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Flattered Or Ripped Off?

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January 6th, 2010
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WordPress

WordPress fans are out in full force over the new admin interface presented in MovableType 5.1 which was released today. The controversy stems from how eerily similar the admin interface resembles the one that was introduced in WordPress 2.7. The similarities are easy to spot when you look at both interfaces side by side as evident by the post on BloggingPro.com.

No doubt about it, the interfaces look the same albeit with MT’s added touches. While many fans of WordPress are giving Six Apart an earful, I’ve taken a bit more relaxed approach. One of the things that people constantly refer to WordPress for is its publishing interface. Since this interface is loved by many, is it really any surprise that something similar to it would appear in other publishing platforms? Also, I highly doubt WordPress was the first to have the layout that it does now.

So with that in mind, if I were a core developer or someone involved with the UI for WordPress, I would be flattered to see another publishing system use a similar interface. To me, it’s further proof that the interface works.

What’s more interesting to me is that some folks have stated they like the MT version better than the WordPress one. I’m curious to hear from anyone who has used both interfaces to let me know why one is better than the other despite their similarity.

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  1. Len (24 comments.) says:

    Given that WordPress is released as open-source software people shouldn’t get upset by the fact MT decided to mimic part of it. Were I a core developer I would take it as a compliment.

    • Jeff Chandler (171 comments.) says:

      Right. There would be an uproar if MT was proprietary licensed because it would be like taking open source material and putting it behind a wall. But I think MT is open source as well.

      I’m looking at MT right now and I see they have something called MTOS or Movable Type Open Source. Not sure if it’s a seperate project or not.

    • Jason (1 comments.) says:

      New versions of old ideas happen all the time with most consumer products. Just look at automobiles. Hadn’t the rest of the world jumped on the bandwagon with the same idea and similar designs, we would all still be driving Fords.

      • Beth Nicol (2 comments.) says:

        (Telling my age here) The other example would be the whole VisiCalc/Lotus123/Excel hoorah… there are certain layouts that just work better than others.

        I’d opt for flattered.

  2. David Sparks (1 comments.) says:

    yeaaaaaahhh… that’s messed up.
    i remember waiting and waiting and waiting and then reading all these articles about how hard WordPress worked on their new admin. how even the icons had tons and tons of revisions and various approaches as well as multiple artists. they tried really hard to make everything accessible with fewer clicks.

    doesnt seem fair that they can put so much effort into making their UI above and beyond their competitors only to have them essentially steal their hard work.

    still not as good. If i owned or worked on the UI/Admin for WP, i’d be pretty furious at this.

  3. Jeremy says:

    I’ve only used wordpress, but moveable type seemed to make it a lot better. I would prever moveabletype’s interface over wordpress’ by the looks of it.

  4. Brandon Diaz (1 comments.) says:

    Personally I’d prefer my apps use similar interfaces. When a new user sits down and opens your application, having a familiarity with the layout helps them feel at ease, and beats down the learning curve.

    There’s a reason most games use similar interfaces, your eye is naturally trained to look certain places for certain things, because that’s what you’ve looked for the past.

  5. Lisa (4 comments.) says:

    WordPress sets the standard – SixApart falls in lockstep.

    I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

  6. Cynthia LaLuna (1 comments.) says:

    The issue with constantly refining UI design is that, if there is one concept/architecture that is perfect for users, won’t they all trend toward the same point eventually? Sometimes when you come across something that works really well, it’s a challenge to make it different ENOUGH so that it doesn’t get called a ripoff while maintaining all the things that make it great UI design in the first place.

    In other words – making a wheel square to avoid imitation serves no one.

    As website designers, this is a sticky subject we face daily.

    • Jake says:

      You’re totally right. This is the same issue Microsoft had when designing the taskbar in Windows 7 – everyone said they copied Apple’s dock. But people like how the Mac OS interface works, and it’s hard to design something different yet still intuitively usable without annoying users with a new learning curve (those who switch between OS’es would surely find it more difficult).

  7. Kim Woodbridge (4 comments.) says:

    I haven’t used Movable Type in a long time but I used to love it. Like many others, I abandoned it when the new version (was that version 3?) would no longer have all of the same features and still be free.

    Their interface doesn’t seem vastly different from what they used to have but is definitely WordPress-like now.

    What I don’t get is the pricing structure? The interface is “free” because it is GPL but you are paying for the functionality of having multiple authors? The 20 user version is $995.

  8. Maarten Schenk (1 comments.) says:

    @Kim Woodbridge:
    The free version of Movable Type also has multi author support, as do all versions of Movable Type.

    The versions you have to pay for essentially come with support + some extra functions, and you are allowed to use them for commercial purposes.

    There is also a free (as in beer) version with those same functions, for non-commercial usage.

    The open source version, finally, lacks these few extra functions but you can use it however you want.

  9. goofydg1 (6 comments.) says:

    YOu can’t copyright everything. I have no intention of leaving WordPress any time soon. If there are enhancements then lets just incorporate those into future versions of WordPress

  10. Andrew (1 comments.) says:

    Personally, if MT is adopting a similar look to the WordPress Admin panel, then that must mean that WordPress is definitely doing something right.

    Having your basic design copied obviously means that what you have created is both high quality, and user-friendly at the same time.

    I definitely think that it is a compliment to the Automattic Team.

  11. Mark Jaquith (5 comments.) says:

    There would be an uproar if MT was proprietary licensed because it would be like taking open source material and putting it behind a wall.

    Well, MT does have a proprietary license. MTOS (“Movable Type Open Source”) is GPL. But regardless, there’s no issue. You can’t copyright an idea. And as far as their emulation goes, I’m flattered. Movable Type was the software that got me excited about blogging, and I’m beyond pleased to see my ideas and the ideas of the WordPress community being validated in such a way.

    Yes, it’s amusing, but put yourself in their shoes. I guarantee you that they didn’t sit down and say “let’s copy WP’s UI.” So the parts that are similar are similar because they concur that it is a good way to handle the issue.

    • Jeff Chandler (171 comments.) says:

      You have no arguments from me about that and thanks for clarifying my point about MTOS. I mean, after test driving Drupal or Joomla the first thing I mutter is that I wish their publishing interfaces were similar or the same as the one I love in WordPress.

    • Lloyd Budd (22 comments.) says:

      Well said Mark.

  12. Otto (215 comments.) says:

    I don’t see any issues with it.

    I say WordPress should take a good look at it and steal the best improvements back.

    Ahh, iteration.

  13. Oliver Schlöbe (3 comments.) says:

    I’m going to develop an MT5 plugin adding a notice “Influenced by WordPress”, hooray!

  14. Andreas Nurbo (9 comments.) says:

    Navigation on the left. Content in the middle and extra functions on the right.
    Can’t really see any ripping off. Personally I think the MT interface looks much better than the WP one except for their publish box.

  15. Flick (28 comments.) says:

    I am trying to remember if this kind of reaction occurred when the magazine theme became ‘the’ trend.

  16. Adam (1 comments.) says:

    I’m not bothered too much with the similarities, it’s a good interface, and it should be standardized.

    I think WordPress is more than working->copyrighting->cashing-in. They are trying to {uhm…} improve the world in their own way, and seems like it’s working.

    BUT, I’m really looking forward to the bottom line, which is of course, how matt feels about this.

  17. quicoto (42 comments.) says:

    Very nice post Jeff.

    Really liked the explanation.

    I don’t like the copy they did but how you said “it means it’s a good interface”

    Regards.

  18. redwall_hp (40 comments.) says:

    It does look a bit similar, but the MT one doesn’t seem anywhere near as polished.

  19. Trace says:

    I like what they’ve done, it looks like they’ve made some nice improvements…. can’t fault them for taking something and making it better.

    • Jeff Chandler (171 comments.) says:

      That’s the entire spirit of the GPL is it not? Not that this is strictly related to the license but it plays a little bit or a role although if I had to guess, I’m going to say they didn’t directly use the code or design elements in WordPress for their solution so the license probably doesn’t mean a thing.

  20. Norman (1 comments.) says:

    To be honest, I think it is a shameless ripoff. I mean yea, WordPress is Open Source and you are allowed to use it and all that but it just isn’t right to copy something one-on-one. And I don’t understand why some of you seem to think that MoveableType does some things better just by comparing those screens – I cant tell that by looking at the screens. What I see is that the WordPress backend still has way more style.

  21. Ryan (55 comments.) says:

    Some of it looks better, some looks worse.

    I certainly can’t see any problem with them copying WordPress. If I was in there shoes I’d do exactly the same thing.

  22. Dave (9 comments.) says:

    This is just like the Apple/Microsoft thing… blogging software has evolved to a point where the interface is converging on some kind of a standard. I personally think the Movable Type looks a little bit nicer but it’s not going to tempt me to move.

    But to be honest, if we’re talking GPL software here, isn’t sharing kind of the whole point?

  23. Jenny (2 comments.) says:

    I like the MT one as well. It looks crisper and more fashionable then the one we’re stuck with..

  24. Robert (3 comments.) says:

    Whether flattering or rip-off, it’s definitely a big improvement for Moveable Type. Yet I don’t think Six Apart can use the interface similiarities as a selling point. In other news, the mockups for Firefox 4 sport some obvious similarities with Google Chrome ;-)

  25. George Serradinho (107 comments.) says:

    Some users might complain and others not, depends on their idea of change and all. Personally, I think it’s a huge compliment and WP should be proud and pleased. All it means in the end is that WP must create even better UI and let others follow them. I don’t think WP copying MT UI should be an option at all, just my opinion I guess.

  26. Shane Saviers (1 comments.) says:

    I think a design known as much as WP shouldn’t think twice about knowing others will be following right behind them… it’s the nature of competition. From my perspective since I love MX and FMX you see Carey Hart do a back flip on a dirt bike and now all of the sudden everyone else in the line up is saying holy crap under their breath due to the fact that new standards just got set. If you want people to like it you have to keep pace or one up it.

  27. Rhys (1 comments.) says:

    I think it’s a non issue. I wonder how many features/interfaces WordPress has copied from other CMS’ in the course of it’s lifespan. Heck go back far enough and the entire Windows based OS is based on Apple Macs. You can feel flattered, you can feel ripped off, but in essence there’s very little you can do with it.

  28. digitalnature (1 comments.) says:

    MT’s interface looks a little better overall, but WP’s left navigation menu it’s still nicer in my opinion. Anyway, the fact that it’s a obvious rip-off makes their UI unimportant :)

  29. George Pearce (1 comments.) says:

    I think that’s as bigger compliment to WordPress as MT will ever be able to pay.
    Yes, it’s blatantly come from WordPress but that means that they are stopping and looking at what WP does; and that makes WordPress the leader.

  30. Lars Tong Strömberg (14 comments.) says:

    Clearly a ripoff, but as you say, I would also be flattered. Not only because of the indication that it works, but because it would make Moveable Type + WordPress a stronger “team” of open source CMS:s in a world which is too fragmented right now.

    I am quite sure we will see the open source CMS market converge in the near future. WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal are definitely here to stay for a longer term, maybe Moveable Type as well?

  31. Jared Ritchey (2 comments.) says:

    I was once told that you never really know you have made it with your programs until someone NULLs your license and puts it on WAREZ sites. That happened to two of my WordPress plugins so far. I’d call the cloned interface by MT clear confirmation that the WordPress admin panel design is simply too good to try and improve on.

    Picasso said, good artists copy, great artists steal. MT is a great artist now right? LOL anyway I really think it lends credit to WordPress in my honest opinion.

    Jared

  32. Lisa (4 comments.) says:

    Reading Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol” – and read a page this morning that made me thing of this thread.

    Character Robert Langdon says this: “Knowledge grows exponentially. The more we know, the greater our ability to learn, and the faster we expand our knowledge base. We see this in science all the time. Each new technology we invent becomes a tool with which to invent new technologies…and it snowballs. That’s why science has advanced more in the last 5 years than in the previous 5000. Exponential growth. Mathematically, as time passes, the exponential curve of progress becomes almost vertical, and new development occurs incredibly fast.”

    One thought (or practice, or code, or idea, or …?) builds from another – and so on and so forth.

    That MT found the WP UI so cool is cool. Consider how lucky the poor MT users are now that they have a (relatively) decent UI to work with . . and they have WP to thank for it :)

  33. Lisa (4 comments.) says:

    ..and by ‘thing of this thread’ – - I meant ‘think of this thread’ ;)

  34. Network Geek (21 comments.) says:

    I haven’t used MT in years. Not, in fact, since the mass migration to WordPress for reasons which are best left to the log files of history. Regardless, a good interface is, as previously mentioned, a good interface. It seems obvious that the better aspects of it would be copied in look-and-feel if not how it actually works. At this point, though, I have grown far too comfortable with WordPress’ capabilities and methods of doing things to change *back* to something I used to use. One of the reasons I made the change I did was because I found the backend of WordPress easier to use. Obviously, things may have changed with MT that make it easier, but, at this point, it would still be a step backwards to me.

    In short, it takes more than a nice interface to convince me to use software. And, the copying of interfaces is nothing new. As someone pointed out, it happened with SPARC who was copied by Apple who was copied by Microsoft. It happens. Designs get copied, but, for me at least, it’s really the underlying technology and total usability of the system that really matters.

  35. Anne (1 comments.) says:

    I wonder if anyone has bothered to read Word Press’s GPL notice?

    http://wordpress.org/about/gpl/

    • Dave (9 comments.) says:

      I agree. Get over it people, the devs want wordpress to be ‘ripped off’ that’s why it is open source!

  36. Tim (1 comments.) says:

    You’ve gotta admit, the Movable Type version looks quite a bit nicer even if it is a clear rip off. The clean design updates they’ve made to the WordPress layout should be noticed by the WordPress developers. Perhaps version WP3.0 will look clean and intuitive like this MT layout. I hope!

  37. beatpanda (1 comments.) says:

    Well, I’m still not going to use Movable Type, so…

  38. Judd Dunagan (1 comments.) says:

    I second the Network Geek.

  39. Danny Brown (9 comments.) says:

    Seems a storm in a teacup – does it really matter? Did fans of McDonald’s get in an uproar over Burger King for similar-looking burgers? ;-)

    It’s open source – and a compliment to WordPress that it’s being looked at this way (if that’s the case).

    Cheers. :)

  40. SuperMario290 (6 comments.) says:

    Man, I would take that as a great compliment. I mean both make great publishing platforms and to have them flatter you like that with the same kind of look, I would really appreciate it.

    I think it’s too small of a thing to get up in arms about. :)

  41. Nicholas Cardot (1 comments.) says:

    It’s a good layout and the source code is free to borrow from so how can you blame them? It’s just good business. Wouldn’t it be unethical to release it as open source and then get upset at the first person to take advantage of its open sourceness.

    I think that WordPress should be flattered.

  42. Patrick Allmond (1 comments.) says:

    I’d be flattered and moved on. Spend all of that thought energy worrying about the mooching into building a better wordpress – considering how cool it is thought I keep wondering how it can get even better. And yet it does every time.

  43. tom-g (2 comments.) says:

    IMO MT’s coders were prob beating themselves in the head to come up w/a better admin page. They did not have the skills to come up with a good one so they took the easy/lazy way out and just copied WP’s. They wanted to best and they got it. I thinks is only shows the lack of creativity on MTs part. I think it looks awesome myself! (because it is so similar to WP’s)

  44. Hikari (79 comments.) says:

    They wanna trick ppl to make them believe they are using WordPress! :D

  45. joblo (3 comments.) says:

    Great, have me write a nice post and all so I can get to the next screen that tells me

    >>>Sorry, your comment has not been accepted.

  46. joblo (3 comments.) says:

    I guess it was because I used my other email address pn, this is nuts :(

  47. joblo (3 comments.) says:

    I have had a lot of fun with wordpress, I believe if credit is given when due, then no problems. The only ones that really care are actually the creators anyway. Most of us are not smart enough to understand free codes and open source, we’re happy just having so much fun with making a website!

  48. nikita says:

    I used MT from 2001-2004 and revolted to WP when MT introduced the crazy pricing structure. I was rather flabbergasted at how much BETTER WP was over MT.

    I don’t really care if they “borrowed” the WP admin panel look. I find it kind of funny.



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