Recent Changes on WordPress: Don’t Mess with My Branding!

When delivering a branded message, the goal is to reinforce the image of your company or client. Using a consistent set of graphics, layout choices, and color palette in messaging reassures the receiver that what they are receiving is genuine and the message can be trusted. The simplest way to reinforce a brand online is to use the company’s logo. Using a brand’s logo throughout the company’s social media and website helps to establish an official presence, even if the overall look and feel of the sites are ultimately dictated by the social sites. Using consistent branding via website, Facebook and Twitter pages emphasizes to visitors that what they are experiencing is an authentic message that can be trusted. So, what happens when one of those messaging venues suddenly strips away the look and feel of the brand?

This is exactly what did. WordPress hosts nearly 19 million blogs and publishes approximately one half million new posts daily. On March 23rd, the bloghost giant launched a new iPad-specific theme for all of their hosted websites and activated the theme. Unfortunately, they didn’t notify the almost 19 million blog owners about this change, apart from an announcement on the official blog. The first indication that some blog authors realized that something was wrong occurred when they tried to access their own blogs via iPad or iPhone, and found a generic, brand-less theme.

While the new iPad theme (developed by OnSwipe), delivers an app-like experience to iPad users, it strips out nearly all the graphics a company may have used to reinforce their image. This new iPad-only theme does not use any custom menuing that may have been used in the blog owner’s original layout. Instead, it creates menus by default from the blog’s pages and categories. It strips out YouTube embedding, is not fully-supported with other in-app browsers (such as in GoodReader or the Twitter application), and does not use WordPress tags. If the “Mobile Themes” option is turned on through WordPress (to ensure the blog displays in a more friendly way for smartphones and other mobile devices), the new iPad theme came on by default. This can be deactivated by heading to Appearance > iPad.

The big problem with what WordPress did is not that they developed an app-like experience for iPad users; it is that they did not inform their client-base beforehand. To avoid experiences like this, when using third-party hosts for delivering a message, find out how they will notify users about design changes or layout changes. If a change is coming to the service you are using, knowing the specifications of the changes will allow you time to redesign for the new interface or, if the third-party service provider allows it, opt out of the change.

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