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Re-Thinking The WordPress Admin, A New Concept Dashboard Design

I’ve been thinking a lot about the WordPress admin lately. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement.

The WordPress team has done a great job improving the admin design over the years, but we still have a long way to go.

I deal with customers almost every day who tell me how difficult WordPress is to use. As designers/developers, sometimes we forget what it’s like to look at WordPress with virgin eyes.

For most non-developers, the first feeling is overwhelm. Confusion. Panic!

Even as an experienced WordPress user, I am getting tired of looking at all the excess (dare I say clutter?) in the admin. So I decided to do a mockup of what I want the admin area to look like.

Not really for anyone else, not thinking of how difficult it would be to implement, just sort of a dream.

Here’s what I came up with.

When I log in, this is what I see on my dashboard (click to enlarge):

current-dashboard

It’s mostly stuff I don’t need or use, but I kind of just got used to ignoring it.

I count 22 menu items on the left side, plus the admin bar at the top. That’s just absurd. Granted, several of those are from themes/plugins, but it’s still just unnecessary.

I don’t click on half of those links on a regular basis, so why do I need to see them at all times?

Not to mention the random news feeds, stats that are completely useless (who cares how many tags I have?), and the seems-like-it-would-be-useful-but-I-never-use-it QuickPress.

Sure, you can customize some of it with the Screen Options tab, but that’s a band-aid fix.

Here’s a visual break-down. (click to enlarge)

nitpicking-current-admin

This needs more than an “admin theme,” the problem goes deeper than CSS can fix.

Feature creep and over-zealous plugins have taken their toll, it’s time to completely re-think things.

A Concept Design

What if when you logged in, you got all the relevant information you needed from your dashboard, instead of a jumble of random tidbits?

Here’s what I want to see on my admin dashboard:

New WordPress admin concept design

Doesn’t that just make you go, ahhhh? Simplicity and usefulness. White space. No gradients.

Now I’m not a UI designer, and I don’t claim that this is perfect, or even complete. Nevertheless, this is what I want MY WordPress admin dashboard to look like.

The Dashboard Boxes

new-wp-admin-boxes-300

Instead of the current stats like how many categories and tags I have, the only thing I care about is my site visitors. There might be a couple other useful stats we could add here, but that’s the bare-bones essentials.

I want a “Recent Site Updates” box, so that I can see any recent changes, and I can go directly back to the page/post I was editing last.

The comment box is much more compact, I don’t need to see avatars. I just want to read most of each comment, and approve/spam/trash it.

I added an “Orders” box, I’m sure not everyone needs that, but it’s the only other thing I personally want to see every time I log in. There would of course have to be room for personalizing these boxes, and plugins adding their own.

The Menu

new-wp-admin-menu

I don’t think the current vertical left menu is bad, but it can be overwhelming to non-developers. Especially when you have 22 menu items like me!

A top horizontal menu is more familiar to most people, and it eliminates duplicates between the left menu and admin bar.

I removed all non-critical links from view. The links I click the most are Pages, Posts, Menus, Widgets, and Settings. Honestly Settings could even be removed from that, or replaced with Plugins. Links such as Tools, Users, Media, and other menus are non-critical. Anything else can be accessed from the More drop-down link.

The Help Button

new-wp-admin-help

The current admin help tab is a cool idea, but it needs some work. It’s too inconspicuous, I’ve never heard a customer mention that it was helpful to them. I’m pretty sure most people don’t even know it’s there.

Plus, when you expand it, you get long-winded explanations of the finest details. That is great if you are a developer trying to learn the ins and outs of WordPress, but it is almost useless for a busy business owner just trying to figure out how to make a simple edit.

The help tab should expand and show images and simple instructions for non-developers, maybe even video. Here’s an example of what you could see if you expand the help tab on the page edit screen:

single-page-help

You could click the blue FAQ questions, which would expand/collapse and show image based instructions. That way you could quickly see how to do something, without having to sort through paragraphs of text.

What do you think?

That’s the way I want MY dashboard to look. Shout out to the great work by the core WordPress team, I don’t mean to knock their work. However, the current dashboard gives me anxiety when I look at it, this concept design makes me feel good.

Do you want your dashboard to look like this? Is it something that can be tweaked and built upon, or do you hate it?

I’m interested to know what you think in the comments, cheers!

Scott BolingerScott Bolinger is a WordPress theme designer and co-founder of Press Coders.

18 Responses to Re-Thinking The WordPress Admin, A New Concept Dashboard Design

  1. You’re just plain right Scott. The Admin should be way more user centric and much easier to customize for look and feel. Yous isn’t just a rant, it’s the Truth! (but I still love WP like no other.)

  2. Joel says:

    I love concepts like this. It would be great to get a few different ideas going through the WP user testing process to see what they come up with. Many of my clients have never even noticed the Help link when I point it out to them. Great work Scott.

    • Scott says:

      Thanks Joel! I don’t know if a re-design of this caliber would even be possible given the current state of WordPress, but I like to imagine it will happen one day.

  3. Ryan Hellyer says:

    I agree. The WordPress admin panel sucks bit for brand new users.

    I don’t think this matters as much for self-hosted users as it does for the likes of WordPress. Us self-hosters aare more likely to have the time to invest in learning what everything does or can deactivate all the unneeded stuff for our clients. But I suspect it is driving traffic from WordPress.com over to Tumblr and Blogger. I have many friends who have tried WordPress.com, but said they found it too complex and switched to other platforms. The issues they had all seemed to be related to there being too many things for them to figure out before doing even simple tasks.

    Admittedly WordPress.com is a lot more complex to use than a raw WordPress install, so it’s not a perfect way to analyse this, but I think part of their problem is definitely caused by the standard WordPress admin panel options.

    • Scott says:

      Thanks for your input Ryan.

      I have many friends who have tried WordPress.com, but said they found it too complex and switched to other platforms. The issues they had all seemed to be related to there being too many things for them to figure out before doing even simple tasks.

      I hear this all the time, from self-hosted customers too. This is a huge problem that is largely being ignored, or thought of as a secondary concern. If WordPress wants to adopt new users and stay relevant, I think it needs a major simplification on the admin side.

  4. Jason George says:

    I most definitely agree the admin menu has entirely too much on it (especially for non-technical folks). I have also experienced having difficulty finding things. One a positive note… Your suggestion on removing admin menu widgets (utilizing the functions.php file) has worked really well for my clients. It really does help to “declutter” the main dashboard. Kudos to you Scott for providing that information!

  5. bil andersen says:

    The current Admin panel is a User curse!!!

    I would have to agree with virtually every change you have made… even tho this is your ideal it is far more useful for me than the existing version. There is still a lot of room for improvement for the panel and the platform overall, to make it truly User Friendly. It badly needs updating for the new millennium User…

    My customers hate the Admin Panel! They constantly ask for assistance de-cyphering the menus and instructions as they fear destroying their site! This becomes a major time waste for me but I have to do it as I’m seen as the cause of the problem – after all I convinced them to use use the platform in the first place!

    WordPress is not the world’s easiest web site builder as they promote it! For the end-user that’s an untruth I’m afraid.

    The main issue I have is there is far too much tech jargon in WP overall for the average Joe /Josephine user. Even the WordPress Codex site is developer friendly only – in the main. Many plugins have complex instructions for setting them up that are poorly thought thru from the end users viewpoint.

    Even the naming conventions used are jargon and not self explanatory. I’m sure if they asked users to assist with the visual interface and implemented the suggestions WP would be raised to world class status

    Most people prefer and find “monkey see, monkey do” the easiest way to learn to do things… a picture is worth 1000′s of code words… a video is worth millions!!!

    The new release of WordPress – 3.6 – doesn’t appear to have fully addressed any of the points you have raised. Please contact the developers and supply this critique to them asap!!! Users need all the help we can get!!!

    PS. I’m sure many Theme & Plug-in developers could do a better job on their user interfaces as well. We shouldn’t blame WP for all the issues but maybe they need to have a clearing house to test ease of use…???

  6. Hi there, I totally agree it is a nightmare, but I think somehow it is a nightmare because the admin dashboard is simply looking all bland and nothing to creep out and say what it is. I have started on my concept and have it working nicely on my clients sites.

    Let me know what you think, it isn’t cutting out the actual admin menu at all, but actually working on the other UI a bit.

    Ciaran

  7. Kabar Bola says:

    it’s all about how its works, not how its looks. i think the challenge is to made admin panel that even non WordPress user can use it easily.

  8. Andy says:

    I’m a WPMS network admin. Who cares how many posts and comments a site owner has? I do. It’s very helpful to get that quick overview.

    I use plugins to remove menus, both to reduce clutter and to restrict access.

  9. Benny says:

    Some of our clients hate the WP admin interface. WIth widgets, menus etc, they get annoyed very easily. Still the interface is designed with a blog admin mind set. Plugins like WP AdminTools , User Admin Simplifier helps to an extend. But overall revamp with much better dashboard is something everyone would love.

    You have given some practical tips, especially simplifying the menu items would be wonderful.

  10. Michael says:

    I always end up going into the Screen options and disabling almost everything for my clients. There is WAY too much clutter going on in our dashboards. I love your concept.

  11. Wayne says:

    Scott, your ideas are good and hopefully this is the direction they will be going for 3.8. Personally, I propose it could be taken a step further. I was thinking along the lines of three different admin panels called, for example, Basic, Standard and Advanced, with a nice prominent button for cycling through to the panel of your preference.

    Standard could be similar to your concept, perhaps with the facility to add 2 or 3 custom boxes. Essentially the personalisation you were talking about in the sense of, for example, adding an Orders box.

    Basic could strip it right down to the bare minimum that a beginner would need to get up and running in the shortest time. Then, as they become more familiar and want more functionality, they can move across to Standard.

    Advanced could include either the proverbial “kitchen sink”, or only the remaining features not included in Standard. Personally, I like the idea of moving seldom used features to a completely seperate panel, as this panel would then also be less cluttered and easier to navigate.

  12. The admin panel is a bit complex… could use more of an update…

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