The Evolution of WordPress UI (2003 to 2017)

It’s difficult not to be amazed at how significantly WordPress has evolved since its humble beginnings in 2003. What once started as a simple blogging platform is now the most popular website management system of them all, running nearly 30% of the entire web.

What’s more, it is used not only by small business owners, bloggers and people in the web development ecosystem, but also by some of the biggest celebrities and brands out there. Though, I’m not entirely sure Beyonce is actually aware that she has WordPress running her site, but I digress! Back on topic:

We all know what WordPress is capable of today. But what about those early versions? Do you even know what WordPress 0.7 used to look like? Or, when WordPress actually started looking like the WordPress we know now?

Let’s answer these questions today.  Here’s a rundown through all of the major versions of WordPress to see how the WordPress UI has been evolving over the years. 

 

The evolution of WordPress UI – 2003 to now

I tried getting and installing every version of WordPress from the official archive, but that turned out much more difficult than it might at first seem. Long story short, modern PHP and web servers aren’t exactly compatible with those early versions of WordPress (or, rather, it’s the other way around).

Anyhow. After a number of custom modifications to the WordPress installer files, server tweaks, and who knows what else, I managed to get most of the major versions of WordPress up and running! Here’s the evolution of WordPress UI:

WordPress 0.7 – where it all started – May 27, 2003

Release post. This is where it all started. Not much going on yet, though.

 

WordPress 0.7 UI

 

WordPress 1.0 “Miles” – January 3, 2004

Release post. Permalinks, multiple categories, comment moderation, all that and more we got in WordPress 1.0.

 

WordPress 1.0 UI

 

WordPress 1.2 “Mingus” – May 22, 2004

Release post. WordPress 1.2 brought us plugins! Also, sub-categories and post previews.

 
WordPress 1.2 MANAGEWordPress 1.2 WRITEWordPress 1.2 LOGIN
WordPress 1.2 MANAGE
WordPress 1.2 WRITE
WordPress 1.2 LOGIN

 

WordPress 1.5 “Strayhorn” – February 17, 2005

Release post. The introduction of themes!

 
WordPress 1.5 DASHBOARDWordPress 1.5 MANAGEWordPress 1.5 WRITEWordPress 1.5 LOGIN
WordPress 1.5 dash
WordPress 1.5 edit
WordPress 1.5 write
WordPress 1.5 login
 

WordPress 2.0 “Duke” – December 31, 2005

Release post. We get a new WordPress dashboard, plus WYSIWYG editing, user roles, and header customizations.

 
WordPress 2.0 DASHBOARDWordPress 2.0 MANAGEWordPress 2.0 WRITEWordPress 2.0 LOGIN
20-dash
20-edit
20-write
20-login
 

WordPress 2.1 “Ella” – January 22, 2007

Release post. Autosaving added, plus the ability to switch between visual vs text editing.

 
WordPress 2.1 DASHBOARDWordPress 2.1 MANAGEWordPress 2.1 WRITEWordPress 2.1 LOGIN
21-dash
21-edit
21-write
21-login
 

WordPress 2.2 “Getz” – May 16, 2007

Release post. This version brings us widgets, and full Atom support.

 
WordPress 2.2 DASHBOARDWordPress 2.2 MANAGEWordPress 2.2 WRITEWordPress 2.2 LOGIN
22-dash
22-edit
22-write
22-login
 

WordPress 2.3 “Dexter” – September 25, 2007

Release post. Tags get introduced, plus a new post status – “pending review.”

 
WordPress 2.3 DASHBOARDWordPress 2.3 MANAGEWordPress 2.3 WRITEWordPress 2.3 LOGIN
23-dash
23-edit
23-write
23-login
 

WordPress 2.5 “Brecker” – March 29, 2008

Release post. The main dashboard gets redone. There are new dashboard widgets, multi-file uploads, and a password strength meter.

 
WordPress 2.5 DASHBOARDWordPress 2.5 MANAGEWordPress 2.5 WRITEWordPress 2.5 LOGIN
25-dash
25-edit
25-write
25-login
 

WordPress 2.6 “Tyner” – July 15, 2008

Release post. Post revisions get introduced, along with the classic “Press This!” bookmarklet, plus there are new theme previews.

 
WordPress 2.6 DASHBOARDWordPress 2.6 MANAGEWordPress 2.6 WRITEWordPress 2.6 LOGIN
26-dash
26-edit
26-write
26-login

 

WordPress 2.7 “Coltrane” – December 11, 2008

Release post. We get a completely new interface for the dashboard!

 
WordPress 2.7 DASHBOARDWordPress 2.7 MANAGEWordPress 2.7 WRITEWordPress 2.7 LOGIN
27-dash
27-edit
27-write
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WordPress 2.8 “Baker” – June 11, 2009

Release post. Various improvements to themes, widgets, taxonomies, and site speed.

 
WordPress 2.8 DASHBOARDWordPress 2.8 MANAGEWordPress 2.8 WRITEWordPress 2.8 LOGIN
28-dash
28-edit
28-write
28-login
 

WordPress 2.9 “Carmen” – December 19, 2009

Release post. There’s a new global undo/”trash” feature, and built-in image editor.

 
WordPress 2.9 DASHBOARDWordPress 2.9 MANAGEWordPress 2.9 WRITEWordPress 2.9 LOGIN
29-dash
29-edit
29-write
29-login
 

WordPress 3.0 “Thelonious” – June 17, 2010

Release post. Theme developers get new APIs – allowing things like custom backgrounds, headers, shortlinks, menus and more.

 
WordPress 3.0 DASHBOARDWordPress 3.0 MANAGEWordPress 3.0 WRITEWordPress 3.0 LOGIN
30-dash
30-edit
30-write
30-login
 

WordPress 3.1 “Reinhardt” – February 23, 2011

Release post. The admin bar gets introduced!

 
WordPress 3.1 DASHBOARDWordPress 3.1 MANAGEWordPress 3.1 WRITEWordPress 3.1 LOGIN
31-dash
31-edit
31-write
31-login
 

WordPress 3.2 “Gershwin” – July 4, 2011

Release post. The dashboard gets refreshed to tighten the typography and overall design.

 
WordPress 3.2 DASHBOARDWordPress 3.2 MANAGEWordPress 3.2 WRITEWordPress 3.2 LOGIN
32-dash
32-edit
32-write
32-login
 

WordPress 3.3 “Sonny” – December 12, 2011

Release post. Users get a drag-and-drop uploader, hover menus, a new toolbar, and improved co-editing support.

 
WordPress 3.3 DASHBOARDWordPress 3.3 MANAGEWordPress 3.3 WRITEWordPress 3.3 LOGIN
33-dash
33-edit
33-write
33-login

 

WordPress 3.4 “Green” – June 13, 2012

Release post. WordPress Customizer sees the daylight!

 
WordPress 3.4 DASHBOARDWordPress 3.4 MANAGEWordPress 3.4 WRITEWordPress 3.4 LOGIN
34-dash
34-edit
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34-login
 

WordPress 3.5 “Elvin” – December 11, 2012

Release post. Uploading photos and creating galleries gets redone, along with modifications to the main dashboard design.

 
WordPress 3.5 DASHBOARDWordPress 3.5 MANAGEWordPress 3.5 WRITEWordPress 3.5 LOGIN
35-dash
35-edit
35-write
35-login
 

WordPress 3.6 “Oscar” – August 1, 2013

Release post. Improved autosave and post locking features, plus a revamped revisions browser.

 
WordPress 3.6 DASHBOARDWordPress 3.6 MANAGEWordPress 3.6 WRITEWordPress 3.6 LOGIN
36-dash
36-edit
36-write
36-login
 

WordPress 3.7 “Basie” – October 24, 2013

Release post. Maintenance and security updates are now installed automatically, plus stronger password recommendations.

 
WordPress 3.7 DASHBOARDWordPress 3.7 MANAGEWordPress 3.7 WRITEWordPress 3.7 LOGIN
37-dash
37-edit
37-write
37-login

 

WordPress 3.8 “Parker” – December 12, 2013

Release post. A fresh new look for the entire dashboard – the style that we know today.

 
WordPress 3.8 DASHBOARDWordPress 3.8 MANAGEWordPress 3.8 WRITEWordPress 3.8 LOGIN
38-dash
38-edit
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WordPress 3.9 “Smith” – April 16, 2014

Release post. Improved visual content editing, better image editing, drag-and-drop for images.

 
WordPress 3.9 DASHBOARDWordPress 3.9 MANAGEWordPress 3.9 WRITEWordPress 3.9 LOGIN
39-dash
39-edit
39-write
39-login
 

WordPress 4.0 “Benny” – September 4, 2014

Release post. Media Library gets redesigned. There are improved embeds, and improved UI for finding new plugins right from the dashboard.

 
WordPress 4.0 DASHBOARDWordPress 4.0 MANAGEWordPress 4.0 WRITEWordPress 4.0 LOGIN
40-dash
40-edit
40-write
40-login

 

WordPress 4.1 “Dinah” – December 18, 2014

Release post. Distraction-free writing gets introduced!

 
WordPress 4.1 DASHBOARDWordPress 4.1 MANAGEWordPress 4.1 WRITEWordPress 4.1 LOGIN
41-dash
41-edit
41-write
41-login
 

WordPress 4.2 “Powell” – April 23, 2015

Release post. “Press This!” gets improved. There’s now the possibility to switch themes in the Customizer, plus more streamlined plugin updates.

 
WordPress 4.2 DASHBOARDWordPress 4.2 MANAGEWordPress 4.2 WRITEWordPress 4.2 LOGIN
42-dash
42-edit
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WordPress 4.3 “Billie” – August 18, 2015

Release post. We can now edit menus in the Customizer, and we get Formatting Shortcuts (Markdown-like).

 
WordPress 4.3 DASHBOARDWordPress 4.3 MANAGEWordPress 4.3 WRITEWordPress 4.3 LOGIN
43-dash
43-edit
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WordPress 4.4 “Clifford” – December 8, 2015

Release post. WordPress can now handle responsive images better. New REST API infrastructure gets put in place.

 
WordPress 4.4 DASHBOARDWordPress 4.4 MANAGEWordPress 4.4 WRITEWordPress 4.4 LOGIN
44-dash
44-edit
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WordPress 4.5 “Coleman” – April 12, 2016

Release post. Inline linking gets introduced. The Customizer now has previews for different screen sizes.

 
WordPress 4.5 DASHBOARDWordPress 4.5 MANAGEWordPress 4.5 WRITEWordPress 4.5 LOGIN
45-dash
45-edit
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WordPress 4.6 “Pepper” – August 16, 2016

Release post. More streamlined updates. Your system’s native fonts are now supported.

 
WordPress 4.6 DASHBOARDWordPress 4.6 MANAGEWordPress 4.6 WRITEWordPress 4.6 LOGIN
46-dash
46-edit
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46-login
 

WordPress 4.7 “Vaughan” – December 6, 2016

Release post. Themes can now include starter content packages. Video headers are now possible. Users can change admin language in their profiles. REST API Content Endpoints added.

 
WordPress 4.7 DASHBOARDWordPress 4.7 MANAGEWordPress 4.7 WRITEWordPress 4.7 LOGIN
47-dash
47-edit
47-write
47-login

 

WordPress 4.8 “Evans” – June 8, 2017

Release post. We get new widgets for images, video, audio, and rich text. Nearby WordPress events get displayed on the dashboard.

 
WordPress 4.8 DASHBOARDWordPress 4.8 MANAGEWordPress 4.8 WRITEWordPress 4.8 LOGIN
48-dash
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What to expect next?

I wonder what WordPress will look like in another 5, 10, 15 years. Where do you think the evolution of WordPress UI will take us next? Feel free to share in the comments.

Don’t forget to join our crash course on speeding up your WordPress site. With some simple fixes, you can reduce your loading time by even 50-80%:

 

Karol K

Creates content, manages CodeinWP's team of writers and makes sure that every piece of content you see on this blog looks great! / Author of "WordPress Complete" / Professional yerba mate drinker / @carlosinho
  • Muhammed Moeez

    It’s amazing how far WordPress has come. From shabby editor to the new Gutenberg. I think WordPress has shifted its focus more towards user interface and experience in the recent years, hence the idea for Gutenberg. After the entrance of other website builders like Wix, WordPress needed to provide its users a smoother and well oiled user experience.

  • Matthew Knighton

    I remember the change to Parker so well. Our whole team started adopting WordPress after that. One of our developers was like “WOW, this is WordPress???” – game changer at that point and history made. We stopped custom CMS development at that point, threw out expression engine and jumped into the WordPress world, straight in the deep end. We found how wonderful it is to be a part of such a great open source eco system. No regrets.

  • Luke Cavanagh

    The UI and UX in WordPress admin is still pretty dire.

  • Luke Cavanagh

    But I wonder if the new admin, will be an evolution of Customizer+Gutenberg.