Recently, as part of a broader redesign, the plugin pages on WordPress.org have begun to reshape. There are some nice addition, for instance now voting that a plugin is broken sends you directly to the support forum to state your problem. But there are changes that I strongly dislike, in particular the removal of the author name and URL, and many think that way.
What it used to be
Here is a screenshot from the Themes sections, which I believe currently looks like what plugin pages used to:
The main things I liked were that the Author name was instantly visible in the main column as part of a rather important information, while the sidebar consisted in three strong areas:
- Main links: download or preview, the mandatory "click here" stuff you don't want to look for
- More about the plugin & author: this section was a bit poor at the time but had at least some valuable info
- "Additional Evaluation Information": what can give you, in a glance, an idea of how popular, broken, neat or unknown the plugin is. The rating may or may not be meaningful depending on the number of votes, and the last few forum posts quickly tell the mood of users.
What it's now
As of writing, the redesign of the plugin page looks like this:
The nice ideas: a quick description to make sure in a second you need the plugin, important information about WP compatibility and requirements, a compatibility form.
The weak points:
- I have mixed feelings towards the compatibility form, which lets people vote on older versions of WP/plugins, as if it was OK to use one or the other. I think it would be best to see past ratings to have an opinion on how the plugin used to perform, but be able to vote only on the latest combination.
- The "last updated" bit is minor. Honestly, I don't care if the plugin was updated yesterday or two months ago. Or maybe I do care if there has been a new WP release in the past weeks. And maybe it was the first update in months. Or maybe it's never updated because it just works and don't rely on complicated WP APIs that evolved recently. As is, I think this information is just useless.
- The rating is over promoted, above plugin information, when it's actually of little to no interest on 90% of the plugin pages. Overall, minor information and major stuff are randomly mixed all over the sidebar
The suck points: No author and plugin link??!
This is important information and not just vanity links: it allows recognizing some known names, but more importantly it allows browsing the other plugins from the same author, which you cannot do any longer.
Now, if you want to show your name, you have to insert it manually in the readme.txt and list yourself as a contributor. So, you have to enter redundant information, while other existing data from the readme or plugin file is simply ignored.
The reasons for this removal are: "links convert better when manually inserted" and "links are redundant now that there is a support forum on WP.org". So, now you have to scan the whole page to see if links exists, and, what I really, really, reaaaally dislike: "please use our site, don't use yours". So long for freedom and choice.
I'm not even covering the "marketing" topic: how many freelancers got gigs after someone found a plugin on the repository and thought "I'd like something similar but tweaked for my own use"?
My proposal on how it could be
I'd be an ass if all I said was "that sucks" and did not give constructive criticism, so hopefully here is some.
In my mockup (in HTML if you want to check for real) I think the sidebar is better organized: first, the main information; then, everything about the plugin, including outgoing links; finally the "Additional Evaluation Info". Oh, notice all the way down a little block giving some information on the author and what he has done. Since plugin authors get no love, why not give them some then, especially when it's easy and free?
The author name also gets promotion near the plugin name. Again, I think it's important information, besides obvious respect and consideration for being involved in the community. I'd rather read that a plugin is from Yoast or Viper007Bond than just seeing there are 5 stars after 3 votes.
By all means, I'm not saying my mockup is perfect. There are even some information I would probably take out if I was in charge, like the "last updated" bit, or the development log link which leads to highly uninteresting stuff.
I'm all for changing stuff when they can be improved. I'm fully aware that this is a work in progress and things are never final. The current iteration leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
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