WordPress 4.0 Beta 1: First Impressions

Look familiar? The first beta of WordPress 4.0 was released last week, and some users expressed surprise about how little it had changed, anticipating a more significant overhaul for a major release.

Of course, an overhaul would be stupid, because WordPress is fine the way it is, and the 4.0 beta illustrates the if-it-isn’t-broke principle fairly well. Part of the strength of the platform is in its incremental improvements; WordPress 4.0 could just as easily be versioned 3.10.

I’m compelled to add that, having worked with Drupal almost exclusively between 2008 and 2012, I welcome an update like this with open arms.  The Drupal team had a way of ripping out Drupal’s guts, rewiring them, and stuffing them back in upside down for each major release, making upgrading and compatibility with existing modules and themes a nightmare. A few users might complain that not enough has changed in WP4, but I suspect plugin developers and designers will not.

Today was the first time I had a chance to look at the Dashboard and a few of the usability improvements.

A few thoughts, in order of occurrence:

  • Cool, you can select the language during the install. I’m an ignorant, English-speaking, monolingual North America, but I’m sure someone in one of those other strange, unfamiliar places will find this useful.
  • The Dashboard looks pretty much the same.
  • The default theme is still TwentyFourteen.  Of course it is: it was stupid of me to think it would be anything but.  Why would it?
  • This insert URL thing is pretty useful. Now I can steal movie stills directly from Google Images without all that saving and re-uploading nonsense.  Laziness wins!
  • The media library has a grid option.  That’s better, sure, but I don’t care *that* much.  I’ll probably forget about it.
  • Making the editor window resize with the browser is smart. But wait a minute: why can’t I click & drag the low right hand corner to increase the editor height? What happened to that? They need to put that back. I have a lot of monitor real estate to fill.
  • I just noticed the fixed admin bar.  How trendy.
  • The Widgets are in a separate panel in the Customizer. This is probably be the most useful change in favor of usability in the long run. I’ve starting using the Customizer to handle all of the theme options, and it gets pretty crowded after awhile.

I didn’t take a look at any of the changes to the inner workings, but as I understand it, most affect the customizer  (the necessary changes to make the frontend of the customizer more user friendly).   I’ll dig into that more later on.

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