Yoasters contributing to WordPress 5.7

WordPress 5.7 is the latest, greatest version of WordPress available and I am very proud to say that several folks at Yoast have contributed to it in a major way. For this version, two Yoasters were part of the team, also known as the release squad. Tim Hengeveld served as the Design focus lead and Sergey Biryukov as the Core tech lead. This week, we get to ask them some questions about their role during this release. So read on and learn more about why it’s such a great experience to contribute to WordPress!

Tim as Design release lead

How was your first experience in the release squad?

“I didn’t know about the existence of a release squad until I was invited into it! But it makes a lot of sense to form a temporary team to coordinate what needs to be done. It felt pretty cool to be a part of that. They were a very friendly and active bunch. Though I didn’t interact with most of them that much since 5.7 was light on features that needed big designs or input from multiple teams. Most of the features were picked out already, so I was able to get to work right away. But it was nice to read along and see what goes into releasing new versions of WordPress.”

Could you tell us more about what you worked on?

“As a design release lead, your job is not so much to work on individual designs but to keep an overview of everything that needs design or feedback, and make sure it gets it. So there’s a lot of participating in ticket comments and meetings, forming opinions about more complex problems and figuring out the best way to present the solution. I’d bring these issues to the design team or the accessibility team to discuss and sign off on. And then keep checking in on the issues to make sure they were being picked up and made it into the final product in time.

“In addition, I noticed there wasn’t any documentation to speak of about being a design release lead. So during my tenure I wrote an article for the design team handbook. I gathered input from previous design leads and my own experience, in the hopes of better preparing others for this role in the future.”

What have you learned during this process?

“That there’s a lot more going on than you might think! I looked at issues about theme colors, fonts, reset password flows, confusing icons, navigation through the editor, the privacy policy page, down to how many columns are used to render the post editor’s version comparison and how that affects the whitespace and accessibility.

“And also that it’s so important to have an idea of where WordPress is going and what is being worked on before going into a release cycle. There were some bigger design and UX wins in progress that I would have liked to get into 5.7. But there are only a few weeks to get something merged before the first RC (release candidate) is made; After that, new features are not allowed in. And usually, it takes more than a few weeks to discuss the best UX approach and iterate through a few designs. They’ll find their way in eventually, but I would have liked to shepherd some into this release!”

What was your personal highlight?

“An update to the Reset Password UI we did. It seems like a small detail, but it’s such an improvement to the experience. For years I’ve heard people be confused by how that bit of UI works (including myself). Now with a few copy tweaks and an extra button we’ve removed so much friction in that interaction, it’s great. So I encourage everyone to reset their password and try it out.”

What feature in this release are you excited about?

“Another small thing I enjoyed was the CSS colors cleanup. By itself, this change does not really add anything exciting, but it prevents a lot of headaches in the future. As a UX designer, I know how important it is to have clear guidelines on certain interface elements and colors. And at Yoast we generally only use about a dozen – WordPress has about 75! (And there used to be a lot more before this!) Cleaning them up and auditing their use everywhere adds more polish and consistency across the admin UI.”

Do you plan on contributing to WordPress again?

“I might in the future. The thing is that it takes up a bunch of time and especially focus. I already work part-time at Yoast, of which I then dedicate a portion to working on WordPress. But the WordPress community keeps going, night and day and over weekends. People from all over the world work on it when it best suits them, which is fantastic, but to keep up with that requires a fairly clear schedule!

“Luckily in this release, it wasn’t too hard to manage. But I can imagine for bigger releases that do have a lot of design work that needs to be done, it can be quite a task. If you want to contribute to the design team, check out the design team handbook on the Make WordPress site. It has tons of information about the team’s process and where and how you can contribute.”

Sergey as Core tech lead

You’ve been part of multiple release squads at this point. Is it still exciting?

“WordPress 5.7 marks my fourth time as part of the release squad, though I’ve been contributing to WordPress in various roles for more than 14 years. First as a translator into Russian, then a support forums volunteer, core contributor, core committer, etc. I also worked on some open-source code of the WordPress.org site itself.

“It is indeed always exciting, as the WordPress community is huge, and there are many things to work on. So if you no longer enjoy a particular activity, e.g. writing code, reviewing patches, or triaging tickets, you can always switch to something else :)”

What was it like to work in your new role as Core tech lead?

“The role is not very different from my day-to-day involvement with the project. The person in this role for the release has to review patches and commits to ensure they are good to go into Core. They have to provide feedback, second opinions, and technical guidance. The main difference is that when you are the Core tech lead you need to keep closer tabs on the overall process and are called to make informed decisions about complex issues, like whether a feature is ready or not to be merged into WordPress.”

Could you tell us more about what you’ve worked on?

“Most of my day-to-day job was reviewing patches and commits to make sure they fit into the bigger picture and providing feedback where needed. Overall, I made 244 commits to WordPress Core in this cycle, ran mission control for Beta versions and Release Candidates, and triaged new tickets incoming into Trac (the bug tracking system that WordPress uses), to make sure there are no recent regressions.”

What have you learned during this process?

“Each WordPress release involves a lot of moving parts and manual work that the release squad tries to document and streamline as much as possible. There are ongoing discussions and processes that should hopefully help make future releases easier for everyone involved.”

What was your personal highlight?

“I would say I enjoy the fact that despite a shorter release cycle, the initially planned features were completed on time, and the release still includes a few hundreds of bug fixes and enhancements.”

What features in this release are you excited about?

“There are plenty to choose from! To name just a few:

As you can see, lots to be excited about!”

Do you plan on contributing to WordPress again?

“Definitely! Even in my modest freelance career before joining Yoast, I still used to spend most of my time working on WordPress for free, because contributing and giving back to the community is way more exciting for me than any client project :)

“If you’re thinking about contributing, I’d suggest checking out the FAQ for New Contributors in the Core team handbook. It’s a great place to start. We also have new contributor meetings every 2nd and 4th Wednesday at 19:00 UTC (an hour before weekly dev chat) in the #core channel on WordPress Slack, where anyone is welcome to ask any questions about getting started, submitting patches, choosing tickets to work on, or contributing to Core in general. Hope to see you there!”

Over to you!

Design and Core are two of the eighteen teams that make WordPress, the software and the community. Do you contribute to WordPress? If yes, what are you working on? And if not, why? I hope to hear from you and if you need some guidance to get started, leave us a comment. We will do our best to guide you and point you in the right direction!

Read more: WordPress 5.7: What’s new in this release? »