Proposing Navigation Changes

I just made a ticket on Trac with a proposal to address navigation in the WordPress dashboard. Here is the description.

  1. Explaining the difference between Posts and Pages to new users is time consuming and often frustrating. We’ve all done it, have our best/fastest version of the talk down pat, but it still takes longer than it should to get many new users to the point of understanding the difference.
  1. Back in 2.7, when we set up the left navigation we put Pages at the bottom of the content nav section because in testing 2.5/2.6 so many people complained about accidentally clicking Posts/Pages by accident because they were close together in the old UI and both started with P (blame it on capital_p). Because of this, Pages falls below the less-frequently accessed areas of Media and Links, and people don’t necessarily see it right away because they expect it to be higher up.

I’ve been testing out two changes to the left navigation aimed at reducing these two issues on my test blog for some time now, and have been using it during demos with both new and existing users to great success, so I think it’s time to propose it for core.

Change 1: Change the Posts label to Blog. All Posts can remain as is, or could be reduced to just Posts, since the reason we added the All in the first place was that Matt thought it looked weird to have the same word shown twice.

This change reduces the amount of time it takes me to get a new user really understanding the difference between posts and pages by about 75% (very informal testing, have kept track with about 30 new users by just keeping an eye on the computer clock to see how long it is before we move on). The dynamic blog/static site difference is much easier to grasp when they see that familiar word Blog instead of Posts because “posting” is an action that applies even to static content, and even posts are displayed in web pages (vs Pages).

Change 2: move Pages up the menu to sit below Blog, so the two most important content types are at the top. Since they wouldn’t look similar (ha ha capital_p) there would be much less risk of accidental misclick based on letter shape (poor manual dexterity would not be affected, but in that case those people are already clicking the wrong things, right?)

I’ve attached a screenshot showing what the navigation would look like with these changes.

screenshot of proposed navigation changes

57 thoughts on “Proposing Navigation Changes

  1. I love the idea of moving Pages back up (seriously, I still lose it myself sometimes), but I don’t think I’d like to see ‘Blog’ in my top level nav. Especially given the goobers online that always complain that WordPress is ‘just a blogging platform’. Add the fact that lots of sites have more than one blog, or no blog at all, and I think we can come up with something better. Is using a word like ‘entries’ moving too far?

    • Actually, the ‘just a blogging platform’ is exactly what this would combat. By showing that Blog is only one part of what WordPress has to offer, and all of the navigation isn’t blog-specific, I think it would be much easier to show that you can put a blog in your website, just do a website, or just do a blog.

      • Hi Jane,

        I like the idea in general; however, I (as a website designer) believe that using the term ‘Blog’ will bring back whole conversation/explanation with end-clients about what a blog is. A lot of business owners just don’t get the idea of a blog. I’d rather see the word ‘Articles’ or its synonym.

        What if administrations can re-order the sequence of the buttons on our own? …similar to how we can drag around widgets in the dashboard?

  2. That’s an interesting aspect to this problem. I believe it will indeed make easier for people to understand the difference between posts and pages. But whenever I have to teach WordPress to anyone, I get away saying Posts are your every day news and Pages are your Contact Information and other things that is not time-sensitive.

    • That has been discussed and rejected several times. It’s important to have a standard UI out of the box for a number of reasons, not least of which are documentation and support. The WordPress motto is decisions, not options, so we try to make the best decision we can to apply to the most users, and let plugins offer additional options.

        • The decision was made based on the state of the web, the state of WP capabilities, and current word usage in summer 2008. As the web evolves, WordPress needs to evolve with it. Users aren’t just technogeeks anymore. Ask any WordCamp organizer or meetup planner, and people looking for instruction to get started are the biggest demographic these days. If WordPress is too hard, it’s our job to make it easier.

          And since I was one of the deciders back in 2008, I feel more than comfortable saying that any and all design decisions should never go more than a couple of releases without being revisited, for a sanity check if nothing else. :)

        • I didn’t call you a name. I used an adjective to describe your tone and words. You are on my blog as a guest. If you want to insult me you are free to do so, but not in my own living room anymore. Thanks for the feedback!

  3. I was worried about calling it Blog because too many people already call their blog post a blog. :)

    But then I saw you left the word Post in there too. WHEW! Crises averted.

  4. I agree with Clark (the first commenter). With almost every new business client, I hear, “I thought WordPress was just for bloggers.” Explaining to them that “Posts = Blogs = Articles = News = whatever type of content you’re distributing on a regular basis” will be even more complicated if the Posts tab actually SAYS Blog.

  5. After the last time you mentioned this idea, I threw together a plugin to make the “Blog” change on all my sites, and I can confirm your informal testing – I haven’t had to take extra time explaining the difference to new users since. As for whether it’s an advance or a retreat for WordPress as CMS, it seems to get the point across that WP can do either, or both, in the same site.

  6. Calling it a blog assumes that everyone uses posts as a blog. Very few of the sites I build have a “blog”, but most of them have “news articles” or “press releases”. Keeping the name generic makes it more flexible for a variety of uses and users.

    • Something frequently updated with newsy articles displayed in reverse chronological order on the same page is basically a blog, if a more professional one that Mom’s Kitten-Knitting Blog. (Imagine the photo stream!) The plugin to change labels that I used was beyond simple and something like that gets used by a number of consultants who want the dashboard labels to more closely reflect their clients’ use cases. I don’t think that would really change.

      • The problem is that Mom’s Kitten-Knitting Blog is too close to the truth, a lot of users still conciser a blog to be a personal, informal thing. They want something that seems more professional and less intimidating than a blog for their site.

        I don’t think a blog can cover all uses, a blog is basically personal newsy articles. Posts, or articles, that’s a good word too, is broad enough to cover any kind of time organized content, including blogs and news.

        Take a look at the lowly Links menu, it has a nice generic label that clearly states what it does. The only assumption that is will be used for a blog is the blogroll category, which I can and do rename to be relevant to the project.

        Right now posts are treated the same way and I like that, if I need to use them for meeting minutes I can create a “Minutes” category, and if I need a blog, I can create a “Cats” category :)

      • Yeah, but that’s confusing too. Most news organizations make a distinction between blogging and journalism. The Blog Directory is just one section of the New York Times, the same writers might contribute to both but I “hope” that their news articles are objective regardless of what they are blogging about.

        There is a big difference between posting the minutes of a meeting and blogging the minutes of a meeting.

  7. Wow, great thinking! I feel like this would not only better distinguish Posts from Pages, but give a better meaning to what Posts really are — Blog Posts, nothing more, and nothing less. This change should have been committed with 3.0, when custom post types came flying, and people (almost) stopped using Posts for Books, Movies, Goods, and other things we use CPT for today. So yeah, count me in!

  8. I’m a big fan of both of these potential changes. I think they would really help new users make a clearer distinction. Explaining the difference is always a two to five minute conversation when I’m training new users.

    Personally, the one I’m most excited about would be moving pages up in the nav. It’s interesting to know the backstory, but as a “WordPress as a CMS” user primarily, I find myself in posts and pages more than anything. So having them together would be great. It also makes sense from a “this is most of your content” perspective.

  9. We have never really had any problem at all explaining the difference between post and page, but I can see how that could happen, and respect the need to reduce confusion.


    (I know this is based on our own idiosyncratic use-case, but it does seem there are others in the same boat).

    This change would cause big problems for us. If your WordPress site is a site, not a blog, if it’s a class site, or an eportfolio, or a journal, or a magazine, or any of the many other uses to which our platform is put, then the term “blog” just becomes a huge confusion. A “post” is a post, and it’s very clear what that means. A “blog post” is a very different thing, and students (our main users) know (or think they know) what a blog post is. And it’s not what they’re doing. We do use posts, quite a bit, for purposes that don’t really fit with the idea of “blog.” Pages would not be appropriate for these uses, so we’d have to explain “go to the blog section, yes, we know you’re not blogging, but any post is in the blog section, even though it’s not a blog.” Yikes. I hope this doesn’t happen!

    • Are they really not blogging, or is it just not being called that? Are they posting status updates, photos, original articles, links, assignments, etc on a semi-regular basis and displaying whatever they’re posting in a stream? Or have you set up your themes to not display multiple posts in a chronological series?

      I think one of the underlying issues here is that a lot of people (in a certain demographic) hear Blog and think “series of posts displayed in reverse chronological order on a web page,” while a lot of other people hear Blog and think “series of self-indulgent navel-gazing posts by emo teenagers or lonely mommies that don’t have a serious purpose for people outside their audience” or something similar. Using the word to describe both the format and the content is a bigger issue.

      • Well, there are a lot of different uses, but I’m thinking mainly of class sites where students are posting reflections on performances, answers to questions that come up in class, proposals for projects, things like that. They’re usually categorizing those posts, so they’re going to different places on the site in that way. They’re not blog posts, because they’re not in a long reverse-chronological series. But they are posts. And pages really would not work for this purpose, I think.

        I think “post” is a perfectly good word, it describes what they’re doing, and it’s not confusing at all. “Blog” adds confusion where it doesn’t exist. (Again, this might be idiosyncratic, but the post/page confusion has really not been a problem for us. So that might be part of my reluctance. We can adjust, if necessary, but it really seems like a solution in search of a problem.)

  10. Probably I’m just missing the actual point but am I the only one here thinking the word “blog” is even more confusing? Since pages are almost no different than posts already, why don’t we just drop the whole page thing and put what makes pages pages to the post editing screen as options?

    Ditching the word “Posts” in favor of “Pages” do not seem logical to me but as I said, I’m most probably missing the point here.

      • I don’t think I like that idea. While Pages and Posts are technically similar, they are conceptually very different. And if anything, I think I’d be more inclined to make ‘Post’ a sub-type of ‘Page’, rather than the other way around.

        But I just think it would alienate too many users. Those who primarily use one type and rarely use the other type will be unhappy when their preferred content type appears to become second-fiddle.

      • I fully understand your concerns Dougal but pages and posts are not conceptually much different either. Pages are just static posts and pretty much nothing else. What’s more, the word “Page” can be really confusing for a newbie. I wasn’t able to understand how complex it can be for a newbie to understand the difference but after my recent interactions with our clients, I can now understand them.

        People just started learning that WordPress is much more than a blog script, so leave alone the whole confusion thing, I think putting the word “Blog” there would take us to the square one in the debate of what WordPress is.

  11. No! The bikeshed should be green!

    Just kidding. While people can argue back and forth about whether the main label should be ‘Posts’, ‘Blog’, ‘Articles’, ‘News’, or whatnot, I think the important thing is getting Pages back up near the top, where it belongs. Whenever I need it, it always seems to take me several seconds to locate it in the menu.

    Bravo for not being afraid to re-examine past decisions.

  12. A great improvement to the default behaviour. New WP sites I build already have this by default due to a couple of functions in my standard functionality plugin, however I prefer to put pages above blog. For some sites I use the label ‘News’ instead of ‘blog’ as ‘blog’ can frighten less web-savvy business owners.

  13. The more I think about this, the more I like it. It is a natural change with the whole blogs to sites thing on Multisite. +1 for moving/hiding links and media as well, while we’re at it! :)

  14. Good idea.

    I would actually go one step further, and move Pages above Posts.

    I understand why some commenters here are afraid of selling/delivering a product with the “B word” associated to it. They have had problems selling WordPress in the past because it was “just a blogging platform”. We are slowly getting past that, and I can understand why some people might be afraid of seeing the “Blog” word back to their dashboard, even if that word is probably the best to describe what they do (publish series of dated posts).

    However, bringing Pages above that Blog menu would show that WordPress is a CMS, not just a blog platform.

  15. I really don’t like the word blog. I think it’s inelegant, has a lot of baggage, and doesn’t fully represent what WordPress is capable of. To me, “post” resonates strongly. It’s something that you post, at a particular point in time. It has a built in sense of chronological flow. “I posted it yesterday.” “Did you see my post?” The word “blog” doesn’t add anything for me. And though I saw you disagree about this above, I do think it re-opens the “just a blog” conversation, right when we’ve finally closed the book on it.

      • Ditto. I’m definitely on the side of the fence that dislikes the idea of using “blog”, but I’m close to the fence. Still Post means unit of content and a blog doesn’t become a blog until the collection of content is displayed. Doesn’t seem to be the right term for content creation.

        I also point out the terminal confusion over the term blog already in the MU universe.

  16. The word “Blog” will definitely bring back the issue WordPress = Blog, just when WordPress is now considered as a full CMS. Yes, at some point you have to do things your way without thinking about what somebody else thinks and if Blog wasn’t such an stigma in WordPress realm it would be a nice idea.
    Another more important issue IMHO, is the difference between data types. The menu entry “Pages” is actually the data type, you create a page, you edit a page, you delete a page; but, you don’t create a blog, you don’t edit a blog or delete a blog.
    Finally, we already have the “blog” terminology in use when coding a network: wpmu_create_blog, get_blog_details, insert_blog and so on. This could easily lead to confusion.

  17. This is a very good idea indeed. And if we take it further, what’s about moving the whole blog feature into an extension that would be installed by default on WP (but not activated)? We would then have a very clean menu with: “Pages”, “Medias”, “Comments”. The “Blog” menu would be added only for THOSE who need a blog on their site (by activating the plugin, like they actually have to activate a “forum” plugin if they want a forum, a “wiki” plugin if they want a wiki, or anything else that they want to be included within their pages (which are esentially the base of any kind of website – a site is made of (web) pages). Sorry for my limited English.

  18. Talk about mixed feelings… Very few clients (CMS) inheriently understand Post vs Page, but they do all understand it once I say “Post = Chronological” and “Page = Hierarchical”. It’s a shame there aren’t better four letter words available… but I am not sure that Blog doesn’t just muddy it further rather than helping.

    If I had a blank slate, I think I’d make the top level would be Posts or Pages, but not both. Inside that top level you’d choose if that content was categorized into a stream of content or not. You’d filter “all posts” to show a particular stream (taxonomy). There would be two default taxonomies, Blog and Pages. Taxonomies are what would determine how content got displayed.

    While I’m tempted to be a stubborn PITA and scream bloddy murder over Blog… I actually neutral enough I’d probably just roll with it.

  19. how about when you first log in to your site, or for users, during installation, it could ask the user the question:
    “What is your primary type of content?” (ex: posts, pages, books,..” and have them fill in a text field, then pin that content type to the top.

  20. As a web-design instructor primarily trying to educate intelligent but resource lacking students in third world countries you can’t imagine how immensely useful this tiny change would be in getting my students to grasp the concept between posts and pages. For newbies this variation in terminology is an absolute must.

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