Running WordPress bare, without any enhancements or plugins is great for most users, enabling them to share thoughts and opinions with the world with text, images, even audio and video.
But sometimes this isn’t enough. From time to time, additional features are required, almost always in the shape of plugins downloaded from the WordPress Plugins site (or a few other “unofficial” places).
However, finding the right plugin can be hard. While peer reviews are useful, plugin developers have a responsibility to provide users with the information we need to make an educated decision on whether the plugin is going to fulfill the requirement.
The only way in which this might be possible with every plugin is for plugin developers – who are often also WordPress bloggers – to take note of the following suggestions…
Give It a Meaningful Name
First and foremost, the plugin should have a name that means something to the people searching for it. While naming a plugin “Ecto-Cool 3000” might sound like a good idea and promote your nerd credentials, as a developer you should be giving the software a far more relevant and meaningful name.
For instance, users searching for SEO tools are unlikely to find or take notice of “Ecto-Cool 3000”. Using a more intelligent approach to naming (“SEO-Cool 3000”, for instance) might prove a lot more useful for all involved.
Fulfill the Promise
When I check the details of a plugin, I first read the description, then the compatibility details, and then the star ratings. If these things are all positive then I feel comfortable about proceeding.
Omitting to provide details about the plugin is ultimately letting down the developer. The best WordPress plugin ever could be written and uploaded but without a reasonable amount of detail to explain what it does it could end up just sitting, unnoticed.
Users need information before unleashing a new plugin on their precious blogs. As such, WordPress plugin developers need to tell us everything about the plugin, how it works, and what it does and provide good support to the users after installation. It’s all about trust.
Focus on the User (usability)
Giving the plugin user a reason for continued use of the software is also important. It isn’t enough to present it as a perfect solution to every WordPress problem – it has to be usable.
There are countless WordPress plugins out there that claim to do a job, and probably do it very well. But without good presentation of options and features, the blog owner can be left without the first clue of how to proceed.
Furthermore, if the plugin has an effect on how visitors interact with the website, then clear usability indicators and feedback (button click effects, etc.) need to be included.
Sell the Plugin (But not for cash)(screenshots)
The clichéd old saying goes: “a picture tells a thousand stories”. Well, one thing that is guaranteed to turn me and many other users away from choosing a particular WordPress plugin is a lack of screenshot in the index listing. Screenshots are not difficult to create, take moments to upload (if that) and tell the potential user a great deal about the plugin.
Failing to include a screenshot is pretty lazy, to be honest. A simple, single image can encapsulate the plugin in less than a second. A series of snaps of the enhancement can make so much difference in helping the reader make a decision there and then about whether to try it.
Give Me a Compelling Reason to Pay for the Plugin
Not all plugins are free, of course. Some can be purchased, with the developer offering a license for use on single and multi-user blogs.
The problem here is that while there are many excellent and useful “paid-for” plugins, there are just as many that offer nothing beyond that of a free plugin. The result is that users get ripped off.
Even if the plugin replicates something available for free, developers should be offering better support for paying customers, perhaps regular updates and one-to-one time every so often. What they shouldn’t do is grab the cash and run.
Plugin Developers, Take Heed!
All of the points above apply to many plugins that have been (or appear to be) thrown together by newcomers to coding without any thought for the consequences of the average WordPress blog owners.
Providing a plugin that solves a particular problem is an admirable step to take, but in order to do it well – and to ensure that the intended audience finds it and uses it – developers need to spend the time giving their plugin a sensible name, plenty of description and compatibility details.
Additionally, an agreeable user interface, plenty of illustrative screenshots and a reason to pay for the plugin (were necessary) are all recommended.
Without all of these, developers shouldn’t be surprised if WordPress blog owners ignore their hard work.
Similarly, blog owners should steer clear of plugins that fail to meet these criteria…