WordPress 3.5 was released yesterday. After upgrading my site, I checked the editor screen and noticed a tiny tweak that made me smile. It looks like my humble suggestion finally made it in to WordPress core.
Notice the Add Media button… it’s an actual button! The previous version of the button looked like this:
It was an easily overlooked text and icon combo labeled “Upload/Insert” . This caused problems for users as I’ve discussed before. I don’t know if this small change to a more clickable and noticeable “Add Media” button happened because I suggested it, but I’m glad it’s there. So after suggesting this usability improvement to the WordPress core team, their developers took notice and made it happen.
Thanks, WP devs. Also, I didn’t suggest the name change, but good choice on the new wording from “Upload/Insert” to “Add Media”. Much better.
All it does, for now, is change the style of the upload insert button to look like an actual button.
Other than creating consistency throughout the UI, the main reason for this tweak is to make the button more find-able for first-time WordPress users. Hopefully this tweak, or a better version of it, will make it into WordPress core.
Until then, you can use this tiny plugin to make the WordPress admin more usable for your clients.
Frequently, clients who are staring at the WordPress content editing screen ask me, “How do I upload an image?” As an experienced WordPress user/designer/developer I used to get blown away by how silly such a question sounded. The button’s right there! But after running in to this problem again and again, I’ve decided the user is not at fault in this case.
The interface is deceptive. Let me explain…
An inconsistent UI design language
The upload/insert text+icon combo is too subtle and actually deceptive UI when you look at the WordPress dashboard overall.
The same design language for the page header (icon+text on transparent background) is used for the clickable link (text+icon on transparent background). By that logic the Upload/Insert link looks like a small title or descriptive text. It doesn’t look clickable, and it should.
Make clickable things look clickable
So as the user scans for some visual que to capture their attention and say, “Click me to upload your stuff!”, they skim right over the small text that lies outside of the area containing lots of other more obvious buttons.
Even something as simple as what I’ve mocked-up here would be an improvement:
Now there is a clear distinction between the rest of the UI and the Upload/Insert button. It doesn’t look like part of the dashboard text anymore. It looks clickable. And it is.
My friend at Good Web Work asked the question,”To what problem is Google+ a solution?”. I started to write a comment on his post, but after the scroll bar popped up on the comment form realized this was blog post material .
I have no idea what I’m talking about
I haven’t used Google+ yet so take this opinion as one from an outsider looking in. I have watched videos, played with demos and read reviews. My first impression: The design looks nice; a clean minimalist interface with an ample use of white space. The overall impression I get is an easy to navigate, light and responsive website. Three cheers for Google for finally letting their designers do their jobs.
You gotta problem?
What problem does Google+ solve? Well, that depends on your definition of a problem. Did the world think Myspace was a big problem before Facebook came out. Probably not, since most users had not experienced anything better. After Myspace users got a taste of simplicity from Facebook’s early interface, the contrast was almost offensive. Now Google+ seems to be positioning themselves as the cleaner, friendlier interface of the social networks.
Competing for the best user experience
I can come up with a few problems Google+ at least attempts to solve. What about the problems of inferior user experience and lack of healthy competition?
The Problems Google+ May Help Solve:
Inferior User Experience – Facebook is great, but there’s plenty of room for enhancements. Google+ Circles, Huddles, and Hangouts appear to be new take on common social media functionality. Circles are supposedly a big improvement on Facebook “Lists”. Allowing you to group friends more easily and filter what you see and what others see gives more control to the user and hopefully improves the user’s experience. You also have the ability to “Follow”, in the Twitter sense, someone you aren’t “Friends” with, in the Facebook sense. The best of the both worlds perhaps.
Lack of Healthy Competition – Facebook has exploded in the last several years with no one coming close to competing with them as a full social platform. Google can and will compete for users. This will cause Facebook to improve their service in response, only giving users more options and better social media experiences.
For most people the current Facebook interface is familiar, so they wouldn’t consider it a problem. The mere fact that Google is launching a very serious social media platform designed from the ground up with the user in mind will benefit all users of social media even if they aren’t using Google+. They are raising the bar and their competitors will have to jump higher.
Yes, according to Neil Postman‘s definition of a problem, a newer/better social network from Google may not solve any of the world’s biggest problems.
Discarded drafts are unrecoverable without warning. I accidentally clicked the Discard Drafts button while scrolling by a different part of the page in Gmail. I also happened to have an important long-winded response selected. After the accidental click, it was “discarded”. Or in Gmail terms, “deleted beyond all recognition, and NOT held in the Trash like deleted messages, you should’ve used Google Docs, and your hair looks funny.”
Me: “Geez Gmail. Settle down. We’re all friends here. I just want my draft back.”
After googling “accidentally discarded drafts” I found that I’m not the only one whose had this problem. There are Gmail users who have lost drafts of love letters to children, important business responses, and other irreplaceable or inconveniently lost documents.
I should have known better.
The popular answer on Google discussion threads are, “You should have known better. You should have used Google Docs.” …
Should we? The Gmail interface doesn’t explicitly or implicitly say that I will not be able to find discarded drafts in the Trash. There is no confirmation to explain the consequences of this irreversible action. Granted, if you’re in the inbox, when you click Discard, there is a temporary “Undo” period. But user beware the Discard Drafts button in the Drafts section.
Angry little button
There is nothing about the “Discard Drafts” button that says,
“I will delete the (expletive) out of this draft, son. Do it. I dare you. What! WHAT! (slaps you in the face).”
That’s the message the button should convey visually.
Instead we get,
“Hey bud, I’m a normal button. Grey even. Need a back rub. There. Therrre ya go. That’s it. Shhh…”
The message is not consistent with the severity of the action it initiates. Glance through the book [amazon_link id=”1592535879″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Universal Principles of Design[/amazon_link] and you’ll learn about creating things in such a way that the user can’t fail. I recommend the section on Affordance.
A love letter
Dear Gmail UX/UI Design Team,
You guys are great. You got it 99% right and its only gotten better over the years. Its just that the 1% you missed happened to delete all my junk. Please send discarded drafts to the Trash so that the click happy-fingers of myself and other Gmail users have a reasonable safe-guard against accidental discardationmentness.
AKA Guy whose lunch was stolen by the “Discard Drafts” button.
Yes we can (if there are enough votes to prove users care)
I’m sure Google gets millions of complaints daily. To their credit they have a robust help/support system. After voicing my concerns in Gmail Help they directed me to a place where you can vote on new features for Gmail. Low and behold “Discard drafts to trash” is in the Helpful Additions section.
WARNING: This post contains completely biased opinion from a Mac user. You may experience entertainment and a desire to purchase Apple products. If symptoms persist for more than 30 days, save your money and call your local Apple dealer.
Nick Elam, sent me a controversial question that inspired this post:
What kind of computer do you suggest for graphic design? Mac? PC?
My laptop is too slow to handle my graphic design work lately so I’m looking for a new computer. Lots of people say “go with a Mac”, but I could build a PC with a faster processor and better video card for a lot less. What do you think?
I’ll answer Nick’s question with pure opinion. I don’t feel the need to regurgitate a balanced Mac/PC debate. That’s been done, and that’s what links are for:
As a graphic designer, the tools you use daily will influence your work on some level.
Apple is able to “design” the entire user experience of their products since they build the hardware and software themselves.
If your budget is an issue, find a refurbished or used Mac. They hold their value extremely well. I bought a 2006 iMac 24″ as a family computer in 2009. After we replaced the video card in 2010, it functions perfectly, even with the latest Mac OSX installed. It’s definitely not as swift as my 2011 Macbook Pro, but it get’s the job done.
And let me follow that up by saying buy a Mac now. I don’t care if you can mine silicon, weld transistors, and engineer the motherboard yourself. Using a Mac is better than using a Windows PC for graphic design, like using a pencil is better than a rock and chisel for drawing portraits.
Space defines action
I believe your environment influences your work. As a designer it makes sense to use things that are well designed. Interacting with a well designed product actually teaches you how to design better.
User experience trumps hardware specs
Now that Intel Macs can run both Windows and Mac OSX there is no need for other hardware. If you are only interested in comparing hertz and bytes, then there isn’t much difference between a Mac and a Windows PC. However, by only comparing hardware specs you’re missing the bigger picture. As a graphic designer your computer is your business partner. You will spend hours everyday interacting with this machine. Designing your latest masterpiece, communicating with clients, sending out invoices, getting lost in a Twitter/Facebook hole; all of this happens on this one device. That’s why I believe the software on your box is a little more important than the metallic bits inside.
This is where Macs move way ahead of PCs. The Mac operating system is an intuitive streamlined environment. It simplifies basic interactions, and doesn’t get in the way productivity. This efficiency will pay big dividends in the daily grind of being a graphic designer.
Modern Macs can do it all
I use a Mac for all computing purposes, except for the occasional website debugging that I have to do for Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer isn’t made for Macs anymore. This means I must traverse into the nether regions of darkness to find a cheeto-encrusted Windows-based PC to test my website. Even testing Internet Explorer bugs. I simply open Parallels and can swipe between Mac & Windows easily.
The necks of PC fanatics are thick with veins by now. I haven’t given a lot of statistics, references and bar charts to prove my theories. But as I said before, I’m simply voicing the opinion that’s been formed in me after years of working with both Macs and Windows-based computers.
I choose mac. What do you use?
UPDATE! Windows 8 is a game changer and definitely put the Microsoft Windows' UI in a better place. Definitely check it out, use it, learn from it. But as of 2013, I'm still leaning Mac. After a few iterations on some of Microsoft's new concepts in Windows 8, I may be singing a different tune.