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Getting involved with the 2.9 beta testing

Posted October 12, 2009 by Peter Westwood. Filed under Development.

We have been hard at work now for a few months on the new features that will be coming in WordPress 2.9, and we are near the time when the first beta version will be available. We’ll need your help with beta testing the new features and ironing out any bugs.

There are a number of different ways in which you can get involved in the testing process, and each way is suited for each persons skill set and comfort level.  First of all, you can join the wp-testers mailing list to keep up to date with the testing progress and to discuss things with the other testers.  Secondly, you can head over to the Trac ticketing system and either create tickets for bugs you find or use some of the useful searches to look for patches that need testing or that need someone to try and reproduce the issue.

During the beta phase we are going to focus on stabilizing the new features and removing existing bugs which are well-understood and have easily testable solutions.  During this process we will not be adding any new enhancements so as to ensure that the focus is on making the 2.9 release as bug-free as possible.  We will also try and have a few special bug hunt days where one or more experienced WordPress developers will be available to help people track down issues and get patches committed to fix bugs.

To make is as easy as possible for you to get a beta testing install up and running we have put together a small WordPress plugin which makes it really easy to convert a test install of the latest release version of WordPress into a beta test install of the next up and coming release.  The plugin is called WordPress Beta Tester and is available to download from WordPress Extend or can be installed using the built-in plugin installer.  Please make sure you to only install this plugin on a test site. We do not recommend running beta versions on your normal, live sites in case anything goes wrong.  You can read more about the plugin in “Making it easy to be a WordPress Tester

We are aiming to release the first beta version of 2.9 around the end of October, after we have put the finishing touches on the new features. Then we switch to full on beta testing mode and your help and feedback will be very much appreciated.  During the beta test program will push out new builds for automated upgrades regularly. Once we feel that a suitable level of stability has been achieved we will move into the release candidate phase. We hope to be able to make the final release 2.9 build available in either late November or early December.

Contributing to WordPress, Part III: Usability Testing

Posted May 4, 2009 by Jen. Filed under Development, User Interface.

One of the reasons WordPress 2.7 was such a success is the amount of usability testing that took place during the development cycle. Starting with testing 2.5 and the Crazyhorse prototype and following with the 2.7 beta, the testing program looked at almost every feature and function in the application. That kind of thing? Takes a lot of time. 🙂

For readers who aren’t familiar with the process behind usability testing, here’s an overview. First, determine the scope of your test and create a test protocol/script. Determine the audience segments to be included in the test group(s), and begin recruiting. Recruiting may mean hiring an agency to find participants, but for testing WordPress, it makes more sense to recruit from within this community, so that means making a screening survey, reading all the responses, segmenting the respondents into categories and contacting people until you’ve filled your desired quotas (for whatever segments you’re seeking, such as newbie, experienced user, developer, CMS user, photoblogger, mobile user, etc. ). Then come the test sessions.

Depending on what is being tested, these last anywhere from half an hour to an hour and half apiece. Sessions are generally recorded using screen capture and web cam, with a video camera for backup. The moderator(s) generally take notes during sessions and/or (depending on what software is being used for the session capture) set markers in the video to indicate task completion, comments of interest, etc.  In some cases, auxiliary test methods such as eye-tracking may be included. When the sessions are complete, the results are analyzed. All the notes and videos are reviewed, patterns are identified, and ultimately a report is written and the feedback informs the next round of revisions.

Some people think it shouldn’t take much time to do all this. I’ve lost count of the number of people who cite an old article by Jakob Nielsen that says you don’t need to test with more than 5 users because usability issues become clear right away. While I’ve found that to be generally true, when your user base is as diverse in experience level, usage, platform  configuration, language (right to left languages have a pretty different experience) and demography as the WordPress community is, 5 users really isn’t enough to get a clear picture. We try to test with at least a dozen people each round, but then we are limited to a geographic region (test in NY, test in SF, or test wherever we can schedule enough people back to back to make it worthwhile), while WordPress users are located all over the globe.

To address this, we’re introducing a set of new contribution opportunities to expand our usability testing program. As with development and graphic design, we’re going to create an infrastructure to allow community participation in usability testing on a regular basis and in a much broader capacity than existed before, when it was limited to announcements that we needed participants in x city on y date. We’ll be looking for volunteer moderators as well as participants, hopefully from all over the world.

Moderators. Observational usability testing isn’t rocket science, but neither is it a simple task to reduce bias. Because of this, at first we’ll choose only moderators who have professional experience conducting usability tests. People who conduct testing for design agencies, software companies, usability consulting firms and the like will be our first round draft picks. In the future, when we have a group of regular volunteers and have ironed out any kinks in the process, we’ll ideally match up experienced testers with aspiring ones, using a mentorship model to increase the number of people who can contribute in this fashion.

Participants. If you use WordPress, chances are you could participant in a usability test at some point. In some cases we’re looking for particular behaviors (people who upload large video files, people who blog from their iPhone, people who manage more than 5 blogs, etc.), while other times the behaviors we’re looking for are much more common (do you have widgets in your sidebar, have you changed themes in the last 6 months, is there more than one author on your blog, etc.).

So how will these opportunities come into play, and how will it make WordPress better?

We’ll start with the moderators, and try to get volunteers with a decent geographic spread. Then, we’ll start signing up potential test participants in those areas (though we’ll also allow at-large registrations, since traveling testing will still be happening). We’re working on a registration process for potential participants. You’ll enter your basic info (location, contact info) and answer some questions about your WordPress usage to be entered in the database, and when there’s a testing opportunity coming up that’s appropriate for you, a local moderator will get in touch to see if you’re interested. Further down the road we may experiment with remote testing and other methods, but for now, this approach will broaden the geographic scope of our testing.

All moderators will follow the same test protocols and script, and their results/reports/video will be reviewed and collated, with a composite report (including the protocol/script that was used) published to the community. This will provide designers and developers with broader feedback during the dev cycle, and will allow the wider community to both understand and participate in the testing program.

If you’re interested in being a moderator during this initial phase (meaning you do it professionally), send me an email and introduce yourself. If you’re interested in signing up as a potential test participant, watch this space. We’ll post a link to the registration survey once it’s ready.

Usability Testing Report: 2.5 and Crazyhorse

Posted October 29, 2008 by Jen. Filed under User Interface.

A question I hear pretty frequently is, “Why a redesign of the admin panel so soon after 2.5?” Those who have attended WordCamps in the past few months have already heard the answer, but for the people who haven’t had that opportunity, this post is for you.

When the community response to the 2.5 admin redesign was mixed, it seemed like a good idea to do usability testing to find out which issues were based on actual interface problems vs. which complaints were just a result of not liking change. To prevent bias, a third party was contracted to conduct usability testing, Ball State University’s Center for Media Design, Insight and Research division. Try saying that three times fast with a mouth full of peanut butter. Or fitting it on a business card. To save time, we’ll just call that third party CMD, since that’s what they call themselves.

The plan that was developed involved multiple rounds of testing, as well as the creation of two prototypes, hardcore! The first phase involved a usability review of 2.5 by CMD, the results of which were discussed with lead developers. A quick prototype was created that addressed some of the lightweight issues, so that the test participants could use both 2.5 on their own blogs and the prototype on a test site. Results would be analyzed and compared, leading to a second round of suggestions. A second prototype would be developed over a week or two, which would then be tested with the same participants, and a final report delivered. But you know what they say… the best laid plans of designers and developers often go awry.

After the first round of testing, it was clear that a prototype delivering the kind of fixes that could be coded in a week or two wouldn’t make much of a difference overall. We all decided a more ambitious prototype was in order, one that would experiment with a new approach to screen real estate and attempt to address as many of the issues from 2.5 as was possible with a few extra weeks of time. A rapid design process was followed by an even more rapid development cycle. The second prototype is what you know as Crazyhorse.

The second round of testing blew everyone away. The research team had never seen such consistent results. Tasks were completed faster, participant opinions rated it higher, understanding of how interface elements worked was greater, and it wasn’t even a fully functional application. Of the test participants, every single one said they would choose the prototype over their current administrative interface, and it wasn’t even pretty (those of you who remember the original Crazyhorse will vouch for this).

A presentation on the process from start to finish was part of the schedule at WordCamp 2008 in San Francisco, and the slides are available online, but as always the slides only tell you so much without the videos, live demo and verbal narration that went with it. (Use Google and you can see audience videos of the presentation.)

Here, then, is a PDF of reasonable size that you can download and peruse at your leisure that outlines the usability testing project in some detail. I wanted to include some eye tracking videos, but the file was so huge it would have been ridiculous for anyone to download it, so I stuck with eye tracking outputs called gaze trails to illustrate the findings. I also tried to pare down the text to the more salient points, since more than 50 hours of test video really does reveal an insane amount of data. I also cut out the section about designing Crazyhorse in the interest of staying under 25 pages. Hopefully you’ll think it’s a good balance. I’ll try to put together a separate document on the design process of 2.7 in a couple of weeks that will include the early Crazyhorse material.

So, if you want to know what we learned from the usability testing this summer that caused us to create what is now 2.7, go ahead and read the report.

WordPress 2.5/Crazyhorse Usability Testing Report (PDF)

Usability Testing in New York

Posted May 20, 2008 by Ryan Boren. Filed under Development.

We’re doing some usability testing in New York City.  Join in if you’re in the area.

Two Contests

Posted June 12, 2007 by Matt Mullenweg. Filed under Events.

There are two contests going on in the WordPress community right now. If you’d like a chance to flex your WordPress skillz and perhaps win a prize and lifelong fame, you should consider dropping your code in the hat.

The first is the Sandbox Designs competition, which is like a theme competition, but working only with CSS and the highly semantic Sandbox theme. They already have a thousand dollars in prizes, so check it out.

Second our friends at Weblog Tools Collection are running a WordPress Plugin competition. They have a blog to track all the entries, but if you’re participating don’t forget to submit your code to the Plugin directory.

Both competitions require entries to be under the same GPL license that WordPress is, so regardless of who wins they’ll make the entire community much richer. (Remember, WordPress itself was written on the base of existing GPL code!)

Color Contest

Posted July 28, 2004 by Matt Mullenweg. Filed under Meta.

Over at my site I’m running a small contest for people to create alternative color schemes for the administration interface. When it’s done I’ll pick a few winners and package everything up in a plugin you can use to spice up your administration a bit. If you have a few free minutes try your hand at it. There will be a few prizes for the winners, including a copy of Color Schemer Studio.

Latest Updates

Posted December 18, 2003 by Matt Mullenweg. Filed under Development.

Just a summary of some of the things I’ve been working on today.

  • The RSS 2.0 feed now supports multiple categories. Not sure how to do it for 1.0 yet, looking into it.
  • The includes stuff now uses constants instead of variables. This means if you’re on the bleeding edge of the CVS you’ll have to update your wp-config.php again. Sorry! I anticipate this being the last change, ever.
  • The renaming is just about complete, with outdated variable references being removed.
  • Quicktags now enter whitespace with list markup to format it nicely.
  • Error messages are a lot smarter, espescially when first starting out. It now tells you the problem exactly if there’s not a wp-config.php file, or if you have any problems with your database connection info. It offers a few common solutions and links to the support forums. It also doesn’t generate a thousand errors like it used to.
  • The default index.php has been updated to clarify some concepts and have the current version number in the generator meta tag.
  • readme.html has been updated to remove some wrong and old things. Needs a lot more work, but hopefully the wp-docs group will get this to be a really great document.
  • The wp-links directory has been eliminated and the files in it have been moved to wp-images or wp-includes.
  • Cleaned a final few include problems. The including system is so much cleaner now.
  • The “Blog this” bookmarklet link has been moved to the posting screen and renamed “Press it”.

And I’m done for the night. More tomorrow…

Point Sever Beta Test

Posted May 25, 2003 by Matt Mullenweg. Filed under Development, Releases.

Before we do a release to the world we really need some testing on the .7 beta, which is now available as .zip and .tar.gz in the beta directory.

If you have any problems or comments you may contact me directly or post to the new Beta forum.

Thanks for your help.

The Month in WordPress: July 2017

Posted August 2, 2017 by Hugh Lashbrooke. Filed under Month in WordPress.

After a particularly busy month in June, things settled down a bit in the WordPress world — WordPress 4.8’s release went very smoothly, allowing the Core team to build up some of the community infrastructure around development. Read on for more interesting news from around the WordPress world in July.


Weekly meeting for new core contributors

Onboarding new contributors is a persistent issue for most WordPress contribution teams. While every team welcomes any new contributors, the path to getting deeply involved can be tricky to find at times.

This month, the Core team implemented a fantastic new initiative: weekly meetings for new core contributors as a way to encourage involvement and foster fresh contributions. The meetings not only focus on bugs suited to first-time contributors, they also make space for experienced contributors to help out individuals who may be new to developing WordPress core.

The meetings are held every Wednesday at 19:00 UTC in the #core channel in the Making WordPress Slack group.

Increased focus on PHP practices in WordPress core

In bringing people together to improve WordPress core, a new channel in the Making WordPress Slack group named #core-php is designed to focus on PHP development in the project.

Along with this increased concentration on PHP, a new weekly meeting is now taking place every Monday at 18:00 UTC in #core-php to improve WordPress core’s PHP practices.

Sharp rise in meetup group growth

The dashboard events widget in WordPress 4.8 displays local, upcoming WordPress events for the logged in user. The events listed in this widget are pulled from the meetup chapter program, as well as the WordCamp schedule.

This widget provides greater visibility of official WordPress events, and encourages community involvement in these events. It’s safe to say that the widget has achieved its goals admirably — since WordPress 4.8 was released a little over a month ago, 31 new meetup groups have been formed with 15,647 new members across the whole program. This is compared to 19 new groups and only 7,071 new members in the same time period last year.

You can find a local meetup group to join on meetup.com, and if you would like to get involved in organizing events for your community, you can find out more about the inner workings of the program on the Community Team site or by joining the #community-events channel in the Making WordPress Slack group.

WordPress 4.8.1 due for imminent release

WordPress 4.8 cycle’s first maintenance release will be published in the coming week, more than a month after 4.8 was released. This release fix some important issues in WordPress core and the majority of users will find that their sites will update to this new version automatically.

If you would like to help out by testing this release before it goes live, you can follow the beta testing guide for WordPress core. To get further involved in building WordPress core, jump into the #core channel in the Making WordPress Slack group, and follow the Core team blog.


Further reading:

If you have a story we should consider including in the next “Month in WordPress” post, please submit it here.

The Month in WordPress: June 2017

Posted July 3, 2017 by Hugh Lashbrooke. Filed under Month in WordPress.

We’re starting a new regular feature on this blog today. We’d like to keep everyone up-to-date about the happenings all across the WordPress open source project and highlight how you can get involved, so we’ll be posting a roundup of all the major WordPress news at the end of every month.

Aside from other general news, the three big events in June were the release of WordPress 4.8, WordCamp Europe 2017, and the WordPress Community Summit. Read on to hear more about these as well as other interesting stories from around the WordPress world.


WordPress 4.8

On June 8, a week before the Community Summit and WordCamp Europe, WordPress 4.8 was released.You can read the Field Guide for a comprehensive overview of all the features of this release (the News and Events widget in the dashboard is one of the major highlights).

Most people would either have their version auto-updated, or their hosts would have updated it for them. For the rest, the updates have gone smoothly with no major issues reported so far.

This WordPress release saw contributions from 346 individuals; you can find their names in the announcement post. To get involved in building WordPress core, jump into the #core channel in the Making WordPress Slack group, and follow the Core team blog.

WordCamp Europe 2017

WordCamp Europe 2017 was held in Paris between June 15-17. The event began with a Contributor Day, followed by two days of talks and community goodness. The talks were live-streamed, but you can still catch all the recordings on WordPress.tv. The organisers also published a handy wrap-up of the event.

WordCamp Europe exists to bring together the WordPress community from all over the continent, as well as to inspire local communities everywhere to get their own events going — to that end, the event was a great success, as a host of new meetup groups have popped up in the weeks following WordCamp Europe.

The work that Contributor Day participants accomplished was both varied and valuable, covering all aspects of the WordPress project — have a look through the Make blogs for updates from each team.

Finally, we also learned during the event that WordCamp Europe 2018 will be held in Belgrade, Serbia, continuing the tradition of exploring locations and communities across the continent.

WordPress Community Summit

The fourth WordPress Community Summit took place during the two days leading up to WordCamp Europe 2017. This event is an invite-only unconference where people from all over the WordPress community come together to discuss some of the more difficult issues in the community, as well as to make plans for the year ahead in each of the contribution teams.

As the Summit is designed to be a safe space for all attendees, the notes from each discussion are in the process of being anonymized before we publish them on the Summit blog (so stay tuned – they’ll show up there over the next few weeks).

You can already see the final list of topics that were proposed for the event here (although a few more were added during the course of the two day Summit).

WordPress marketing push continues apace

As part of the push to be more intentional in marketing WordPress (as per Matt Mullenweg’s 2016 State of the Word), the Marketing team has launched two significant drives to obtain more information about who uses WordPress and how that information can shape their outreach and messaging efforts.

The team is looking for WordPress case studies and is asking users, agencies, and freelancers to take a WordPress usage survey. This will go a long way towards establishing a marketing base for WordPress as a platform and as a community — and many people in the community are looking forward to seeing this area develop further.

To get involved in the WordPress Marketing team, you can visit their team blog.

New Gutenberg editor available for testing

For some time now, the Core team has been hard at work on a brand-new text editor for WordPress — this project has been dubbed “Gutenberg.” The project’s ultimate goal is to replace the existing TinyMCE editor, but for now it is in beta and available for public testing — you can download it here as a plugin and install it on any WordPress site.

This feature is still in beta, so we don’t recommend using it on a production site. If you test it out, though, you’ll find that it is a wholly different experience to what you are used to in WordPress. It’s a more streamlined, altogether cleaner approach to the text-editing experience than we’ve had before, and something that many people are understandably excited about. Matt Mullenweg discussed the purpose of Gutenberg in more detail during his Q&A at WordCamp Europe.

There are already a few reviews out from Brian Jackson at Kinsta, Aaron Jorbin, and Matt Cromwell (among many others). Keep in mind that the project is in constant evolution at this stage; when it eventually lands in WordPress core (probably in v5.0), it could look very different from its current iteration — that’s what makes this beta stage and user testing so important.

To get involved with shaping the future of Gutenberg, please test it out, and join the #core-editor channel in the Making WordPress Slack group. You can also visit the project’s GitHub repository to report issues and contribute to the codebase.


Further reading:

If you have a story we should consider including in the next “Month in WordPress” post, please submit it here.

Older Posts »

See Also:

For more WordPress news, check out the WordPress Planet.

There’s also a development P2 blog.

To see how active the project is check out our Trac timeline, it often has 20–30 updates per day.

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