When working on a new WordPress plugin or generally speaking, a new feature of a project that will integrate with the WordPress back-end, I’m of the mind the all of the elements should inherit the styles provided by WordPress.

In short, I’m not a fan of when other people build things for the application and use the set of controls they think “look good” or that deviate from the core set of elements and style.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t improvements that can’t be made within WordPress, but there are also reasons for the look, feel, and usability of things as they currently are. And over time, I believe that these things will evolve just as they’ve done this far.

But what do you do when you’re working on a feature and you’re unsure of how it should work from a user experience perspective and you don’t really have a guide from which to draw?

Advice for WordPress Plugin User Experience

I’d like to think that when most experienced WordPress developers build things for the CMS, they take some of the cues from things that already exist and use that as their guide.

What if, though, there’s an aspect of a feature that doesn’t yet exist? Or what if there’s something that they are unsure is a best practice in the general field of usability?

A WordPress Plugin User Experience should not be like this.

A WordPress Plugin User Experience should not be like this.

Case in point:

We’re currently working on a plugin that will expose a few new submenu items whenever there is data present in the database. What if, though, said data is not currently present? Do we hide the submenu items or do we disable them?

There’s already a lot of research and standards around this kind of thing, already. Sure, it’s readily available for research but how do you vet the people who are providing opinions (regardless of how well they articulate them) versus those who are providing real world examples and the research they’ve done?

The latter should obviously have sources and additional work to back it up, but would it not save time and make more sense to ask a friend who’s more knowledgeable, educated, and experienced to answer this question?

Of course. And that’s what we’ve done (though that’s not the point). Instead, the main takeaway that I think any of us building things in the WordPress economy should remember is this:

  1. Try to make sure that your project tightly integrates with the core WordPress user interface. Regardless of how popular any given plugin is, don’t let it dictate how your plugin or project works. Its UI is probably not what made it popular.
  2. When you’re not sure if what you’re doing provides the best user experience, talk to someone who knows. There are plenty of people in our field and in our industry who are user experience experts (or accessibility experts or design experts and the list goes on and on). Don’t short change yourself or your team by not leveraging the relationships to help make these granular decisions.

For what it’s worth, I’ve found that people are more than willing to help if you just ask. Furthermore, I’ve found that asking these questions while the project is in development versus waiting until it’s complete can save more time and help you make more informed decisions while continuing to complete it.