The blog has been fairly quiet for the past few weeks, and with good reason! I’ve been in “mole mode,” working on a few WordPress plugins with the hope of getting them accepted into Core for the 3.8 release schedule to launch in early December. I’m happy to report that all three plugins have been accepted!
Widgets Area Chooser (WAC)
This plugin started as a suggestion from Matt. He mentioned in a Skype chat that the “simplest thing we could do” would be to provide a list of sidebars to choose from when clicking on an available widget. This was one of the first plugins I’ve ever built, and having a super simple scope made it doable. The old drag and drop method of adding widgets is still there, but the WAC makes it easier to add widgets when you have a lot of sidebars, on mobile and touch screen devices, and for users who find it difficult to use a mouse.
Theme Experience (THX)
Matías Ventura first proposed the THX project when development began on WordPress 3.7. The goal was to make the experience of installing and browsing themes better. We started by talking to users and developers; We ran a survey and setup a few tests on usertesting.com. With some basic feedback in hand, we explored a bunch of designs. After a few weeks we had a solid direction for what we wanted to do:
- Make browsing and installing themes incredibly fast.
- Put big theme previews front and center.
- Make it work across every screen size.
With some help from Sheri Bigelow, we ran some more user tests to see how our vision held up with real people, and started iterating quickly. After a few more weeks, we began thinking about what we wanted in – and could realistically have ready for – inclusion in WordPress 3.8. We decided to focus our remaining time on the browsing experience, leaving the install portion of the project for a future release.
MP6 (No clue what it stands for…)
The MP6 team has been doing awesome things for months, and is the poster child for the new “feature as plugins” development philosophy that WordPress.org now uses. My involvement comes at the very tail end of the project. Joen Asmusen mentioned my name when the team was discussing their plan to tackle the widgets screen. Since I was (and still am) leading the team that is focused on rethinking widgets, Joen suggested that I may have some ideas. I offered to spend some time coming up with some rough concepts. A few days later I sent Joen some code that resembles what you see in core today. I was asked to join the team and was given commit access to continue working on the widgets component. I felt honored and extremely lucky to work with some of the best designers and developers in the WordPress community.
This coming week marks the end of active development on 3.8, with a planned code freeze and beta release on Wednesday. Until then, I’m working on cleaning up code, bug fixes, and some last-minute enhancements and polish. I’m excited about the release of 3.8, and the future of WordPress in general!
I ran another in-person user test last week, this time going over the tabbed widget prototype and the new widget customizer prototype. Check out the video below:
Another day, another late-night concept video. This time I’m back on widgets. The tabbed prototype I’ve been working on is really taking shape and feeling nice. But, its biggest strength is also its biggest weakness: You can only see one sidebar at a time.
I’ve been toying with the idea of an “all sidebars” view since I started working on the project, and today the inspiration for a possible UI struck me: Mission Control in OS X. Check out the video to see the concept in action:
Spent a little time hooking up some ideas for ways to view and compare items from your WordPress media library. Check out the video. Would you find this useful?
Far from perfect, this slider lets you change the size of the thumbnails in the media library. See a bunch of smaller images at once, or zoom in and see bigger images.
I’ve been playing with some interactions and styles for the Media Library, with the goal of making it easier to browse and manage your media in WordPress. Check out the video and tell me what you think.
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.
I’ve continued work on the Widgets prototype, this time taking some cue’s from Ben’s user test. His comments about the modal “being in the way” really struck a chord with me. This latest iteration removes the modal all together, in favor of a list of available widgets. Check out the video and let me know what you think.
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.