WordPress.com’s REST API Driven Post Editor Proves Speed Matters

In the last year or so, WordPress.com has been experimenting with a new post editor. As a user of WordPress.com, I clicked the add new post button and was shocked to discover an entirely different interface than what I’m used to. Continuously pushing improvements across the platform with little to no announcement and measuring feedback is WordPress.com’s signature development strategy.

Shortly after its release, users created support requests to offer feedback. Dealing with change is hard, but it’s even more difficult when it goes unannounced. After receiving a ton of feedback, the team eventually added the option for users to switch back to the classic editor. Since its launch, I’ve found myself getting used to the new editor, but there are a couple of quirks that need to be addressed.

New WordPress.com Editor
New WordPress.com Editor


Depending on when I create a new post, I’ll see a “beep beep, boop” loading message for a few seconds. The longest I’ve seen the message is around 10 seconds. The post editor is built on top of the WordPress.com REST API and depending on traffic, server resources, etc., the API calls take longer than normal to process.

Beep Beep Boop
Beep Beep Boop

If it takes more than a few seconds to load the editor, that’s too long. With all of the server resources that make up the WordPress.com infrastructure, I expect things to load quickly. In reality, I shouldn’t see a loading screen.

Creating Content

Since the visual editor inherits most of the features found in the self-hosted version of WordPress, writing content is generally the same experience. However, one thing I’ve noticed is that, more often than not, the text area doesn’t expand to the bottom of the page. As I fill the text area with content, it doesn’t automatically expand. A quick fix is to reload the entire page by clicking the save draft button. Once I do this, the text area expands to take up the full-height of the browser window.

Instead of having separate meta boxes for each task, some of them have been combined like categories and tags. The design of the publish meta box is a major improvement compared to the self-hosted version. It has a cleaner look and seems easier to use.

New Post Editor Meta Boxes
New Post Editor Meta Boxes

One of the things I like most about the new editor is that it’s distraction-free by default. The surrounding admin elements in the classic editor are gone, allowing me to concentrate on writing. Meta boxes are shown but I don’t see them as distractions. The new editor also doesn’t waste valuable screen real estate showing admin notices, that I still haven’t figured out how to dismiss.

Admin Notices That Never Go Away!
Admin Notices That Never Go Away!

API Driven Interfaces Need to be Fast

The new editor is a real world example of an alternative publishing interface built using the WordPress.com REST API. The biggest take away for me from using the new editor is how important speed is. As work continues on the REST API project for the self-hosted version of WordPress, which will likely lead to an explosion of alternative publishing interfaces, I think it’s important for developers to consider how to make things as fast as possible. It doesn’t matter how nice the interface is if the API isn’t fast enough and ruins the user experience.

After forcing myself to use the new editor for a few months, I rarely use the classic editor. It’s definitely not the ideal interface for everyone which is why I’m glad the team decided not to make it the only interface available. It has a few quirks, but for the most part, I don’t mind using it. If you use WordPress.com, let us know what you think of the new editor in the comments.


2 responses to “WordPress.com’s REST API Driven Post Editor Proves Speed Matters”

    • I agree. I have been trying to work with the new editor for months and the wait is terrible on slow internet and even on high speed access. I’ve tried introducing it to a couple quarters worth of my college students, to clients, and others, who have no experience with a WordPress interface or WordPress in general at all, and they find it cumbersome to work with, slow wait times, and much confusion on how to reach the rest of the settings. I haven’t found anyone who enjoys using it. I think it’s a great idea but I think it’s way too soon to make this public. There are many things that are wrong with it and not enough is right.

      This is disappointing as there is plenty of room for improvements in the interface, such as the confusing publish box where people can’t see or understand the difference between Save Draft, publish, set for pending, and preview, etc. And the lack of attention to the Text Editor toolbar just breaks my heart.


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