If you’ve been keeping up with WordPress 2.5, you probably know the intuitive drag-and-drop sidebar assembly of WordPress 2.2/2.3 has been replaced with a more cluttered method of widget administration, involving a dropdown to select the sidebar you want to work with (see screenshot).
At first glance this seems like a step backwards, but I came across a post called “In defense of the WordPress 2.5 widget panel” that makes a very good point:
I want you to imagine being able to widgetize anything easily. Now, imagine 50 different widget blocks in the old widget admin panel. Could get messy, right? The new widgets section gives you a drop-down list of your widgetized areas, which sets no limits on how you use your blog.
[With WordPress 2.5] you can make widgets for anything and everything.
Want to widgetize your footer? Done. The Cat Photos category sidebar? Done. About page sidebar? Post attachment sidebar? Done and done.
In summary, this new widget administration panel makes it easier to maintain an extensive list of “sidebars” (which, as the post points out, could also include the footer, for example). As theme authors start taking advantage of this, WordPress users will have much more fine-grained control over the appearance of their site, without having to edit the theme code.
I guess it’s one of those simplicity-for-functionality trade-offs. And in this case, the new functionality looks very promising.