NOTE AND UPDATE: The following post was written in 2006 and is no longer valid. The Shuttle Project did not last long after this announcement. While their intentions were good, Happy Cog Studios is overseeing the research and development of the new WordPress Administrative Panels due for inclusion in the WordPress 2.4 release.
Matt Mullenweg announced that a new interface and Administration Panels are coming soon for WordPress.com bloggers. The new structure is called Shuttle.
There are some pretty significant shifts in there so it’ll be integrated incrementally rather than overnight, and I also plan to test out things on WordPress.com first and watch usage to make sure none of our assumptions are too far off, but I think it’s safe to say that this is a pretty significant milestone for WordPress and we have some exciting months ahead of us.
According to Brokenkode, the home base for Shuttle:
For over a year and a half myself, Michael Heilemann, Joen Asmussen, Chris J Davis, Joshua Sigar (later joined by Bryan Veloso) exchanged countless emails and mockups and links and ideas regarding what we thought the WordPress administration panel should be. The project was called the Shuttle Project. I now have the pleasure of presenting what we came up with and explaining the future of the project.
…What made it so difficult is the fact that we were thinking of the thousands of WordPress users all over the world. We were thinking of usability, we were thinking of aesthetics, we were thinking of the power user and the novice user…
…Matt Mullenweg (lead developer of WordPress) will be incorporating these mockups into the official WordPress releases in due course.
WordPress.com bloggers will have the fun of test driving Shuttle. Matt says that it will be slowly incorporated into WordPress.com, so we are not overwhelmed with a new way of interacting with our WordPress blogs. I’m sure the FEEDBACK button is going to get a lot of usage. Remember, part of your obligations as a WordPress.com blogger is to help test new WordPress features so that full version WordPress users and everyone can reap the rewards eventually. What better way to test drive new features than on almost 200,000 WordPress.com bloggers from all experience and expertise levels, all ages, and from all over the world.
According to the the screenshots and hints given, WordPress’s Administration Panels will get a new distinctive color scheme, based upon the blue of recent WordPress versions. The integration of the new Shuttle Administration Panels will be at the core. This is not a WordPress Plugin. This is also due to the fact that they’ve developed code to enhance WordPress’s features and abilities, including an announcement for upgrades, something long anticipated.
The Dashboard will allow some customization and is a three column layout without those horrid gray boxes highlighting news from around WordPress and popular posts.
Each panel includes helpful instructions along the left sidebar, which I hope can be hidden once someone is familiar with how it all works, otherwise it’s wasted space for experienced users. But for beginners, it’s brilliant!
One feature that has me jumping up and down with excitement is the ability to sort posts by category in the Manage > Posts panel. I’ve been begging for this since day one.
What I don’t see from the screenshots and information are some features I feel are critical such as the ability to reply to comments without visiting the post itself, one click approval of comments rather than going into the edit screen, the return of the title of the post under the comment rather than the unhelpful “View Post” (What post are they commenting on? Huh?), and make the Add Photo/Image section of the Write Post panel able to be closed or minimized.
I also cannot tell if they have incorporated WYSIWYG features so they are available to the non-Rich Text Editor user. For instance, if I am not using the Rich Text Editor, I want to be able to click and drag an image into the post area and have it appear as an image link tag, not just text of the link with no HTML tag. Or add a button on the image form area to click to add the image tag to wherever the cursor is in the post textarea box. Make it usable for those who use WYSIWYG Rich Text Editor as well as those who don’t.
As for accessibility standards and usage, until we have something to mess with, that will be harder to tell. Since I hand code all my links and images, and set up custom quicktags in my full-version WordPress sites, I didn’t realize that the link quicktag button does not meet accessibility standards. It just puts the link in without the TITLE. BAD BAD BAD. This needs to be fixed. They finally put the ALT tag in the image tag, which was a long time coming, so put the TITLE in the link tag. As for access for the blind and visually impaired or disabled, again, we’ll have to wait to see.
Other questions we’re anxious to ask are:
- Will WordPress Widgets (sidebar accessories) still work with Shuttle’s new format?
- Will the Ajax-heavy layout and structure of the Administration Panels be lightened or gone, or will we see even more of these?
- Will WordPress Widgets that allow customizing of the layout of the Administration Panels be incorporated, at least in the Dashboard panel, so we can add or subtract information we need?
- Has the ability to respond to comments been improved?
- Will there be a count of how many comments are waiting to be viewed from the Manage panel? Right now, you don’t know how many comments are waiting, but you do know how many are waiting for moderation and as spam. I want to know how many comments are waiting for me.
- Can we add feeds from other sources to our Dashboard panel?
- Will ALL WordPress Plugin option tabs be added to the Plugins panel and not scattered all over the place? Not the tabs that provide management of the Plugin’s features, but the Options tabs (set ’em up and forget about ’em). If I’m looking to setup my WordPress Plugin, I want to look under Plugins, not all over my Administration Panels.
- I don’t see the Post Preview Button on the Write Post panel screenshot – which will have to be there but hopefully more visible than the one that currently exists (can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked FEEDBACK when I wanted to click PREVIEW).
- Will future posts be listed in the Dashboard (they disappeared a couple months ago from WordPress.com – about the time future posts also stopped working) in chronological order distinctively from the most recent released posts?
- I see there is a “Post Published Successfully” announcement when the post is sent, but then what? Will it automatically reload back to the previous panel? And if we don’t want to waste our time with such messages, can we turn them off?
- Will the white page screen of death be finally gone? This is where I hit SAVE AND CONTINUE EDITING or PUBLISH and I get a “done” in the status bar of my browser and a blank white page in front of me, and the data has not reached the database. Maybe this is the purpose of the “Post Published Successfully” notice. I’d love to see the white page of death gone, whatever is causing it to happen. It happens almost daily, and three times just to publish this post.
- Has the issues of what screen the user is returned to after implementing a SAVE, APPLY, or PUBLISH been resolved? It used to be that when you clicked SAVE for a Page, it returned you back to the Write Post/Page panel instead of the Manage Pages panel you just left. I’d have to go back to Manage > Pages to work on the next Page or reedit what I just did. Messy.
- Since Ajax is the hottest ticket around, is there a way to have a warning pop up in the top panel that flashes at us to warn us of an impending site maintenance or reason for WordPress.com to be “off”, and give us a count down?
So there is a lot to consider and experiment with as the WordPress.com team slowly incorporates the changes into WordPress.com. I’m excited about any improvements in the Administration Panels since I spend so much time with them, and anything that can get me the information I need now and fast, and shorten the number of mouse clicks between me and the end result, I’m also thrilled. Let’s hope that the hard work these folks have put into Shuttle will answer all these questions and expectations.
For more information on Shuttle see:
NOTE: Later that same day, I learned that all the Shuttle team has put together are screenshots. Not to discredit their amazing work to come up with a concept for the WordPress Administration Panels interface, it is a long way from viable implementation. Still, the intent is good. Now all that is needed is to leave the pretty pictures behind and dig into the code and generate this as reality. What the Brokenkode and Shuttle team propose goes way beyond your basic facelift, available from the different WordPress Administration Panel Themes. It involves changes to the programming core. So stay tuned for more. But don’t hold your breath about all of this coming to WordPress.com very soon. This is MAJOR work.
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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen