REMEMBER “LOOK ALIKE, FEEL ALIKE”?

“Look alike, feel alike” used to be the motto of the User Interface area of software development. The idea was that as you developed a product, each new version should “feel the same way” as the one that came before it. Doing this made it much easier for users to understand additions and fixes to the software they owned and when properly trained, developers understood how to “tune” the software to make the lives of customers easier and better. That was way back in the days when software engineers and company owners still cared about customers. Making good software was what they wanted to do — not necessarily squeezing the last dime from each and every customer.

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I worked for (mostly) newly-hatched development companies. A lot of them never got their products to market because when the “dot com” bubble burst, they lost their backing. When an economic bubble pops, it’s like dominos going over. Nothing stands alone. The little 10-person company for which I worked is being funded by another, slightly larger company, funded by possibly several somewhat bigger organization. Many of the products we were working on eventually did come to market after going bankrupt, but the same people found new funding after the economy righted itself. Always and forever, our goal was to create software that could be easily understood by the customer, NOT just by the developers.

This is why I did so much testing as part of my job. I had to make sure that whatever the developer was attempting to do actually worked the way he or she said it did. Developers don’t test the way users need products tested. Developers have all kinds of shortcuts so they don’t have to go through every step of the process. Their “quick tests” are fine for them, but users MUST go through every step of the process because they have a job to do and they can’t cut chunks of their work out to get to the end result without doing all the parts in the middle. For example, since I worked most of the time on databases, the end point of the process was that a company would enter its products and all of the pieces that were part of the product into a database. You could call up the product and see all its parts, or you call call up any of its parts and see the larger product. It didn’t matter whether it was a truck or an engine, or a part of an engine or some kind of aviation monitor. In order for the database to do its job, ALL the parts of the product had to be listed in a variety of ways to make it possible for the customer to find the piece — even if it was the nut on a screw — he or she needed to fix something. And this had to work quickly and be extremely accurate. It had to be easy to remove an old part that had been redesigned or eliminated from inventory as it was to enter a new product and all its parts.

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The easier you made the product, the better ratings you got. Most of the little companies I worked with who invented stuff were ultimately bought by larger companies who took new stuff and included with existing technology. That was how business was done.

It wasn’t unusual for these small companies to be funded by larger companies in the first place. It gave the baby company a lot of freedom to invent products that bigger organizations would never have created. But — at no point did anyone produce a new version of an existing product that would require a corporation to retrain an entire organization to use it — which is what WordPress has done. In a real business world scenario, this would probably put them out of business and if the market for blogging weren’t so minimal, I don’t think they’d survive this current scenario.

So for all of us who find ourselves pushed into a corner and having to use the block editor for work that doesn’t need a block editor while discovering a post now takes twice as long to complete as it did before, welcome to what we used to call “badly designed software.”

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I didn’t just write documents. I was part of a team and worked with developers — each of whom had a specific area to develop — to build software which was intuitive (read “easy”) to use and as bug-free as possible. Upgrades always included real improvements to functionality or major fixes to bugs, not just glitzy overlays. It had to integrate with a previous version and add VALUE to the software.

These days, many products are so overlaid with bells and whistles no one wants or needs, the functions of the customers (us) are lost beneath whatever a developer thought was a “really cool idea.”


Thus when you find yourself using the “classic” block in the editor to get an imitation of what you did before and you wonder what the point of all of this confusion was? Money.


In this case, it’s trying to make the editor able to build something that imitates a fancy, commercial magazine site. It has nothing to do with what most of us do. The developers who have been doing the work never asked us what we wanted or needed. They are developers who have never written a post or a photograph.They have no understanding of writers or artists. If you ask them, they also don’t care.

Yes, the “classic” block more or less mimics the older classic editor — leaving one with the sour taste of why they couldn’t leave us that to use if that’s what we wanted. If you buy their higher priced packages you CAN get the classic editor back, by the way. You just have to pay more than twice the price for something you used to get as part of your package. You just have to love price gougers, don’t you?

The “classic block” is not the classic editor. It’s an imitation and they can take it away, just like they took away all the high quality customizations we originally paid for and that’s why I am very loathe to pay them more, even if I had the money. I used to get all this same stuff for the price I’m paying, but they stripped it out and put it in a more expensive package. They did it once and they will do it again. You can’t trust them.

This IS what I did for a living. I didn’t just write manuals. I worked with a team of developers to create software which did what customers needed done.

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The point of setting up this kind of process was to make the software “intuitive.” Things that worked in tandem were grouped together. It should not take more than 10-minutes for a user to grasp how an upgraded editor works. It doesn’t have to be this way. Properly done, new software can and should be easier to use. Also, the result of the effort ought to be a better product or why bother with an update at all? Oh, right. I forgot. Money. I keep forgetting that this isn’t about customers. It’s about money.

Still — why make it harder? Usually, it’s because no one is in charge who understands customers. There is no excuse at this point in the software development cycle for creating a stupid User Interface. It’s not as if we went blindly into the interface biz. What the software does “underneath,” its essential functionality, is one thing. How it’s presented to the user is done by developers who specialize in designing a user interface.

This isn’t 1982 when we’re figuring out how an editor is supposed to work. We’ve been there. Done that. If WordPress listened to their customers, this didn’t need to be such a mess. It didn’t need to have so many pointless complexities. I shouldn’t NEED to go searching for the “sticky” function. It should be grouped with other publishing tools. It’s sloppy work at its best and it will be years before they get it sorted out IF they sort it out. They fix bugs only when they consider them bugs. Just because it’s inconvenient and hard to use, they don’t have to fix it.


It’s not a bug. “It’s a feature.”


Since they often just leave things (no matter how poorly thought out), but keep adding stuff on top of stuff that doesn’t work well, issues lurk. It won’t matter how much money you pay. Badly designed software gets worse over time. It only gets better if and when someone cares enough to make it better.



Categories: Anecdote, Application, Blogging, database, Graphics and Design, humor, Money, Software, Technology

Tags: , , , ,

21 replies

  1. “The ‘classic block’ is not the classic editor. It’s an imitation.” Yes, and you make a good point about why they bothered, within the block editor, to give us an imitation of the classic editor. They must had had some realization that their users would not take kindly to them pulling the rug out from under us.

    On an entirely different note, did you ever see the TV show “Halt and Catch Fire”? It’s about the early days of the PC industry. It’s fiction, but it rings true about how personal computing evolved in the early 80s. It was a series (4 seasons, 40 episodes) on AMC, but we binged watched it on Netflix. Given your background, you might enjoy it.

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    • And that’s what I was DOING in the early 80s. In Israel, which was one of the first two countries (the U.S. was the other one) who did the early research into computers. Pity we sold everything to the Chinese and Japanese after investing so much in the research. Our economic policies are really stupid.

      It was really interesting being involved in those early years of PC development. We were busily inventing databases and word processors and bi-lingual word processors. We had to walk all the way across the Weizmann Campus to get our printouts which were in a special room and it was all mainframe. The guy who took care of the mainframe was a little orthodox Jew who showed up with what looked like a medical bag with lots of little tools in it. He was God. When the machinery didn’t work, we spread rose leaves on his path to the machinery. My boss — Tsvi Mi Sinai (translation: Tsvi from The Sinai — how’s THAT for a name!) was the head of the computer department at the Weizmann.

      One day, the Prez of the university asked him and his group to see if they could find a way to organize the university’s various kinds of material onto some kind of computerized setup out of which came DB-1, bought by IBM and which became the great grandfather of all the DB units that would follow. THEN I came back to the U.S. and got into the development of pointers and databases based on pointers and eventually databases that used all the different mechanisms … and here we all are, our lives being run by databases. I have no one but myself to blame.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was distraught over losing Classic Editor and emailed WordPress to let them know…. Here’s what I got back for a response (I sure hope it works): I also hope WP is listening and we keep complaining… Hope this helps some of you too, BUT please keep complaining to WP ! ~Bette

    Hi Bette,

    We will not be bringing back the previous editor, but if you do not like the Block Editor you can still access the Classic WordPress editor from your site’s WP Admin Dashboard.

    https://wordpress.com/support/editors/#classic-editor

    Please let us know if we can help you with anything else!

    Kris

    Happiness Engineer

    WordPress.com

    Like

  3. My sister is really struggling with her WordPress site and this crazy block editor. She has even had our cousin a software engineer look at it. His response was “Why the heck did they do that?” (His language was a little stronger than mine).
    Following a close second to this though is the new Facebook updates. Holy Moses! They are hard to work with particularly when you are attending a live stream and trying to make connections such as people are doing all over the globe now for church.

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    • WordPress blocked me (ask them why because I don’t know) and since I loathe them anyway, I just dumped them. But as for the block editor, it’s a completely useless and unnecessarily complicated format for something that absolutely doesn’t need that kind of complexity. I will hang on through the election, but after that, I think I’m going to bale. For anyone who is heavily dependent on photographs mixed with words, it’s a nightmare to work with. And it eliminates creativity, forces you to write the way they think you should write. I don’t write that way and never have. I’m not going to pay them more to get back what they’ve taken away. Why in the world would I trust them?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That Block Editor: Somehow I’ve been able to avoid it and still use the old one. Many because I don’t have the top WP program – so they mercifully haven’t inflicted it upon us yet. I have tried their previous attempts and found they were harder to use – not better – as they claim. Reverse technology is pretty common. I just think they have people sitting around down there who are afraid it will be discovered that they aren’t necessary. So they invent stuff. Politicians do this too. Make laws we don’t need and didn’t ask for. That’s my main beef – they never ask us.

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    • They just haven’t gotten to you yet. They are rolling this out in pieces, location by location. You can still use the old editor — but it’s REALLY the OLD OLD editor — unless you test the new one. Once you test the new one, you can’t go back and since they aren’t supporting the old one, you’re on a short leash anyway. The alternative is to pay them more than twice what I’m already paying. I won’t do that. I CAN’T do that and what’s more, I don’t like the format, so why should I pay them more to get back what they stripped away? Nothing lasts forever. I think this is my long farewell period. I’ll stay with it through the election, but after that, I don’t think so.

      Like

  5. Marilyn, Thank you for taking the time to put into words why I’m pulling my hair out over the new and improved Word Press . . . just saying, Claudia

    Like

    • I spent my adult life working with development teams and I know crappy development when I see it. There are places in this world for a block editor, but blogging definitely isn’t it. This kind of format is a design format for books and magazines … and it’s a poor design, too. The immovable blocks so you can’t insert photographs after you’ve written text? A lot of the time, I write my text before I’ve even taken the pictures. I use the writing to decide what photographs I need. And I’m betting that how many of us work.

      Like

  6. We could definitely use that old business model you work under Marilyn. This new one is going to self implode.
    Leslie

    Like

    • Yes, but they aren’t supporting the old one and it has many many issues they never solved. Since they have no intention of fixing them, it too is going to explode. Short of actually give us back what we had and apologizing, I don’t see what they can do that will work for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Very well put. Bravo for the old days when the customer was king and not some faceless number with a pocket full of change. I’m really sorry you’re still having to fight that %$@# new editor. I’ve got my work arounds, and so far I’m able to work around using that ridiculous block crap. It’s a bit more tricky, but not any worse than other word processing software I used in my day. Those old skills are getting a polish! Oddly just now (as I was reading your blog post) I got an email from WordPress inquiring if I liked their customer service ‘experience’ in response to my complaint about being forced to use the block editor. No notice, no kiss, not even a chocolate on my pillow as warning that I was flung into block mode abruptly. They got an earful. I don’t think they’re offering customer service at all, they’re looking for validation. They’re never getting that from me.

    Like

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  1. Reblog – Look Alike – Feel Alike – Marilyn from Serendipity | sparksfromacombustiblemind

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