Exploring the WordPress admin sidebar

At WordCamp Europe Contributor day we had some time (thanks to #no-wifi) to think through some unique problems facing WordPress.

One issue we discussed,, and which we want to share here to get others weighing in (don’t want this to be a situation where the folks at WordCamp come up with an idea and it ends there), is the sidebar in the WordPress admin. This discussion was initially shared in the Slack design channel, you can read the  full conversation there.

Our initial assumption (and to be clear, this is an assumption at this point), is that the sidebar could be improved.

Some of the thoughts that came up so far:  

  • What are ways we could improve the experience there? The labels in the sidebar are confusing to new users, are there ways we could improve this?
  • What’s working and what’s not working? For one, we don’t want to change anything merely for the sake of changing it, but looking into things and trying to find ways to improve is perfectly valid.
  • What should the experience look like when you have extra plugins installed? Some websites have 50+ plugins, with dozens of extra icons populating the sidebar, can this be improved somehow?
  • Are there ways to improve on the current spacing? Right now the sidebar is grouped into distinct areas (kind of) with a bigger space separating each group from each other.  

At Contributor day we came up with some initial suggestions for simplifying grouping in the sidebar. One question that was raised: what if there was a way to edit the sidebar experience as a user or admin of your WordPress website. Joy Reynolds shared an existing plugins that do just that.

If we pursue this further we need to identify the best way to do proper research to validate or invalidate any assumptions for what could be changed. In addition we could do analysis on other good sidebar interfaces, as well as introducing new folks to the current sidebar.

One of the challenges we’d face with this (which is perhaps just an opportunity) is that we don’t have great data on how the sidebar is being used currently. However, a lot can be done with just 5 users testing something out, so long as the tasks you’re giving them are very clear. Based on research from the Nielsen Norman Group, you only need 5 participants in a user test to uncover 85% of your usability problems.

At this point I’d love to hear any thoughts on next steps and if there’s further exploration that could be done here.

 

#ideas