The WordPress admin: WP’s strength and weakness

I love the WordPress admin. It is WordPress’ backend, the place where you can take a glance and tweak your site’s content:

  • The dashboard is clearly designed and allows you to see the most important recent changes, the amounts of posts, comments and so on.
  • The list tables containing your blog posts, pages and whatever custom content (portfolio, products, testimonials, …) you have is fairly uncluttered.
  • The admin allows us to manage users and plugins in a relatively easy way.
  • It makes possible to manage navigation menus, widgets and global site data, although I prefer to do a lot of this in the Customizer.

The admin is WordPress’ strength when compared to other well-known content managements systems. But the admin is WordPress’ weakness when compared to modern website creation tools.

The good

WordPress would not have become this popular without the admin interface. And popular it is, powering more than 28% of all websites. Of course, it is not only the admin. Many developers and designers prefer to use WordPress for small and intermediate websites. Its ease of on-boarding, use and extensibility for designers and developers is very important. It is often not the user that choses to work with WordPress, but the person who creates the website. But by using WordPress, a lot of users learn to know and appreciate the admin that allows them to keep their sites up-to-date.

Of course, the admin is not perfect and easy.

The bad (or the improvable)

The admin can be bloated and slow. Definitely for some complex use cases and with a lot of plugins.

But not all users need every functionality available. It is our job as a developer to educate our clients and make the admin as smooth as possible for their use case. But customizing the admin is time consuming and not that straightforward.

On the technical side of things, the admin could leverage more modern standards, like using the WordPress REST API for saving, loading, … A full page refresh is so 2000… 🙂 But that’s easy to say, harder to change and develop.

And why would you change a winning team? Because the team will get tired and old.
Also, change is difficult and risky. People don’t like change or at least, changing. Just take the example of Gutenberg, a new publishing experience for WordPress. It is coming soon.

As they say:

“What got WordPress here, won’t get it there.”

And “there” is the future.

The future?

WordPress’ future may be a combination of Gutenberg and the Customizer: editing, arranging and live previewing content blocks.

  • Gutenberg allows people to add blocks with content to create a page or post. “Freely” or based on a predefined template.
  • The Customizer will enable this in a “live” fashion, previewing, drafting and scheduling the changes.

Maybe not in their current appearance and with their current functionalities, but they may define WordPress for the next 15 years. And hopefully, the future of (a large part) the web.