I’m probably going to piss a lot of people off with this longer post, so let me make this clear from the start: the post is long, and any comments I deem inappropriate, overly angry, or totally off the point (like rants about why the 3.8 design sucks or why the updater is evil), will be deleted. This is my website. You can rant on yours, thank you.

So here’s the deal. I get it. I really do. The change in the WordPress.org back end, the new admin dashboard, is dramatic, bold, and not universally embraced.

Introducing a modern new design (overview from WP's about page)

And I get that the updater isn’t something people love. Though to be honest, the volume of people who did not notice the 3.7 to 3.7.1 update, but are livid over the 3.8 to 3.8.1 update perplex me. Where were you in the end of October when we last had an auto-update?

People have passions and they are general vocal about it. I’ve had so many conversations like this:

Isn’t that beautiful, easier to read, potentially colorful, admin dashboard wonderful? Oh wait, you find it ugly, harder to read, and too colorful? But … the design works so well with a mobile phone! You use the iOS app? The colors man! You don’t like black? That’s okay! Colors! See you just go to your user profile and pick a different one. I like Ecto… what? It’s not the colors? You just hate it?

I’m not putting a picture of Aaron Jorbin up here, but you know the drill. And I get it, I really do. The change was big and it’s never going to be something loved by all. But let me quote something for you:

I agree with a lot of users too that the changes to the admin dash interface are not up to par, like some of the buttons

The defense is that new users will love it because they don’t know better? That’s rather weak considering the millions of people installed base that still want to work with WordPress.

Also, calling the old UI “insanely stupid” and loving the new one makes me suspect you really don’t know what you are talking about or you are really involved in this. What is it?


I’m going to stick my neck out on this issue and say that it has ruined the whole blogging experience for me. The UI was the best feature of WordPress, it’s the bit that bloggers know and love for being an ace bit of kit.

Those are all quotes from the topic “2.5 admin backend annoying” posted in 2009. That was when WordPress last had a totally massive, top down overhaul of the back end. And boy howdy did people have a strong reaction to it. The answer we had back then is actually the same as we had five years ago, and it’s not “Tough titties” (as Taffy would say). “Use a plugin to change it.”

Right now the vocal minority of people who hate the new WP dashboard will need to make do with customizing their experience using plugins. Which is a whole ‘nother post in and of itself why plugins are good, and that isn’t the point here.

The point here is that WordPress is probably not going back to the pre-3.8 design, nor will it be dropping the auto-updates. This was not a change made in a vacuum. It was tested by early adopters on WordPress.com (who were actually flipped over to this in June) as well as beta testers of WordPress core. The odds are, while improvements to address some of the visibility issues and functionality problems will be made, the direction of WordPress will remain forward, not backwards.

While people who really hate these changes are pretty vocal about it, it’s actually nothing new if you look back to 2.5 and how it’s redesign was received, or if you look at the failed 2.3 redesign (Shuttle) and how well that went off. And when you consider that in Wordpress 2.7, when we introduced the ‘one click’ updater for core, and how many people hated that, it’s rather astounding we ever get anywhere at all. I hate saying “Just give it a shot!” and “Cope” but that’s really kind of where we are here because of people being irrational about new features in general. And who is being irrational? Two main groups: the people who hate it, and the staunch defenders who did not write it.

The people who hate it, well, I covered that. The people who didn’t write it though, and to some extend these are people who didn’t actively or vocally work on testing and bug catching either, are the people in the support forums who mean really well, but are getting testy and snide and cranky. You know why the haters are upset, they’re having an emotional reaction. The supporters are angry because they get angry haters all the live long day, and snap back. It’s a vicious circle.

With all the new features of WP 3.7 and 3.8, there was a lot of work. Months and months of work, testing, breaking, fixing, testing again, and finally you reach a point where you have to remember this: No matter what you do, your change will break someone’s workflow.

There are probably children out there holding down spacebar to stay warm in the winter! YOUR UPDATE MURDERS CHILDREN.

Change happens. We don’t always like it, we don’t always agree with all of it, but change is, inherently, a good thing. Even if everyone hates it, it helps us decide the direction of our passion and where we want it to be aimed. Take all that anger and think about what it actually means and how you can take it to improve things for more people. Because we’re talking about an open source product that you’re using, for free, that makes your life better. It makes it easier to manage websites, it makes it easier to get a job, and it makes it easier to do what you want. That doesn’t mean it will always do it exactly how you want it to, though. Even I have parts of the new features I dislike.

But. What makes me and my dislike different from people who get angry are two things. First and foremost, I can recognize when I am angry, and when I do sense it, I walk away. I don’t reply. I leave the room. Even though it’s my job, to some extent, to talk to people about this stuff, I will hand things over to others, or beseech assistance in wording. The second thing is that I chose to be part of the progress and stick my toe in the water to try and change WordPress in a direction I prefer.

This doesn’t mean I’m better than people who get angry. My lack of fire in some places leads to me not being the sort who champions new directions that often. You’ll notice I’m a community type rep, and not a core-plugin one. That’s why. But what I share with the people who change the world is a desire to funnel our hate into something productive and positive. I see something I dislike and I study it to understand it, why it was done, and since this is open source, suggest changes. I try to back them up with fact when I can, and logic when I can’t find enough fact. I strive to make things improved.

I feel it’s better that way, and I sleep a lot better at night then when I was just angry all the time.

Reader Interactions


  1. Love this 🙂

    I recently was on the end of a discussion whereby on a site I defended the 3.8.1 from 3.8 auto updates, from somebody who had some merit in the SEO Community (and sells WordPress services), who was unbelievably vocal about the change. Not the change per-se, but being notified. Or rather their client getting notified. She wrote a blog post on a community site that basically got a lot of whooping and back slapping defending their position. I posted a rebuttal and unfortunately didn’t get quite as much public coverage – though well respected individuals did reply to me privately, stating facts and how the process worked.

    Of course, she posted a rebuttal to my rebuttal, which resorted in what I thought was quite confrontational, and ended up walking away from both that discussion and from posting on that site, which is unfortunate but I felt like it was becoming confrontational.

    The unfortunate elephant in the room in this situation which you alluded to above is where were these people six months ago when 3.7 upgraded to 3.7.1? Admittedly I was at WordCamp Europe and surround myself in the community generally, so was aware about the update. Surely if you had been following best practices (and – if you sell WordPress services – I’d like to think you do), you’d have picked up on it. Part of me thinks that if you use a piece of software that is mission critical to your business you’d keep abreast of the changes to it. Of course, in this instance I was probably wrong.

    Great post though 🙂

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