by adam mathes

Your Post Box Is Too Small

Trenchant daily is written with my own little hacks so it’s been a while since I’ve used mainstream blogging software.

I recently tried the latest versions of modern blogging tools for some projects I was toying with and was appalled.

The primary purpose of blogging software is to blog.

This entails the writing and publishing of short form content.

Everything else is, basically, noise. Even if you don’t subscribe to a viewpoint that harsh, posting something should be the primary action of the software and treated as such.

This appears to be a radical notion, given their interfaces.

The following screens are 1024x768 captures of the primary dashboard screen or first screen a user sees after login. I’ve shaded out everything that is not related to the composition or publishing of posts (and resized to 500px wide for inclusion here).

Movable Type has plenty of space dedicated to tracking your pageviews by default, but little space devoted to actually creating content. You have to go to another page. At least the button is orange so it’s visually distinguished.

Blogger seems worse, in part because it has tons of actions - Hide | View Blog | New Post | Edit Posts | Settings | Template | Monetize shoved in close proximity per blog, along with all the other dashboard noise.

(Let’s not even talk about the monetize button.)

Wordpress would be on par with these, but edges them out by including the “quickpress” gadget on the dashboard, which at least pretends to make creating a post a primary action that doesn’t require a second page reload.

But it feels like a band-aid rather than coherently designed.

Tumblr is better, those buttons are giant and at the top of an easy to comprehend page. You still have to actually wait for another page to load to post something after choosing your post type.

It would feel faster if it was inline rather than on a separate page.

Twitter gets it right.

This is why anyone - even confused celebrities who barely comprehend technology - can actually use this product. You show up, there’s a box at the top, you type in it, and it shows up below with other people’s stuff you can read.

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I don’t really care about the size of the post box. Twitter wouldn’t be twice as good if they doubled the size of the post box. I’m using screen real estate as a simple proxy for prominence and distance to common actions (combined with my own frustration trying to use these systems.)

I’m not familiar with the history of WordPress and Movable Type since I was never really a user, but at least in the case of Blogger, from my perspective, this seems to be an example of software bloat and degradation over time. (Or at best case, shifting priorities.)

This is the same methodology applied to what Blogger looked like in 2002 -

It’s not quite the same since my screenshot from 2002 was 800x600, and had tons of browser chrome, but you get the idea.

Blogger used to be about blogging and the interface reflected the core use cases of heavy bloggers - posting new stuff and editing one of your recent entries. You could do those things fast and on one page.

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It’s hard to keep software simple and focused on the core use cases over time.

The tendency of software is to bloat. To include more and “better” features and these things compete for the attention of managers, developers, designers, and other people who work on the software. The problem is when it manifests itself in a way that competes (and wins) against the core use cases and slows down users.

I assume there were plenty of discussions by some smart people who work on blogging software about how users that managed multiple blogs needed better access to template settings and how does a user effectively get proper feedback for tracking pageviews over time and whatever, but I don’t care.

I just don’t care about that stuff.

I just want to write stuff and put it on the web.

That was the whole point of this class of software.

(I’ve also learned I probably need to keep writing my own blogging software.)