Out of all the blog posts I’ve read this year, one has stuck in my mind more than any other: Why [the] open source crowd should stop crowing about Ning’s problems. He takes on Drupal and KickApps for their lack of usability and then moves on to WordPress.
He’s right. Even WordPress usability sucks. It’s generally regarded as the best of the Open Source projects in terms of usability, but even it sucks.
This is how a typical novice user sees a WordPress page:
- “Add Images”, “Add Video”, “Add Audio”: no problem. “Add Media” … wait, what were all those other buttons?
- “Change Permalinks” What on earth are they? Do you mean URLs?
- “Excerpts are optional hand-crafted summaries of your content that can be used in your theme.” You what?
- “Send trackbacks. Trackbacks are a way to notify legacy blog systems that you’ve linked to them” Legacy blogs? What? Why?
- “Custom fields can be used to add extra metadata to a post that you can use in your theme.” Why? What is metadata?
- Comments: I keep getting spam. How do I stop it? Why isn’t it blocked automatically?
- Tags and Categories: I need to organize my posts in two completely different ways?
There’s no explanation of why, what or even how these should be used. No wonder beginners are confused. Oh, and don’t get me started on the color scheme: many of our WordPress students find it hard to navigate amongst the various shades of grey. Only the “Update” button is clearly marked:
Really the only things that a novice user wants to see are the title, text and publish boxes. Everything else is confusing, unnecessary and beyond their technical skills.
Now, to emphasise, I’m not picking on WordPress and indeed could probably do a harsher analyse with most other CMSs. I simply chose WordPress because they’re held up as best that Open Source can do in terms of usability.
How do three of the biggest sites in the world approach usability?
If WordPress, Drupal, Magento and Joomla want to still exist in a few years time, their usability will look like this. Don’t believe me? The future of blogging is already here and it’s Posterous not WordPress:
The future of e-commerce is already here and it’s Ecwid, not Magento.
Where does this leave us?
- Software-as-a-Service. As a CMS Community we’re much more likely to get our lunch eaten by Software-as-a-Service products than but other Open Source CMSs. They hassles of buying hosting, setting up sites, maintaining them and dealing with all the quirks is just beyond many users. Don’t believe me? WordPress.com sites out-number hosted WordPress sites by 3-to-1. WordPress by itself is no more popular than Joomla. Acquia seem to get this. At the recent CMSExpo they barely mentioned Drupal – everything was Drupal Gardens, Drupal Gardens, Drupal Gardens.
- Priority Number One. Usability should be more important than adding any new features into the core of our CMSs. Drupal has a UI team, WordPress has a UI team, Joomla badly needs one.