I had put it off long enough.
The other day, as I logged in to another WordPress website to write a guest post, I discovered a slick looking login interface. After logging in, a clean, streamlined WordPress dashboard.
“Duh,” I said.
I was using WordPress 3.8 Beta to do my editing. After finishing the article, it was time to install release candidate 1 (just released at time of posting) and take a hands-on look and screencast of my experiences with the new visual and design changes.
A new path
Where WordPress 3.7 is all about adding features like stronger passwords and international language support to WordPress, WordPress 3.8 is all about visual changes.
Lead by Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of Automattic, the project is definitely going to take some getting used to. Lots of YouTube videos will have to be redone following this release, which happens officially in a couple of weeks.
While I generally like using the current version of WordPress for safety and not a beta or release candidate, there was something enticing about a redesigned interface to experience.
If you want to download the Automattic specific plugin that allows you to automatically update to the newest beta or release candidate, you will want to visit the WordPress Beta Tester plugin from the repository.
Do not install this on a live website
A quick mention.
If you are going to be testing the first release candidate before it is officially released, do not do this on a live website, especially if that website is being used for business purposes.
There are still bugs in the software (this is why it is a release candidate), so you will definitely want to run this on a local host, staging server (for testing purposes, your plugin may depend on it), or side website.
Now that we have the disclaimer out of the way, let’s dive into the new interface of WordPress 3.8.
MP6 is the name for the new dashboard that is featured in WordPress 3.8.
Not very much changes functionally in the dashboard, but man does it look good. There is more contrast between the sidebars and the content you are directly using.
Previously, everything was very “white”. It could be hard to navigate to specific actions if you were new to WordPress.
Sidebars are now a darker color with white text to contrast the black text of the content section. Everything is more square and has that technological flat design, to bring WordPress into 2014 with iOS7 and Windows 8.
MP6 Dashboard Styles
Like before, each user has customizable color templates for the dashboard. The designers of 3.8 were kind enough to feature an off-white design color palette option that is a throwback to older WordPress. If you or your clients are going to be uncomfortable with the color changes in WordPress 3.8, you can always use the older color style.
The other options delve into lighter blues and minimize the impact of the default “black versus white” aesthetic. My personal favorite was the default style and I recommend leaving it there for usability.
Adding Themes and Plugins to WordPress 3.8
Adding themes has changed as well. In an effort to make the design flow more about apps, WordPress 3.8 uses big squares for the themes, with settings for the themes within the squares.
There is even a big button within the theme screen to add a new theme you have downloaded to your website.
Strangely, this mentality does not transfer over to the other highly customizable and downloadable section of WordPress, the plugins. Plugins look exactly as they used to look, and uploading new plugins is as cumbersome as it always has been.
New WordPress Widget Area Chooser
The Widget Area Chooser was another highly discussed feature change in WordPress 3.8. While the widget section on the back-end has not changed dramatically, it has been cleaned.
Now, the active widgets are larger rectangles and live on the left side, where they used to live. Sidebars, previously jumbled on the right in a long column of awkward design, can now be sorted into separate columns to make them easier to organize.
The only missing piece here is a floating sidebar area. While the new design is certainly welcome, it is a far cry from perfect. Inactive and lower widgets now have to be dragged to the top of the window so that they may scroll to where the actual sidebars are.
It is cumbersome. But it is a step in the right direction too.
Is editing flow improved in WordPress 3.8?
Editing flow is my favorite new aspect of WordPress 3.8 and the main reason why I decided to pursue this hands-on look.
In an effort to reduce the impact that competitors like Ghost are trying to have on simple writing and editing, WordPress has designed the editor to be simple. They have incorporated the square blocks and lack of shadow that the rest of 3.8 employs.
But most importantly, the text and boxes are just better designed to be easy on the eyes. Using WordPress 3.8 will make you excited to write and create, I guarantee it. It is very hard to go back to the older WordPress editor after witnessing the improved page.
How is the Twenty-Fourteen Default Theme?
The Twenty Fourteen Theme is a breathing advertisement for WordPress 3.8 MP6… and Windows 8.
The design is flat once again, with a green and black default color style that screams Windows. Sidebars are black and the titles are square and precise. The primary sidebar lives on the left.
Twenty-Fourteen is a very simple theme that initially suits as a great landing page more than the traditional blog roll of earlier themes, in this writers honest opinion. There is little to get in the way of a giant landing page with a beautiful call-to-action.
Easier or more difficult to sell WordPress?
A question that popped into my head when writing this article was one of WordPress business. I am at a crossroads as to what the new look of the back-end will do for selling WordPress to customers.
Part of me thinks that it will be easier to validate WordPress to the uninitiated business customer, as the back-end does not feel so much like a “website” and feels more like a “premium app”.
But the other part of me is nervous that the new interface will give WordPress less value from the selling perspective. WordPress will look more like a tool that a web design company used to make a website cheaply and less like a custom-built CMS. While it is true that WordPress is a tool and making themes, plugins, and websites will take just as long, I wonder if the aesthetic change will diminish the impact that the finished WordPress has to a client or if it will increase it.
One thing is for sure, WordPress 3.8 is a definite improvement for client usability and the new update will empower people to take advantage of WordPress.
What do you think of WordPress 3.8?
Let us know what your thoughts are about the newest iteration of WordPress in the comments below. Did we miss anything?
If you like what you see, you can also check out our beautiful premium themes!