So we’ve been running WordPress for over a week now and I thought I’d take a moment to give my impressions. There is much to like about WordPress and much to dislike, but it’s certainly much better than it was the last time I checked it out over five years ago.
First, here’s what I love about it:
- The WYSIWYG editor for writing entries. It takes some getting used to after years of hand coding HTML into my entries, but having an editor that performs more like a word processor than a text editor is really nice. WordPress’s previews are also rendered using the template for your site so you truly get to see what it will look like when you preview. You can toggle over to a standard text editor window right in the middle of editing to allow you to massage the code by hand if you wish and then swap right back to the visual editor.
- The built-in media system. WordPress makes working with images in your entries surprisingly easy with a system that maintains a library of images used to make reusing them simple. Support for captions in themes and an easy method of specifying parameters are also welcome. The 2.9 release will include a built-in image editor for rudimentary things like resizing and cropping.
- The back end Dashboard is simply amazing in it’s configurability. You can drag and drop various elements around the screen to set things up the way you want to use them. Minimize options you will hardly ever touch, and so on.
- Core support for both tags and categories. I tend to use both and both are well supporting in WordPress.
- Built-in blogroll system. Not having to use an external service or code all the links by hand is nice. I’m still using a link to my Google Reader Blogroll so I’m not using it here, but for the other folks I host blogs for it’s a nice addition indeed.
- Well organized and laid out backend. Getting around to the things you need to do is pretty easy in WP’s backend.
- Pings/Trackbacks are handled just as well as comments are. The comment/trackback system in WP is one system that handles both items exactly the same. Both can be set to Approved/Moderated/Spam as a status and displayed or not displayed accordingly. This allows Akismet to effectively police both comments and trackbacks easily. It’s been years since I last allowed trackbacks and I’m happy to be able to allow them once again.
- You can download and install plugins to extend WP’s functionality right within the dashboard. This makes trying out new plugins very easy indeed. And many do not require theme modifications to work.
- The templating or themeing system is amazing in what it allows. Not only can you download and install freely available themes from within the backend, but those themes can include their own plugins as well as options and settings that allow you to customize the theme without ever touching the template files directly. This is dependent on the skill of the person coding the theme, of course, but just about every aspect of the Atahualpa theme I’m using at the moment can be modified in the WP dashboard. And if you’re willing to dish out the cash for the Thesis theme the level of customization borders on the insane. Additionally the ability for a theme to allow for widgets makes adding sidebars to themes a breeze for novices.
Now for the stuff I’m not so enchanted with:
- There’s still a lot of functionality I would expect in the core of the system that isn’t there. Stuff like the ability to subscribe to email announcements of new comments. This is probably because WP does include the ability to subscribe to an RSS feed of the comments for individual entries, but I’d rather get emails than track all of the various threads through RSS. The ability to preview comments is also not part of the core system, which seems odd. There’s also no built-in system for Captchas. This means you’ll be looking to the voluminous number of plugins available to make up for what should be core functions. And while there may be a dozen plugins that do what you want it’s not always a given that the one that fits best is the one that’s likely to be compatible with your current version of WordPress.
- The focus of WP is clearly still on a single user maintaining his own blog. It is possible to have multiple authors on a WP blog, but notifications of new comments to a thread are only sent to the author of the entry. This means that if any of the entries written by you SEB regulars gets a comment then you get notified, but I don’t. This makes policing for spam that got past Akismet a bit trickier. The same is also true, I believe, for notifications about comments being moderated for an entry. Fortunately it is possible to have more than one email address receive notifications for stuff like new user registrations.
- It doesn’t support multiple blogs in a single install with one overriding administrator. This one something that made MovableType and ExpressionEngine excellent platforms. There is a branch of WordPress that does this, called WordPressMU, but it’s a fork written by different people and it deviates in some key ways. It’s also more than a little confusing to work with. Supposedly 3.0 will see this ability come to standard WordPress, but until then this is a big deficiency.
- The member profiles are pretty thin compared to a lot of other systems and the reliance on Gravatars over built-in avatars is disappointing.
- The templating system is still a pain if you want to build a theme from scratch. It still relies on you coding a bunch of files with PHP function calls in them. It’s somewhat analogous to the tags used in ExpressionEngine and MovableType, but it can make theme files look more like program code than HTML and confusing to read at best. The ability to use PHP right in the templates does make them very powerful (see the Thesis theme mentioned previously), but it also opens up a potential security hole at the same time.
- Sometimes plugins will work once and then die for no apparent reason. Just about every post announcement to Twitter plugin I’ve tried has done that.
- There doesn’t appear to be any way to develop one theme while leaving a different one active on your site. I’ve had to set up a test blog just to play around with different themes without SEB changing appearances every five seconds.
I’m sure there’s a couple of other things that annoy me about WordPress, but those are the big ones I can recall at the moment. Overall there’s a lot I’m enjoying about using WordPress and a lot that I think it gets right, but there’s definitely still lots of room for improvements. It’s wonderful for novices as it keeps things simple, yet powerful, but if you’re a power user like me then it often gets in the way of what you want to do. Its come a long way in five years, though, so there is good reason to hope some of these issues will be taken care of in time.