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WordPress logoA lot of people say that WordPress is easy to use.

I hear that claim all the time, but rarely see anyone show evidence that it is true.

I sat down to test WordPress.

Which tasks in WordPress are really easy? Which tasks could be made easier?

I used a system called WICS to find the answers. Here are the results ...

About the WICS system

WICS systemWe've created a system called WICS that we use to test how difficult software is to use.

WICS is based on tasks inside the software. Some examples are:

  • Add an image to your content
  • Add a new user to your site
  • Categorize your content

I've scored each task based on 4 criteria:

  • Words: How many new or unusual words must the user learn?
  • Ideas: How many new or unusual ideas must the user learn?
  • Clicks: How many clicks must the user make?
  • Screens: How many screens must the user visit?

A low score means the task is easy. A high score means the task is complicated.

Click here for a full explanation of WICS.

Now, let's use WICS to grade 10 common WordPress tasks:

Task #1. Creating Content

Let's start off with a very important task: creating content. I'm going to imagine that I'm someone logging into WordPress for the first time.

WordPress scores 6:

  • Words: 2 (Posts, Pages)
  • Ideas: 1 (Posts or Pages?)
  • Clicks: 2 (Click Add New, Click Publish)
  • Screens: 1

Possible points of confusion: Posts and Pages are not clearly explained or differentiated.


Task #2. Adding Images

Let's take another example: adding images to content. I'm going to start from the viewpoint of someone who is in the process of creating an article.

WordPress scores 7:

  • Words: 1 (Media)
  • Ideas: 1 ("Media" included images)
  • Clicks: 3 (Add Media > Drag the image > Insert into post)
  • Screens: 2

WordPress made a very smart choice in version 3.9 by allowing users to upload images by dragging them onto the editor. The "Drop files to upload feature" will reduce the score from 7 down to 2. It's a huge improvement.


Task #3. Editing Images

This is another huge win in WordPress 3.9.

Let's imagine we're writing a post, but our image needs to be cropped. The score for WordPress 3.8 is 6:

  • Words: 0
  • Ideas: 0
  • Clicks: 3 (Update > Media > Edit > Edit Image)
  • Screens: 3

But in WordPress 3.9, that process is much faster. The Edit image screen is now available you're writing - you don't have to go the Media screen. With 3.9, the score drops from 6 to 4:

  • Words: 0
  • Ideas: 0
  • Clicks: 2 (Click the Pencil > Edit Image)
  • Screens: 2

Task #4: Adding Videos

Adding video is somewhere where WordPress really shines now. WordPress scores 4. We've scored this process at over 50 with other platforms.

  • Words: 0
  • Ideas: 2 (You can drop a YouTube URL into the post, It must be a new line)
  • Clicks: 1 (Grab the URL)
  • Screens: 1 (Go to YouTube.com)

One suggestion to make this more useable is some kind of error message or automatic padding if people try to add link on the same line as other text.


Task #5. Organizing Content

Let's look at organizing content. Again, I'm going to take the perspective of a user who is writing content. I'm going to ignore tags and concentrate on categories.

WordPress scores 5. You can organize your content at the same time as you are writing.

  • Words: 1 (Categories)
  • Ideas: 1 (Categories are used to organize content)
  • Clicks: 2 (Add New Category > Add New Category)
  • Screens: 1

Task #6: Creating Menu Links

What happens if I want to create a menu link to my new post or page? WordPress scores a 9 here:

  • Words: 0
  • Ideas: 1 (Menu links control the navigation)
  • Clicks: 7 (Update > Menus > Check the box > Add to Menu > Re-organize the links > Save Menu)
  • Screens: 1

You'll notice that this is the highest score so far. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a usability overhaul for menus sometime during 2014.


Task #7. Adding Users

Let's take another third example: adding users. This turns out to be very, very easy:

WordPress scores 4:

  • Words: 0
  • Ideas: 0
  • Clicks: 3 (Add New > Add New User)
  • Screens: 1

Task #8. Adding Extra Features

How hard is it to add extra features to WordPress?

WordPress scores 6:

  • Words: 1 (Plugins)
  • Ideas: 0
  • Clicks: 2 (Add New > Search Plugins > Install Now > OK > Activate Plugin)
  • Screens: 3

Task #9. Moving Widgets

How hard is it to add move a widget from one area to another? I'll take a viewpoint of someone looking at their site.

WordPress scores 7:

  • Words: 1 (Widgets)
  • Ideas: 1 (Widgets are the blocks of content on my site)
  • Clicks: 4 (Dashboard > Widgets > Open the new area > Drag the widget)
  • Screens: 1

One way to improve this screen would to have new widget areas expand automatically when a widget is dropped on top of them.

Further in the future, users could re-arrange widgets by drag-and-drop on the front-end of their site.

We've already seen a lot of ideas thrown around for improving this process and there are some improvements in 3.9.

Task #10. Moving a WordPress Site

Some tasks are so complex that they almost fall outside the WICS system.

A good example with WordPress is moving a site.

A lot of web software can be dragged-and-dropped from one location to another. With WordPress you also have to:

  • Change the site URLs in the database
  • Modify the permalinks
  • Fix the image URLs, often via a plugin

The complexity of this task is far greater than with other software. If it took the time grade this on our WICS score, I'm sure it will get well over 100. No wonder this is starting to attract some proposed fixes.

Over to you ...

What's your experience been teaching people how to use WordPress?

Are there any pain points where WordPress could improve in future versions?

About the author

Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.