A Look Into: WordPress UI Evolution For The Past 10 Years

WordPress turned 10 and the name certainly doesn’t need an introduction, especially to those who are involved in blogging. WordPress has been one of the greatest tools a writer can have when it comes to online publishing. It has certainly made its name over the whole Internet, and helped bloggers and website owners to achieve their publishing dreams.

Many popular websites rely on WordPress to reach out to their audience. At the time of writing this article, the latest version of WordPress has already reached over 28 million downloads. If you have ever wondered how WordPress got so big so fast, we’re going to take you through that journey right now.

In this post, I will talk about how WordPress turned from a simple tool for publishing thoughts online, to a CMS (Content Management System) as advanced as it is now. We’ll look specifically at how the WordPress Admin UI has changed since WordPress 0.71 until WordPress 3.5 and beyond.

WordPress 0.71

Code name: Gold – Released date: 2003

This was the first version of the popular CMS, and it focused on simplicity. There is no dashboard to welcome you with your site stats or other information. Users can have three status modes for a post: ‘Publish’, ‘Draft’ and ‘Private’ for the first time.

wordpress gold

This makes it flexible for you to manage your posts by either saving it for later, or publishing it right away. It didn’t have many features, not like what we have today but back then, it was a gift to writers by Matt Mullenweg.

WordPress 1.0

Code name: Miles – Released date: 2004

Released in 2004, this was the second major release of WordPress, and also the first version to be named after a jazz musician,Miles Davis, as we can see from the WordPress site itself: ‘WordPress core developers share a love of jazz music‘.

wordpress miles

This version of WordPress had some improvements to both UI and core features as compared to its previous version. This was the first version to allow users to assign multiple categories to their posts as well as creation of search engine friendly permalinks.

WordPress 1.2

Code name: Mingus – Released date: 2004

This version released in 2004 added a whole lot of features to WordPress and the Admin UI. For the first time, users can see the ‘Plugins’ section in the WordPress Admin UI, which is one of the best features of WordPress if you are the kind who like to expand your site’s capabilities without getting your hands dirty.

wordpress mingus

Users were now able to create Sub Categories for arranging their posts systematically, and for styling, users can also create thumbnails for their posts in this version of WordPress.

WordPress 1.5

Code name: Strayhorn – Released date: 2005

This was the first version of WordPress to show us the so much popular “WordPress Dashboard”. Logging in takes you to the Dashboard instead of the posts page. It also had a tabbed interface allowing users to switch between tabs to either create a post or a page, which wasn’t available in its predecessors.

wordpress staryhorn

WordPress 1.5 kept user requests and complaints in mind, and thus tailored exactly to the needs of the users at that time. This was the first version of WordPress to divide the entire theme structure into separate files such as header.php, footer.php and sidebar.php, and so if you make change to any of these files, it gets reflected throughout the entire site, instantly.

WordPress 2.0

Code name: Duke – Released date: 2005

At last, the admin panel had a change in colours, from shades of black and grey to some shades of blue, giving it a fresh and different look from the previous versions. This version released in 2005 and introduced the advanced TinyMCE editor which we all love to use for formatting our posts.

Users were now able to upload images to enrich their posts. The whole admin panel got a facelift, and the preview of themes via ‘screenshot.png’ was added, along with other brand new features.

wordpress duke

AJAX was injected to the roots of the WordPress admin panel, thus making actions much swifter than ever before, so now when you delete a comment or a post tag, it will gently fade away without reloading the page, thus saving time and bandwidth. You can now customize your workspace by dragging and dropping panels on the working area.

WordPress 2.5

Code name: Brecker – Released date: 2008

This version of WordPress was released in the year 2008 and had the most beautiful UI of WordPress till then according to me. It was from this version when the WordPress UI started to look like what it is right now. With the introduction of this version the file uploader was revamped with a new look and a few essential features to go.

wordpress brecker

For the first time in WordPress history, users were now able to upload multiple images or other post attachments at once and finally get to know how much time the uploads will take with the help of a progress bar.

WordPress 2.7

Code name: Coltrane – Released date: 2008

By this time, WordPress had grown rapidly and reached thousands of bloggers, prepped with great ideas for great sites, all roaring to go. The entire framework of the Admin Panel UI has changed, and a sidebar consisting of links to essential tools needed to manage a WordPress powered site was added to the panel giving quick access to needed tools.

The Admin Panel was divided into different sections such as “Publish”, “Tags”, “Comments” and more which gave rise to the addition of two useful features in this update, “Screen Options” and “QuickPress”.

wordpress coltrane

While “QuickPress” made posting easier and faster right from the Dashboard, “Screen Options” helps in cleaning up your writing space as well as dashboard, and have it the way you want not what is fixed by the developers. Some other features include 1-click plugin install, rearranging sections on dashboard and more.

WordPress 3.2

Code name: Gershwin – Released date: 2011

We move ahead to the year 2011 to a refreshed and modern UI for WordPress with the introduction of version 3.2. The UI has changed a lot, completely redesigned, while at the same time, keeping the CSS light so as to load the panel a whole lot faster.

wordpress gerswhin

This version features another a great tool “Full Screen Editor”, which provides a distraction-free writing experience. Also the Admin Bar was given some love too, and with the addition of new features such as 1-click addition of new post, new user, etc, it became a handy tool to manage your WordPress site easily.

WordPress 3.5

Code name: Elvin – Released date: 2012

WordPress 3.5, which is the current available version of WordPress, was made available to public in December, 2012. Though the overall UI seemed unchanged or changed to a very little extent, but I am interested in the “Media Manager”.

wordpress elvin

The media manager seems wonderful and offers a spectacular way to manage all your media for your blog. This version is made ready for the Apple Retina screen, supporting High-Resolution version of the Admin panel, so no matter which device you are using to access your blog’s backend it will surely look great on every device.

What’s Next?

So, we finally reach the current version of WordPress and the journey ends here… until the release of WordPress 3.6. This is a screenshot of a plugin developed by Matt and his team to change the current WordPress Admin Panel UI to a brand new look.

WordPress 3.6
wordpress 3.6

It is expected that they will adapt this new look as the UI for WordPress 3.6. Though not much details are available for this new release, but everything will be confirmed when the official version is released.


For other Evolution posts, check out the links below:

On Video Games
On Logo and Design