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I really like some of the things John has done in his mockups here, especially on the write screen, and contrary to what he thinks ideas like this are more than welcome in the WordPress community. (For example check out the dramatically revamped media or the dozens of eliminated options in trunk right now.)

The one big mistake in his premise, however, is that only 34% of WordPress users are blogging, the actual percentage is much higher. The survey he quotes me talking about was of mostly people who make their living building WordPress sites (over 20,000) and mostly WordPress.org users. This community naturally focuses (and contributes) more on the CMS and application framework side of WordPress.

On WordPress.com, however, the vast majority of its millions of users blog, and are blogging more every day. If you visit WP.com you will see a simplified and streamlined user experience that is boldly different from the traditional wp-admin dashboard. Already we've seen huge boosts in user engagement from this new experience, and while it's a few dozen iterations from being ready I'm confident the best concepts will make their way back into WordPress core when they are ready.

But overall, I love seeing different people's takes on what the next generation of WordPress will look like, and I wish more people did blog posts like this. We've had 3 dramatic shifts in our evolution before, and the shape the next one will take is a topic that occupies most of my waking hours, mind space, and creativity. And don't even get me started on mobile... :)




This is what the simplified WordPress.com dashboard looks like for those who haven't seen it: http://d.pr/i/xetj

You can still access the full nuts-and-bolts dashboard via a drop-down menu, but it's deliberately harder to find, and editing happens in the simplified area by default. I've recommended WordPress.com accounts to a few people recently; I was surprised by this change, but they - having never used WordPress - seemed delighted by the simplicity of it. This can only be a good thing, and I can see this working in WordPress.org blogs too.


What made sense about the Ghost write screen was that it embraced Markdown. It showed what things would look like as you wrote them. I don't think the screenshot of the new WordPress dashboard addresses that.


Markdown isn't for bloggers, it's for developers. The average blogger has never learned an "alternative syntax" in their lives -- a word-processor-like formatting toolbar, like WordPress has, makes much more sense.


I found this out last year when I offered markdown support on my forum that used traditional bbcode.

I run a collaborative writing forum and, newly obsessed with markdown at the time, I figured that since users were mostly writing many paragraphs of text, they could pick up the markdown basics if a toolbar + cheatsheet helped them out. In my head, it was going to be some sort of amazing improvement and my forum community would begin chanting my name as they experienced the splendors of markdown.

Classic mistake.

Yeah, sure -- the writers could certainly grasp markdown #headers, how two linebreaks become a new `<p>`, and even `[]()` vs `()[]` links (with toolbar/cheatsheet help). Great! But nested elements and pretty much anything more complicated were a real monkey wrench or just plain unsupported.

Writers would put great effort into their posts (just like a blogger would), changing colors, right-aligning, center-aligning, changing font sizes. -- Things that markdown just doesn't support without some extending or post-processing that would turn into something far more confounding than the intuitive bbcode you started with.

Everyone just understands:

    [center][size="6"][color="red"]My Cat, Mittens:[/color][/size][/center]
    [img]http://imgur.com/mittens.jpg[/img]
    [size="3"]Mittens says: [i]"Meow!"[/i][/size]


There might be a hump to get over at first, but I think Markdown is going to be by far the best to go for in the long run.

What did your cheatsheet look like?


My cheatsheet was a simple condensed table of "this | produces this" beneath the post textfield.

Also, other communities that deal with a similar audience had the same problem with Markdown and moved back to BBCode. For example, these guys (http://guildwork.com/forum/threads/4e46f3d5205cb22721000765-...) moved from BBCode to Markdown and then ended up moving back and writing their own BBCode parser in Python.

Markdown is good when users have limited syntactical/formatting options. But BBCode makes it easier to extend features with an intuitive syntax that nobody seems to have trouble with.

One example would be Markdown's dependence on character glyphs:

    ![my puppy](mypuppy.jpg)
    [click here](http://google.com)
    
        preformatted
        text
While BBCode is easy to recall in plain English and you don't need to remember any glyphs or the order of them:

    [img]mypuppy.jpg[/img]
    [url="http://google.com"]click here[/url]
    [code]
    preformatted
    text
    [/code]
Adding dice and a youtube embedder to BBCode intuitively extends the syntax set. It doesn't introduce any new symbols or anything.

    [dice]4d6[/dice]
    [youtube]http://youtube.com/v?i2h38aoj[/youtube]
Finally, it's been half a decade since I used Wordpress and I think I'm way off topic here since, on second thought, I'm pretty sure Wordpress just offers a WYSIWYG editor that lets you drop into html. Doesn't even use any sort of BBCode-like syntax. :O)


That’s a great point about the inherent ability to extend the number of tags that isn’t inherently present in Markdown.

I am currently writing a forum CMS (http://pygm.us/IbkgNZ4d), and I, too, have wondered how to expand the number of tags within a rigid nomenclature. Using a lexer that automatically converts links to tweets and YouTube videos to embedded scripts seems like an unintuitive solution, but on the other hand, people unfamiliar with the commands will automatically display the embeds in their posts.

For commands that don’t convert links, I was thinking about something like ':<COMMAND>:' with an expandable list of whatever people prefer. Something Awful already use this model for their emoticons, and it could be extended to things like images in general like states for election conversation and such.

I have always found the `[url]` solution to be incredibly bothersome and to some extent unintuitive, and with the advent of mobile devices, letting people write their posts in as few characters as possible is a big advantage to be taken into consideration when weighing the pros and cons.


Cool project.

Lots of vBulletin forums use the `:<string>:` syntax because vBulletin's default smilie set ships with that form of syntax (even though you can use arbitrary strings like setting "lol" to display a laughing gif) so everyone just piles onto it. Basically, direct string replacement seems to be universally understood by all users.

But the real riddle here is devising a syntax superior to bbcode that transcends string replacement and does things like take arguments and act like functions.

Because, it's this less-straightforward symbolism that requires the higher order of savviness/pattern-recognition that less-experienced users struggle with. Like `![]()` turning into an image (but not `! []()`) or why you'd need to indent 4 spaces to resume a bullet point after an empty line.

In other words, where you and I may find it obvious that we're conforming to the rules of a parser (on some back-of-the-mind intuition at least), I found that this concept of mechanical recognition is nonobvious to the user archetype that expressed confusion over Markdown. To them, `! []()` doesn't work because of a negative rule "there can't be a space", not because the token is simply no longer recognizable to the robot behind the curtains that renders their post. That's the crux I've arrived at that makes Markdown suboptimal for my particular community demographic.

The final point I discovered is that users almost always use the toolbar button for anything that comes from their clipboard (namely image and website URLs). Click, paste, and done. Even on smartphones. So essentially all Markdown did there was take cumbersome syntax that was seldom typed-in to begin with and replace it with less intuitive syntax for a benefit that was seldom awarded: being easier to type! Users then had to confront the `[]()` beast when editing posts or modifying their post's layout.

Fun stuff to ponder. It's always extremely eye-opening and humbling to be so wrong.


I disagree. I know I'm on the fringe but I make my living as a writer and 100% of my work is written in Markdown (MultiMarkdown, actually) that I then convert to HTML to paste into WordPress. Is it perfect for everyone, no, but for the subset of users who want to roll their own server setup and still have an easy-to-use publishing platform, it sure does fill a lot of boxes.

Moreover, I can teach people Markdown 10x faster than I can teach them CMS-specific HTML rules. Moreover, WordPress's TinyMCE stuff can break quiet easily (we have to disable it for most of our writers, I'm still allowed to have it because I never use it), so having a readably syntax AND having an instant-preview seems pretty perfect.


I'm another one who writes for a living and writes 100% in Markdown, then convert to HTML for Markdown. I just moved my own site to Kirby so I could publish with straight Markdown files. I know we're far from the only ones that do that.


You aren't alone. There is actually a version of Markdown for writing Screenplays. When writers adopt Markdown then I am not sure who Markdown is not for.


Markdown as I see it is for those who are trying to emphasise the text over style, which especially means writers. What it doesn't mean is random webforums where every second post has a rainbow of colours, boldings and so forth.


True, but markdown is incredibly easy to learn, especially with this side-by-side layout.


Just open a new browser window, easy to do if your OS supports window tiling. A split-screen blog editor will take up just as much room. WordPress does have a "post preview" but it's not always 100% accurate. Opening the blog post in a new window is truly the only way to see what you're actually publishing.


Is it safe to say that without a vastly improved mobile experience WordPress is in serious trouble?

As a huge fan of the WordPress community and what the software and platform has empowered, I'm seeing a decreasing amount of interest in blogging as my social network turns toward meme-sharing and 140-character quips simply because they're much more conducive to consumption and sharing on mobile.

It's so bad that there are startups trying to fix this like Blogstand (http://blogstand.co - our project). We know that others are attempting the same (and they should be!)


> Is it safe to say that without a vastly improved mobile experience WordPress is in serious trouble?

I would 100% agree with that.


I used to think that "mobile responsiveness" was the "Holy Grail" of smart website design. Now, I've come to the conclusion that most modern mobile devices are completely capable of displaying the full version of most websites.

Every time I use my iPhone to browse to Twitter or LinkedIn I'm taken away from the full site and to a silly "mobile" site that resembles the native app. If I wanted the native app. experience, I'd download and use it! Ever try approving a LinkedIn recommendation using your iPhone? Good luck!

Now think about most business websites...5 pages of text, images, and a touch of javascript... Does their "full site" have content that cannot be displayed properly on a mobile device? No. Is there a benefit to having a second, "mobile" website (one with much less love put into it)? I think not.

It seems to me that many people think that "mobile responsiveness" is such a great thing, but I'm not sure they've really considered whether it's even necessary. I'd bet that most designers who build WP sites on themes that tout "mobile responsiveness" (and have it enabled by default) haven't even considered whether their client needs the second version of their site. Even if they do, I think often times the "mobile" version ends up being an ugly, hardly-tested, bastardized version of the "full site". Just give us the real website, please!


I really like the Dolphin browser on Android, partly because it lets you switch between mobile and "desktop" modes (lies in the agent string). I don't find I have to use desktop mode that often, but its really handy when its there.


You get that option in the native browser, though perhaps it's less fiddly in this "Dolphin".


I have to disagree with this one. Just having a mobile stylesheet with a sane font size and clickable link sizes makes a huge difference on most websites. Take this site for example, reading it is quite difficult on a phone, I'm always finding myself panning/pinch/zooming in comment threads, and I constantly misclick links on the home page.


Don't confuse "mobile responsiveness" with people doing it wrong. Your website should never, under any circumstances try to look and feel like an app. All that does is set behavioural expectations in the user that will not and can not be met. It should look like your website, just with some presentation changes to make it easier to get to the content you want on a device with a smaller screen and touch based input.


> Is it safe to say that without a vastly improved mobile experience WordPress is in serious trouble?

Absolutely. We had the WordPress community summit just last week, and one of the topics we discussed several times was mobile. The WordPress apps are good, but there's improvements that can be made to both the apps and the way they interact with a WordPress install, so plans were made to move this stuff forward. It's definitely something that everyone (especially Matt) is interested in.


I don't agree with your speculation that WordPress is in trouble. Though their may be decreasing amount of interest in blogging but WordPress is still used vastly as a CMS.


Especially when you consider that there are people whose only viewport is mobile devices.


Screen size limitation is a temporary setback. After Google Glasses we'll have unlimited space. As far as the eye can see.


A long-term temporary setback. Even if a) it magically works and does everything, and b) most people get them, you're still looking a span of years before you can count on Glasses users being a significant fraction of your audience.


Yes, because millions of people have $1,500 laying around to solve a software problem with expensive hardware. I sort of contradict myself though, since that's what large sites are already doing with WordPress.


agree, you can also clearly see this in how platforms like tumblr have "evolved" to be peoples place to share short attention-span stuff. Blogging is becoming more of a mixture of FB feeds/twitter for most people.


this saddens me.

the promise of blogging for me has always been the ability to have my own printing press and know that nearly everyone else in the world had access to one as well.

i'm still trying to understand how this "evolution" has actually decreased the quality of communication.


    the promise of blogging for me has always been
    the ability to have my own printing press and know
    that nearly everyone else in the world had access
    to one as well.
You say this and you are surprised that the average level of quality of published material went down? There's almost no way it could do anything else. There are a whole bunch of excellent blogs out there that wouldn't exist otherwise, and there is obviously a lot more communication nowadays. That's where you win: there's a lot more communication, some of which is excellent. Of course the average was higher when there was a higher barrier to entry, but that's not the important metric.


No reason to be sad -- imagine a platform that you can stay on whether you're posting pictures of your food to a few dozen people (as I do) or the NYT FiveThirtyEight blog covering the election, to all of Wired.com. That's democratizing publishing.


That's a great perspective and why I'm head over heels for WordPress as a platform for publishers of all shapes and sizes (and have built a company around it)

Then again, this versatility has its drawbacks. We're constantly challenged by the complexity of building a mobile viewport onto WordPress and present it in a way that makes reading, discussing and sharing this kind of content. The options for publishers are limitless and translating that to mobile in a way that makes sense is really non-trivial.


Mobile WordPress is not something that is going to be done and figured out in a day. As devices and peoples usage patterns evolve, over time we'll have to adjust to this as well. And while all of us take smart phones and tablets for granted now, only a small subset of this world's population has such devices to connect to the Internet. Many use much simpler phones and devices, and so to truly democratize publishing it can't stop with a fancy iOS app.

In core WordPress we'll track our progress and discuss over on the Make/Mobile blog. Feel free to chime in there! http://make.wordpress.org/mobile


I'm looking forward that Wordpress becomes more like self hosted Facebook profiles (just better of course). I'm absolutely looking forward what you guys plan for the mobile part.

I remember switching from my first self written CMS to a small blogging platform called wordpress a couple of years ago. I never looked back after that :)


Thanks Matt - I don't necessarily doubt that WordPress users are blogging, it's just that WordPress(.org) isn't focused on those users any more.

That's fine, as mentioned in the post, but there is a reason that Svbtle (etc) is suddenly the flavour of the month, and it's not just cause Dustin is the coolest kid in San Fran.


There is no problem with what Ghost is setting out to do. For some of us WordPress is not reacting quickly enough to adopting the 21 century way of providing user experience. Obviously it's unrealistic for WordPress itself to drop everything and focus on this (that just isn't how life works), but it's certainly interesting and worthwhile to explore how modernisation of WordPress will enhance its original reason to exist. Looking at Ghost from this perspective and all the other reasons that John mentions in a comment below makes forking WordPress the right thing to do

This project doesn't need someone who loves WordPress and wants make more plugins for it. It needs someone who thinks they can make a good thing even better. Steve Jobs didn't just make a new cover for mobile phones. He fundamentally proved that communicational devices must become many times better than what they were before and that's what I expect from John.

Even Steve couldn't fix AT&T so don't expect John to fix WordPress core issues. That job is for WordPress itself.


You may be right about his mistake in quoting the statistics but his point holds that wordpress is not THAT friendly for bloggers who just wants to publish their ideas.




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