

Most of our time was spent talking about widgets. Watch the video to get some great insight into the existing widgets interface, as well as Ben’s thoughts on some concepts and prototypes.

Another Idea for Widgets

Part of the goal of redesigning widgets in WordPress is to make the connection between widget areas, and their presentation on the front-end of your site, more obvious. It’s clear that there’s a big disconnect between the narrow column of sidebars (or widget areas) in wp-admin, and their location within your site’s theme. Here’s an idea that presents a blueprint of your theme’s templates, allowing you to add widgets to the available widget areas:

Widget Area Blueprint

During some recent user testing, it became clear that the current UI for managing widgets does little to make it clear that widgets must be placed using drag-and-drop. It seems that re-ordering widgets using drag-and-drop is intuitive, but the initial placement of widgets is more cumbersome and not so obvious. This design tries to solve that problem by relying on the “Add Widget” button for each area. You can drag-and-drop widgets between areas, or click on the “Add Widget” button to popup a media-like modal from which you can choose widgets.

My hesitation with this approach, and with the general concept of front-end editing in general, is that it puts a lot of “stuff” in front of your face. This approach makes a lot of sense for managing the location of widgets, but not so much for managing the content of widgets. What do you think?

Browsing Themes in WordPress

Along with working on Widgets, I’m also working on some ideas for the theme experience in WordPress. Working with Matías Ventura, I’ve come up with the following wireframe:

Theme Browser Wireframe

The big idea here is to merge the two pages, Manage Themes and Install Themes. We ran a user test, which you should totally watch, and quickly discovered that the user got completely lost looking for a way to add/browse themes. The label “Install Themes” didn’t convey that they could search and browse. The above wireframe aims to make searching and browsing the main focus of the themes page. Your installed themes are displayed at the top, with your active theme highlighted. The rest of the page is dedicated to browsing and searching themes. Its a quick idea, but something I think could make the overall experience better. What do you think?