The Identity Crisis of WordPress Plugin Icons

One of the coolest things to be introduced to the WordPress Plugin Repository over the past couple of years was the addition of the header images – this one little addition made it possible to easily have your plugin stand out in the larger context of the entire repository.

This also got me thinking a bit about WordPress plugin icons.

The majority of our devices – either desktops / laptops, tables, phablets, and phones – all use icons to represent the application. Of course, this is nothing knew – we’ve been doing this since the GUI was introduced to computing, right?

But is this something that we should be considering for our WordPress plugins (or our themes)?

WordPress Plugin Icons

As far as icons go, they ultimately help to form some type of identity for our application.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say then when you mention the name of the application and the application is a mobile application, a person is more likely to think of the icon on their homescreen than the user interface for the program.

Homescreen Icons
I know my apps by their icons.

After all, many companies and development shops spend a lot of time creating some beautiful icons for their applications. And rightly so.

An End-To-End Product

One of the things that I dislike the most about developers creating and promoting premium WordPress products is that they don’t consider the true end-to-end experience of the product.

For example, the plugin itself – that is, the source code and its assets – aren’t the only thing. Remember, you have to think holistically about WordPress products.

You have to consider the…

  • Landing page
  • Purchase Experience
  • Installation experience
  • User interface
  • Featureset
  • Documentation (for both users and developers)
  • Support
  • An optional refund experience
  • …and probably more that I’m forgetting

But once the plugin is installed, should there be a way for the user to easily identify the product?

Deviate From The Norm, Or Increase Your Identity?

First, I recognize that some plugins add themselves to existing menus so I’m not talking about these specific plugins, and I know that some themes don’t offer option pages, so they’re excluded from this particular discussion, as well.

However, there are plenty of plugins that do add their own top-level and sub-menu pages. Granted, this is somewhat of a debate in the WordPress development and design communities, but I digress on that topic for now.

So I see this idea of introducing your own icon as a dilemma:

  • First, WordPress has a specific style of icons that they use in the Dashboard and are even experimenting with new styles using MP6. If we introduce our own icons, we disrupt the experience and deviate from the norm.
  • On one hand, you’re making sure the identity of your product is pulled through end-to-end from, say, the favicon or icon on the landing page, to the icon in the Dashboard menu, to the Support Documents, and so on.

Honesty, I waiver back and forth on this: I’m all for making sure our products are consistent across the board; however, I also think developers and designers need to do a better job of integrating with existing systems.

Custom Icons or No?

When it comes to pulling the identity of our work through the entire user experience – from the landing page, to WordPress, from the UI, to the support documents – should we do so at the risk of deviating from the core WordPress experience?

Plugins are a lot like apps for WordPress and I believe that they should be treated as first class citizens in the economy. To that end, I do think that there needs to be consistent branding pulled throughout the entire experience.

I just don’t know if it should be done at the case of deviating from the core experience of the platform on which we’re building.

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