Version 3.8 of WordPress was a long time coming. It may seem like yesterday that 3.7 came out, but the 3.8 dev cycle started many months ago in parallel.
I contributed to the MP6 plugin a little early on, mainly helping make the admin responsive. Others became more involved and crafted a truly beautiful experience. That’s WordPress, we’re all in it together.
A New Release Strategy
The most interesting part about the 3.8 release is the way it was created. It was the first time the core WordPress group tried developing in separate plugins that could then be merged into a full release. If a plugin wasn’t ready by the time the code freeze rolled around, it would simply be punted to the next release. This is clever because it allows WordPress to be developed more fluidly and should result in more frequent and refined releases over time.
Updating a large software project can easily become a drawn-out process when large groups of people have to sign off on every decision. Thanks to smaller teams based around plugins much of this could be sped up in 3.8, and the barrier to entry was significantly lower as a result. Most of the everyday discussions could happen in realtime and decisions were generally reported upon instead of being surveyed for.
If the model is kept, more users will be able to get involved as contributors. They will have the power and incentive to do better work and to contribute more often. This will enable WordPress to stay as active as possible while making sure the quality of the product doesn’t devaluate over time.
We’re doing something similar with the mobile WordPress apps: major iterations and feature additions are developed in parallel so that they can be merged whenever they’re ready, which marks the next point release. This has worked great for us as well.
A Responsive Admin
It’s as important that you can access your entire site from mobile as it is for your visitors to be able to read your content. 3.8 makes this possible. It’s not a perfect experience (lots of information in a small space!) but it’s a great first step.
The beauty of any responsive interface is that it doesn’t just benefit one particular set of devices, but does its best to stay usable wherever in any context it’s displayed. This means that the WordPress admin is now fully functional on any smart phone, tablet or computer. For example if you resize your browser window on your laptop to be able to see both the Post Editor and the preview at the same time, you now won’t feel claustrophobic since the editor resizes beautifully.
A Professional Default Theme
The Twenty Fourteen theme is an unprecedented occurrence: it’s an out-of-the-box gorgeous magazine-like theme that is especially well suited for businesses and publications. It’s responsive, powerful, and versatile. Where previous themes shipped with WordPress have been gorgeous on their own, they’ve also been either focused on bloggers or site owners willing to get down into the gritty details to make it their own. Twenty Fourteen stands out and is the perfect companion for 3.8.