The New 2.7 Dashboard

Posted October 20, 2008 by Jen. Filed under User Interface.

First, I’d like to say that I’m glad the majority response to the screenshots we posted last week was so positive. With a community as vocal as this one, it’s always a little nerve-wracking to introduce change, but this time it seems like the change was welcomed, which has been great. I’m hopeful that as we introduce the new features of 2.7 over the coming weeks, the good feelings will continue. As promised, here’s a rundown of what’s going to happen to the Dashboard over the next couple of weeks before launch.

I described the menu functions last week, but I forgot to mention something. By default, when you arrive at your Dashboard the first time, two sections of the navigation will be expanded: the Dashboard section (because it is active, so it will have the color highlight) and the Posts section (because it has often-accessed screens in it, and will serve as a cue that you can view other section menus without loading new screens). Once you start clicking menus open and closed, your browser will cookie you, and will remember your menu state. So if you open Posts and Comments, when you come back the next time, Posts and Comments will be open. If you click into your Settings, Posts and Comments will still be open. You’ll need to manually close nav sections. We went back and forth on this, and there was community discussion about perhaps only allowing two sections to be open at a time, but ultimately those approaches would have removed control from the user. And since the mantra of 2.7 is to give the user control over his/her admin interface, we chose to keeps things open if the user had opened them.

Contextual Access Tabs
In the upper right, drop-tabs provide access to contextual features displayed in a layer that appears between the header and the main working area. Screen Options will allow you to choose which modules to display on the current screen. Don’t like seeing the Incoming Links module because no one links to you? A simple checkbox in the Options tab will remove the module from your Dashboard until you decide to reinstate it. Help will highlight some of the changes since the previous version, and provide links to help resources such as FAQ/Forums/Contact Support for .com and Documentation/Support Forums for .org.

Module Layout
In addition to using the Options tab to decide which modules to display on the Dashboard, all the modules on the Dashboard may be moved up or down or between columns using drag and drop. Modules also may be collapsed or expanded by clicking the title bar, allowing another level of screen customization. In 2.8, we also hope to make every single module configurable in terms of what content it displays… we ran out of time for this in 2.7, so for now only the newsfeed modules will be configurable. When you hover over the module, a link will appear in the module header allowing access to the configuration view.

Right Now
The Right Now module contains the same data as before, but it’s been rearranged to provide a clearer display. This list style, as opposed to the previous sentence style, will also make translation for non-English sites easier. Color cues help to highlight things that are not good (red), things that are pending (yellow/orange), and things that are good to go (green).

I’d like to apologize for having a non-core piece of functionality on the Dashboard comp. It’s my fault… when we were working on the comps, we used my wireframes and my live 2.7 Dashboard to assemble our elements, and I forgot that I had the WordPress.com stats plugin installed and a module on my Dashboard. So even though it’s not in core and it turns out the WordPress.com stats plugin is undergoing some reworking of its own, we made the Dashboard stats module easier to scan than the one I currently see when I log in. For those of you on .org who got excited when you saw the Dashboard comp with stats, again, I apologize for the oversight on my part. If you want the candy-like stats goodness we comped up you’d need to install the plugin (or another stats plugin with candy-like elements). There should be a fine-looking Dashboard module as part of the update they release.

QuickPress is a new feature that provides the ability to start (or publish) a simple post from the Dashboard when you don’t need the full feature set of the Add New Post screen. Currently, these posts can contain title, text, media and tags. In 2.8 we hope to make the module configurable, so that each user can decide which few fields make the most sense to display. If you Save as Draft, you will see the new draft appear in the Recent Drafts module right away. Clicking Cancel will clear the form. Publish publishes the post. Posts made using QuickPress are the same as other posts and may be editing by going to Posts > Edit and selecting the post in question. One last thing: both in this module and on the Add New post screen, we’ve put as much space as possible between the Save Draft and Publish buttons, so for all of you who’ve asked at WordCamps or emailed or posted somewhere to request this, ta da! Hopefully this will reduce accidental publications.

Recent Drafts
During the summer testing, one thing we heard over and over was the desire to access recent drafts more easily, preferably with one click from the Dashboard (as opposed to clicking on Drafts from the Right Now module, waiting for page to load, then clicking on a specific draft title and waiting for a second page load). The Recent Drafts module is meant to address that need, displaying the five most recent drafts with the date they were created. In a future version, this module will be configurable as well. In the meantime, if you’re a crosswords-in-pen kind of person and you don’t write drafts, just use the Options tab at the top to hide the Drafts module, and it won’t take up space on your Dashboard.

News feeds of WordPress-related news will function largely the same as they did in 2.6 in terms of configurability, and will simply have a new look. You can still specify the URL of the feed, how many items to display, whether to show headline vs excerpt, author, date, etc.

Incoming Links
Just getting a face lift. Or maybe not a face lift, more like a visit to the Clinique counter.

Plugins can still add modules to the Dashboard. They also still can add top-level menu items if necessary (as opposed to having them in Tools, Plugins, Settings or wherever…like Posts if it’s post-specific). Because we’ll be using iconography in the collapsed menu state, plugins that create top-level menus can create an icon for use in the menu system. When there’s no icon associated with the plugin, a default will be used (kind of the way some blogs show default avatars when no Gravatar is associated with a commenter on your blog). Hopefully, though, most plugins will fit within existing section headers, since our “top level” is not actually made up of menu items, but section headers that open to reveal the real menu items that have screens associated with them. Plugins can also put themselves into the Shortcuts/Favorites menu in the header.

Recent Comments
This module, as in 2.6, displays the most recent comments. However, you now can moderate comments directly from this Dashboard module, including the new Comment Reply feature. For now it will show only the last x number of comments, as it does currently, though in 2.8 we hope to add more configurability to this, or roll it into the Inbox concept.

Bye-Bye Inbox
For those who were at WordCamp SF or who were using the nightly builds while there was still an Inbox placeholder, sorry, no Inbox in 2.7. It turned out to be far more complex than anticipated, and rather than including something rushed and clunky, we’re holding off until a later version. We added the comment moderation to the Comments module to make up for it, so you don’t have to wait for that, at least.

So that’s the new Dashboard. A little more usable, a little prettier, a little more you, a little cooler. Or maybe a lot of all those things. We’ll let you be the judge.

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See Also:

Want to follow the code? There’s a development P2 blog and you can track active development in the Trac timeline that often has 20–30 updates per day.

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