Exploring a Plugin for Design Experiments

With the complexities of core development, it can sometimes be difficult to try an idea out in context. Trac is a place where work gets merged in. Rough ideas, messy CSS, and half-finished designs don’t always feel at home there. Sometimes you just want to build a quick prototype to try things out, or to test a change with users. This has been a conversation point within the Design team in the past, and today I’d like to share a plugin that could potentially help solve this problem:

https://wordpress.org/plugins/design-experiments/

The plugin was initially built to try out a redesigned page header idea from @melchoyce. Mel was interested in seeing how Material Design patterns could be borrowed to help standardize page headers throughout WP-Admin. Mel and I wanted to see how this would work on a real site, but it was too complicated to try out in the browser inspector, and the idea felt too early to move into a core patch. We needed something in between: a temporary, standalone CSS file to load into WP-Admin. 

So I built a plugin to do just that: add some CSS to WP-Admin to see what happens. With the plugin installed (and the experiment turned on), you can test this out on the Add Themes page yourself: 

From there, I realized the potential appeal of the plugin, and enlisted some help to get it working in a broader context. To start a new simple experiment, you just need to download the plugin from the GitHub repository and start writing your CSS in the empty stylesheet. When the plugin is installed, your changes will appear immediately in WP-Admin. If you’d like to share your experiment with the community, you can open a pull request there, and suggest that your experiment be added to the plugin. 

I’d like CSS (and code in general) to not be a requirement for contributing to this plugin. This repository is for all WP-Admin design ideas! Anyone can share a mockup or sketch as an issue and use the Idea tag. If someone else is inspired by your idea, maybe they will take a moment to build it out for you. If you have any questions at all, feel free to ask here or in the #design channel on slack.  

An important disclaimer: This is called experimental for a reason. Please don’t install it on a production site. Some of the experiments may break after a while, and will be removed from the plugin when that happens. Feel free to open an issue in the repository if you see anything broken. 

This plugin will be discussed during the Design meeting on June 5th, 2019. In the meantime, if you have an idea or suggestion, please share it in the repository! Any suggestions for the plugin are welcome.