Over the last few months, I’ve had 20+ conversations with various folks across the WordPress ecosystem, from developers implementing WordPress at scale to folks working in large newsrooms to one-person operations. After leaving comments on the various Phase 3 posts, it felt advantageous to write a quick summary of the feedback to help inform our future work, akin to the efforts of the FSE Outreach program, and encourage others who might be having similar conversations to continue to share for the entire project to benefit from.
Most conversations lasted about 45-60 minutes, with very few running into the two-hour range. The conversations were open ended with folks broadly sharing their content process from ideation to completion and ended talking about the various phase 3 related posts with encouragement to engage. Of the 24 conversations, I have roughly grouped them across the following categories:
- 3 individual developers with either experience implementing WordPress at scale or building collaborative tooling.
- 1 person representing higher education.
- 2 people running their own individual projects/sites.
- 10 larger newsrooms or organizations.
- 8 smaller newsrooms or organizations.
These were sourced from a variety of connections including: GitHub GitHub is a website that offers online implementation of git repositories that can easily be shared, copied and modified by other developers. Public repositories are free to host, private repositories require a paid subscription. GitHub introduced the concept of the ‘pull request’ where code changes done in branches by contributors can be reviewed and discussed before being merged be the repository owner. https://github.com/ issue creators, WordPress VIP intros, Newspack clients, “cold emailing”, folks from the FSE Outreach Program, and more. In full disclosure, I am sponsored by Automattic to do this work and leveraged these connections to reach out to a broader range of folks. For many, they are using a suite of tools to get the job done, often without deep integration, and usually landing in WordPress when the copy is nearly complete. Phase 3 would/could shift that experience, allowing folks to land and work within WordPress sooner and with that comes a list of features and requirements. Read on!
Collaborative editing & asynchronous collaboration
At a high level, I repeatedly heard from folks in larger organizations more of an interest in collaboration in the form of the ability for multiple people to be in different parts of an article over true collaborative editing. Especially for larger to medium-sized publishers, there’s less of a need for real-time collaboration and more of a need for different sets of folks in an article simultaneously with blocks locked individually. The same applies to the experience of editing the details of a post, like a category The 'category' taxonomy lets you group posts / content together that share a common bond. Categories are pre-defined and broad ranging. or featured image A featured image is the main image used on your blog archive page and is pulled when the post or page is shared on social media. The image can be used to display in widget areas on your site or in a summary list of posts. while not having access to edit the entire post itself. For example, someone from the photo team can place images without having the ability to edit the content blocks, or a handful of folks being able to edit tags directly without getting in the way of the writers.
- Multiple people editing a doc at once.
- Role-specific permissions allowing some folks to accept/deny various edits.
- More granular ability to edit specific parts of a post/page at once without having full access to everything, including block Block is the abstract term used to describe units of markup that, composed together, form the content or layout of a webpage using the WordPress editor. The idea combines concepts of what in the past may have achieved with shortcodes, custom HTML, and embed discovery into a single consistent API and user experience. leveling locking.
- Commenting functionality, including the ability to @ folks.
- Public preview link for folks, regardless of whether they have access to the site.
No one I spoke with manages everything in WordPress with a wide range of additional tools and workflows in use from extraordinarily complex and manual to some setups with deeper automatic integration (status changes in X which automatically updates Y at the next step) to more manual organizing before adding anything into WordPress (adding images to a folder on a desktop before uploading). A need for a dashboard/task manager is clear as well as a need for integration with other tooling.
- Support for tasks that can be customized depending on the post type and have a built-in “severity The seriousness of the ticket in the eyes of the reporter. Generally, severity is a judgment of how bad a bug is, while priority is its relationship to other bugs.” type (required vs nice to have). For example, a task might be more of a nice to have than a necessity, but both are worth calling out for the person to act on.
- Seeing changes that have occurred since you last opened a document (related to my note on revisions).
- Tie notifications into different tasks and the status of articles to reduce the need to ping The act of sending a very small amount of data to an end point. Ping is used in computer science to illicit a response from a target server to test it’s connection. Ping is also a term used by Slack users to @ someone or send them a direct message (DM). Users might say something along the lines of “Ping me when the meeting starts.” someone in a separate system. For example, perhaps legal needs to be emailed about an article, or the media team needs to be notified that a post is ready for images.
- Ability to see open tasks/open notifications with ease (task manager), along with an at-a-glance view of where something might stand (editorial calendar).
- Section level locking for different parts of a post, like the post content vs. post title vs. featured image, tied into task management with perhaps reviews needed for each before publishing.
- Solid integration options with other tools, like Slack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform https://slack.com/. The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at https://make.wordpress.org/chat/./Trello Project management system using the concepts of boards and cards to organize tasks in a sane way. This is what the make.wordpress.com/marketing team uses for example: https://trello.com/b/8UGHVBu8/wp-marketing./Asana, for notifications and state changes (draft to pending review, reminding folks about assignments, etc).
- Easy draft sharing for varying permission levels including stakeholders without access to the site itself.
- Ability to publish with multiple authors.
Revisions The WordPress revisions system stores a record of each saved draft or published update. The revision system allows you to see what changes were made in each revision by dragging a slider (or using the Next/Previous buttons). The display indicates what has changed in each revision.
The most commonly requested items proved to be more visual revisions and the ability to track more than just post content changing. These stood out amongst the rest as the most broadly useful items.
- More visual revision history, perhaps with the option to toggle between code views.
- Ability to track more than just post content, including changes to tags, a featured image, SEO, and other custom fields (like managing multiple headlines).
- Ability to split out a revision to develop it separately from the main draft and keep track of how the current version continues with some form of track changes (this is likely more in an async workflow, but it relates).
- Ability to see a notice of an audit trail when coming into a post after a few revisions, including who made which changes. For example, if an editor went through and made a number of changes to a post so the writer can see the difference.
- A way to focus on a particular part of an article to see how it might have changed, rather than the entire piece.
- Improved management of posts with numerous revision history events (think 50+). It’s currently pretty painful to try to go through revisions at scale.
- Ability to readily schedule mass changes across the site.
Tied to this, I’ll note from the FSE Outreach Program that feedback has come in very positively around the Style Revision experience both in terms of the visual nature and easy to understand timeline with a request to have that in place for templates and template parts.
Tied to this, folks want the ability to see where patterns are used across a site (“this pattern is used on x number of posts”) as a better way to gauge the impact of changes, particularly for synced patterns.
Finally, the ability to have theme.json partials on groups of blocks would be a huge step forward to provide a locked-down experience for folks who are in the position of simply trying to put content into a specific layout.
Media management, from the ability to add folders to controlling copyright information, are big concerns for folks, especially in larger organizations where many images are uploaded per day.
- Way to manage and view image attribution and copyright information. This was repeated often as a high priority item and major pain currently.
- Improved alternative text management.
- Ability to add folders.
- Improved searchability.
- Ability to upload photos designed for a specific post and having those photos surfaced when working on a post.
Admin (and super admin) redesign
There was a lack of overall feedback here as folks mainly focused on wanting the experience to be “more modern” without a lot of specific feature requests.
- The ability to reorder, hide, and favorite menu items for greater customization.
- Desire for a redesign to modernize the experience. This was nonspecific but repeated feedback that ties into Data Views work.
As more conversations occur and work progresses, I’ll continue to bring feedback into appropriate GitHub issues and/or create new ones. For more open ended feedback, like the above, I’ll do recap posts as appropriate. If you’re chatting with folks about Phase 3 efforts, please do the same! Similar to Phase 2, we’ll need folks across the WordPress community to have conversations, educate, and bring others along.
Want to chat about phase 3 in the future? Comment below.
If you’re interested in joining future hallway hangouts on the topic, please leave a comment below and I’ll @ your username for any future hallway hangouts I run going forward.
Want to get involved today?
These conversations centered around the already public post on each topic so keep chiming in on those: Real-Time Collaboration, Workflows, Revisions, Media Library, Block Library, and Admin Design.
Thank you to @cbringmann @chanthaboune for reviewing this post.