WordPress.com Usability for Bloggers

I wrote this at the very inception of this blog, and I have since then learned my way around. But having returned to this uncategorized entry, which I wrote purely to vent frustration at the time, I’ve come to realize that this is all valid criticism. It’s the experience of someone who is reasonably familiar with building web sites and if I had trouble at the start, I have to believe there are others with less experience (or more) who had similar experiences. The user interface, and therefore the new user experience … to be frank, sucks. Here is what I went through when setting up this blog-site.

There is much to love about WordPress.com. (On the other hand, there is WordPress.org which is the WordPress.com code for you to host on your own choice of servers. And it’s never updated because it’s on your server, not theirs). This makes sense to an IT person. To a novice? No.

This of course guarantees confusion on the part of newbie and wannabe bloggers shopping for a place to put their precious content (aka, the customer). It NEEDS to be explained more clearly.

Bottom line – if you just want to write a blog, you want the .com version which gets regular security tweaks (I hope), general maintenance, and support. If you are a coder or other type of IT geek who loves to get under the covers and actually make things work better, go for the .org version. Give me a shout if you have something better to offer.

For now it’s a platform to replace my latest web site editor which died along with my Windows 7 computer.  I’m not happy about the murder of my Dell computer at the code of Dell’s maintenance software, but I won’t bore you with the whole sad story – except to advise you to dig into the quality of every single component they’re putting into your next Dell. (if, like me, you’re stupid enough to buy another one)

Unfortunately, this new website editing solution of mine isn’t nearly as user friendly as it could be.  This is a product, a platform for people to sell things, promote services, support non-profits, write and publish, or otherwise share their art with the world… ideally making some money along the way in exchange for their efforts to create entertaining content.  Their interest is not in coding, or understanding the Byzantine infrastructure someone developed out of sheer obliviousness to the end-user’s needs.  So stop trying to tell me you’re here to be my “Happiness Engineer” and make the product easier to use.  
grumpy_cat_NOPEIn theory, I should be able to identify a parent page, and the child pages that fall under it… and set up a menu.  This should take a minute.  Maybe 2. I should be able to configure a menu so that it sits where I want it to sit on the page, even if that means configuring the theme (left, right, top, bottom).  Nope.

I find the whole site configuration set-up unnecessarily complicated.  Users should know up front that they can “categorize” blogs, but not pages, and they can create menus by category and/or blog and page links – but the setup of menus is buried in a configuration inside a configuration option. They should know that the only way to have the links to their blogs read as something other than an exotic language is to buy the Business package to start with. 

Instead those discoveries are buried deep inside the bowels of the platform, requiring weeks of research and getting up to speed before discovering that all your work will now need to be reconfigured.

Same problem with the ability to identify a page as the “blog” master page, where all “blog” objects are published one on top of the last.  What a ferking mess that is. True there is one already set up, but since the distinction between pages and blogs isn’t clear, you can roam around writing content and then not be able to see the blog posts because you made them pages. (and if the default blog page is deleted it’s bloody hard to figure out how to redefine it – I know from trying to clean things up and get them to fit together).

Setting up site navigation is way way way too difficult to figure out.

Oh, and then there is the links functionality in the new editor – which works MUCH better in a blog than a page. Shouldn’t this be the same code? 

I can create subordinate pages (not blogs) that show up on my (the content creator’s) list of pages as indented… but there’s no list of subordinate pages on the actual web page that is the next level up, which would be the intutive way to handle creating those intermediate “category” pages. There is no correlation to the actual site navigation (i.e. menus) at all. Nada.  What. Exactly. Is. The. Point?

No. Just no.

I’ve been doing web sites since 1992.  HTML. Various editors.  Photoshop.  The whole nine. This is not my first rodeo.  AND YET… getting a proper menu inserted and links to related pages appearing on the so-called parent page … was not a breeze.   

And don’t get me started on the Themes.  Just. Don’t. I’m stuck with pre-defined color palettes … for, why?  I can’t see the other page layouts until I’ve applied the theme – and (wait for it) what you see on the Home page layout is probably different from the layout of the Blog and Page layouts. I can’t assign various themes to Pages vs Blogs vs the Home page, and editing a theme requires waaaay more time than I have to apply to this relatively minor hobby. Worse, when I start on a new theme, some of the widgets transfer over, but others don’t. Ummm…. why?

And for the love of all that is holy, WHERE are the social media share icons?  I can’t see them anywhere even though I’ve set them up for the site. It’s a snip of code, why isn’t it a widget? 

Worse – to revisit an infuriating experience in the process of setting all this up, if you want to optimize your web site to have the content you’ve slaved over actually appear in a search… you need to upgrade (aka pay more money) to get basic functionality from the “Business Plan” … like permalinks – which I wouldn’t have known about if I hadn’t read a fellow WordPress bloggers article on the things he wished he had known when he started out.

Deleting a blog is also an arcane science. I’m not sure why that is. This is the web after all. If I am drunk-blogging, who knows what might be out there. I can hide a blog, but I can’t delete it. I can however, just edit it of existence. Hmmm.

Incidentally, the “Business Plan” will cost you a whopping $300 a year *for a brand new site that makes zero $*.  And then you lose functionality from the Widgets so that you can use Plug-Ins which Are.Not.The.Same.Thing.  

NONE of this is explained on the page where you get to choose the site options you are going to pay (or not) for when setting up your account.

So you’ll spend a lot of time redoing things to make the site navigation make sense.  Because this is your full time job, amiright? No? Welcome to my world.

My initial experience with WordPress.com




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