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The Evolution of WordPress UI (Significant Changes From 2003 to 2021)

If you want to build your own website, then you know about WordPress. What you might not know is how significantly WordPress UI 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 more than 40.6% of the entire web.[1]

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:

Anyone who has tried setting up a WordPress site knows very well what the platform is capable of nowadays. 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:

TL;DR: Would you rather see a quick video? Suit yourself:

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 1.0 “Miles” – January 3, 2004

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

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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 1.5 “Strayhorn” – February 17, 2005

Release post. The introduction of themes!

WordPress 1.5 DASHBOARDWordPress 1.5 MANAGEWordPress 1.5 WRITEWordPress 1.5 LOGIN

WordPress 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

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

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

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

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

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

WordPress 2.7 “Coltrane” – December 11, 2008

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

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WordPress 2.8 “Baker” – June 11, 2009

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

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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

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

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

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

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

WordPress 3.4 “Green” – June 13, 2012

Release post. WordPress Customizer sees the daylight!

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WordPress 4.9 “Tipton” – November 16, 2017

Release post. There’s been quite a number of cool new features in this one – things like the new scheduler and draft saver for your Customizer changes, a new code syntax error highlighter, and more.

WordPress 4.9 DASHBOARDWordPress 4.9 MANAGEWordPress 4.9 WRITEWordPress 4.9 LOGIN

WordPress 5.0 “Bebo” – December 6, 2018

Release post. Finally, the big milestone in WordPress evolution! This new WordPress 5.0 version brought us the highly-hyped block editor called Gutenberg.

WordPress 5.0 DASHBOARDWordPress 5.0 MANAGEWordPress 5.0 WRITEWordPress 5.0 LOGIN

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%:

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