Chris Messina has posted a great entry discussing the problems with open source design, with a focus on the new administrative interface for WordPress 2.4, which is generating a lot of discussion now that it is partially implemented in the nightly releases. As an avid user of WordPress and occasional plugin developer, I’ve been following the discussion from afar and fully agree with Chris that it is much too early for the design to be judged.
Hopefully Chris’ points about a lack of a visible design owner will be noted and acted upon. The project needs a strong, authoritative voice that can answer the design questions, lead the discussions and gather ramblings, compliments and complaints for future revisions. I fully believe the WordPress team has all of these issues covered, they just need to communicate it a bit more and demonstrate that they have it covered. We as a community also need to trust that they know what they’re doing – we are using their software after all, and judging by the amount of sites running WordPress, and the amount of people theming and building plugins for the platform, I’d say it has a loving community.
One of the first steps to resolve this issue is purely communication. I think it incumbent on the designer/dev team/Matt to release the final approved comps of the design, if for no other reason than it eliminates the uninformed complaints and can guide the conversation towards useful feedback. If people are going to take issue with the design – and people always take issue with design changes – they should at least see the plan in full, and there’s no reason to wait for final implementation for its debut. People love WordPress, and this is a major change; humans tend to dislike change when the object being modified is something with which they are comfortable. Doubly so when the changes are unknown.
Right now, all folks see is a Frankensteinian beast where once there was a well-known friend. Assuaging the fears is as easy as a quick post of a few screen shots, and a couple of words to describe the changes.