MT Interface Annoyances

By Deane Barker on January 16, 2005

I love Movable Type, but using WordPress on my personal site has highlighted two annoyances with the MT editing interface which are real problems. Rather than just being annoying, they really have an effect on the quality of writing and categorization.

Semi-WYSIWYG editing. In WordPress, you can “Save and Continue” editing an entry, and — when the page is refreshed — the entry as it would publish at that moment is printed below the editing interface. This means you can go down and read your entry, then scroll back up to make changes in the editing interface. Invision Powerboard does this too then you “Preview Post.”

MT, on the other hand, is archaic by comparison. If you click “Preview,” you go to another page. You start reading, find a typo, then have to click back to the editing page, fix it, then “Preview” again. It’s ridiculous. You end up keeping a list in your head of things you have to fix as you preview so you can fix more than one thing when you click back to the editing interface. (Amazingly, Basecamp — that hallmark of usability — does this too when you preview a comment.)

This really puts a wet blanket over your desire to create polished text (not that this site is a paragon of that…). The interface is clunky as hell, and you eventually quit and publish just to be done with it.

Actually, you usually end up publishing and using the published version as WYSIWYG in another window (which can be a problem if an aggreagator refreshes the feed before you’re done). I spent about 10 minutes polishing this entry after I published it, because it was just easier that way.

As a result of all this, I take more pride and care in my writing in WordPress than I do in MT. It’s a sad fact, but very true.

Multiple category assignment from the editing page. In WordPress, there’s a complete list of categories embedded in the editing interface. As you write your entry, you can click all the categories to which you want it assigned. The list runs down the side of the page, and includes indents for subcategories, so it doesn’t really matter how long it is.

In MT, you can set one category as you edit. To set more, you have to save the entry first (technically, this is so it can get assigned an id from the database). Then you get a little pop-up window where you can select multiple categories and hit “Close,” and then you rebuild.

This really, really makes good categorization hard. So many entries on this site should go in more than one category, but when you’re throwing them up at the frequency we are, you just don’t have time to fiddle with the silly interface limitations. This concerns me, because good categorization is really, really important when you get a lot of entries. This is something that has really suffered at Gadgetopia over the years.

So why don’t I just use WordPress for this site? Well, WordPress has other problems. It doesn’t cache pages (critical with our traffic), and it’s templating is a mess (rather, it doesn’t have templating at all, which is the problem).

You end up living with one or more limitations no matter what platform, but the two I mention above are absolutely tragic for an app as otherwise fantastic as Movable Type. Call me a whiner.

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  1. A few corrections… rather some info for you.

    WordPress can actually run static. There’s a plugin called Staticize which should do what you want —

    There is a template – it’s just that it’s all in one and you can call what parts for different “pages” based on how you define your site. In the newest version (1.5 alpha for the moment) there is also a theme system that lets you define things in much greater detail.

    Don’t forget the best part of wordpress vs. moveable type — no rebuilding!

  2. I’ve never understood the need to have categories AND keywords. Isn’t this really providing the smae sort of Meta? If it’s neccesary to pick a ‘main’ parent, just use the first keyword. Categories AND manually entered keywords seem redundant.

  3. Staticize seems very, very good. I just installed it — WP plugins are great. Well, that’s one hurdle gone.

    However, say whatever you want about templating — the WP index.php file gives me bad dreams, and I’ve been coding PHP for a long time. I dread making changes, it’s that much of a huge mess in there.

  4. I was actually exploring moving my site over to wordpress this weekend by installing it on my home linux server. I love PHP (I work with it all day at work) so I would like to use WordPress instead of MovableType but templating was my big problem too.

    There aren’t different templates for everything. Just the one index template for everything. I don’t like that, apparently enough to not go with WordPress….and the thought of digging in to WordPress and make it do what I want is a bit too time consuming for me right now.

    So now I can’t decided to stick with MT 2.66 or upgrade to 3.14!

  5. Movable Type is overrated. WordPress is far better if you just take the time to configure it correctly. Any web programmer can fix the templates extremely easily. It is just PHP code. PHP is possibly the easiest programming to learn. If you can’t figure out what is going on by just looking at the code just toss the template code in your favorite html edittor…you won’t see the php, but you can still build everything else around it.

  6. You can say “It is just PHP code” as long as you want, it doesn’t make it any easier to work with. I’ve been coding PHP for a long time, but it still takes me four times longer to make changes in WordPress’s single template than it would anywhere else.

    Would it be so hard to break stuff out to more than one file? There are really two types of files in a blog: index and content (permalink), and they can be very different in terms of needs, layout, and goals. What is the rationale for crapping this all up in one file? What is the benefit? This mystifies me.

    Show me a handy way to point the index, category, and permalink pages of my site at different PHP files, and I’ll be happy. I’m willing to bet it’s been done by someone.

  7. My thoughts exactly, Deane.

    .. and if I wasn’t so lazy and or busy, I would give more thought to going in there and making WordPress do that. But I just don’t see the point becuase…

    (A) I do that all day at work…don’t get me wrong, I work on websites at work and then come home to work on websites, but I’m not that big of a machocist.

    (B) Seems like a lot of trouble when Movable Type is THAT bad. Every peice of blogging software out there has some problems with it.

  8. Thanks for the feedback, this does help us refine MT’s interface a lot. We’re planning continuous improvements (I think from 2.6 to 3.1 was a huge jump in usability) so any suggestions are more than welcome.

  9. I was wondering if you had any updates about static pages and caching for wordpress. I really think its a great product but I want to use it for an enterprise install. I saw this plugin and was wondering if you had tried it or knows of anyone who has. Thanks.

  10. I was wondering if you had any updates about static pages and caching for wordpress.

    Well, the link you list is to the plug-in you need. I’ve used Staticize (the plugin that WP-Cache was based on). It worked great.

    Development on that apparently ended with Staticize Reloaded, then it all transitioned to WP-Cache.

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