The build up to WordPress 4.3 launch day was dominated by talk about the WordPress Customizer, with a lot of uncertainty and disagreement over the direction the Customizer was headed.
It’s fair to say that most regular WordPress users aren’t huge fans of the Customizer, but the core team sees it as an integral part of the WordPress growth plan.
On Wednesday, Weston Ruter published an insightful post over on the Make WordPress Core blog, giving us the clearest clues yet of what’s in store for the Customizer – with details of the two-year goals for the Customizer and the specific functionalities that, they hope, will achieve those goals.
It’s worth pointing out that nothing is set in stone — the suggestions for the Customizer are still at the proposal stage. The core team has given the floor to the WordPress community who are welcome to leave their own suggestions and ideas, which could re-shape how the Customizer looks and performs.
The core team is hoping that, with the community’s blessing, some of these ideas will be finalized. The approved features will then form an official, final roadmap, which will see them actively developed ready for inclusion in the core.
Two-Year Goals For The WordPress Customizer
To start, the team has put forward five top-level goals for the Customizer:
- Improve performance – fairly self-explanatory.
- Improve live previews – currently available on widgets, themes, and menus.
- Experiment with new and different interfaces – improve and modernize the current Customizer interface.
- Remove “ambiguous” mode – currently, WordPress users navigate away from the dashboard view and into the Customizer view. To further segregate the two, the core may make the Customizer functionality accessible from the front-end.
- Add a guided new user experience (NUX) – in other words, add a “setup wizard” to help first-time Customizer users.
To achieve the five goals, the team has put forward a number of potential Customizer features. Take a closer look at these if you want a clue as to how the Customizer might look a few versions down the line.
In fact, the core team has even penciled in some target dates to give us an idea of when the changes might happen. With this in mind, below is the proposed roadmap for the Customizer, complete with possible timeframes:
- Selective refresh (target: WordPress 4.4) – this new feature, originally known as “partial refresh,” will enable the Customizer to refresh only the part of the preview being changed, rather than the entire preview.
- Transactions (target: WordPress version 4.5) – effectively allows you to save draft versions of your Customizer settings, before committing them to the WordPress database.
- Responsive preview (target: WordPress version 4.5) – will allow desktop users to preview their website as it appears on different, smaller devices.
- Concurrency (target: WordPress version 4.6) – formerly “Customizer locking,” this feature will prevent concurrent Customizer users from overwriting the other person’s changes.
- Revisions (target: WordPress version 4.6) – this takes transactions one step further, allowing setting changes to be scheduled, drafted, and reinstated.
- Theme installation (target: WordPress version 4.6) – not much was said about this, but this feature is set to extend and improve upon the WordPress Theme Customizer functionality added in version 4.2.
- NUX wizard (target: WordPress version 4.6, with further refinements in version 4.9) – a guided wizard to help new users get to grips with all of the Customizer’s features.
- Small device improvements (target: WordPress version 4.7) – improvements to the Customizer UI specifically for users of mobile devices and tablets.
- API improvements based on developer feedback (target: WordPress 4.8)
- Improved UI (target: WordPress version 4.9) – the team will be running multiple experiments in 2016 to refine and improve the current WordPress Customizer UI. One of the suggestions was to add the Customizer to the front-end view, with lazy-load eliminating excessive load times.
As we are still in the ideas stage, none of these features have been finalized for the WordPress core yet – and I’d take the timeframes with a pinch of salt for now.
It does, however, give a better indication of how the core team plans to improve the Customizer and make it a more integral part of the website-building process – especially for less experienced WordPress users.
A few months ago, the core team released some initial murmurs that suggested that any functionality that could be added to the WordPress Customizer would be added in time. Despite a clear plan for growing and improving the Customizer, no new functionalities were specifically name-checked for migration across, and the proposed changes look to be primarily focused on improving the Customizer’s usability.
Expect a lot more discussion on the Customizer in the coming months.
What are your thoughts on the proposed changes? Good news or bad news for the Customizer and the future of WordPress? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!