In case it isn’t obvious from some of my previous posts, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to some of the problems with the WordPress plugin repository.
Though I’ve already stated this in previous posts, my goal isn’t to complain without offering solutions – I hate seeing it, and I hate doing it – I don’t think it’s proactive and that’s why I enjoy many of the comments that have happened around this particular space.
But as I begin consider moving back to a premium model of offering WordPress-specific products and services, this has raised yet-another-dilemma.
When it comes to working with WordPress plugins, the dilemma is:
- Exposure and ease of installation at the cost of free support (and other similar demands)
- Potential for well-supported software that’s harder to discover
I know there are various models that dance between the two faces of this dilemma, but I think this is how we can distill the core issues.
Ease of Discovery, Installation, and Free Support
This point has been belabored in a number of different posts here and elsewhere so I don’t want to continue the discussion anymore than necessary.
So suffice it say that one of the nicest things about the WordPress repository comes primarily from a user’s perspective: From within the dashboard of WordPress, they are able to search for plugins, install, evaluate, deactivate, delete, and repeat as much as possible.
Permitting the user is experienced with WordPress, it’s a relatively nice experience that’s hard to beat. In fact, I’d say it’s akin to Apple’s App Store without the need to actually pay anything.
The problem, though, is that users either end up asking for support that may be difficult to come by (though, as I’ve discussed before), though I don’t necessarily fault them for that.
Secondly, developers often treat the plugin repository has a way to tease or to offer ‘lite’ versions of their premium products in order to hook users into upgrading.
While I don’t necessarily have a problem with this, I think there are right and wrong ways to go about doing it, and I can understand how this may backfire by negatively impacting the user’s experience.
Higher Quality Products, Premium Support
This particular heading is somewhat of a misnomer because I don’t believe that premium products are necessarily of higher quality. In some cases, sure, but in other cases, not so much.
It’s a fallacy to say that if you don’t have to pay for something, then you’re getting a lower quality product.
However, there is something to be said for the level of support that can be achieved in a given product. In fact, I’ll even go as far as to say that if people are paying for a product, then you may be able to build a more tailored version of the plugin because customers are really good about identifying the problems that they are experiencing and how they’d like to see it enhanced.
Since they are paying, this incentives the developer or company to continue investing in the product.
When the product is free, I see almost the exact opposite behavior: “You aren’t paying for this plugin, so your suggestions provide less merit.”
But I digress on this topic for now.
The Problem of Exposure
If you opt out of promoting your plugins in the WordPress plugin repository, then it’s hard to deny that you’re amputating a significant source of exposure, but you’re doing so with the risk of providing an overall better customer experience – at least, that’s what I assume.
I could just be wrong :).
The WordPress Economy
Finally, I’d be remiss to say that part of what has made WordPress so successful is that there are people who contribute in a variety of different ways all of which end up making it the application that it is today.
Aside from core, there is documentation, themes, plugins, thoughtful dialog and conversion, and so on. Contributions matter, and though I do think one way to contribute back to WordPress is by extending it, I don’t necessarily agree that contributing plugins into the repository is the best way to contribute to WordPress.
But I’ll gladly open this idea up for discussion :).
Anyway, I wouldn’t present this if I wasn’t curious about where you guys stand on the issue, so if you’ve got experience or even general thoughts and opinions on this, please share.