Throughout this series, I’ve been sharing my thoughts on what it means to think holistically about building WordPress plugins as products rather than simple utilities for blogging.
In the first post in the series, I defined this by saying:
Thinking holistically about WordPress Plugins is about the top-to-bottom, end-to-end experience that goes into building and that will go into using the product.
And in the second post, I shared my thoughts on the top-to-bottom – or the developer’s experience – of approaching WordPress plugin development as if we’re building quality products.
Similarly, I consider the end-to-end aspect of development to be epart of the WordPress Plugin user experience and that it’s arguably just as important as the developer’s experience.
So in attempt to continue thinking holistically about WordPress plugin development, here are my thoughts on the user’s experience – or the end-to-end aspects – of development.
End-To-End (or The User’s Experience)
When users set out to look for plugins, they often have a goal in mind. Sure, there are some users who are going to set out just to browse the available plugins and “window shop,” but a large percentage of users have a specific goal in mind when they set out to add something to their blog.
As developers attempting to build products to better someone else’s experience, we can shoulder than burden a little bit in helping users find and understand our products a bit better:
- When naming your product, avoid trying to be clever – the user interface of the web is Google and users are going to be searching by keywords as phrases so capitalize on that! Clearly name your product so that the name reflects what it does.
- Make the landing page, the blog, and/or the header image as attractive as possible. This doesn’t mean you have to be flashy with what you display, but it should demonstrate what the plugin does in as few words as possible. Think of this as the packaging for your product.
The point is that if users can’t look at a picture or read one or two sentences to understand what you’ve built, then you’ve done something wrong.
As developers, we do a terrible job at creating user interfaces. Luckily, WordPress’ Settings API makes it relatively easy to make sure that our dashboard is styled to integrate tightly with WordPress.
Don’t deviate from this.
User’s have a certain level of expectations when they sign into their WordPress Dashboard – between the menus, the styles, and the way certain elements function, we have our work cut out for us.
Do what you can to make their job as easy as possible without deviating from the way WordPress looks.
Regardless of how much work you put into your code, your documentation, and making it easy for users to find your work, they will have questions and bugs will exist. These are not assumptions, they are constants.
To that end, make it as easy as possible for users to know where to go to get help. If that means using the built-in forum on in the plugins homepage (such as this), then make sure you bookmark the page, follow it, and answer questions as timely as possible. On top of that, keep comment fields open on blog posts, and/or let users contact you by email or Twitter.
Whatever channels you opt to support, make sure they are documented on the landing page, in the README, and/or on the blog.
The point is that users need clear directions on where to go for help, and we, as developers, have a responsibility to be as responsive as possible in providing them with help. After all, they’re using something that we built to help improve their experience.
The Short of It
So what’s the point? The user’s experience is just as important a priority as the work that goes into developing the product. In fact, I’d argue that some parts of it are more important as word of mouth can make or break your work.
From the first moment the user begins to look for a plugin, you should help guide them as comfortably as possible from their search, through the installation and configuration, to the support system of your work.
This all contributes to the user’s experience which, in turn, contributes back to the entire holistic aspect of approaching WordPress plugins as products.