The CPO and partner of Human Made, Noel Tock, published his WordPress predictions for 2015. His predictions include, custom dashboards, front-end editing, internationalization, and more. This could be the year of admin themes, but I think it largely depends on whether the WP API is merged into core.
Tock predicts we’ll see a substantial increase in different WordPress backend experiences. Although there are implementations like Happytables and Jetty which use the WP API, I don’t think we’ll see a lot of adoption until it’s vetted and merged into core.
Regarding custom dashboard experiences, Tock makes a great point when he says:
For the most part, premium custom dashboards will fail. If it’s too generic, it likely can’t compete with WP-Admin (which actively pursues one size fits all). On the other hand, if it’s too niche or not very extendable, it won’t be of much use either. A minimal small business dashboard with front-end editing will likely be the most popular seller.
Additionally, I think his advice to those looking to experiment with the API should be considered, “Don’t create a custom dashboard because you want to change the way it looks, change it because you significantly want to improve the experience of your users.”
Jason Schuller’s admin design for Pickle is a great example of a backend that correlates with what’s on the frontend. Everything that’s unnecessary to manage the frontend of the site is removed from the backend, creating a streamlined experience.
The WP API will make it easy for developers to create a variety of different admin experiences, but users will ultimately decide which implementation is right for them. We may even see an entire category added to the WordPress theme directory for admin themes.
Whether the API is merged this year or next, custom admin themes are inevitable. In the future, there will likely be an admin theme that matches the way you use WordPress to harmonize the user experience. What that theme looks like is anyone’s guess, but I’m looking forward to reviewing custom admin experiences created by developers using the API.