Automattic-owned WordPress.com launched its new Story-publishing feature today. Currently, only users with the WordPress for Android or iOS apps can add stories. Self-hosted users with Jetpack-connected sites can publish via the mobile apps too.
The development team previewed the Story feature in January, launching a public beta on the Android app.
Stories are essentially media and text slideshows. They have become popular on the web via sites like Instagram and Facebook. Solutions for Stories already exist in the WordPress space, such as Google’s Web Stories and the MakeStories plugins, both of which provide a more robust experience than Automattic’s offering at the moment.
However, more options and tools do not always create a better overall user experience. WordPress.com’s Stories feature has a more streamlined process, allowing users to build Story slides without much fuss.
To create Stories, users must click the “New” icon from their site’s home screen in the mobile app. From there, they should see an option for adding a Story post. First-time users will see a Stories welcome screen.
The user experience in terms of editing slides for a Story was straightforward. I ran into no issues adding images, text, and customizing colors.
Right now, users cannot do much more. They are prompted to upload media when first creating a story. Each chosen media item automatically becomes a slide — users can add more later.
Font customization options are limited to a handful of presets. Text can be aligned or increased in size. Users can also change the color of the text and its background. For WordPress.com users who want more, they will have to wait. For self-hosted WordPress users, they have other plugin options.
I prefer the lighter experience. The learning curve is next to nonexistent, and the team can always tack on features later. The kitchen-sink route of launching with hundreds of options is prone to more errors. It also often include features that are not needed by a majority of the user base. I will take a smaller start with focused iteration any day.
My first attempt at creating Story had its share of issues, introducing speedbumps in the publishing and updating process. Not all of my slides were published. Some of the text I had worked so hard on disappeared. At first, I thought I might have messed something up along the way. It was my first attempt, after all. Following repeated attempts to update, the issues persisted. I re-added the text. Whether it became a part of the published Story was hit or miss. I put new slides in. One randomly duplicated itself, and others disappeared.
It was an hour-long exercise in frustration to publish a basic recipe. Even now, readers cannot learn how to make my Italian-style steamed Chinese pork buns. On the positive side, I did get four likes on my incomplete post.
Determined not to be defeated, I attempted a second Story. Publishing went off without a hitch. For good measure, I updated the Story and added a new slide. Once again, no issues.
I knew the publishing experience could not be that broken after the initial ease of creating the Story slides.
Maybe the development team fixed a bug between my first and second attempts. Maybe something simply broke down on the technological highway. I will chalk my first attempt up to the internet gods playing a cruel trick on me.
The Story feature is technically a block included with Jetpack that can only be edited in the mobile apps. The version I am waiting on is when it works via the browser-based editor. At that point, we will be able to compare it to existing plugins.