Back-end UX and why it is equally important as the front-end in WordPress

This article provides insight into why you should pay equal attention to backend user experiences (UX) and interfaces compared to the frontend in WordPress.

User experience and usability is a websites main driver of success. We measure the user’s experience with a variety of key performance indicators: task success rate, search and navigation, user error rate, system and user scalability and customer satisfaction. To achieve these KPIs the system must be robust, well-designed and have a wealth of supporting content. It is the content that defines the moving parts of a website and therefore needs to be carefully managed and considered, otherwise it can lead to poor user experience and therefore failings on the above KPIs.

Why WordPress for managing content?

WordPress at its core is an incredibly robust and scalable content management system that powers over 35% of the web. It has a low cost, it is simple to manage and has a large online open-source community ready to solve any issues together.

WordPress is also an incredibly versatile and flexible system, allowing you to write custom themes and plugins so you can extend its core functionality to meet pretty much whatever requirement you may have. However, it is this flexibility where the WordPress core admin area and backend experiences start to become slow and no longer fit for purpose.

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The core admin area after a fresh install of WordPress.

What plugins have we created and what problems have they solved?


At its core WordPress does not have a way of searching any custom content, so we developed Searchlight, a lightweight custom search tool that can be configured to search custom meta fields for any custom post type.

Using a simple JSON config file in your theme you can build custom dropdowns in your admin areas post archive screens. We have seen great success in search speeds allowing content teams to quickly find the content they need based on limited information.

Border Control

The WordPress content management tool is versatile and powerful, it makes use of drafts and revisions allowing you to plan content and pre-publish content. However, we have found that managing content in large teams becomes messy and hard to keep track of. It is also common that users have highly negative experiences if incorrect or unfinished content has made its way to the front end. SMILE have developed what we believe to be the solution to all these issues. Introducing: Border Control!

Border control is a workflow for managing and publishing content. Border Control extends the WordPress draft functionality and allows posts and content to be submitted for review by higher privileged users before being published. Content can be rejected, approved or edited based on a user’s submission; this allows content teams to open content writing up to the larger organisation but have faith that nothing is being published without the content team’s permission and authorisation.

Border Control – Scheduled Content Archiving

It is common that as time moves on some content is no longer relevant. We have found this especially prevalent in the education industry with ever-changing education syllabuses. This, in turn, has created the ever so tedious task of having to filter through old content and remove it manually so it disappears from front end searches, archives and suggestions.

Our solution essentially creates an expiry date for the content. This allows the content teams to schedule a date where this content should be archived, giving the team confidence that the content of the site is always relevant and helpful and therefore providing a much more positive and informative frontend user experience.

Matt Oakley
Matt Oakley