In the WordPress kitchen

You'd never guess that this woman is editing digital media, but these are the tools she was given to work with.

You’d never guess that this woman is editing digital media, but these are the tools she was given to work with.

The good news is that WordPress makes it dead simple for designers like me to do all those things that we never bothered to master, or in some cases, never learned how to do at all. Custom site search, multi-tiered drop-down menus, automatic cloud-based backups, RSS feeds, search engine optimization, social network integration, subscription management. All that stuff.

The WordPress community of developers is huge and has crowd-sourced a catalog of theme, plug-in and widget titles to rival the Library of Congress. The world at your fingertips. Plug-and-play. Sweet.

The bad news is that content creators must build their pages using the decidedly non-WYSIWYG WordPress editing interface, referred to as the Dashboard, not to mention the fact that getting all those bells and whistles to conform to a detail-oriented design concept still requires the designer to speak both HTML and CSS. Knowing a little PHP doesn’t hurt, either.

I’m familiar with these languages, but I’m also familiar with design programs like Dreamweaver and InDesign and they’ve ruined me for anything less luxurious. Anybody who’s spent a few thousand hours designing in AdobeLand will find the WordPress forest a cold and forbidding place.

I had to laugh at one WordPress forum moderator’s exasperated response to another designer’s complaints, similar to mine,  about the WordPress GUI. “WordPress is a content management system,” the moderator chided, not a point-and-click design program.

Right and wrong, Mr. Moderator. It’s both.

And if that’s not what the founding fathers intended it to be, too bad.

The task at hand, and I think it’s an urgent one, is to build an interface that, at a minimum, shows the designer, real time, exactly how the page he’s working on will look when it’s posted. Letter by letter, word by word, image by image.

I’m not holding my breath, but honestly guys, it doesn’t seem like too much to ask.