Ian Pullen

Why “Bad Ass” and I created the Underwhelm plugin5 min read

Why “Bad Ass” and I created the Underwhelm plugin5 min read

If you don’t know what the Underwhelm plugin is, you can download it for free at Get Underwhelm.

In short, it’s a simple plugin designed to make the admin of your WordPress site less overwhelming.

Probably the most surprising thing about Underwhelm is that it took me so long to get round to making it.

For years I’ve heard WordPress owners complaining how complex the admin screens are. At first I couldn’t understand how these people were finding WordPress so complex.

Then I started getting to dig around the admin screens of various sites.

If I were prone to plugin envy, these sites would have left me greener than Kermit. What I found was that many site owners just seem to throw plugins at their site.

So many of them are free, so why not?

Well, there are several reasons why not.

Perhaps the biggest is that plugins can slow down your site. What they do and how they’re coded affects to what degree, but expect some kind of performance hit.

That’s why so many people recommend you should add as few plugins as possible.

However, you need to add the plugins that you need to make your site work as required. It may be desirable to add just a handful of plugins, but if you need to add 50 plugins in order to get all the functionality you need, then that’s what you need to do. (As an aside, another option is to look at splitting your site to more domains or subdomains. E.g, if you sell a course and membership, you could move each of these to their own WordPress site.)

The curse of overwhelm

Another reason you may not want to swamp your WordPress site with plugins is because the admin becomes overwhelming.

Finding anything other than posts and pages in the admin menu requires copious scrolling.

This is the main job that Underwhelm is designed to do for you.

I finally decided to write this plugin when in the space of two weeks, three people shared with me that they were planning to move from WordPress to a hosted all in one platform.

In each case, they had been happy with WordPress when they started. As their businesses developed though, they’d started to find it becoming more and more overwhelming.

Two drivers for thinking about moving were common to all three.

Admin screens had turned into the wild west

This is exactly the problem I talked about above when plugins add more and more menu items.

On a hosted all in one platform, the developers have full control and can carefully craft menus to make the experience as easy as possible.

That’s impossible on WordPress because all the plugin developers are working independently. They can’t work together to make the best admin experience and so we end up with a mish mash of menu items.

Others have addressed this problem before and I thought suggesting the Admin Menu Editor plugin would be the solution.

However the second person I sent to the Pro demo came back and said it had almost tipped them over the edge.

Now don’t take that as a criticism of Admin Menu Editor. From what I’ve seen of it and the feedback, it appears to be a great plugin and on a different level to Underwhelm.

I think it missed the mark for the user I suggested it to because it’s solving a different problem. It offers really fine grained control over the admin menu so you can create the perfect menu for each type of user or even for individual users (some of these features are in the Pro version only).

Underwhelm is for you and just you

The three site owners I’d been talking to were the only admin users on their sites. They just needed a tool for them only.

Plus they wanted a really quick way to make admin menus simpler.

So that’s why I created Underwhelm. To give them a tool that made it just about as easy as possible to make a menu specifically for each job they fulfill on their sites.

Perhaps it will help you too.

Planning and managing WordPress keeps getting harder

The second problem all three site owners expressed isn’t such an easy fix as installing a free plugin.

They each said that as their site developed to keep up with their expanding business, managing it became harder and the potential cost of mistakes became greater.

In essence they wondered if they’d outgrown WordPress.

Maybe you feel like that. If you do, leave a comment below or send me a message through the contact form. If it’s a common worry, I’ll address it in more detail.

What I basically said to the three site owners is to stop thinking about WordPress as being free as in money. Think of it as being free as in you can do anything you want with it.

Instead of paying a platform, take the same money and pay a developer a retainer to worry about planning and managing your WordPress site.

I’m still waiting to hear which way they decide to go.

I’ve asked “Bad Ass” to remind me to update this when I do hear. She’s generally more reliable than Alexa, as long as there’s the promise of frankfurters.

And don’t forget, if you’re going through growing pains with your WordPress site, comment below.

Tell me about it.

I’m a good listener.