Improving the WordPress User Experience

I was incredibly refreshed when Rob sent me a link to Helen’s Hou-Sandí’s blog post on Tuesday. Helen is leading the …

by Ryan Sullivan

News & Announcements

| 6 min read

I was incredibly refreshed when Rob sent me a link to Helen’s Hou-Sandí’s blog post on Tuesday. Helen is leading the WordPress 4.7 release cycle and she’s looking at tackling a challenge that has been working against WordPress for quite a while.

The fact that WordPress has gone from simple blogging platform to a full feature CMS and web application framework in such a short period of time means that, just by the sheer nature of software, the user experience has fallen behind other modern platforms.

I’m thrilled to see Helen taking this initiative. Be sure that you read her post on Theme Disconnect and Discontent to learn more about the gargantuan task she’s spearheading.

Earlier this week I threw a tantrum on twitter about my frustration with the theme setup process, so it feels like kismet that everything is coming together at the same time.

(P.S. Helen’s approach to solving this problem is much much better than mine).

I’m Changing My Ways

In an attempt to change my childish ways, and become part of the solution instead of whining on twitter, I’m genuinely excited to share a set of user testing videos that will be useful as the core team explores new solutions to these problems.

Last September WP Site Care invested heavily in user tests for users who are new to SquareSpace, Wix, and WordPress. We wanted to see what WordPress was doing well, where it struggled, and what we could possibly learn from other platforms.

We gave individuals a simple set of tasks to perform, the types of tasks that most of us perform every single day, but that are crucial to the future adoption of WordPress for new users. Then we recorded their sessions and had them give feedback along the way.

The goal was to avoid the trap of anecdotal evidence and personal experiences. We wanted to invest in UX research and really challenge our own assumptions, and popular opinions from the community at large. A common trap as people who work and live in the WordPress ecosystem every single day is to think we know users. We think we already know what the problems are. That’s a really dangerous road to go down, and often results in building the wrong solutions.

We’ve published all the videos so they can be used for research purposes. It’s the right thing to do, and ultimately should help forward the work that Helen and the rest of the core team are trying to accomplish.

There are sixty total videos, ranging from 5 minutes to 30+ minutes depending on how much difficulty each user had. Each user performed one tasks. We tested twenty individuals on each platform. Twenty users on WordPress, twenty on Wix, and twenty on Squarespace.

We packaged all of the key takeaways in this nice infographic. Feel free to share it with your friends, family, and anyone else really.

improving-wp-ux-longpin

The User Tests

Each user was given one task to perform. We wanted to keep the scope of the tasks super clear, and wanted to assign tasks that new users would commonly need to accomplish. In order to complete the tests we had to create unique websites, logins, and email addresses for every single individual who was tested. That was a fun little task on its own ?

Below is a breakdown of the instruction set that each test recipient was given. The instructions varied slightly between platforms in order to eliminate jargon-related confusion.

TASK 1

Please share your feedback while completing the the listed tasks.

  1. Log in to the administrative section of your website.
    Your login: Username: XXXXXXXXXX Password: XXXXXXXXXX
  2. Add a page to your website, with one paragraph of text, and upload two images.
  3. Preview the page that you just created.

Does the page look like what you expected to see?

TASK 2

Please share your feedback while completing the the listed tasks.

  1. Log in to the administrative section of your website.
    Your login: Username: XXXXXXXXXX Password: XXXXXXXXXX
  2. Change your website’s design by applying a new theme or template.
  3. Preview the page that you just created.

Does the page look like what you expected to see?

TASK 3

Please share your feedback while completing the the listed tasks.

  1. Log in to the administrative section of your website.
    Your login: Username: XXXXXXXXXX Password: XXXXXXXXXX
  2. Add a gallery to your website using the images stored on your website.
  3. Preview the page that you just created.

Does the page look like what you expected to see?

TASK 4

Please share your feedback while completing the the listed tasks.

  1. Log in to your website.
    Your login: Username: XXXXXXXXXX Password: XXXXXXXXXX
  2. Add a new page to your website with one paragraph of text. Create a gallery on the page with at least 3 photos.
  3. Add a link from the new page you just created that directs back to the homepage.
  4. Find a link or button that allows you to preview your page as if you were viewing your website outside of the edit mode.

Does it look how you expected it to?

What We Learned

I think there’s only so much you takeaway from these user tests from a comparison standpoint. Saying that any platform is better than another is pretty impossible since our dataset is relatively small, and the number of variables you’d have to measure are pretty much infinite.

That said, there are a few key takeaways. The first thing I want to emphasize is that even though we have a long way to go, WordPress is still doing really well compared to the other platforms where we ran user tests. On average, WordPress users are getting things done more than twice as fast as Squarespace users, and WordPress was also the platform most likely to be recommended to a friend.

[Tweet “WordPress users are getting things done more than twice as fast as Squarespace users.”]

The Videos

As fantastic as all of this information is, the real goldmine here, and the thing that I found the most surprising was the videos themselves. Watching users struggle through things that most of think of as second nature was really eye opening to me. We have over 13 hours of video from people performing simple tasks in WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix, and we’re happy to make them all freely available to the community, since we know they’ll be put to good use.

We compiled all of the tests into a convenient YouTube playlist so you can watch them at your leisure. Getcha ? ready.

For all of the data nerds out there (like us), you can take a deep dive into all of the information we collected and a comprehensive look at the user feedback in the spreadsheets we compiled as part of our research.

I offer up this data with a few words of warning: 1) The real value here is the videos, and 2) the spreadsheets are kind of a mess since we threw all of this information together pretty quickly.

Have any questions about the information you’re seeing here? Any patterns that we can use to help improve WordPress? Hit us up in the comments. We’d love to hear your thoughts and share more of ours too ?

Ryan Sullivan | Vice President, Client Success

6 Comments

  • J
    Jeremy Easterbrook 4 years ago

    These stats are great to have Roy. I would love to see a similar comparison Shopify vs Woocommerce vs Magento if you guys ever get a chance !

  • John Locke 4 years ago

    Hi Ryan:

    It’s a pretty good sign for WordPress the platform that users are able to complete some basic tasks easier than they are on Wix or Squarespace. We generally assume that, since it is the platform we’ve chosen to work with (and so it’s and extension of our self-identity). But is great to have proof.

    I think the most valuable part of this study are the videos. There are interesting things that we can learn from watching these. It’s easy to forget we’re the WordPress 1%, and it’s a good reminder that our customers and clients are not.

    Thanks for putting forth the time, effort, and expense to put together this comprehensive study.

  • B
    Ben 4 years ago

    Great post. I feel like WordPress 4.7 definitely showed that the WordPress team are focusing on the experience of new users, who can be easily lost early in the process.

  • SixtyMarketing 4 years ago

    Hi Ryan, WordPress is far more versatile than other platforms such as SquareSpace, Wix, Magento etc as you have so many great plugins available that can transform a simple blog into eCommerce, membership, directory or pretty much anything else you can think of! There is always a theme or plugin(s) available for all your needs.

    I’m sure if you did some stats (which are great by the way) on how quickly you can setup an eCommerce website with 2 products, I’m pretty sure WordPress would come out on top again.

    Thanks for the stats! We can now direct clients to this link to show them WordPress is far easier to use over Wix!

    Kev – SixtyMarketing

  • Gaurav Heera 4 years ago

    thanks for giving us a meaningful information about WordPress, this is a useful information and this article is really damn good thanks for sharing it with us

  • T
    TWA 4 years ago

    Interesting to see how WordPress compares to other platforms from a UX point of view

    Thanks for a great article

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