Right this second, there are 50 million blogs running on WordPress. That number seems insane, but it’s true. It gives you some perspective on what it takes, and the logistics involved, whenever WordPress comes out with a new update. Having 50 million installs go smoothly, and making 50 million users happy is no easy task. Despite all that, with the release of WordPress version 3.2 aka “Gershwin”, the development team has managed to smack another home run out of the ballpark. After a week of using the new update, I’m deeply impressed, and can recommend upgrading if you’re a WordPress user.
The first thing you’ll notice is the changes to the WP dashboard, On the surface it looks prettier. The fonts, spacing and layout have all been changed, an the improvements look fantastic. WP has never been known for its looks, especially on the backend, but it really looks great. Considering the time many of us spend with the dashboard, it’s a welcome improvement. Working in an attractive environment is a nice bonus and it’s hard to argue with solid UI.
Really, what we’re all interested in though is what’s going on behind the scenes and under the hood. It might sound very exciting, but the biggest thing to come out of Gershwin is that it includes a new theme, “2011” that 100% HTML5 compatible. It’s a good looking theme as well. There’s plenty of flexibility between with colours, columns, and layouts. It appears simple, but since it’s HTML5 compatible, and it can be switched around to your liking, it’s a huge bonus. In the past these features would have been included with a premium theme you need to pay for, but Gershwin offers them for free. It isn’t a perfect theme, but we suspect it will do what’s necessary for many bloggers and you’ll see it popping up often on blogs all over the web.
At its’ heart, WordPress is a blog, so it’s for bloggers, the people who write and post all day long giving us stuff to read and share. The new distraction free writing interface is for them. As bloggers with thousands of writing hours under our belt ourselves, we can tell you: This is awesome! What’s in the new writing interface? Nothing. That’s the point. It’s a big, blank canvas with no distractions and the bare minimum of writing tools. It has just the basics: font changes, adding links, bullet points and some basic formatting. Other than that, it’s just a wide open canvas for putting together your thoughts. The severe clutter that has always been a part of the WP writing screen is gone. You can create a new post, and get down to business with plenty of room to create. This is a basic change, but a huge one that we know will make a lot of people happy.
Sick of IE6? So is WordPress! WP 3.2 is dropping support for this mess of a browser. Is this a new feature? Not exactly, but the more popular services that get rid of IE6, the sooner it will disappear. Which is a huge win for every dev, and webmaster, that likes to keep their sites clean and running well. Along with this change, the minimum requirements to run WP 3.2 have changed as well. PHP 5.2.4 and MySQL 5.0. are now both required to install Gershwin. This shouldn’t be an issue for 99% of people who want to upgrade. Both pieces of software have been available for more than a year, which is plenty of time to get your host server ready for this change. What’s the benefit to the end user? Speed. Requiring these upgrades should make a marked improvement in how fast pages load for people reading your work. Sometimes it takes a hugely popular piece of software, like WordPress, to force upgrades that in the end benefit everyone on the web. We definitely approve, and the number of users that will see this as a negative is miniscule.
In some ways, WordPress 3.2 can be seen as an update that is cutting away the fat. Improved basic software requirements, a streamlined writing interface and a completely re-done dashboard are all a part of this. When it comes to UI, less is often more. Which is certainly the case here. Should you upgrade to Gershwin? Absolutely. You’ll see improvements in speed and stability, a better user interface and a fantastic new writing canvas to create your ideas with. It’s only been a week, but we’re hooked.