Matt Mullenweg thinks that in order for WordPress to truly embrace mobile it will need to be re-imagined and simplified radically, beyond “responsive stylesheets or incremental UX improvements.” He discussed the project’s emphasis on mobile, or what he sees as the fourth major phase WordPress has been through, during an interview at the GigaOM/PaidContent conference yesterday in New York City.
Mullenweg laid his thoughts out a bit more on his blog, where he said that he spends a lot of time thinking about a very simplified version of WordPress for mobile devices. The paidContent blog quoted him saying WordPress “is a complex tool, it’s like the back of a digital SLR… but that doesn’t work on a phone.”
Regarding what sort of re-thinking he’s talking about, Mullenweg referenced the WordPress for iPhone and WordPress for Android apps. There are six mobile WordPress apps in active development, though optimizing WordPress itself for all mobile devices (in other words, not relying entirely on applications) has been a recurring discussion topic for the last few versions of WordPress.
Recently work on WordPress 3.4 has been done to make the mobile dashboard experience more pleasant, by implementing things like jQuery UI Touch Punch. George Stephanis posted an update to the WordPress development blog not long ago describing some of the efforts being made to improve WordPress on mobile devices. In the development version WordPress is more responsive on smaller screen sizes, and dragging and dropping dashboard elements works with touch-enabled devices.
Mullenweg, however, thinks a more radical approach is more necessary:
How we democratize publishing on that sort of platform will not and should not work like WordPress’ current dashboard does. It’s not a matter of a responsive stylesheet or incremental UX improvements, it’s re-imagining and radically simplifying what we currently do, thinking outside the box of wp-admin.
Pushing to re-think WordPress fundamentals, though, is a real challenge. During the paidContent interview he said “It’s easy to pivot if things are going badly, but when it’s going well you have the weight of all your existing users.”
Nearly nine years now
Mullenweg named the major phases WordPress has seen its lifetime: a simple blogging tool, a content management system, and (the current phase) an application platform. Social and mobile, he says, will be the next phase of the project’s growth.[ref]Recommended reading: Mullenweg calls social toolbars “the mullet of websites”, plus other gems on social web[/ref]
WordPress will be nine years old this weekend, and version 3.4 will land soon too. Musing on the future, Mullenweg said “I think when we turn 10 in 2013 the ways people experience and publish with WordPress will be shorter, simpler, faster.” So as well as reflecting on nine years of WordPress on Sunday, be looking forward to May 27th, 2013 and what the WordPress experience will have evolved to by then.
Mullenweg said that while he’s thinking about it a lot, he’s still not sure what exactly the re-imagined WordPress might look like. “That’s what makes it fun,” he wrote.