Menu Customizer Officially Approved for Merge Into WordPress 4.3

menu-customizer-feature

The Menu Customizer plugin was merged into WordPress trunk today and will be one of the headline features of the 4.3 release.

Roughly a week ago the feature plugin was tentatively approved for merge, pending an a11y audit and PHP and JS tests. Following an overwhelming amount of negative feedback from the community, core contributors published what was essentially a rallying call to get the plugin ready for merge, reaffirming their commitment to iterating with the customizer.

Nick Halsey, the plugin’s developer, published a number of UX flow and performance comparisons of the admin menus screen vs. menus in the customizer. Ryan Boren and Konstantin Obenland also published iPhone 5 and 6 emulations of the plugin in action.

Halsey’s overall conclusion was that managing menus in the customizer takes less time in most cases than managing menus in the admin:

For the tests, I added links to both Menus UIs to the admin bar (4.3 will have one link here, to the Customizer). I ran into a few areas where the experience could be improved, but in terms of timing, the Customizer version wins in most of these scenarios currently. Note that this is intended to compare the experience for power users.

The Menu Customizer is one of the most controversial new features added to core in WordPress’ recent history. It will be interesting to see how it plays out when users discover it in 4.3. Those who were not in favor of the feature voiced their opposition in comments on the original proposal and in independent blogs around the web but were ultimately overruled.

At this juncture, no official timeline has been set for removing the menus screen in the WordPress admin. The existing menus will continue to be maintained for the time being, which should provide an easier transition for users who are surprised by the new feature in 4.3.

66 Comments


  1. I’m glad to see that the “thing need to be the way they are now forever” argument did not carry the day here. I look forward to the day when all of what was once n the WordPress appearance menu is migrated into one consistent UI — the customizer.

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    1. The Customizer UI has to go a long way before it is actually usable for such tasks. I shudder to think how it will work on websites with a structure beyond “About Me” and “Contacts” sections.

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  2. WPTavern’s coverage of this feature so far has a very negative stance. How about giving the feature a try for yourself and then writing a blog post about your thoughts on it? That would be much more constructive and much more valuable to your readers than writing about all this pseudo-drama.

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    1. WP Tavern should of course be a mouthpiece of WP core developers. How silly of Sarah to take such notice of users that she actually reports what they say!

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      1. “If you’re interested in my impressions …”

        That’s exactly the issue here, though, isn’t it, Sarah? Either the core developers just aren’t interested in anyone else’s views, or else they don’t have what it takes to comprehend them.

        Sad, really.

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      2. That is so true. WordPress could do with having some security related features by default.

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      3. To add a touch of irony, I’ve just received an email from my credit card company. It begins: “When you speak, we listen”

        And, to be fair to them, they have. What they are announcing are significant improvements in the online experience of managing my credit card.

        But what do they know? They are only one of the largest banks in the world.

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    2. How about taking the time to read and listen to so many people saying this is a poor move? Real users, developers, people, you know…? How about taking the time to think of international sites with multiple languages’ menus that won’t fit into the customizer? How about taking the time to think of complex sites with multiple menus that won’t fit into the customizer? How about solving the issues, like the stupid two links in the admin menu linking the same, before adding more issues? This is moving way too fast, way too fast… can’t you see? What else is needed before you people realize there’s actual users out there that depende on this?

      This is not the way to go, not the way WordPress is.

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  3. Hey John,

    That’s WP Tavern’s job: to show how we all feel and think about WordPress. WordPress.org has its own propaganda blogs. If that’s what you want to read, please don’t read real WordPress journalists like Sarah. I’m glad someone is providing comprehensive and critical coverage of the real issues.

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  4. This goes completely against the whole idea behind the Features as Plugins model. To quote from the Core Handbook itself, “This model allows a feature to be built, tested, refined, and polished before it is considered as a merge candidate”. Considering some of the main features like the ability to create submenus have only been added in the last two days, the decision to merge with little to no testing is ridiculous.

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    1. Agree – as of less than a week ago at least, the accessibility of the feature was somewhat lacking – https://make.wordpress.org/accessibility/2015/06/12/accessibility-usertest-menu-customizer/.

      FWIW, I’ve given the plugin a try, and am neutral about it. Once it has feature parity and is fully accessible (though some are wider Customizer inaccessibilities), it could be useful, but until then, I wouldn’t have considered it to be “polished” ready for merge into core for 4.3.

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  5. I imagine there’ll be a plugin to hide these changes within minutes of the 4.3 release, if not sooner.

    Interesting decision to forge on ahead, seemingly without much heed for some of the main points in all the feedback. Specifically, the rushed timeframe and lack of testing.

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  6. Wow, the more negative the comments and feedback publicly, the faster this got pushed through… juvenile at best, other words for worst.

    Sarah’s commentary is very much in keeping with the rest of the public discussion, she’s reporting it, not attempting to bypass it as it if weren’t there.

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  7. I really haven’t been enamored of the whole push to the Customizer. It might (slightly) simplify things for new users, but it makes doing anything complex onerous, and encourages themes to seriously limit end user control.

    What I’d love to see is WordPress put out a theme that’s just a skeleton, so tech-savvy-but-not-code-monkey folks like me could build a decent site on the framework. As is, the choices are:

    1) Pick a theme that does the five things out of ten things I need it to do, twenty-five flashy but pointless and bloated things I don’t want or need.
    2) Learn how to do hardcore grownup coding.
    3) Pay a ridiculous amount of money for a theme that does 10/10 I need to do, plus five hundred flashy but pointless and bloated things I don’t want or need.

    Why not just give me a chassis and engine that work, and let me get to work?

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    1. Connor,

      I am another tech-savvy-but-not-code-monkey person, and I have found that the Bones starter theme is perfect for what I want to do. See http://themble.com/bones/

      I suggest you try it out!

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      1. You’re welcome! I hope you find it as useful as I have!

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      2. Thanks for the tip about Bones. We used Cutline for a long while in just that way and then built rafts of sites on Twenty Eleven and Twenty Thirteen. We’ve still not found the perfect mix of light with full fledged mobile with fallback though. Looks like Eddie is aiming at the right targets.

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      3. Alec,

        You’re very welcome. I have been a frequent lurker on your own site and learned a ton from you and your team, so I’m pleased I’ve said something that might prove at least a little helpful to you!

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      4. Thanks, I’ll check Cutline out, too. I figure, eventually, I’ll either find something that works, or reach the point where I can build it. Or finally sell a novel and pay someone else. You know, whatever works.

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    2. “What I’d love to see is WordPress put out a theme that’s just a skeleton…”

      Have you not heard of underscores?

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      1. Wow, I should really whine on random internet articles more often, apparently. I can’t wait to play around with these new toys. Thanks everyone!

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    3. Connor, you can check out my WordPress Starter theme soblossom, which is based on Underscores and Foundation 5. Just like Bones it is Mobile First and comes with sass and grunt (optional).

      You can check out the demo with links to the repo on Github via
      http://so-wp.com/themes/soblossom/

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  8. I, for one, welcome our Customizer overlords.

    I have several customers who add 20+ top-level menu items, thus ruining the aesthetic of their site. If they could see that happen as they’re adding items, they might make better decisions. At least I hope they would.

    Optimistic…

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    1. The key there is “their site”. And that’s WordPress is all about.

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  9. This is a huge step forward for WordPress. For me the most important thing is that it gives me a way to preview menu changes. The second is that it has parity with widget management.

    The user experiences improvements compared to Appearance – Widgets and Appearance – Menus are formidable. I’m looking forward to finally see many non-experienced users being able to understand the effects of their menu management.

    WordPress is open and customizable in both ends and almost every aspect. So for those who don’t like it, don’t use it and go for alternatives, it be plugins or the old menu manager still available. Meanwhile WordPress has to evolve.

    For the future I see front end editing of widgets, menus, posts and pages, not in the side panel, but directly on the preview. Later also for custom fields. The importance of wp-admin will gradually fade for any content and tweaking stuff that directly affects the front. Still wp-admin will provide deep links into the customizer. I like that direction, and look forward to the upcoming releases.

    This decision is somewhat brave, given the negative feedback from some vocal people in the community. I see the the lead developers as making decisions based on what relevant arguments are presented, whoever it comes from, and not just following some crowd’s more or less irrelevant arguments, likings or dislikings, or plain feelings.

    WordPress has evolved from a revolutionary project towards being the more or less given infrastructure of the web. Today an old highway is replaced by a new expressway, leading up to the new freeway called The Customizer. Things change, new driving possibilities, and the old highway may become less trafficked and less important. It’s bound to raise protest from those who have been so used to and somewhat dependent on the old road. The old road is still there, however, and private roads are permitted.

    I have been following the development of the Menu Customizer since the beginning, hoping for it to some day mature and be ready for merge. A few days a go I discovered a minor bug, and reported it. Fixed promptly. I now see no reason not believe it’s fit to be part of the coming beta and then release.

    I manage about 50 sites, and teach users how to manage their site and create content. I really look forward to show them a new way of managing menus. I will bring any feedback from them to the community, and the core developers.

    This is a great day for WordPress. A final decision is made. Keep on contributing, constructively.

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    1. @Knut,

      “I see the the lead developers as making decisions based on what relevant arguments are presented, whoever it comes from, and not just following some crowd’s more or less irrelevant arguments, likings or dislikings, or plain feelings.”

      Do please tell what counts as a “relevant argument”.

      “This decision is somewhat brave, given the negative feedback from some vocal people in the community.”

      I apologize for being vocal. I didn’t realize that wasn’t permitted. Oh, wait, you’ve just been vocal …

      “The user experiences improvements compared to Appearance – Widgets and Appearance – Menus are formidable.”

      Says who? If there’s one thing that annoys me it’s when developers claim to be able to say what “users” want. I’m a user, not a developer, and I certainly don’t ant to be managing menus in the Customizer.

      “I manage about 50 sites, and teach users how to manage their site and create content. I really look forward to show them a new way of managing menus. I will bring any feedback from them to the community, and the core developers.”

      Ah, that explains it. Users’ feedback is relevant when mediated through Knut Sparhell. If only we’d known that before.

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    2. Until you cannot create pages inside the customizer itself, it’s just a trick for small changes on the fly, or some sandbox test. While you lack real usability features people will appreciate the most (navigating trhu posts, default “post name” permalink and so on).

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  10. Anyone working on a plugin to remove the customizer and revert back to the user friendly version of WordPress?

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  11. As long as they don’t get rid of the original cleaner Menu system anytime soon. Otherwise, I’m sure someone can create a plugin to bring back the old Menus.

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  12. Menu Customizer is much better now than it was two weeks ago. Good job!

    Also tested with keyboard using large menu and worked well. There might some other accessibility issues though.

    This will not be the hardest thing to learn for new WordPress user. And there is *always* original Menu system.

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  13. Seems a lot of folks really are missing the point. Customizer is an addition to WordPress. In no sense whatsoever is it a replacement for anything. All of the wp-admin dashboard appearance pages still are present as of 4.3-alpha-32810 … you just have to know how to access them.

    Fully within the forward-thinking spirit of WordPress and consistent with the freedoms of choice we espouse, a plugin accomplishing the objective is published http://wpmulti.org/comprehensive-appearance-admin/ and also in the repository https://wordpress.org/plugins/comprehensive-appearance-admin/

    It is well-suited for anyone, regardless your preference of the dashboard appearance pages versus the customizer.

    Comprehensive Appearance Admin (plugin) https://wordpress.org/plugins/comprehensive-appearance-admin/ is tested to WordPress 4.3-alpha-32810

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    1. Thank you Sarah Gooding for your feedback regarding the plugins mentioned in comment-69448. Both now are improved in terms of function and presentation:

      Old School Themes Admin
      plugin page: http://wpmulti.org/old-school-themes-admin/
      repository: https://wordpress.org/plugins/old-school-themes-admin/

      Comprehensive Appearance admin
      plugin page: http://wpmulti.org/comprehensive-appearance-admin/
      repository: https://wordpress.org/plugins/comprehensive-appearance-admin/

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  14. I wish WordPress would concentrate more on optimizing current code to reduce memory usage instead of adding so many new features.

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  15. How about ‘you people’ let WordPress compete with Squarespace, UX be damned?

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  16. Another “wonderful” decision by the team. It’s nice to be dictated to, by people who don’t care at all about the actual users.

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  17. I don’t understand why everyone is hating on this. Don’t like the customizer? Don’t use it. It’s not like they’re removing the “Menus” page under Appearance.

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    1. And that’s my big issue. Moving everything to the customizer (widget admin, menu admin), and then removing them from the admin dashboard, thereby forcing everyone to use the customizer no matter what is a horrible idea.

      But they’ve already said that’s where they’re going towards, in an effort to clean up the admin dashboard by making the entire thing be the customizer by the time WP 5.0 rolls around, I guess.

      If they want to experiment with making the customizer be the default method of managing a blog, that’s fine. It’s not a good way to manage more complex WP sites, and no one seems to be listening to the many voices that are saying “add what you want to the customizer, just don’t take away the regular admin menu options”.

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  18. Might be a good thing… Anyway, if the decision has been made, what is the chance of reverting it?

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  19. I am optimistic. Initially it was suggested that the old menu interface might be removed sooner than later. Once it was clarified that there were no plans along those lines then I think a lot of the fear-factor was alleviated. There will be time to train and time for changes due to user feedback before the old interface is gone. I am comfortable with iterative progress.

    The main takeaway from the discussion for me is that we need to find better ways to communicate between .org teams and end users. Perhaps teams need to have a community liaison or something? On the flip-side, I’m sure we can better express our appreciation and provide feedback in a friendly manner. We tend to take the things that “just work” for granted, but they often involved the most effort.

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  20. Menus are not going to be removed, and Menu Customizer is an enhancement. If you don’t like it don’t use it. Nobody is being forced to use one over the other. The discussion around removing the Menu management page was from a proposal, which was turned down. I have not yet read a legitimate reason that warrants all this negativity. Menu Customizer is a nice addition to the Customizer, that’s all! Please see it for what it actually is, front-end menu management. Why is that such a bad feature to have in WordPress? And before you respond, and yell at me, please think about what I’m saying first. I’m not here to argue about Menu Customizer, just inform people about what it is we’re building and that nothing is being replaced or taken away. You’re getting more options and the Customizer is being improved in many other ways beyond just Menus. If you find something wrong, please create an issue on Trac. We want Menu Customizer to be the best it can be and address all the functional concerns before 4.3-alpha. Unfortunately, we can’t fix your feelings. If you don’t like it, that’s OK. Just don’t use it.

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    1. Menu management page is not going to be removed? Are you sure? Well, if that’s the case, I feel the whole criticism around this change lead at least to a good and balanced decision.

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    2. So are you saying that this is another instance where the mantra of “decisions, not options” has been conveniently forgotten?

      If so, when will you stop peddling the mantra that you evidently don’t believe in?

      “I have not yet read a legitimate reason that warrants all this negativity.”

      Really? Strangely, all we critics have been doing is holding core developers to what you yourselves say. Because you love to trot out “decisions, not options,” that means that any apparent option must be temporary. So are you guaranteeing now that that is not the position here? Or are you just seeking to deflect criticism for the time being?

      You see, you can’t have it both ways. Either options are fine, in which case stop saying they’re not; or else options aren’t fine, in which case stop making bad decisions.

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    3. @valendesigns in a previous WP Tavern post, Nick Halsey’s proposal clearly stated that it was his goal that the Customizer would replace the menu admin.

      https://wptavern.com/menu-customizer-tentatively-approved-for-wordpress-4-3

      The specific bit of the quote reads

      “If the Menu Customizer provides all of the features of the existing menu management screen, while clearly demonstrating that it is a better solution than the existing screen in user tests, it could potentially replace the existing screen entirely for users that can access the Customizer”

      To me, that indicates adopting the Customizer for menu management, then eventually phasing out and removing menu management from the current admin system.

      If I’m reading that incorrectly, or if more posts have been made that clearly state otherwise, please please please provide links!

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    1. I’ll always prefer redundancy, even with a little confusion, to inadequacy.

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      1. Maybe I wasn’t clear: I don’t believe the Customizer is the way to go regarding menus. I have a conceptual resistance to Customizer being used for everything, even more if used exclusively. The first notice about this Menu Customizer merge pointed the way to eliminate the menu admin page, @valendesigns talks about a step back. I’m not sure of that.

        Although a bit messy, having two ways to manage menus, I find it preferable to a unique inadequate management option. I believe the Customizer could be used to choose and position menus, not to build menus. IMHO, Customizer should stick to appearance, styles and general options, not structure and content. Menu is not appearance, it’s structure and content.

        So, to be clear on this, I’m critical of this process in two basic issues:

        1) the way the community criticism was handled – as if it was a like/dislike or ignorance thing –, not admiting that there’s a lot of people and a lot of situations where Customizer is definitely inadequate, and
        2) leading WordPress project in a direction that seems to depart too much and too quickly from what has been it’s evolution.

        Let’s face it: if a single admin screen is so many times insufficient to manage more complex navigation structures, including multilanguage sites, what’s the logic of this sudden move to a more tighter and limited editing space?

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      2. We will see how it will work. First I read here about menu in customizer, my reaction was similar, like first emotion “menu in customizer, it looks like too much there”

        Anyway true is, that I love customizer and really like to work there. Even if I choosing theme, my requirement is that all settings has to be implemented in customizer, not somewhere in admin menu.
        So if menu will be implemented well, I am sure, I will like it. I just hope it will works fully there, not that I will need visit admin menu for some extra job there.

        If decision was taken, it would be great, if all capability of menu setting can be there, not just duplicate some function two times.

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  21. I’m glad I use Joomla. It appears that WordPress development has taken the wrong road that will soon come to a dead end when people get so frustrated, as it appears that it has begun. There is always an alternative. I’ve even read somewhere that a consideration of forking WordPress that is more user focused has been discussed, which incidentally is similar to what happened when the Mambo content management system went the wrong direction and some split off to start Joomla. Mambo is no more.

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    1. Joomla is already dead about two years, there is almost no development, moving forward, there is just slow maintaining existing code. I used it several years before I started with WordPress and can tell you, WP is in different category, can not compare it with Joomla more.

      If you check how WP is moving, how community is grow up with quantity and quality … you can easily recognize, that direction is right and promising for future.

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    2. “It appears that WordPress development has taken the wrong road that will soon come to a dead end when people get so frustrated, as it appears that it has begun.”

      Care to elaborate on that? Last time I used Joomla, you had to pass three screens minimum just to add a menu item.

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  22. So far the best thing that has come out of WordPress 4.3 is the performance improvements for pages. There is a nasty memory issue with having several thousand pages and it is because they are using rather out dated code and it looks like it will finally be fixed. For instance, my gaming site has a hub and sub pages for the hubs while regular posts (news, and videos) are posts. This is not an issue when there are only a couple of hubs but when there are about 6 pages per game and you start adding lets say 100 games… That is 600 pages and performance starts to degrade. Personally I don’t like the front end editing for all types of content I prefer my posts and content to be in the back end and from what I can tell it looks like it will all be front end editing.

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  23. @Scott Hartley,

    “Personally I don’t like the front end editing for all types of content I prefer my posts and content to be in the back end”

    I agree with you 100%. Editing from the front-end feels like returning to the dark days of using MS Word to write documents. (I haven’t used that beast since I discovered LyX and NoteCase Pro.) Separating form and presentation from content is just so much more efficient. Just choose (or create) a decent theme and let it do its job!

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  24. Personally I don’t like this change, like the Widgets customizer control it has bad performance and the implementation right now using underscore templates does not allow adding additional menu fields. If the classic menu editor is removed, there will be no way anymore to add custom fields and many plugins that requires it such as megamenu plugins will no longer be possible.

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