Things that baffle me about Wordpress in 2018

IMG_3511

So I’m back blogging! And I haven’t used wordpress.com in ages, but I wanted to share my running list of WTF moments over the past week of using the site and service, both at work (we just moved our blog!) and here. I’m on the Premium plan, which includes CSS and custom templates stuff, but I don’t get any plugins, so if your response to this post is “just use the xyz plugin!” it’s not helpful. Full disclosure: I definitely have expectations after paying extra for the Premium option.

Submitting a comment to a moderated blog gives you no feedback

I turned comments on for <2 week old posts here, but I’m choosing to moderate every comment before posting. I notice a bunch of friends with WordPress blogs do this as well, and it’s fine to have to wait a few hours before a comment appears on the web.

What’s not great is when you leave a comment and you get zero feedback. You type stuff, press post comment, and then… nothing. That’s a bad experience and WordPress by default should tell readers their comment was received and went into a moderation queue.

If a post fails to upload on iOS it disappears instead of going to drafts

Over the past week I’ve written a bunch of posts while out and about using the iOS WordPress app, often with photos of things I was seeing. But unless I was on WiFi or had 5 bars of LTE connectivity, I would get a Posting Failed, Retry? message. The wild thing is even after hitting retry a bunch, it would still fail. And then if I flicked over to my draft posts folder, the post wasn’t there. If I didn’t keep retrying and instead clicked anywhere in the app, the post would disappear completely.

No drafts. No local cache. No local drafts folder to sync later. No opportunity to even get back to the edit screen! Just silent death, eating your post. After the third time it happened this week, I started remembering to copy/paste the post text to Apple Notes just in case it failed.

This is seriously a terrible bug and awful experience using the product and my current #1 peeve. In the basement of Pyra, when working on Blogger, I swear we had a cross-stitched thing on the wall that said Never silently eat people’s posts with our app, ever and every so often if we found a bug in our code someone would say “Hey! Don’t make me tap the sign again!”

Cookie details between accounts

I use WordPress VIP at work under a separate email account login, and wordpress.com for my personal account with my personal email account. I run two profiles on Google Chrome, one work (Google Apps), one personal (Gmail.com account). When I login to the work VIP account on my work profile of Google Chrome, when viewing this blog, I see edit/login/write new post buttons. If I click them, they fail, but how on earth are cookie details being semi-shared between two accounts?

Is there no keystroke for adding a link?!

In a desktop web browser, using wordpress.com, the editor doesn’t call out any keystrokes when mousing over buttons in the WYSIWYG toolbar. Is there really no keystroke for “I highlighted this text with my cursor, now build a link with the URL in my clipboard”? It’s surprising that I have to leave the keyboard to make links on blog posts.

Paste and don’t match style doesn’t seem to exist on mobile. Also, why is Paste and Match Style even a thing?

I copied a bunch of text from wikipedia and pasted it in the iOS WordPress client new posting form. It showed my text all styled like it was on the page I copied it from, with no obvious way to wipe out the styles. I want plain text in my blog posts, why is pasting clipboard text ever styled in WordPress? Why not clean all pasted text so it displays in predictable ways in my blog’s own design?

Highlight some text, hit the lists button, don’t get lists

The WordPress new post editing UI on a desktop browser seems to be lacking a bunch of things I’ve seen in many other editing UIs online. If you highlight a “stack” of six phrases in text, each on it’s own line, then hit the unordered list or ordered list button in the toolbar, you don’t get six items in an ordered or unordered list. You get all six as the first item. That’s… not great.

The taxonomy of categories and tags, why not pick one instead of both?

This is likely an old timer complaint, but blogs started with categories on everything and original wordpress was wedded to that, then tags came in and a decade since anyone heard the word Technorati, my WordPress posting UI seems to treat categories and tags as equally important, and it seems like a mess. Why not ask me to just pick one and go with it?

Burying links to Edit the post you are viewing

The WordPress toolbar across the top has a Write new post button but if I’m viewing a single post at a permalink URL, and I spot a typo, I have to scroll all the way down to find the Edit Post link. Why not put that up in the toolbar where it’s easier to spot and use?

What is an ampersand doing in the preview here?

This:

Screenshot 2018-08-14 18.08.45

Lots of little polish missing on the WYSIWYG desktop browser posting UI

There are loads of little niceties missing for me in the new post UI. When I expand my list of categories and the find-as-you-type UI is at the top, why not put my cursor into it by default so I don’t have to click to start typing? When I hit publish, why do I have to confirm it on mobile and desktop before it actually publishes? Why isn’t hitting publish once enough? I’m not sure if I like the multi-device preview being the default when I’m on a desktop. I usually want to see a post live on my site asap. On mobile, seeing a new post in my site’s UI is a bit of a pain, any clicks in the iOS app seem to push it into editing mode.


Overall, WordPress is a fine tool, but given the age of the project and the vast number of people developing for it and helping shape it, I’m a little surprised to get flustered every few days using it this past week when it does something I didn’t expect. Is it because there are only a couple of big paid blog CMS options at this point so competition is low?

 

 

25 thoughts on “Things that baffle me about Wordpress in 2018

  1. I can see a case for keeping tags and categories, but it might not apply to you. On one WP site I administer, I’ve got it set up so that the category controls where on the site something appears (eg, front-page news). You could do that with tags too, in theory, but they’re not a controlled vocabulary, so in practice it wouldn’t work. Tags can be a search aid, and can be used to discover related posts, especially if you’ve got a lot of posts.

    Like

    1. I can see some people will only want tags OR categories, or neither, but there’s definitely a case for both. For example, on my mum’s site she uses categories for different kinds of post (articles, transcripts of interviews, lectures, etc) and tags for the topics each post is about.

      On the old WP interface, if the browser’s wide enough, the Screen Options tab on the Post page lets you show/hide different elements of the form… Maybe that got omitted in the new interface (don’t get me started on helping people learn to use software that has more than one interface).

      Like

      1. I get that WordPress has become a sort of universal database CMS for lots of different kinds of sites but I’d argue that using both tags and categories is an advanced user kind of feature. I imagine someone signing up for WordPress today would be baffled by two options that largely do the same function for a beginner.

        Like

  2. Yeah, it’s pretty weird that WordPress.com doesn’t show keyboard shortcuts on tooltips. That said, you can highlight text and press Command-K to add a hyperlink. As for confirming before publishing, there is a little tick box at the bottom-right of the screen that you can untick to publish immediately. It’s a bit odd but I think the reason they have this step is to hide the publishing settings (scheduling, visibility). Not sure I agree with that but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Like

  3. Completely agree with you about the editing UI. My issue is trying to make links on my iDevice – selecting the text opens the contextual menu, which covers up the editing menu if I’m at the top of the post.

    Because I can’t use the related-posts plugin I’m used to on self-hosted WP, I’ve been using categories for types of posts (reviews, case studies, links) and tags for the actual subject matter.

    Like

  4. Hey Matt! I oversee the mobile apps for WordPress and we’re so excited to have you and the Slack team using them. There are a lot of great notes in here. A quick follow-up:

    We completely agree that you should never lose posts – we’re all bloggers too! – and we’ve been investigating that since we read your post earlier today. If there’s an issue uploading a post, it should appear in either your Published or Drafts lists (depending on the status of the post). From there, there should be a “Retry” button you can use to attempt to upload again. We’ve currently identified one situation (https://github.com/wordpress-mobile/WordPress-iOS/issues/9985) where a post can disappear from the app when there’s limited connectivity, but this doesn’t sound like the situation you’re describing, so I wonder if it’s something specific with your connection. But the main thing I want to say is: We are listening, we are a committed group of designers and developers around the world, and we’re putting out new releases every two weeks so we’re continually working to refine the app experience. Please reach out to me directly at my WordPress username @automattic.com so we can get to the bottom of this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been traveling in the mountains of eastern Oregon and LTE phone connections are spotty and a bit unreliable. Is there a local cache for drafts? I feel like I can only see drafts when I had a connection.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes there absolutely is, you should find your posts under Drafts with an “Upload failed” message and the “Retry” option.
        We have one of our team member in Galapagos trying to replicate what you are seeing to no avail! Can you make a screencast and send it my way so we can look more into it?

        Like

      2. I’m headed back home so I’ll be in the land of ample bandwidth soon but all the Verizon bandwidth in Sunriver Oregon was definitely an issue that might be hard to replicate. I guess it’s just bad luck I started using the iOS app during this trip.

        Like

  5. Well, we did identify a bug while trying to replicate your problem, maybe while we work on the fix we uncover something else that might be affecting you.
    Looking forward to hearing more about your experience with the app and how we can improve it.

    Like

      1. Yeah, I meant two identical blogs. It’s weird, because on wordpress.com on my desktop, I now only have one Site, which is this one. On mobile, I see two. I suspect over the past decade I tried importing my old Movable Type and Typepad blogs that used to host this account and perhaps I had them under the same name?

        A refresh on the mobile client still shows two blogs.

        I suspect the error handling code is grabbing the first site that matches a name and sends the draft to that one instead of my live site?

        Like

    1. Hi Matt!

      I’m Kraft from the Jetpack team. It looks like you used to use Jetpack on a site with this same URL that is now on WordPress.com. We’re tracking down where the actual bug is in our setup—we knew the Jetpack site wasn’t active, but the mobile app still displayed it. I’ve push a small correction which should remove the duplicate listing from your app listing and only leave you with your one true site at this URL. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi, Matt. Welcome back 🙂 As others above have said, thank you very much for writing this all up. I too work at WordPress.com and want to understand some of these issues better.

    > Submitting a comment to a moderated blog gives you no feedback

    I agree this is terrible behavior. In general, WordPress shows feedback for every comment submitted. There’s a known bug affecting certain types of comments on certain types of sites which results in no feedback. As far as I can tell, though, this site (a.wholelottanothing.org) is not one of those “certain types of sites”. Have you seen this problem here (can you recall an example comment?) or on a different site (which site?)?

    Feel free to follow up with me at my email address if you’d prefer that over the comments here.

    > Cookie details between accounts

    Very mysterious. I’ll try to reproduce the problem.

    > Is there no keystroke for adding a link?!

    This one I have an “answer” for (though, that the question exists is the real issue, I agree).

    You can see the available keyboard shortcuts by clicking the “⋯” icon in the editor, then the resulting “?” icon that shows up. Command-K is the shortcut for links. Also, if your clipboard contains just a URL, you can select the text and just paste; you’ll end up with a link. The keyboard shortcuts we hoped were more discoverable, so thanks for letting us know it’s harder to find. We know that the auto-link-on-paste behavior is not very discoverable 🙂

    > What is an ampersand doing in the preview here?

    I think Mastodon uses oEmbed for generating those previews, and I suspect we’re outputting HTML in some text-only fields. I’ll take a look.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Matt,

    “I want plain text in my blog posts, why is pasting clipboard text ever styled in WordPress? Why not clean all pasted text so it displays in predictable ways in my blog’s own design?”

    Pretty sure there is a box on the editor called Paste as Text. If toy click on that it comes up with this message.

    “Paste is now in plain text mode. Contents will now be pasted as plain text until you toggle this option off. If you’re looking to paste rich content from Microsoft Word, try turning this option off. The editor will clean up text pasted from Word automatically.”

    However I usually forget about and just use the text mode most of the time because I want the background stylesheet to apply.

    Regarding categories and tags. The way I understand this is from search engine thinking. A category is the macro topic and a tag is much more granular more of a key word thing. Over time if enough posts start using the same tags I might change the categories around. I’m pretty sure though that SEO is still based on keywords and phrases and the category is just a convenience for human readers.

    Enjoy.

    Like

    1. Jason, actually Matt’s issue with pasting as plain text has to do with the mobile app not desktop web UI editor. And I experience some of those same problems with the Android version of the mobile app as well. Recently I’ve noticed that on Android 8.1 there is now a paste as plain text option, and I believe that is mobile OS dependant not app dependant. There may be something in the app that enables this feature if the mobile OS supports it.

      Like

  8. Hi Matt! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I just wanted to reach out about the “paste and match” issue. If I’ve understood correctly, you’d like to paste content from another source but not keep the source’s formatting? If so, the feature named “Paste and Match Style” should offer the functionality you’re looking for, where formatting from the content’s source is stripped and the content is formatted to match your post’s style. Here’s a gif of that in action, vs the standard “Paste”:

    Paste match 1

    The naming and behaviour of this feature was chosen to be consistent not just with core WordPress and WordPress.com, but also other publishing tools with a visual editor.

    If that’s not exactly what you’re after, please let me know. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, I got tripped up by the terminology. In other apps, I’ve seen it match the styles of the source document before, so I avoided that option. It looks like Google Docs changed their shift-cmd-v to “Paste without Formatting” which sounds more descriptive to me.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I have always viewed categories as site structure taxonomy and tags as ways to slice/dice beyond site structure. And yeah, those mobile iOS bugs… Media handling/media library is super janky and slow to update.

    Like

Comments are closed.