Over at About UI, a couple of SAPpers make the point:
Somehow we need to find the golden path enabling us to rapidly innovate on the UI layer of our software. Shipping these pieces of software around from system to system, from Vendor to Solution Integrator to Customer is key to achieve this flexibility. Enabling end-users and ‘adapters’ along the value chain to customize and adapt their UI is the second key. This is what is often referred to as “UI Flexibility“. The WP dev team got hit by the half of the users which DIDNT like the new admin interface in WP 2.6.5. I thought it was really cool, but thats ok. (Murphy’s law for UX states that whatever improvement you do to the UI, at least half of the users will hate it. Some will like it. The only important factor is in which camp does the CIO reside). What did they do? They Listened to their users and with WP 2.7 allowed you to customize your Admin interface in an iGoogle/NetVibes drag-and-drop paradigm. Cool, no? Why don't we have THAT in our enterprise software?
The writers then go on to explain the kinds of nightmare scenario that enterprise software managers face day in, day out, concluding that:
Makers of Enterprise Software have a lot to learn from the people behind WP 2.7. How they enable fast innovation, UI flexibility and how they listen to their users are three amazing traits. Unfortunately, the enterprise world is complicated. As always - there is no Silver Bullet.
That's the point that many Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 fail to recognize though I do believe that Thomas Otter (ex-SAP, now Gartner and fellow Irregular) makes an excellent point when he uses the metaphorical analogy of the modern racing car steering wheel and the dashboard of the 1921 Amilcar racer. He says:
The problem with a lot of business application software is that it has as many buttons and switches as the example above, but most users would be better of with the Amilcar layout. Most users just want to get in and drive. It is only when you really get to know your user that you can actually design something that works for them.
I think however it's important to bear in mind that while Wordpress is incredibly flexible (owing some of that to the open nature of its architecture and hence the proliferation of plug-ins) it remain a single purpose application. Enterprise systems are not.
But don't think for one minute that Wordpress is immune to issues. Theme developers tell me that many of the plug-ins are not properly tested. Wordpress itself struggles with testing. Take the example of the Lighter Menus plugin many had come to love. Wordpress didn't say explicitly but LM killed the WP2.7 dashboard sidebar. I run an automatic upgrade and as far as I can tell, there is no inline plugin compatibility testing. The problem initially left me thinking: 'WTF?' It was only by applying a bit of sideways logic that I figured the LM plugin was likely to be the problem. Once killed, everything was fine - sort of. The Zemanata server side plug-in for WP insists on staying in the top right or left position whereas I'd prefer the Save/Publish/Update panel to be in that position. These are small things but to the author's point about giving customers what they want, even Wordpress and its plugin developer community have a way to go. More to the point, there is no Silver Bullet. But I, like the About UI guys, give Wordpress a lot of credit for working hard to make users' lives a lot easier while continuing to bake in wanted functionality.
As an aside, it is worth looking at what SAP has done at the UI layer on ByDesign. The first iteration was horrible and many of us complained loudly. To its credit SAP quickly fixed the problem, asserting that new UI's can be developed for the product in 30 days. Today's UI is much more approachable and self evident. It is a world away from the old SAP GUI which must have been spawned by someone taking an overdose of 'ugly pills.'
UPDATE: I found a way of relegating the Zemanta plug-in to where I want it. Collapse all the panels and drop the desired one (in my case publish etc) over the top of the Zemanta plug-in. Problem solved. ;)