There as been a lot of news about the new wordpress.com dashboard, and I thought I would describe my perfect WordPress Dashboard, along with a few improvements that could be done with the WordPress Administration Panels.
The perfect WordPress Dashboard would provide “me” with the information “I need”. That’s a lot to ask, but in a perfect world, I would want to be able to add feeds related to the subject matter for my site so I could track them in one place. I want to know who is visiting, if they left a comment, who is linking to the site, and more about what is going on with my blog and what the activity is. I want to know what is going on with WordPress and what and how the changes will impact my site. Let’s get to specifics.
WordPress Dashboard as a Feed Reader
Currently, feeds come into the WordPress Dashboard in various ways. On WordPress 1.5 versions, the WordPress Development Blog and posts from Planet WordPress were fed into the Dashboard. On wordpress.com, recent changes include adding feed links to the top blogs and top posts within the wordpress.com community, determined by traffic and other criteria. The latest wordpress.com posts are also included, so these are more examples of the potential to include feeds.
I’d like to see a feature that allows me to enter a feed link in a form and have it instantly added to my Dashboard. There could be a limit as this is easily abused, and maybe 10 feeds would be more than generous. This would put the information I need to keep my blog updated and active right inside of WordPress. The easier the access to such information, the more likely I am to stay enthusiastic and active on my WordPress blog.
I’d like all of the feed links in the Dashboard to automatically open in a new window. I know this is bad manners in the web world today, but I think that leaving my Dashboard open – the doorway to my WordPress Administration Panels in general, is critical to fast access for my ability to post and manage my site. The links in the Dashboard are articles I may be interested in writing about, and I will want to read them and refer to them as I’m writing my post. So put them in a new window or tab.
Clean Up the Dashboard
Yes, I know the changes are new and the last thing to get cleaned up is the look, but the Dashboard needs a major cleaning.
In my perfect world, I’d start by changing the list of things to do and how to do them to a paragraph rather than a list. WordPress is so easy to use, and the panels are so self-explanatory, that after you’ve read this list once or twice, it just gets in the way. I’d change it to:
Ready to get started? Start by writing a post, checking for recent comments on your posts, updating your profile or change your password, adding a link to your blogroll, or changing your site’s look or theme. If you need help, head for the WordPress Codex, the online manual for WordPress users, or get answers to your questions from the WordPress.com Support Forum. Now, go play and have some fun.
I might even put it in one of those Ajax-style containers featured on the new Write Post panel, so I could open this up if I want to see it, or close it up to just the title bar. In fact, I think all the information on the Dashboard should have that ability for me to move things around and position the information where it will most serve my needs.
The number of Top Blogs on wordpress.com list has shortened to 5. I think it should be 10. I like the fact that these and the Fastest Growing Blogs are in list form, but I think the number listed should be equal. Set both of them to 10.
Also, the Top 10 is more inclusive than the Top 5, which makes it more competitive as well as better representative of the wordpress.com community. With Matt’s blog and Donncha’s blog on wordpress.com, giving out the information everyone wants to know right now about wordpress.com, very few people can compete as everyone will be linking. Sure, it gives users a goal to over achieve and top Matt’s blog, the odds are that he will always be in the top 5, making the list actually a top 4. So by setting it to be the Top 10, more people will have a chance to see their wordpress.com blog filter up to the top once in a while.
The Fastest Growing Blogs feature is brand new and seriously needs some work since most people think of fastest growing blog as a combination of highest traffic and most posts. A lot of these on the list have little or no traffic and very few posts as of right now, but I expect that this will soon change. But the Dashboard is getting crowded, so is this really important information to know? I’d do away with this and stick to Top Blogs and Most Popular Posts.
Which brings me to cleaning up Most Popular Posts and Most Recent Posts on wordpress.com. Currently, they sit in the famous gray boxes left over from WordPress 1.5. Ick. The new Administration Panels have been jazzed up with blue tones, so why not make these more interesting and colorful blue, or make them take up less space in a list form.
Again, if this was my perfect world and I had control over the WordPress Dashboard, this is what I’d do.
I’d make the Most Popular Posts and Most Recent Posts look more like trackbacks or feed summaries. I’d want the name of the blog, author, the post title, the date, and then the summary, just the first paragraph or so. People have little or no clues when it comes to putting titles on their posts, so seeing just the title doesn’t inspire me to find out what the post has to say.
In other words – pitch the grey boxes and give us something of value.
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Redoing the Latest Activity List
Some changes to the Latest Activity list have been made recently, but there are a lot more improvements I would make if I lived in a perfect world orchestrated by my demands and needs.
The new order of having the Incoming Links at the top is a great improvement from having them at the bottom. They are now driven by Google Blog Search rather than Technorati, but I’d like to see both, either separated or mixed in, to see how the two compare. Is one better than the other? Only time will tell.
Moving Most Recent Comments towards the top is good, and really important information, though it is just a copy of what is on the Comments panel. In my perfect world, this would be a list of the posts with the most comments, helping me to keep track of what are the most popular posts, ranked by comment response, on my site.
The Posts and Scheduled Entries sections are ones I would rely on more if the order of the future posts and most recently posted posts was more in chronological order. I do a lot of future posting, and I want a quick way of seeing what is coming up when at a glance. Right now, they are in an order that defines my understanding.
At the bottom of the newly designed Latest Activity sidebar is the Blog Stats. Right now it lists how many posts, comments, and categories you have on your blog. Are these “statistics”? No! They are just some numbers. Are they helpful? Well, maybe, but not really.
I’d like to see statistics that represent the number of incoming links this month and so far this year. I’d like to see a number that represents the scoreboard for where my blog is among other wordpress.com blogs, such as 1083 out of 1534 wordpress.com blogs. I want to see a statistic like Technorati offers that says Rank: 104,727 (34 links from 19 sites). I want to see which posts are the most viewed, which ones are the most commented, and which one have the most incoming links. All summary statistics. That’s helpful information.
Features to Add to the WordPress Dashboard
High on my agenda of things to add to the WordPress Dashboard would be links to information on what is happening with WordPress. I want to keep up with the changes and activities going on in the WordPress Community, not just because my blog is about WordPress, but because what happens with WordPress impacts my blog and my life.
If there is an upgrade, I want to know and know what I have to do about it. I want to know how it will change the way I blog? Is there anything I need to do or will it just happen? Are there things for me to look forward to and anticipate?
WordPress is a volunteer-driven program. I happen to be one of those volunteers, and I know a lot of people would like to contribute in some way. Keeping up on what is going on around the WordPress Community is important, especially since volunteer action improves and changes how WordPress works.
It’s a circular concept. Keep WordPress users informed and WordPress users will be informed, and the odds are that they will stick around long past the novelty stage.
I’d also like to know what new or featured articles are available on the Codex, helping me learn more about how WordPress works and uncover features that I haven’t even explored yet. There are so many powerful features in WordPress, I’m still finding them after a year of use. And if there is a really hot topic on the WordPress Forum, like discussions about a new feature or how to use an old one better, I’d like to know that, too.
Additions, Changes, and Improvements to the Administration Panels
In my perfect world, if I had control over the WordPress Administration Panels, the first thing I would add is a big flashing sign that says “You have comments”. One of the most exciting aspects of using WordPress is the interactivity of comments. It adds an a fascinating thrill to your blog, especially if you are moving from a static website.
On the WordPress Codex, and other Mediawikis, if someone leaves a message on your user talk page, next time you visit a big orange box pops up telling you that you have messages waiting. I love it. Instant information.
I’d love to see a big light blue box pop up or even the Comments tab flash or change color if there are new comments on your site. Sure, for sites that get hundreds of comments a day, this could be annoying, but for those who live for the excitement of the interaction with their readers, this sign could be like a doorbell – someone’s come to visit!
I’d set it so trackbacks are ignored and only comments trigger the message.
What else would I change?
The Manage Posts screen sucks. On my full version WordPress site, I have installed ColdForged’s Enhanced Views of the WordPress Manage Posts Panel. This WordPress plugin adds drop down menus to sort the posts by category and author, and, best of all, it allows you to select how many posts you want to view on the screen. By default, you are limited to 15. Imagine seeing 50 posts all on one screen!
The ability to sort my posts by category is critical to help me find posts related to the topic I’m writing about so I can link from my new post to the old posts, building intrasite links, but also helping me avoid redundant information.
Generally, the Administration Panels in WordPress are really easy to read and understand. A lot of effort to make them very user friendly has paid off. The Link Manager screen, though, is still hard to figure out, so I would add more explanation on the screen as to what the different features do. Once you get the hang of it, then it’s easy, but understanding what the different things mean is a little confusing.
I would add a link to the Write Post panel that would open a new window or tab with the LIVE preview of the post within my site. You can do this yourself but I’d like to see it added by default. To see a live preview of your post while it is in Draft mode (not after publishing), open a new window or tab and type in the address of your blog and end it with the following, using the Post ID number.
As long as the post is in Draft mode, you can see how your post will look with the styles of your WordPress Theme. If you make changes in the Write Post panel and click Save and Continue Editing, just do a total refresh on the post preview tab or window to see the changes instantly. I’d love to see this ability added as a link or button from the Write Post panel, if I were in living in my perfect WordPress world.
The Perfect WordPress Dashboard and Administration Panels for Me
So the perfect WordPress Dashboard and Administration Panels for me would be ones that help me, the user, use WordPress better, improve my enthusiasm for frequent posting by helping me post topical information, and one that keeps that enthusiasm alive with information on what is going on with WordPress as well as my site.
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