Add the features your users want, not the features you want them to have

WordPress has just added a feature to include related links to the end of your posts — which is a good feature, and one that users wanted — but done it in such a way that it has really annoyed their users. Tony alerted me to this, and Lavratus Pradeo has a good, brief summary of what is wrong with this feature as implemented (creates links to content that may be unsavoury by the blog owner’s definition, while implying that the links are endorsed by the blog owner), and more importantly, how to turn it off.

There is a user experience lesson in this. WordPress took a feature that their users wanted, and tried to make it significantly better for WordPress, but in so doing made it significantly worse for their users. The end result of this is that WordPress is getting criticized heavily on the blogs they host, and that many people (probably every non-spammer that hears about this and reads the instructions on how to turn it off) will not use the feature. This situation is lose-lose — WordPress (especially by rolling out the feature without telling anyone) appears to its users to have acted in bad faith, and users still don’t get the feature they have been requesting. Had WordPress executed this mopre sensibly, their users, delighted with the extra feature, would be singing their praises right now instead of condemning them. The moral of the story is that it is best to provide users with what they actually want, rather than what it is felt they ought to want.

Update 29 April 2008: I saw some of these today, and the words ‘Automatically generated’ have been added to ‘Related posts’.  This addresses the potential reader misconception that the posts are recommended by the blog author, but not the other problems listed in the links above.  This is a step in the right direction, but not a complete solution.


4 Responses to “Add the features your users want, not the features you want them to have”

  1. 1 Gabriel... Tuesday, April 29, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    I totally agree. I think a lot of it has to do with their lack of a communications plan, and the youth of the company. WordPress is great on the individual level… the Forum works well, their FAQ’s are comprehensive, and their support is excellent. Anytime I’ve had a problem which couldn’t be fixed via an FAQ or in the Forum their support people have responded within the hour. But when they roll out features they do it in a secluded spot of WP, in an area where only a few people ever look. Then the Forum’s fill up with confused and panicked people… or people just try to deal with whatever they’ve been given.

    The thing is, it isn’t new. This is what always happens, take their roll-out of the new dashboard. Personally, I love it… but it took everyone by surprise, and the only notice of what happened was a link on the WP splash page. Their reaction to what’s being written about this new feature will be very interesting…

  2. 2 Matt Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 5:08 am

    We’re going to try to use our tips system to get the word out about new features a little better. We’ll see how it goes.

  3. 4 Matt Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 10:47 am

    New blog posts now show up as tips.

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