Making Your WordPress Plugin Memorable — Not Just Good Enough

WordPress plugins should be great -- not just good enough -- they should be memorable and offer a great experience.

WordPress plugins should be great — not just good enough. They should be memorable and offer a great user experience; to both developers and site-admins.

Backing up here. There’s a Chinese restaurant, now closed, located in the middle of our route of errands. Every so often, my husband and I would say to each other,

“Let’s go to Shanghai Charlie’s.”

And the other will say,

“Was it good?”

“Didn’t we go there once?”

“I think so but I don’t remember.”

Even though we considered dining there, our past experience was not memorable. Result? Pass.

I always say if you don’t remember how the food was at a restaurant, it wasn’t that good.

Important to note here is that it wasn’t that bad, either. It just wasn’t memorable. We remember the bad and the good. The dangerous ground is in the ho-hum zone.

I apologize that my analogies revolve around food, but it’s something we all understand. Think about your favorite restaurants. In many ways, what makes them rise in rank are the same reasons why any product excels.

Do you recognize these plugin logos?

Ninja Forms Logo OptIn Monster Logo Woo Commerce Woo Ninja Logo Easy Digital Downloads Logo

 

Of course you do.

They offer easy-to-use products, a good experience, and support that stands above.

Just because you can cook, doesn’t mean you should open a restaurant. There’s a lot more to that business than serving, creating menus, or marketing. The same is true in the WordPress space.

Back to the analogy.

A good restaurant is clean.

This means that the exterior is manicured while the interior is designed-well and clean. You also want the restrooms to be more than clean. These are indicators that the the core of the restaurant, the kitchen, is also clean. The appearance of clean helps you trust the food preparation and the final results. It’s the same with code.

We all know that a “Pass” from the health department isn’t the stellar review that earns our trust. Honestly, a plugin’s appearance in the repo doesn’t necessarily mean it’s best practices.

“Before I activate a newly-found plugin for the first time, I always check the source code, doing a search for the words ‘mail’ and ‘google.’ It’s amazing how often I find that the plugin author has either set the plugin to send him/her an email on activation, or register an impression on their Google Analytics account.” ZigPress

Hospitality is the first step in any customer experience.
Hospitality is the first step in any customer experience.

A good restaurant experience evokes and arouses the senses.

Eating is sensual. We have sense memory, taste memory, sound memory, and of course, tactile memory. There have been studies that show a server’s tips go up if they make eye contact and touch the customer’s shoulder.

Our optic nerve sends us signals about the mood of the lighting, table settings, and view. Our olfactory nerve foreshadows our dining experience, telling a story along the way. Our eardrums translate waves into language, laughter, joy.

We’re with friends. We feel safe. We are loved. That all happens within just a few minutes.

That dining experience was designed by the restaurateur, the chef, and your dinner party host. As humans we connect to experiences with our senses. Memories are formed from these experiences.

Feeling matters. Design matters.

A good plugin takes advantage of this in the user interface and initial setup experience. Design, for short.

Intuitive design can be tricky. The word itself is presumptuous and subjective. What’s intuitive to me is based upon my past experiences. However, in the case of WordPress plugins, it should be styled in a way that coordinates with the WordPress Dashboard. The Dashboard is our frame of reference — our intuitive context.

“When working on custom solutions for others – be it for themes, plugins, or some other extension for WordPress – one of the things I think is important is to make sure the Dashboard has the same look and feel as the rest of the native components of WordPress.” Tom McFarlin

So the user interface of the Dashboard is one thing but how it appears on the site is another. With Give, the styling of the forms are inherited from your site’s theme. After all, the purpose of the theme is style, while plugins compliment themes with key functions. The two should never compete. That’s a website disaster waiting to happen.

You should never feel that you're put into a corner and forgotten.
You should never feel that you’re put into a corner and forgotten.

A good restaurant has excellent customer service.

Have you ever had dinner in a party of ten or more? Of course, you have. How many of those times was an order mixed up or came to the table wrong? It happens. You shouldn’t be afraid to let the staff know it’s wrong or be concerned that they won’t remedy it.

A good restaurant will treat you like you’re important — you’re their guest. Good, old-fashioned hospitality is expected no matter if your meal is $15 or $50. You want to feel at ease and comfortable. Right?

A good plugin must be supported. This means you have access to comprehensive documentation and yes, real humans. Regardless if it’s free in the WordPress Repository or sold as a Pro only version, we believe all plugins should be supported. Solving client and developer problems naturally, is part of building the web.

“Providing support for your work will go a long way toward earning 5-star reviews from these users. Even the most frustrated user can be turned into a 5-star reviewer if you’re committed to helping and are able to solve their problem.” Tom Ewer

If your core belief is about helping the community, then the community will come first.

Bonding with a Plugin: The Disclaimer of this post.

Think about the plugins you love the most. What comes to mind? I bet a lot of us can name the same five.

There is a bit of a danger with our emotional attachment to a plugin, as Matt points out. We can expect that one plugin to meet all of our needs. It’s not realistic.

“There’s a tendency in all of us to latch onto a specific plugin, love it, and then immediately start thinking of all the magical things that it could also do for us.” Matt Cromwell

For me, an emotional connection is the best sign of a successful experience — both in use, design, and support.

A healthy-sized crowd at a restaurant is an indication of its up-to-date menu.
A healthy-sized crowd at a restaurant is an indication of its up-to-date menu.

A good restaurant is updated.

Who wants to go to a restaurant that only serves fried chicken with gravy? Well, maybe some of us. The truth is, we need vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. A good restaurant will update their menu to include current food trends and food intolerances/preferences.

Good plugins are updated. I’ve heard people say that you shouldn’t have to update a plugin that works (like the CDBaby plugin I use which hasn’t been updated for over a year — and it does work). End users — especially non-developers — have been taught to evaluate plugins by the ratings, downloads, and last time of update.

“Badly designed plugins can cause weird glitches that open up security holes in your site, making you more vulnerable to hacking attempts, which are aggravating for basic websites and potentially devastating for sites that store any kind of customer information.” Sarah Hines

We should feel safe installing your plugin. This is part reality and part marketing. Either way, it affects perception. And if you haven’t updated your plugin, are you there to support it? It raises more questions than it should.

Agreed?

So what makes a good plugin?

A good plugin should solve a need — a real-world need. It should cause the user to immediately drop all that they’re doing and write a pulitzer-prize winning review on WordPress.org.

This is one of our favorite reviews:

When the Universe was being created, It asked me, “What do you want to do first?” I said, “Hmm, create a sun and a planet.”

WHOOSH. DONE.

It asked me, “Now what?” I said, “OK, put people on the planet, create computers, and create the internet, and then create WordPress…”

WHOOSH! DONE.

“Now what?” I said now you have to create WP Rollback.

WHOOSH! BAM! VIOLA’! DONE! …the Universe said.

So then I asked the Universe, “What do YOU wanna do now?”

And the Universe said, “I’m pooped. I need a cigarette.”

WHOOSH! So I whipped one out and said thanks, “here’s a smoke.”

The Universe said, “Hmmm, where did you create these?”

I said, “Whoosh, I didn’t. The parallel Universe did..”

And the Universe said, “Well… at least we have WP Rollback! It will save MILLIONS OF LIVES from anger, frustration, hate, bloodshed, computer assault, broken keyboards and beer bottles being thrown against the walls in fits of rage while screaming and pulling hair out yelling at the neighbors while attacking family members with a baseball bat!”

I said, “Hmm, maybe your right Universe. Now let’s create marriage..”

Universe said, “Hmmm, can I have another one of those smokes first?” m0narch

As you’re developing your life-changing WordPress plugin, there are some things to consider.

  • Is it clean?
  • Does its design evoke emotion?
  • Will you support it?
  • Will you update it?