5 Things About WordPress That Really Bug Me

by John Soares on March 6, 2014

Wordpress symbol photo by Rob Davies.

Courtesy Rob Davies

I love WordPress. It allows me and millions of others to create beautiful websites that are easy to update. WordPress sites can be simple or complex, and they can do most anything that you want.

That said, there is always room for improvement. Now mind you, I’m not a tech person at all, and I’m definitely not an expert or a website designer. Far from it. I’m just a person who has several WordPress websites.

Note: I’ve updated this post with the best suggestions I received here on the blog on Google+, and the About Writing Squared freelance writers forum. In some cases, I also add my take on the new information.

Here we go with my suggestions for improvement…

1. The Ability to Make Private Notes About a Post

I would love this. When I write a post, I always have lots of things I need to jot down, such as:

  • Alternative post titles
  • Alternative URL slugs
  • Alternative meta descriptions
  • Other posts of my own I may want to link to
  • Posts and pages on other websites I may want to link to
  • Best tags
  • Text for the email I send to my subscribers
  • Who to contact after I publish the post
  • Different tweets for the post
  • Potential future posts on the same topic

As it is, I write these either in the post itself (and then delete later), or I write it in a Word document (cumbersome).

The Feedback

Jennifer Mattern of All Indie Writers who’s very knowledgeable about blogging, said:

Is there any reason you aren’t using custom fields for this? Just add a new custom field below the post edit box, and enter your info. Save it. It’s saved as meta data attached to the post and you can see it whenever you’re looking at the post-edit screen. But it doesn’t show on the public post on your site unless you call that custom field in your post template. Easy peasy. :)

If you don’t see your custom fields, they’re hidden. Just click the “screen options” button near the top right of the page, and tell it to show them. Then you can move them anywhere you want on your edit screen.

I asked Jennifer if the info in the custom field would wind up in the code of my published post, like custom title tag, meta description, and metatags do. Here’s her reply:

It’s not going to make anything public unless you tell it to. And by “tell it to,” I mean you would have to physically open your theme’s template files and put in a call to display the data from your custom fields. You would have no reason to do that. So it’s a non-issue. Can’t happen. Just create new custom field names and make them something unique. (If you use ones already being called publicly, obviously that’s a problem. Start them with Note or Private or something, that’s all.) :)

This article does a decent job explaining them in layman’s terms.


And Jeevan Jacob John had this suggestion (seconded by Ruud Hein on Google+):

I use Peter’s Post Notes plugin to jot down important things for each blog post (along with Edit Flow plugin that allows me to add a check list to the post, so I can make sure I followed all the steps required for my blog).

Note: Edit Flow is particularly awesome because it comes with other features, such as an editorial calendar – even better than the other plugin.

And My Response

I first followed Jennifer’s suggestion and added a custom field to a blog post draft. However, it seems I’d have to add it to every single new draft, which is a minor hassle. I’m sure there is a way to write code so the custom field is automatically included in every draft or published post, but I don’t write code.

So I then went with Jeevan Jacob John’s suggestion and installed the Peter’s Post Notes. It works fairly well; the only drawback is that it can take up a lot of real estate on the right side of the draft page when I have a lot of notes, meaning it pushes other important fields like Categories and Publish way, way down the column

Still, I wish this was just a standard include for WordPress, and that it appeared on the left side below the main writing area.

2. Display the Exact Time a Post Draft Was Updated

Sometimes I click “Save Draft” and I’m not sure the draft was actually saved. If you’ve saved even once, the site says “Post draft updated,” but it doesn’t say when. I wish it would say “Post draft updated at 10:37 a.m.” so I can be sure the update happened, and I can also see how long it’s been since I last saved.

The Feedback

Steve Maurer said:

I believe the revision information you’re wanting is near the bottom of the page.

I just did a test draft on my site and updated it twice. Not only is the date and time for each revision listed, but who did the revision. Here’s was it said:

Steve Maurer, 1 min ago (6 March, 2014 @ 13:37:04) [Autosave]
Steve Maurer, 1 min ago (6 March, 2014 @ 13:36:37)

Note that it also gives the autosaves.
If you don’t see the revisions, click on the tab “screen options” and make sure it’s checked to show up. You can remove options that you don’t need here as well.

Jennifer Mattern added:

You can actually drag that Revisions section to wherever you want on the screen. That’s a great feature of WP. All of those sections can be dragged wherever you’d like them, even to the smaller column on the right. And you can minimize things you don’t use often to cut back on clutter (click the little up arrow in the upper right corner of the section you want to minimize). That keeps it accessible but still out of the way. If you want to hide anything entire, just click the “screen options” link near the top.

And My Response

A relatively easy fix! However, I still wish it would show me the time of the last save just above the post, right where it says “Post draft updated. Preview post.” It should go right after “updated.”

3. The Ability to Deal with Daylight Savings Time

The developers used to joke about this, but it’s not trivial. It can be confusing if you want to publish a post just after midnight, but you’re not really sure if it’s actually going to post an hour earlier (and thus have the date of the day before, if you use months and days in your URL structure). Or maybe it’ll post an hour later, after you’ve sent an email to your subscribers about the new post.

The Feedback

Jennifer Mattern again:

The time issue sounds like it might be related to your DST issue. If that’s the case, changing your settings to a city should help.

And My Response

Yup, that fixed it. I chose a West Coast city and I should be fine from now on.

WordPress probably addressed this several versions ago. I just remember see new updates in the past and seeing message joking about not having yet fixed the Daylight Savings Time issue.

4. Full Kitchen Sink Options in Expanded Distraction-Free Writing Mode

I really like the concept of the full page to create a post. Unfortunately, what I can mainly do there is write text and add links.

But I always need to do other stuff, including:

  • Adding headers
  • Pasting text
  • Indenting text
  • And the other options that are missing

Why can’t that be included?

The Feedback

Jennifer yet again (so generous with her advice!)

I think that’s the whole point though. They wanted it as minimal as possible so it’s as distraction-free as possible — you’re not getting caught up in formatting; you’re just writing. The formatting comes later. So it’s unlikely that’s going to change in WP.

But if you really want it, here’s a link with a simple hack. It adds a second expand button, so you have one for distraction-free writing and one for a full-screen version of the full editor. Just copy the code to your theme’s functions.php file before the closing tag. I remember when you used to just be able to use alt-shift-G from the editor screen, but that doesn’t seem to work on its own anymore. I hadn’t tried to go full-screen in ages.


You could also go to “screen options” and set your edit screen to one column. Then drag the edit window to make it as large as you want. Then you get a less-cluttered environment even if not fullscreen, and you don’t lose any functionality.

And if you like the look of the distraction-free editor better than the fullscreen option I pointed you to, you could always keep a cheat sheet card with keyboard shortcuts / hotkeys. If you click the question mark icon before going to full-screen (in the kitchen sink), it will give you a list of them. For example, to add an H2 heading, you would just hit ctrl-2. I’m sure you’d get used to it quickly, and it would probably even speed up your writing more when you don’t have to stop to click on buttons.

And My Response

I still think WordPress should just add the second line of features below the first. Why not?

5. Get Rid of That Nagging Single Space Indent

I don’t know about you, but I frequently find that WordPress adds a single space to the beginning of many lines. I have to click there and then hit the backspace key.

Maybe it’s something unique to me, but it happens a lot.

The Feedback

Jennifer the Generous:

I rarely see this, but I do know what you mean. I tend to only see it when there are images before a paragraph, if the image was added using the visual editor. It’s adding space code to the html, and when I hit enter after the image in the visual editor, I sometimes carry that space with me. I suspect this might be a TinyMCE issue (the text editor WP uses) rather than a WP issue. And TinyMCE issues are many. There are plugins to switch to another editor if you wanted to try something else. So far I haven’t been annoyed enough for that, although I’ve gotten pretty darned close.

And My Response

I’ve heard from other folks elsewhere about this issue. I wish WordPress could just take care of it. It happened again when I updated this post.

Your Take

Your thoughts about my improvement suggestions? What features would you like to see added to WordPress? Anything you don’t like that you wish would go away? 

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anne Wayman March 6, 2014 at 9:14 AM

Interesting… when I want those kind of notes, particularly those that I need/want for the blog in question, I right click to open a new, blank post page. If I use all the notes while writing I delete it (or don’t save) and when I need the notes I give it some sort of title that makes sense only to me and save it as a draft. But a note-pad that would spring up on command makes sense to me.

I recognize what you’re saying about saving draft posts and the time… I just save again if I’m not sure. Wouldn’t even have to be the time that signals saved – a color change of something, or a graying out of the save… lots of potential options.

I hate the whole publish on such and such a day and time… the time is 24 hours gmt… I’d love it to let me set it to pacific time and let me choose 1-12 am or pm. I don’t do 24 hour clocks well.

I haven’t used the full page function so I didn’t know those things were missing… I agree I’m sure.

Hmmmm – I’d assume I was adding that single space indent somehow… maybe not.

Now, John, are you going to pass this post with its comments to WordPress?
Anne Wayman recently posted…Sentence Length: Is Shorter Always Better?


2 John Soares March 6, 2014 at 9:43 AM

Anne, it does say “Post saved” or some such, but it says that after the first time you save. It was especially a problem when I had satellite Internet, which would sometimes drop out, or just take forever to do something.

I was able to set my blog to Pacific time General Settings: UTC-7.
John Soares recently posted…How Content Shock Hurts Freelance Writers


3 John Soares March 6, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Oh, and I do plan to send my suggestions to the Wordpress team after I’ve seen the suggestions and tips here and on my Google+ page.
John Soares recently posted…The 8 Top Ways to Legally Lower Your 2013 Freelance Writer Tax Bill


4 Don Wallace March 6, 2014 at 11:14 AM

I have a few thoughts about this.

In all of your points except #3 you’re seeking what I would call workflow tools for a professional writer.

WordPress by itself is almost a blank canvas in all respects – including functionally. Originally, WP was conceived as a cruddy little blogging tool, and in the intervening years all of these additional duties of being a stable base for quite substantial, high visibility web sites have been bestowed upon it. But at heart, it’s a single purpose tool that is intended for blog publishing by novices.

You may want to look for a WordPress plugin that supports annotation. The editor enhancements that you seek may also be available in a plugin.

That advice – “look for a plugin that…” is the most common in WP-land. Now a word about that… WordPress is great mainly due to its community and the vast ecosystem of suppliers of tools and content for it.

That community of tool builders is also WP’s greatest vulnerability. NO software system is stable when multiple vendors of widely varying capabilities and intentions develop extensions and additions to it. I have 20+ plugins on my site. That’s too many to keep track of and keep in mind. But I need them because they’re all niche specific. One supports Google sitemaps. Another is for contact forms. Et cetera.

In a way this seems quite nuts – I would NEVER install to my desktop PC the variety of add-ons and downloaded freeware programs that I am using on my site simply due to the security and malware issues. But I have few alternatives – that is, should I even trust the commercial plugin providers?

In short, I feel your discomfort. The “planet WordPress” answer to almost every user need is “you can add that with a plugin” or “it wasn’t meant to be used the way you prefer.”
Don Wallace recently posted…Everything You Think You Know about Web Design Using WordPress Themes is Flat WRONG


5 John Soares March 6, 2014 at 1:43 PM

Don, you are right that a Wordpress site is essentially a patchwork of different programs that increases vulnerability. I guess it’s the price we pay for having such a versatile program.

And I usually do go searching for plugins for most problems. These seem to be more inherent to the actual design of Wordpress itself, and it seems cumbersome to have to use yet one more plugin to do one small thing.

And I encourage everyone to go read Don’s post linked to just above.
John Soares recently posted…How I Chose My Freelance Writing Niches


6 Shari March 7, 2014 at 7:22 AM

Don, I just read your linked article and it was the most helpful, real-world critique of WordPress I’ve ever read. Thank you!

I couldn’t get my WordPress themes to do any of the things I wanted to do for my business site. (I too wanted to change a header/footer, which I thought should have been the easiest thing to do.)

I was trying to use WordPress because conventional wisdom said it was the right tool for people who didn’t want to do coding. However, even if I could find them, the official theme instructions for what I wanted to do never worked as described.

If, after a ridiculous amount of research time, I did stumble upon a solution, it involved some degree of coding or prior knowledge. (Jennifer’s helpful and detailed instructions below exemplify what I mean.)

I was spending too long trying to find workarounds, so I gave up. EVERYONE keeps talking about WordPress as if it’s a plug-and-play solution, but my experience was anything but.

This confirms my issues weren’t about a learning curve.


7 Don Wallace March 7, 2014 at 5:14 PM

Hi Shari – *blush* – thanks.

I’m definitely a curmudgeon about software.

I think another point that could be inferred from that piece is that when something about WordPress or a particular theme or a plugin isn’t working as needed, one should seriously consider abandoning that tool and trying another one.

There is a cavalier lack of quality and real usability in the WP tools ecosystem that I find disturbing and aggravating. Most WordPress tools builders don’t appear to be software engineers by background or inclination. They’re designers and artists attempting to use code to render their ideas.

Your experiences indicate to me why web builder platforms like WIX are so popular.
Don Wallace recently posted…Should You Use WordPress, or a “Real” Content Management System for a Web Site?


8 Shari March 11, 2014 at 4:56 AM

Thanks again, Don!

I looked into WIX yesterday and found it much easier than WordPress.

The formatting was much easier and intuitive for me. I got more done playing around with it yesterday, than I had when trying to do serious business with WordPress.

I’ve already decided to no longer use WordPress. Different strokes for different folks, I guess. It looks like WIX can work well for what I want to do (at least for now).


9 Don Wallace March 13, 2014 at 9:21 PM

Wow, I’m glad I steered you well.

Shari, I can respect that decision. A few years ago the spinning propeller on my geek beanie would have twirled in disgust. But let’s face it – all of these computerish things are just tools. And when the tools get in the way of a task, you should use more effective tools.

WordPress’s startup learning curve is brutal if you aren’t already “geek” and don’t wish to be. You first need to experiment with a site and prototype what you want, and something like WIX is perfect. The TV ads for WIX look pretty snazzy.

When you grow your site and get more comfortable with things, you may wish to re-evaluate. This sounds like the perfect choice for you now.


10 Sharon Hurley Hall March 6, 2014 at 12:18 PM

I am constantly in awe over Jenn’s WP knowledge – great tips!
Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted…Why I’m a Prolific Writer


11 Kaloyan Banev March 7, 2014 at 4:55 AM

Well, there are many things in WordPress that are not perfect, but WordPress is popular because it is stable and easy to use. Right now there isn’t an alternative. I was expecting a lot from Ghost, though I am a bit disappointed from the early releases. Joomla and Drupal are much more flexible, but I doubt that majority of bloggers can handle these beasts.
Kaloyan Banev recently posted…Build Your Own Social Network with WordPress


12 John Soares March 7, 2014 at 9:04 AM

The great thing about Wordpress is that it is, overall, fairly easy to use, and thus lets the masses have websites.
John Soares recently posted…How I Chose My Freelance Writing Niches


13 Gambolin' Man March 7, 2014 at 11:58 AM

John, from one of my instructors:

I liked your friend’s post a lot and also the comments to the post! I do believe “there’s a plugin for…” several of the things he talks about.

In terms of where to write notes to go along with the post, I use Evernote and/or a Mind Mapping tool for that. I don’t like the idea of my hosting account getting clogged up with internal notes-to-myself, nor what one commenter suggested to create a draft post with all those notes… it’s really easy to hit that “Publish” button accidentally and then all of a sudden everything is out there for the world to see! If the notes had proprietary research in there, then it’s no longer a secret. Even “unpublishing” (saving back as a draft again) has some risks as the site could have already been trolled by search bots and cached somewhere. And finally, the XML site map would reveal where that page is stored and technically it could be accessible since it’s in a public.html folder. For all those reasons, I keep my notes completely separate from my blogging platform either off line or in a password protected cloud.

I’m trying to find a good cloud-based mind mapping tool that’s free, to use in class this summer. I use MindManager for Mac but that’s a paid-for program and I want to keep costs down to the bare minimum. Yet I do use mind mapping for my content strategy and blogging notes so I’m going to keep looking for something that works for everyone.

Back to your friend’s post, there’s a plugin I use on some sites called “Tiny MCE Advanced” that allows for all kinds of extra formatting options including font size, font choice and creating tables, and this might address his needs in #4 although I’m not sure as I don’t use that “distraction free mode” of full page editing. I like to see all my controls right there on my page. Sometimes I just click and drag the edit/compose window to make it larger.

In terms of #2 and #3 the pre-publishing options, this is interesting and I think if he sets his settings for his local time to be in his local time zone this will also adjust the options for pre-publishing to come into alignment. As for daylight savings time, I think this will be done automatically as well although I am not certain of this.

Thanks for passing that along, I really enjoy reading about other WordPress user’s experiences and wish lists!


14 John Soares March 8, 2014 at 7:33 AM

Tom, thanks for sharing this. And thank your instructor too!
John Soares recently posted…How Content Shock Hurts Freelance Writers


15 Sid March 10, 2014 at 4:17 AM

Nice wrightup, i was not aware of that Day Light saving feature, i will explore it and will use it in future, i sometime needs to publish a post on a certain time. Well done John, from now on i will keep visiting your site for more tips.


16 joe arrigo March 10, 2014 at 7:35 AM

In terms of indentation, I personally like to indent for the next paragraph rather than a line-space. Since WordPress does not allow indenting one line, I type in there capital letters like WWW, and then color them white to have them disappear. That gives you the appearance of a one line indent.
joe arrigo recently posted…Cataclysms: The Process that Formed Earth, and Gave Life


17 Pinar Tarhan March 10, 2014 at 8:14 AM

Hi John,

Couldn’t share this one enough. One and four are my pet peeves, though if I had to choose one, I wish they would make private notes work. Would save so much time, sanity and ideas.
Pinar Tarhan recently posted…Turn-Offs in Novels: Jargon, Foreign Languages and Detailed Description of Very Minor Characters


18 Jeevan Jacob John March 10, 2014 at 8:39 AM

Some of these are frustrating (I haven’t had to deal with others….seems like you have already found the solution for 2-3 of the issues :D).

Anyways, thank you for sharing these, John (and thanks to your commenters for posting the solutions – I could use them :D).
Jeevan Jacob John recently posted…I am loving the ideas!


19 Roy Moses March 14, 2014 at 3:24 AM

wow I totally agree with you about the update of the draft..
this bugs me too..

also i wanted to ask why do you have the little “Google” on the bottom of your website with the ?real=author tag? why not add the tag to the picture of the google on the side? this seems to look better and have the same effect… or am I wrong?
Roy Moses recently posted…So You Want To Take Pictures? Become a Photographer


20 Leon Bailey March 14, 2014 at 1:01 PM

Good read. One thing that bug’s me is how they don’t have SEO tools already incorporated into the system. Like…why not? Why we have to add plugins? lol.


21 rohan March 15, 2014 at 1:39 AM

Well Wordpress is the best CMS I have ever came across. I use blogger for I have big plans for wordpress and will implement it in my website in much broader aspect. Of course there is scope for improvement and here I like Wordpress as it improves with it’s new version while blogger seems more steady over the years.


22 Worli March 19, 2014 at 6:08 AM

Overall i am pleased with WordPress. But the only filed where i wish WordPress team to work upon is better spam control. Akismet is not the perfect solution and many plugin doesn’t work perfectly.

Yes! WordPress does adds a single space to the beginning of many lines, in that case you need to click on Text/HTML in the post dashboard, and all the space will be gone. I always do that before publishing any post :)
Worli recently posted…Smart Ways to Invest Your Money in Internet Marketing


23 Mainak Halder March 20, 2014 at 2:56 PM

WordPress can handle multiple authors, specialized content types, and pretty much anything a user would expect from a CMS. WordPress is legendary for being easy to learn and use. It’s also got a sweet user interface. If your needs are straightforward, WordPress could easily be the best choice.

But if you’re planning to customize your site heavily, Drupal is probably a better choice. WordPress developers may disagree with me, and with over 15,000 WordPress plugins, they could be right. But the core WordPress program needs to be updated fairly frequently. These core updates can often break your existing plugins, and thus your site. In Drupal, on the other hand, it’s a major priority that core updates shouldn’t break anything.

Of course, if you pick the right plugins, your WordPress site may update just fine.

As a newbie I choose wordpress only because easy to learn and use.
Mainak Halder recently posted…4 Must-Do Things For Beginner Bloggers To Optimize Your Blog For Search Engine Rankings


24 John Girdwood April 2, 2014 at 2:48 PM

John, great site and thanks for linking to my page but I have another comment for you. The “extra spaces” in #5 here is something that also frustrated me. It is a result of old school writers like me hitting two spaces after sentences. I resolved this issue at one point long ago and this link should get you to my comment on another “How To” Wordpress blog. Note: Use code with caution! I haven’t used or checked it in years but when I was using it, it worked! http://goo.gl/MMQNK8 Enjoy. – JG


25 John Soares April 2, 2014 at 3:42 PM

Thanks for sharing your “How to” link John. I’m so cautious about code that I usually just don’t do it, or I hire someone!

I can see why the two-spaces issue after periods could make a difference. However, this happens to me a lot, and I think the last time I put two spaces after a period was when I still used a typewriter.
John Soares recently posted…How Content Shock Hurts Freelance Writers


26 John Soares April 2, 2014 at 3:43 PM

Oh, and all the best in finishing your PhD!
John Soares recently posted…8 Time Management Techniques for Successful Writers


27 Mag April 21, 2014 at 10:52 AM

I’ve been using Wordpress for three months now, and i couldn’t agree more with you. Great post!
Mag recently posted…7 Useful Everyday Lifehacks


28 Adarsh Mehta January 5, 2016 at 6:59 PM

Most of these problems are not a problem to me. :)
Anyways, nice article!
And please publish posts more often, I really like your blog posts…
Thank you.
Adarsh Mehta recently posted…Best Free Private Policy And TOS Generator For WordPress


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