WordPress has change a lot lately. Maybe the most important changes were made back in 2010, when WordPress was updated to 3.0. The change of the prefix came with some crucial changes: custom menus, a new theme and merge with MU. Despite the regulat users that use wordpress only to power a very simple blogs, these changes are not that much, but for those who want to use it for more complex websites, this changes were crucial.

That was the point where wordpress turned from the best blogging platform to the best content management system. I’ve used wordpress to build complex websites before 3.0 a lot, but most of the work I was done was in the template files. After 3.0, non-coder users can do much more changes to the look and feel of the website only from the administration panel.

Now, let’s get back to 2011. In this year 3 wordpress major versions were released ( 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 ). They aimed to bring WordPress CMS to a higher standard where more things can be accomplished without much coding intervention. Let’s see which are the biggest changes of WordPress in 2010. 

10. Full screen editor

WordPress 3.2 came with some nice features to enhance writing experiences. By default, most of the post editing elements are hidden ( custom meta, comment options, change history, etc ), so it is easier for new users to figure out what they have to do in order to publish a post, but the most important change for user Experience was the adding of the full screen feature of the text editor, so there are not any distraction when writing a great post.

9. Drop Support for old versions of PHP, MySQL and Internet Explorer.

Reading this, some will think that this is a bad change. What will do users that host their website on old servers? The versions of PHP and MySQL that are not supported are very very old ( somewhere around year 2000 ). You can’t stop progress only because some guy there have a hosting server brought back in 1998 and still want to run wordpress on it. From my experience, if there is someone who don’t want to waste 1 day to move to a new hosting he is not willing to fire his old programmer who still uses non-css, html templates.

It happened to me to have a client who had all his websites on a old server. I contacted the server administrator and they told me they won’t upgrade because there might be some users that have old websites and they might stop running. I suggested to the client to move on, and he did so. If you care so much about your old and out-dated users, then you will miss all new users ( probably today they are out of business ).

As for the Internet Explorer 6, the first thing that goes in our minds is: “so, users with Internet Explorer 6 can’t access our websites ?”. This is not the case. The admin interface may face difficulties when ran on IE6, but normal users will still be able to access your website. In worst case scenario, they won’t be able to use advanced features provided by some advanced plugins. If you still want to use IE6 to access admin panel ( despite it has no logic ), then you can still use older version of wordpress.

In my opinion, altough this may have no impact in most cases, it is a big step forward.

8. jQuery upgrade.

For those who are not aware, jQuery is the most used javascript library that empower website administrators to easily create sliders, accordions, pop-up boxes, lightboxes and many other nice features. You can find out more about jquery here. The same things can be accomplished by writing simple javascript, but you will have to write much more, and jquery gives you all already done.

The main problem with using jquery elements is that you need to have the proper version. The backward compatibility is good, but not great, and this preventets WordPress to change jquery versions often. What we’ve done, as programmers, to use the newest features of jquery was to load another version of jquery. It worked but the users had to load the both versions, meaning higher loading times. So this, like the previous point, is a big step forward.

7. Admin bar.

Since WordPress 3.1 and admin bar was available when a logged in user browse the frontend of the website. I reckon that I’ve not used this feature. As a developer it is important to see in any moment how users are seeing your website, and normal users can’t see the admin bar.

For very active bloggers can be a great tool because they don’t have to enter the admin panel anytime they want to see if there are new comments. Fewer clicks, better experience.

6. Widgets are saved when the theme is changed.

It happened few times to me, to receive desperate calls from friends who were working on wordpress to tell me that all their widgets dissapeared. When I was asking what they’ve done they said that they tried to see how other theme was looking on the website. Bad move. They should have saved the widgets before they changed the theme, but no one told them to do this. WIdgets are theme dependend, when you change a theme, the sidebars are changed so widgets are lost.

From wordpress 3.3, the widgets are now automatically saved when you change a theme, and you can see them at “inactive widgets”.

5. Internal Linking

I really want to say that I was thinking at such featuer long before it was added in WordPress 3.1. I planned to do create a plugin to add this feature, but what I came up with was very complicated to use ( altough I came up with an option to link to external pages too ). However, this is a great tool to interlink your articles in a page.

Internet linking is very important for any blog. While they read an article, they should get references to other posts so they can make a complete idea of what you are trying to say, or what you are trying to promote.

4. Post formats.

This is one of the best features in added in recent WordPress updates. It may have not great impact on end non-coder users that are using a simple theme, but for developers it is like a gold mine. When a post is added, there is an option to select post format. In the theme it is specified what layout should be used for every post format. It is for common use, for example, you want to have on your site simple text posts, image posts, and product posts, and you want them to be shown different.

You can also find some themes that are already coded to support different layouts for different post formats. Add much more flexibility for theme makers.

3. Admin redesign.

In wordpress 3.2 release, the admin interface was redesigned for a better look and feel. Maybe this will be forgotten next year, but the change affected of all us, in a good way. The admin design was changed so you can access some areas of the admin dashboard faster.

More, in WordPress 3.3 there was another change in the admin panel menu. Now when you hover a menu category, the respective menu links will be displayed and you don’t have to click twice to change permalinks ( for example ). These are small changes with big impact.

2. Drag and Drop uploader.

If you are using Gmail you already know what I am talking about. How much time you lose when you click the “browse” button, then effectively browse trough your whole computer until you get to the directory where your image was saved. Such a waste. Now, with wordpress 3.3, you can simply drag and drop a file from your desktop, or explorer window to wordpress admin panel.

This is a real time saver. You know how important images are for every post, but it is the part of the post creation that I hate the most. First I have to download the image, then search for it in my computer, etc. Now, I download it, and then drag it to wordpress.

1. Twenty Eleven and Theme Framework.

WordPress guys promised that they will release a new theme every year. It is good but in terms of design, there are not many changes from twenttyten. It should be a simple theme where every theme developer should start from. And if they’ve done a very simple theme, there is not much to do to improve the simpliness every year.

Although there are not much changes on the graphic side, there are many changes on the backside. The theme comes with advanced settings so you can make basic changes from the admin panel. You can change the header image, the sidebar position, and some other minor things.  I am anxious to see what they will come with next years and how many things can we change only from the administration panel.

A great thing is that if every theme creator will start from this one he will bring all this functionality to his theme. From my point of view, in future all themes will have this options added. More, they created twentyten to work more as a “theme framework”. This means that anyone can create child themes based on twenty ten. This will prevent replicating all files in twentyten, but those which are really needed In most cases you can do all changes you want only from the style.css file. If you can do this, then you can build a child theme that will consist only in a css file that will take advantage of all options that twenty eleven has, but with an unique design. If you want other html changes, you can create those files too and they will be used from the child theme instead of the parent one.