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The Follow Button In The WordPress Action Bar Moved

The WordPress developers are at it again, changing things that worked like a charm. It’s no secret that I disliked almost all recent changes that were introduced by the people at WordPress.com, now there is a new change that I don’t really get, they moved the follow button away from the old action bar and placed it at the worst possible screen position. The follow button for logged-in community members was usually anywhere in the top bar on the left near the “My Sites” and “Reader” link, but now they removed the follow link and made a new button that you can find on the bottom-right. You can check that out, just visit a blog you don’t follow, and see where the follow button is located now. Or check out my following analyzed screenshot (Click on it to see the full size image):

As you can see, my native screen resolution is 1650 pixel by 1050 pixel, and if we think away the web browser bar and Windows taskbar, they basically moved the follow button 1000 pixel down and way more than just 1000 pixel to the right. Seriously, who does look for a certain button on the bottom-right corner of the screen? Yes, if you complain, they will most likely tell you that you get used to it, and that is right, but even then the question remains why they moved it there. You probably will get used to it, but I do think more about newbies, when the follow link was in the action bar on the top left it was literally not to miss since all important links were clearly visible and placed in that bar.

With that said, I do think the top bar gets more and more obsolete with the recent changes. Since they titled the article about the new follow button “Introducing: Our New Action Bar”, I am pretty much sure they want to remove the top bar completely, and that all the links will be placed within a button on the bottom-right corner. If that is true, they do again kill the usability, not only because the bottom-right corner is a dead zone, but also because it’ll take you one more click because you would now need to open the new action bar, while the old one had all links accessible. If they don’t want to remove the top bar, it’s even worse, as having links split to two locations is just everything but not user-friendly, but that’s how they sell the feature.

We strive to make all aspects of using WordPress.com streamlined and intuitive,…

Think about it for a while. This is so ridiculous, its corporate speech at it’s finest. I tell you the truth, products get streamlined when companies try to attract more customers, especially customers that are not really interested to discover the product or service, it’s basically like trying to sell dog food to people with cats. This is a recent and horrible trend you can see everywhere, it’s ridiculous, it’s like begging for customers that are in no way interested to use the service or product, while the long-term users that are already customers and that use the product heavily are left out completely, that is what streamlining really means.

Then the word “intuitive”, I feel some kind of pain when I see the word connected with something that is placed in the bottom-right corner of my screen. Really, a feature that is placed out of reach (Ask Google for “eye tracking study”), and something that is introducing one more click than the previous feature, that can not be labeled intuitive. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t get obsessed with the change of the follow link, but all the last changes they made give me the impression that they go the opposite direction but not the intuitive route. I just had to mention the recent change with the follow link too as I am long-time user and as I watch and document the problems since a while now, you can find several posts about the last changes here.

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14 Comments »

  1. I am so completely in agreement with this post! As much as I love WordPress, this kind of thing is incredibly frustrating…. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!!!!

    • “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

      I really really wish developers or decision makers in the software industry would agree with this. From a user perspective it’s definitely horrible if things that worked like a charm get patched to the worse.

  2. I don’t know why, but there’s something about the design/dev teams on social media sites who just can’t stop tinkering with things until they make their platform useless. This is the sort of thing that killed Myspace.

    • Yea, it’s a trend in the whole software industry, including PC games and all kind of tools too… I don’t know either, but my assumption is that they try to become appealing not only for a certain group of people but they want to attract anybody, the mainstream market. While long-time users love complexity, newbies could be scared away, I think that’s why you see the streamlining everywhere… they want to have anybody on board. What makes it funny is that they do on this way scare away long-time users, in exchange for newbies…

      I remember a technorati study where they wrote that around 80% of registered blogs are already dead after an average of two months. So, WordPress does make design changes for people that will leave anyway after a short period, just a tiny percentage will stay for a very long time, and these users don’t need or don’t want streamlined products… that’s what makes it really hilarious, they do basically scare away their own loyal user-base.

      I could come up with all kind of other examples too, World of Warcraft, literally in free fall from 12 million users to 5 million users in just two or three years, as I was active player, they streamlined the game too, they got more newbies, but after a while the product was to streamlined and bored that most people rather got sick of it and canceled the subscription. It’s not working, streamlining isn’t good, it’s damaging.

      It’s really hilarious that developers or decision makers in tech companies think they would need to streamline… I bet streamlining always begins if shareholders or investors get involved into the product, because they are the crowd that want to make the product accessable to anybody, to earn even more money, but they don’t get that the product gets damaged if you take away everything, they don’t get that this often resulted in the opposite (another example, Windows 8 sales…streamlined product that didn’t work either).

      • Yeah, the biggest no-nos in EU interface development are don’t move or break up features that have been grouped together on the interface unless you have damn good reason and don’t remove features unless you are positive that they have no use to your current user-base.

        The thing that hurt myspace the worst was when they removed the search for music by genre and location feature; it really screwed over indie promoters, labels and bands to the point where it could even correlate to a brief collapse in the indie music scene in my state.

      • That’s how I see it too. The top bar made so much sense, I don’t get why they would want to remove something, unless they want to get rid of it completely soon.

        I remember the downfall of myspace, another great and early example of developers driving a product against the wall 😀 The voting site Digg would be a great example too, when developers messed with it, most of the users went to Reddit.

  3. I think they are all a bit “High” on themselves and so think they know best and need to stamp their own mark. All a bit cultish. Where will it end ?

    The most successful UI’s moved to a single top bar with drop down menus long ago.

    • They are definitely “High” on themselves, I got this impression when we battled with them in the forum, and when they constantly closed the threads that were filled with thousands of complains about the editor and stats page. Lets see where this will end in a few years, I saw a lot of software companies damaging a product just becaused they didn’t take the long-term users serious… a regular tech company would have lost quite a lot of users, WP.com does just have the advantage that moving a blog is rather annoying… before I would move and redirect my domain, I would rather start a new selfhosted blog I guess.
      However, my biggest complain was about the editor back then, but the script redirect solution works for me now, anyway, still interesting to follow where all this goes, they definitely mess with all the things that worked so well.

  4. You made your point beautifully with “It’s like trying to sell dogfood to people with cats. They are all chasing new customers all the time with no regard for the ones they already have. It’s not just the software industry who does this unfortunately but as most of us use some technology it affects us most here. It doesn’t really encourage anyone to learn how to use an application when they keep on changing it anyway and intuitive is just being used as a buzzword the way that marketing people like expressions like “jam-packed” to sell their product.

    • “It doesn’t really encourage anyone to learn how to use an application when they keep on changing it anyway and intuitive is just being used as a buzzword…”

      Yep, you do even see this outside of the tech industry. About the encouriging, this is so true, we all were probably quite overwhelmed the first time we set up our blogs, but we discovered everything, simply because we wanted to have a website too. Also there are quite a lot of people writing tutorials about blogging, which means it’s possible to discover and experience every aspect. No matter how and where WordPress does move buttons and change interfaces, blogging or managing a website will always be something whith a learning curve.

      I remember when a friend asked me to teach him some guitar chords, he gave up after just 3 days and said “I bet it’s fun if you learned how to play, but for me it’s too hard anyhow”. This is ok, and I won’t force him (laugh), but I would be very mad if guitar manufacturer would mutually start to create guitars that are newbie friendly, because with streamlining they would also take away all the possibilities you have with a true guitar. I know this is a bad example, guitars are like guitars since a long time, but it makes the point that certain hobbies might come with a learning curve, and there are people that appreciate the complexity once they learned all that. To me, too much streamlining means killing possibilities.

      I use the computer since my teenage, and I have seen software products that were quite hard to use, I mean tools with a really bad usability and that you didn’t want to use any longer than 10 minutes, but the old WordPress interface is definitely in my top ten list of well thought out products that are fun to use once you know how to do this and that, but now they do discard all this. With streamlining the CMS, they do basically imply that people are too dull to use the tools, it’s basically like creating guitars that are no more complex than a mp3 player.

      Also I still think it has to do with the personal preference of the CEO of wp.com, we all know he is a microblogger who barely does use words in his posts… what ever reason there is, I do agree with you, “intuitive” is nothing else than a buzzword. These buzzwords are so often used today that you really get tired to hear certain words, because if companies do use them a lot, the words lose the meaning anyhow 😀

  5. Ugh. I’ve only just found this freaking button. I wasn’t following blogs because I couldn’t find where the damn button went. Moving it to the bottom right is massive fail IMO.

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