I switched from MoveableType to WordPress back in September of last year and it’s been one of the best decisions that I’ve made regarding this blog. WordPress is just so much easier and, dare I say, FUN to use. There’s a richer developer community, more templates and generally more help out there than there is for MT. But my joy with working with WP over MT is more than just skin deep.
The feature set of MoveableType and WordPress are virtually the same. I really haven’t found where WP does something that MT can’t do, or vice versa. The difference is HOW each product approaches publishing online. There is something distinctly different in the WP approach that makes it much more accessible. It’s not just in the user interface, or the fact that WP uses PHP instead of PERL — it’s how the entirety of the application has been designed and you have to experience it to understand it. WP is just a much more coherent approach to publishing. It works better, it feels better and it helps me publish to the point that the tool actually disappears from my perspective. MT, on the other hand, feels more like I’m trying to pull a donkey up a hill. I’m constantly having to fight against the program to complete the task at hand.
These differences were recently brought to my attention as I compared how SixApart and Automattic addressed adding Social Networking to their product lines. Products like FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube have changed how people market their sites/products/services online. It’s now common practice to promote through all of these channels to draw traffic to your site, but there’s a new trend on the rise that is looking to reverse that process.
The new question that is being asked is “Instead of going out to these various networks, why not have them come to us?” In answer to that question, SixApart has released Motion and Automattic has released BuddyPress.
At first glance they may look similar, but as you dig into it, it’s clear that BuddyPress has a much more coherent approach and is easier to understand. When I first watched the video for Motion, I kept going “Huh? How am I supposed to use this?” If you take a look at the Motion Demo, you’ll see what I mean. It’s just a pile. In my office, we have a nickname for Facebook. We call it FacePile, because it just dumps a pile of various and sundry information at your feet. Motion does that to an even greater degree. After looking at the demo, the only feeling I’m left with is “Why?” Why would someone want this on their site?
Then you take a look at the BuddyPress Demo and there’s a remarkable difference. It’s clearly designed to mirror the FaceBook style of community, but it’s cleaner and clearer as to what you can do and how everything works. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that it’s a better design that FaceBook! I’m currently developing a new community web site and I actually had to stop and think about BuddyPress for quite some time. So at the end of the demo, I’m left thinking “How would I use this?” Not, “Why would I use this?”
So What’s Your Point?
Most of what I do on a day-to-day basis is work with users and distill down complex technology systems into plain english for my clients, friends and family. I guess you could say that I live in the world of interaction between user and interface.
So often when I’m talking with a developer and the subject of UI comes up, they just roll their eyes and dismiss it out of hand. Since it’s not quantifiable and algorithmic, it gets treated like alchemy — which perhaps is right — but the attitude is one of disdain and frustration, not of respect and appreciation.
Add to this equation the fact that I’m not a designer, so my vocabulary is a little limited when describing systems and UI. Then along comes two answers to the same question and I can finally point and say, “Do THAT, not that.” and I find that a little exhilarating.
This example also reminds me why I enjoy WordPress so much and why moving away from MovableType was such a good decision.