WordPress 2.5.x Design Issues: Why I am staying with my 2.3.3 “Renegade”

I had put off writing this post for a while, partly because I wanted to take the time and really give WordPress 2.5 a whirl before bashing it.

For several months now I have watched the discussion on the WordPress.org support forums – especially about the much maligned admin back-end changes, run a security "back-porting" experiment to keep my heavily customized version of 2.3.3 viable, and put 2.5.x through its paces to see what it does and doesn’t do.

All along, I’ve been taking copious screen-caps to help build my case. And at least for me, the verdict is in: WordPress 2.5.x has been largely a mistake. Here’s why:

  1. The layout and design changes to the admin backend have done preciously little to solve the problem of wasted vertical screen "real-estate", even though a supposedly top-notch design firm was hired in the redesign. Not sure what they were thinking, but even though the menus were made a little more sane, I still find no real consistency in what was done.
  2. Several things that actually worked well for people (and especially power-users) were taken away for no apparent reason, with sometimes additional complications being caused. Yes, I’m talking about the "Widgets" screen, as well as the needless moving around of the "post controls" away from the right hand of the write screen (wasting, surprise, surprise, even more vertical screen real-estate).
  3. It doesn’t truly address several of the long-standing issues with the WYSIWIG editor and the "wpautop" function that is at the root of these (which also happens to make WordPress slower than it needs to be). Sorry for the arcane tech reference, but it’s necessary to remind people that WordPress overly messing with people’s HTML has gone on far too long. The current "HTML" view in the write screen is now a very strange hybrid.
  4. And as I’ve argued in great detail in the posts on the security back-porting experiment, none of these rather extensive design changes needed to be rolled into the same update with the much needed security updates. They could have been kept separate, allowing users to continue using 2.3.3 for the time being. If Apache is able to do this, so should WordPress… Stop using security fears as leverage to push your feature "upgrades".
  5. Just for fun, along the way one of the more testy threads on the WordPress.org forum was closed by Mr. WordPress Matt Mullenweg himself, even though there were MANY, MANY complaining about issues with the 2.5 admin back-end design. Listen to your power-user base every once in a while, they are the one’s evangelizing your product for you (go read some Guy Kawasaki on this issue). They are the ones that might have to live through dozens of upgrades for clients, and their often painful aftermath.

OK, so let’s get into the details. Here is what my own customized Write Screen looks like, using the FCKEditor plugin and changes to the admin stylesheets and /wp-admin/menu.php.

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