WordPress 4.1 to Remove Custom Background and Header Admin Screens


WordPress theme developers will be pleased to know that the upcoming 4.1 release will remove the custom background and header screens in the admin. These screens will be replaced with deep-links to the customizer. To be clear, header and background menus will still appear in the admin, but they will be deep-linked to the customizer.

This is good news for WordPress theme developers, because they will no longer have to style the custom header and background screens.


When exploring different solutions in discussion on the ticket, Nick Halsey noted that new users expect to find that functionality in the customizer with the other options:

The key issue to consider is whether hiding these pages will cause issues for updating users. New users actually tend to have trouble with the separate headers page, expecting that functionality to be in the customizer.

Header upload was pulled out of the customizer in WordPress 3.4, due to issues with cropping header images. For the past two years, the extra admin pages were confusing for users. With some theme controls in the customizer and others available in the admin, the experience of customizing themes was inconsistent and divided between the front and back ends.

Changes coming in 4.1 will replace the custom background/header screen links in admin menu and toolbar with deep-links to the customizer on the frontend. The widgets screen will also display a link to the customizer widgets panel. In the future, the plan is to remove these admin links entirely in favor of streamlining everything to the customizer.


24 responses to “WordPress 4.1 to Remove Custom Background and Header Admin Screens”

  1. WHAT!!!….lol I just added the custom header and custom background back into my theme. I wanted to make sure that it followed the WordPress guidelines and I figured “Why not, other themes have them in there.”

    I agree however that these need to be only available in the customizer and cannot wait for the additional links to be removed. I have had so many people ask me what is the difference and when I say they are the same thing, I get the blank stare of doom.

    Now if they would just add opacity to the color picker that would be AWESOME!!!

      • Its interesting to hear negative feedback against the customizer, which I haven’t come across before. What is it exactly that puts you both off from using it? Is it just one bad experience with a particular theme or have you tried with various themes?

        As a user I love being able to see changes made to settings take effect immediately rather than on an admin screen far, far, away.

        As a developer I’m excited by the potential to create some very cool features for themes and plugins. That’s one of the reasons my development focus will be switching to more JavaScript development in the very near future.

        • I’m curious too. I’ve never had a theme user tell me they didn’t like the Customizer. It’s essentially the same things as the old “Options Panels” that nearly every theme had been doing, but with a live preview. It’s nice to see changes before setting them live.

          The usefulness of the feature is hugely dependent on the theme, though. I would assume these users experienced a theme’s poor implementation of the Customizer. I can imagine a broken Customizer being quite bad!

        • What’s wrong with the Customizer?

          1. It looks terrible. It’s ironic that it’s supposed to be there to make sites look good, and yet looks as though no thought was put into its own appearance.

          2. It’s clunky. Can I see all the options? No, I have to click on something for a drop-down to open, then hope that this option doesn’t have further sub-options.

          3. I can’t have more than one section open at once. So if what I wish to style impacts two or more areas, I’m supposed to keep toggling back and forth.

          4. By no means everything stylable is included in the Customizer, and the options for each element are pitifully few. So I’m apparently supposed to make some adjustments with the Customizer, and then do others elsewhere. How on earth that’s meant to save time or improve matters, I’ve yet to fathom.

          5. It adds bloat. And it’s getting worse. The tools already exist to make a site look good. This just adds weight. (An example, by the way, of how the mantra of “decisions, not options” is really just garbage to be trotted out whenever it happens to suit a particular developer. This is an option, not a decision.)

          6. Try using it on mobile!

          As you’ll have gathered, these issues are inherent in the Customizer, and not specific to a particular theme.

          • I agree with every single point you make, and here’s another:

            7) It doesn’t always load… at all! Sometimes it’s just really slow.

            I’ve used the Customizer on both WP.com & WP.org sites, with at least eight different themes, if not more. I haven’t once enjoyed the experience and now I go out of my way to avoid it.

            For those saying they’ve never heard anyone complain about the Customizer, that might be because no one was forced to use it before… I’m sure if people are forced to use it, they’ll get vocal.

            Frankly, I can’t understand why the Customizer would be forced onto WP users. Some people want things to be easy, others want to code all their own stuff, and some fall somewhere in between. Customizer only serves the first group, imo. And I’m guessing that it’s probably more loved over at WP.com, where easy is kind of the point…

          • Thanks for the feedback. Many of these issues are actively being worked on, and, as always, we’re seeking help from more contributors. We currently have only three people spending significant time contributing to the Customizer in core, and we all work on core on a volunteer basis. The best way for the Customizer to improve quickly from a usability perspective is for more people to get involved in contributing. See http://make.wordpress.org/.

            I’ll also note that many of the issues you note are related to the way themes and plugins implement the Customizer. By design, related options should be in the same section, but only one section is visible at a time to make it easier to navigate to different sections and panels. Think of a section like an admin page – you can’t have multiple admin pages open at once either (in a given window). When themes and plugins implement their options in the Customizer, they should make every effort to remove as many potential options as possible, per the WordPress philosophy.

            The Customizer does not add bloat in any way; rather, it is designed to reduce bloat. By providing a new, standardized UI API outside of the admin, it offers an opportunity to remove the horrifically bloated settings & options pages that have plagued the admin for years. Also, the way the Customizer uses Ajax, it’s actually much more efficient than things in the admin, rather than adding bloat. Menus in the Customizer are a great example of that (see https://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/14134).

            The reason that the Customizer is being “forced” is because, simply put, it provides a better user experience. It isn’t perfect but it’s the best option we have right now, and it has a very good API that will allow it to continue improving over time. The future of WordPress administration is on the front-end, with full live-previewing capabilities with the Customizer and eventually front-end editing.

          • @Nick Halsey,

            Thanks for taking time time to respond. But I’m afraid that I simply don’t find that “the Customizer … provides a better user experience.”

            I am a content creator — a complete non-coder. From the tone of the discussion so far, it seems that I am precisely the sort of person for whom the Customizer is designed. Indeed, I am certainly very keen to have my content presented as well as it can be. Yet I still don’t find the Customizer provides me with a “better user experience.”

            Much of what is in the Customizer is accomplished more precisely in a standard CSS file. That also means, of course, that the Customizer is adding bloat. (Your claim about lack of bloat is really that the Customizer is not adding as much bloat as other things do, which isn’t quite the same thing. Many of us make sure to choose themes that don’t provide the “horrifically bloated settings and options” that you mention.)

            I also really have no idea how the Customizer will ever be much use when trying to set up certain widgets, or in choosing other complex options. These options simply can’t be comfortably shoehorned into the Customizer’s area.

            I also don’t see how front-end stuff, like editing, is going to help here. In fact, as a person who spends much of my time writing, I know that WYSIWG word-processors are not so much a help to content creation, but a massive hindrance. Give me LyX and LaTeX any time!

  2. Thanks for posting this, Sarah, I’m so glad we finally pulled the trigger on it! A couple clarifications for everyone:
    – The custom header functionality in the Customizer surpassed that of the admin page when cropping was re-introduced in WordPress 3.9, along with media library support.
    – WordPress 4.1 has a brand new set of media controls in the Customizer, enabling custom background images to use the media library as well. Now that the Customizer version of backgrounds is also more user-friendly than the admin pages, we can kill off both admin pages for most users and focus on future improvements to these features in the Customizer.
    – There is absolutely no reason to create any theme options pages outside of the Customizer at this point. Theme developers should be using the Customizer for all of their options, and the other appearance pages will also redirect to the Customizer in the next few releases as Widgets in the Customizer are improved, Menus are added to the Customizer, and Theme-switching and theme-install is added to the Customizer. Plugins that do anything to the front-end should also use the Customizer for all of their options. As the Customizer becomes more prominent, look for a more front-end-contextual experience moving forward, where the Customizer is accessed primarily from the front-end of the site and can be opened/closed more seamlessly.

    You can hide the new deep-links from a plugin by adding some CSS along the lines of `.customize-support #menu-appearance a[href~=”background_image”] { display: none; }` (untested).

    • This all very disturbing news, Nick. The way you are describing it, the Customizer becomes this huge section filled with bloat from all plugins (that do something to the frontend).

      What is happening to the freedom that WordPress used to offer? What’s with pushing people into a corner? I get it that some standardisation is needed (theme options), but why add plugins and menus to it?

      How about plugins that do something in both front- and backend (let’s say WordPress SEO by Yoast)? Ram it into the Customizer? That obviously is not going to work!

    • …and theme-install is added to the Customizer. I would recommend against having any sort of installation done through the Customizer. The last thing developers would want is for end users, even admins, to be able to install themes.

  3. As a developer myself, this is a welcome change. I agree with the aforementioned customizer comments, in my opinion it’s largely redundent and doesn’t really serve a useful purpose (effectively anyway).

    Whilst I’m here just thought I’d share this, if any of you are looking to save money on WordPress products in the future, I recommend checking out http://www.plugthepress.com for some handy discounts.

  4. I’m really happy to see so many design options being moved to the customizer. After all, it only makes sense to see the design while modifying it, right? However, there is one issue that has always bugged me about the customizer window — it pushes the theme aside rather than overlapping it. When working on responsive themes, this leaves us looking at the responsive menu button, and widgets situated below the content. There is no sidebar, so styling the sidebar means having to collapse the customizer window to see any changes. I guess it’s not really a big issue, but it just seems to make more sense if the customizer panel would overlap the theme.

  5. Another thumbs up for WP at least making grounds to unify the customizer for developers. To many theme developers went off the deep end on their own development ‘widgets’, creating some pretty terrible final code output in the end. Frankly I’d rather develop out themes with the base CSS for cleanliness… but i know there is a need to accommodate non-coders.

    I do wish that WP could work something out so that CSS in the customizer could be concated to the theme style sheet (or css file of choice), rather than having to the wp_header. If someone knows of a framework that does this, it would be appreciated!

  6. Hi, I’m somewhat new to WP. What happened to the WYSISYG functionality of the post editor? Unless I go through Html (tedious and unreliable) I can’t seem to modify the fonts in my posts. Worst, even when I copy and paste them from MS Word (WIN8) they turn out differently when I hit submit.
    Any ideas on when the functionality from 3.9 is going to return?



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