TL;DR a new WordPress plugin directory is in the works, and the WP Dev Dashboard plugin could serve as a good model for a new developer interface.
There’s been a lot of great talk lately around efforts to fully revamp the WordPress plugin directory. As a plugin developer myself, I like what I hear, and get excited thinking about how we can improve upon the current setup.
For developers, the existing system has served us well in a lot of ways, allowing us to easily publish and maintain plugins, track usage (albeit not so accurately1), and provide basic support to end-users. That said, there are also a multitude of pain points with the existing plugin directory: dependency on SVN instead of Git, inconsistent search results, inclusion of obsolete information, obfuscation of more important statistics, etc. Bottom line: lots of room for improvement, and it sounds like improvement is underway.
In that same spirit, I’d like to add my two cents, using the WP Dev Dashboard plugin I authored a while back as a model for some features I’d love to see enter the scene. But first, a little back story. . .
When I published my very first plugin nearly 3 years ago, I was just stoked to make a contribution to the open source world. And then, of course, I was elated to see the plugin’s first downloads tracked via the handy “Stats” panel2.
When I received my first support request, I dropped everything I was doing to respond as quickly and thoroughly as I possibly could. “Sweet!” I thought. “People are actually using my stuff and care enough to file a ticket!” So I kept developing, responding to support requests, and publishing plugins, until before I knew it I had a lot of plugins in the repo – 16 at the time of writing.
16 plugins. That’s 16 fully featured projects. 16 sets of support requests. 16 sets of testing and fixing and editing change logs and readme’s and pushing to SVN every time WordPress updates. That’s a lot to keep track of. I’d like to tell you I do it all, but the truth is that I fall behind. Herein lies the problem that I’m hoping we can fix.
The existing plugin directory makes it very difficult for plugin developers to see how far behind they are. The vast majority of relevant statistics are only visible from within a singular, per-plugin view. This means that if you have 16 plugins, you have to click through to 16 different views to see open support requests, current WordPress core version support, last updated dates, etc. The only way to see all of your published plugins in one place is to view your author profile, and the only two stats included in this view are star-rating and active installs (which serve more as ego-boosters/depressors than as useful development metrics).
So, this is all just to say: there is a better way! Enter WP Dev Dashboard. The plugin enables authors to see their published plugins (and themes, for that matter) side-by-side, with all pertinent data easily visible. Check it out:
Two handy views (table and metabox) make it super simple to accomplish tasks that are pretty challenging within the current system:
- View all open support requests across all plugins/themes.
- See which plugins/themes aren’t yet compatible with the latest version of WordPress core.
- Sort all plugins/themes by rating, review count, active installs, downloads, and more.
I would love to see some version of this model incorporated into the pending plugin directory update. The base functionality is all already there as part of WordPress core, and all of the data is readily available via the existing Plugin API. I think plugin authors stand to gain a ton from an updated admin/dashboard experience, and with 40,000+ plugins and counting, that’s a lot of happy points.
Have ideas, thoughts, questions, suggestions regarding the plugin directory overhaul? Leave them here, or head over the official wordpress.org thread.
- Active install and download stats for plugins are not fully reliable, due to over-time averaging and significant digit rounding. See https://meta.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/1155#comment:5
- The stats panel is a nice feature that comes pre-baked within the existing wordpress.org plugin directory, and is automatically available to plugin authors.