I rarely have a complaint about the quality of service from WordPress.com (it is, after all, a FREE blogging platform) but lately it seems like the good folks at Automattic have jumped the shark, lost touch with the mothership, gone off the deep end, and otherwise invested themselves in a forest of bad platform decisions best described by cheesy metaphors.
This silly fascination with infinite scroll is driving me nuts. Worse, it’s overheating my computer. I mean LITERALLY overheating it.
One of the worst reasons to implement infinite scroll on a site like WordPress.com is that as you add more and more content to the current page computers have to work harder to keep all that stuff accessible to the user. Only on WordPress.com does my computer act like it’s trying to play three first-person shooters at the same time.
I have seen other people complain about the infinite scrolling for various reasons. I have even written about WordPress.com’s infinite scroll hell elsewhere. But is most infuriating about this plunge into user-unfriendly design lunacy is that WordPress.com has combined mindless infinite scroll with what has to be the world’s worst selection of blog themes ever.
When people complain to me that they cannot find good themes on WordPress.com about all I can do is nod my head and agree with them. Part of the blame clearly goes to the theme designers who have put together these awful, pseudo-tumblrry image-laden nightmares that push actual blog content as far down the page as possible. But you can’t blame them all for having such horrible taste in page layout and design. It looks to me like a lot of the themes are built on top of Twenty Fourteen and/or Twenty Thirteen.
Somewhere along the way to people who put these horrible theme concepts together forgot that blogging is about the content, not the masthead. I hate landing on a Website where all I see is a huge picture and some really big, awful lettering. Worse, you have to scroll down to see HTML 5 highlighted in the worst ways possible with bad design concepts, user-unfriendly unintuitive navigation, and pointless image-mongering.
To be honest, Tumblr does this far better than everyone else so I would prefer if everyone else would go back to making the blog the most important thing and leave the braindead design ideas out of the mix.
But when you decide it may be time to update the look of your blog you have to scroll through an endlessly growing infinite hell of horror — I mean, the theme gallery. And I was skeptical when someone first told me his computer overheated as he tried to do that. Nonetheless, when I tried to load all 288 free themes into my browser my computer, too, began to overheat. And I do play some heavy-resource-demanding games on this computer.
It’s just insane that you cannot specify any search criteria if you want to find a new theme on WordPress.com. Worse, the sample images are all too large. My computer struggled so hard to squeeze all this stuff into its multi-gigabyte memory that it occasionally locked up as it thrashed (swapped stuff out to temporary storage on the hard drive).
If we could refine our searches in some way like on an off-site WordPress installation that would be incredibly helpful.
People may say, “Well, just take your blog and put it on your own domain” but that misses the point entirely. I *DO* have blogs on my own domains. But though installing WordPress for yourself eliminates some of these hassles, I have noticed an increasing trend in the WordPress core design camp toward using the really awful design ideas that are being implemented on WordPress.com.
I fear that in another year or so the independent WordPress blog will become as useless as the free-hosted WordPress.com blogs are becoming. If, like me, you’re using an older theme that doesn’t clutter up the screen with crap imagery and “design” you still have a useful, functional blog. But if like many people you have made the switch and now find yourself trapped in Horrible Design Hell, getting back to something decent and useful is near impossible.
I know. I tried to help someone pick a new “older” theme recently and he got frustrated and gave up because his computer was overheating.
It’s a shame that the common users of the community — those of us who don’t have the time to be part of the core design community that creates these nightmare scenarios — have to complain about the poor quality of the offerings on WordPress.com. Automattic has enough money that they should be able to do some focus group testing. Or maybe they do focus groups but they bias the selections toward people who think like them.
When you are trying to be ubiquitous you have to skew your services toward the lowest common denominator, not toward the ivory tower geeks who have no idea of what it’s like to be an average, normal every day user of the Internet who doesn’t have time to wait for the computer to cool down long enough to load more ugly theme images.
I dread the next upgrade on WordPress.com. I keep this blog active for what I feel are good reasons but sooner or later I won’t be able to work on it without reserving three weeks just for patience.