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10 Things I Would Do to Improve WordPress as a CMS

WordPress is the greatest :)

WordPress powers roughly 74 million websites on the internet, and has over 46 million user downloads—making it the preferred content management system (CMS) on the web. The WordPress.org database boasts 29,000 plugins and hundreds of free themes—and that’s not even counting themes and plugins sold externally.

But you’ve heard that before, right? I mean, WordPress statistics are all over the web.

Today, I’d like to look at WordPress through the eyes of an objective critic, rather than a glossy-eyed admirer (in real life, I’m frequently both). In this post, I’ll discuss 10 simple, yet important, features that I believe should be integrated into WordPress’s core to help secure its position as the leading CMS.

1. Integrate Google Fonts in the Core

Typography plays a big role in conversion optimization. As a result, it’s something that businesses and bloggers constantly want to tweak.

But WordPress doesn’t have a function that allows users to choose their own font without having to download an external plugin or get their hands dirty in code. How can that be?

True, installing the Google Fonts plugin isn’t a lot of legwork. But it’s nice to have a function like that built into the core, without having to take into account the additional load of another plugin.

2. Integrate a Popular SEO Plugin

Quite simple, really.

Either All in One SEO Pack or WordPress SEO would do the job quite nicely.

After reaching out to Joost de Valk, head of Yoast and developer of WordPress SEO by Yoast, he said:

If Matt approached us and said he’d want to integrate our SEO plugin into core I’d be: a) honored, b) baffled, and c) would immediately say yes. Chance of that happening seems slim though, but I’d be all for moving more of our plugin into core.

I didn’t get a chance to talk to Michael Torbert, creator of All in One SEO Pack, but I imagine his opinion would be similar.

3. Optimize the Post Editor

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 1.12.34 PM

If you’re a full-time blogger, then you probably make your living inside the WordPress Editor. You spend more time in there than you do anywhere else.

If this is the case, it’s fair to say that the Post Editor is pretty important to your business.

Let’s get it optimized!

More white space + less clutter + sleek typography = better concentration for you as you’re crafting your blog.

4. WordPress Backup

I once deleted my site in cPanel’s File Manager.

Yes, it really happened. I selected the folder that contained all of the content from my website, and pressed the big red X in cPanel—deleting my two-month-long labor of love. Not very astute of me, I know, but back then I had very little idea of what I was doing.

Thankfully, I was smart enough to integrate a backup plugin—BackUpWordPress—so my host took care of it within 2 hours. That backup plugin eventually stopped sending me backups because my site’s database got too big. I’ve yet to replace it.

But, the whole process would be much simpler if WordPress just provided backup functionality. The compressed files could easily be sent to the admin’s email, Dropbox, or other popular file hosting service.

Even better would be the ability to restore the backup right from the WordPress Dashboard. I realize that the import function allows you to basically perform this function, but I’m guessing that most of us don’t have the time (or patience, for that matter) to spend pressing the Export button after publishing each post or receiving a new comment.

5. Display Author Bio

Fanciness not required. Just something nice and simple at the end of every post so our readers can get to know the man behind the blog and the guest bloggers.

Again, installing an author bio plugin isn’t a lot of work, but it is another inconvenience.

6. Google Analytics with WordPress

If you’re like me, you’re obsessed with your traffic statistics. There’s actually a bookmark on my toolbar to my Analytics dashboard that receives at least one click hourly.

All in One SEO Pack allows you to easily setup Google Analytics for your WordPress site. So if WordPress ends up adopting AOSP into the core, great.

If not, then how about a function that allows you to easily verify and setup Analytics on any WordPress-powered blog? Better yet, why not even a dashboard that imports a bit of the data and the graphs for easier and quicker viewing?

7. Auto-Generated XML Sitemaps

Hopping over to XML Sitemaps, creating one, and uploading it to your FTP isn’t hard. But it’s yet another pain in the neck.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 1.12.52 PM

The auto-generated XML feed at WPEngine.

WordPress already auto-generates your XML feed (at yourdomain.com/feed), so why not the sitemap while we’re at it?

8. (More) Stylish Social Sharing

Jetpack is great for a lot of things, but I absolutely detest its social sharing icons. They’re ugly and they don’t attraction attention (read: you don’t go viral).

Floating social sharing bars as stickies, on the other hand, are a lot more stylish. Your users are sure to dig ’em.

9. WordPress Related Posts Plugin

Displaying links and thumbnails linking to related content beneath each blog post is proven to increase pageviews. I don’t have anything against YARPP or nRelate, but it’s a basic feature that I believe would be very simple to add to the core of WordPress.

10. A More Productive Dashboard

Every time you log in to your site’s WordPress account, you’re faced with a markedly boring and unproductive dashboard.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 1.13.23 PM

Not too helpful, and somewhat outdated.

Nobody uses QuickPress, and not too many find the WordPress News widget astoundingly helpful, either.

Idea: Why not replace the current dashboard with elements you’ll actually use? My idea? Icons that take you to a few major functions when clicked, like: new post/page-specific plugin page (e.g. Jetpack stats), etc.

Wrapping Up

Am I saying that WordPress is a sub-par or useless CMS? Of course not—it’s far from it! It’s made my life (and the lives of millions of bloggers) a whole lot easier.

Am I providing constructive comments so that WordPress can become an even better CMS in the future? Yes—at least I hope so!

Maybe we’ll all be seeing a few of these fixes in the next couple WordPress core updates! Wouldn’t that be cool . . .

How would you improve WordPress as a CMS?

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 9.53.30 AMJonathan John is a total WordPress fan and freelance blogger for hire. He loves comparing WordPress plugins and themes, sharing the latest Automattic news, and helping non-techies get the most out of the world’s favorite CMS.
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  • http://eatingrichly.com/ Eric J

    I agree! I would love someone to take over digg digg development as it appears that buffer has abandoned it, they announced that it is fully open source over at GitHub so several of us submitted pull requests which they have not touched the core code or pulled in any of ours :(.

    • http://jrjwrites.com Jonathan John

      I didn’t know Buffer stopped Digg Digg development. Any idea why, anyone?

  • haromaster

    A proper database structure that doesn’t save every bit of content to the posts table would be a better start in making WordPress a better CMS / Framework

    • Jay Hoffmann

      +1. Easier said then done though.

      • haromaster

        Yep exactly, then if your going to go down that route you may as well go all way and end up at Rails/Django

    • http://evanvolgas.com/ Evan Volgas

      I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. It’d be nice to not have a rigid dependency on MySQL (or its compatible variants) as well. The comments/ping back table is a nightmare, too.

  • http://twitter.com/j_gardner John Gardner

    I have to disagree with most of these.

    1. No. Typography is part of presentation and should be handled by the theme.
    2. Yes. I agree that moving some/all of AIO or Yoast would be a prudent, however unlikely move.
    3. No. Distraction-free writing mode. It already exists
    4. Yes and no. If core built-in something like BackupBuddy I could see that, but it could be argued the best backup may come from outside WP.
    5. No. Theme territory.
    6. And if someone doesn’t have a Google Analytics acct? 3rd party services are arguably best handled via plugin.
    7. Yes, for the reasons you stated.
    8. No. Social services come and go. It shouldn’t be up to core to keep up with that.
    9. I’m on the fence here. Not totally convinced it should be a core component.
    10. Yes. I agree that post-type counts do little to benefit the site owner. Some better dashboard plugins would be helpful, sure.

    • http://jrjwrites.com Jonathan John

      Thank you for your input, although my views stand. :)

      The majority of these improvements are based around the idea of making WordPress easier for newbie bloggers to navigate (read: NOT developers/coders/techies).

      For some, it’s a cinch to change a font. For others, it’s ten minutes of detestable labour that could have been spent elsewhere — ten minutes a busy blogger doesn’t have. 10 minutes doesn’t sound like much, but multiply it several times, and suddenly it’s a rather large time drain.

      Great to see some discussion on both sides.

      P.S. For #6, you have a very valid point.

    • http://evanvolgas.com/ Evan Volgas

      I agree with John Gardner on most of these points… on 9, Jetpack added related posts recently and nRelate doesn’t depend on the WP database to do its computation. YARPP does, and it’s murder on a low powered site, shared hosting, etc. To me related posts belongs in a third party. And like John noted, third party integration probably doesn’t belong in core (“free as in freedom”). The fact is most of the things on this list are handled, and handled very well, by plugins… I’m not sure that these make good additions to the core. I tell you what would be nice though: bulk plugin uploads. I install the same 5-6 plugins on every site, no matter what (Yoast SEO, BackupBuddy, etc). You can accomplish bulk plugin uploads with a bit of a hack… but if that moved into core, I’d be all for that. Also, on point 10, I don’t think there’s any disagreement at all. The default dashboard is crap, and not that much plugin development really focuses on the dashboard. It’d be absolutely great to have page load stats or plugin profiling on the dashboard by default. Folks who swim in WordPress code know how to profile things… but folks who don’t would probably really benefit from having more info about how their plugins impact performance, and having it straight out the door.

  • hamisherskine

    Most of these are the simplest plugin – why bloat everyones installs with all of this?
    Related Posts and Social Sharing Icons are way to resource intensive to make default.

    I think I only agree with making backups easier and sitemaps, and making an integration could be good. If the others were integrated then the first thing I’d do is remove half of them.

    • http://jrjwrites.com Jonathan John

      *If the others were integrated then the first thing I’d do is remove half of them.*

      Many might do so. But it’s always nice to have the option for it right in the core. Maybe even leave it disabled as default when someone installs WordPress, but just as long as it’s there…

  • mikemanger

    Apart from 3 & 10 I can’t say I really agree with any of the other points. Maybe they would be better suited going into WordPress.com or jetpack where people don’t necessarily need/want as much freedom.

    The TinyMCE 4 editor in the soon to be released WordPress 3.9 is an improvement and they did restructure the dashboard in 3.8 but I agree it could still do with some more work (the ‘At a Glace’ widget could be expanded to be more like the ‘Welcome’ one).

    I want to see how they do the new admin help menus (and screen options) as these are often missed/neglected. Improved admin searching (Omnisearch integration) will also be nice.

    • http://jrjwrites.com Jonathan John

      Hi Mike,

      Have you seen this post on 3.9 changes yet? (torquemag.io/what-to-expect-with-wordpress-3-9/) You might like to check it out.

      Your point about the features going into the WP.com/Jetpack is a good suggestion.

  • shawfactor

    Your list is misnamed. Adding those features to core would make for a better blog not cms. And in any case they can all be added easily with plugins.

    Things like better taxonomy structure, user management, and post to post object relationships are needed fir a better cms.

    • http://jrjwrites.com Jonathan John

      Hi Shaw,

      Thanks for pointing that out — it does make better sense that well. But, after all, WordPress was originally meant to be a blogging software. THE blogging software.

  • taloweb

    I’m sorry but I don’t agree with your analisys: the aim of WordPress should be lightness and extensibility, you can do all of these with plugins.
    I think that WordPress should improve:
    1-dependencies: plugin and theme dependency into core with api
    2-separate presentation layer and functional layer (themes for presentations and plugins for functionalities and presentations)
    3-better media management: posts can contain direct links to media that’s a pain to mantain (above all if you change theme)