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Not Everything Is The Fault Of WordPress

Everywhere you see “that’s WordPress, our plugin isn’t responsible for that”. 

That’d be like buying a car and your brakes don’t work. Take it back to the dealer and they say “That’s a Brembo problem not ours”. 

Maybe you’re reading that and thinking “well that’s dumb”… exactly. It’s stupid right? 

Sure maybe it’s a manufacturing problem with the brakes but you purchased the car built on a platform where the platform is WordPress. 

Platform problems as a developer are your problems too. 5 years ago, you could easily say “Sorry, not us, it’s WordPress”. 

But that doesn’t work any more. End users are buying solutions, many segments aren’t even buying a WordPress plugin, they’re buying an LMS, a membership plugin, an affiliate system. It just so happens they have to install WordPress to use your software. 

Not the other way around, a WordPress user looking for compatible software and that’s a huge difference. 

See the former consumer is installing the platform because they have to, which in their mind makes their issues your issues and let’s be fair as plugins are getting more and more complex we as plugin shops, developers, website builders, agencies and digital brands can help our users more. 

How to Help Users of Your WordPress Plugin

Documentation. Documentation. Documentation.

No, I’m not Steve Ballmer. 

And you’re thinking “well no shit Sherlock, obviously I need documentation”. Sure, you do. But did you know you also need documentation for WordPress? *Crickets*... that’s what I expected. 

See as a developer you are responsible for teaching users how to use your system. Your system just so happens to include WordPress. 

Let’s say you have front-end registration and need the user to enable the “Anyone can register” checkbox in the WordPress settings, you need to walk the user through that. You can’t assume anything. 

And yet here’s the rub. As a developer it’s boring having to read through documentation that says about things I already know. Try and split up your documentation nicely with relevant headings, a nice content table and allow us to skip to relevant sections. 

Take Responsibility In Support

“That isn’t us. It’s WordPress”. And? My site is down, help me fix it, please. When you offer a platform plugin (LMS, Membership Plugin, etc). You need to be able to step up in support and help users with issues outside of your immediate plugin functionality. 

I’ve seen countless plugin companies and helped numerous users that have come to me privately for help over small minor issues that WordPress plugin companies can help them with. 

If you sell a theme, you aren’t going to build the customers website for them — that’s obvious. 

But as a plugin company, you can;

  • Help the customer find a plugin conflict. 
  • Fix minor CSS conflicts. 
  • Try your best to fix simple issues like exhausted memory with defines in the wp-config.php
  • Recommend a plugin combination to help achieve what the user wants. 

See good support. Like really good support, isn’t just about solving technical issues. It’s about empathy, understanding, acknowledgment, expectation management, and consulting. 

To a lot of people their issue is urgent, and they will be frustrated. Much like dealing with a toddler, try to de escalate, understand, communicate and come to a resolution. 

And, please. Don’t pass the buck between plugin, theme, hosting. “Oh that’s their fault” isn’t fair to any developer, often there may be other contributing factors that causes the issues, instead you can more respectfully phrase it like:

“Hi {Customer Name}. 

After digging in I’ve traced the issue you’ve reported and managed to patch it temporarily, it seems there was a conflict with {plugin name}. 

Given the nature of WordPress and the literal millions of combinations, conflicts are normal and neither developer did anything wrong. 

We’re reaching out to the team from our end, but if you could also open a support ticket with them as a customer that’d be great. 

Hopefully this resolves all the issues you’ve been having but anything else let us know!”. 

Notice how we’re placing the blame on anyone? We aren’t blaming the customer, we aren’t blaming our own team, and we aren’t blaming the other development team. 

Focus on User Experience In Development

Let’s be real. No one sets out to make a shit product. No one sets out to make a product that’s hard to use, a pain, and generally frustrating.

And yet in WordPress it’s too often the case. Even some of my own plugins were a pain to use as well. 

See the issues is these plugins still sell so why bother? Because your users will love you, they’ll shout about you from the rooftops and drive new sales and revenue. 

By focusing on the user experience in the development lifecycle you can ask yourself questions like:

  • Does this make sense? 
  • What would I think of this if I’d never used it before?
  • How do I set this up?

Yet you have to remember when asking yourself and your development team those questions, you are asking them as a new customer, an existing customer. You aren’t asking them as someone who’s an expert in the plugin. 

If you have a larger QA (Quality Assurance) team it’s often something they can look at and take ownership over as well. 

Let’s take our example from earlier about front-end registration. As a developer you can do one of two things:

  1. Have the user having to enable the checkbox manually in the WordPress settings and rely on your documentation making that clear and a user understanding it. 
  2. Automatically enable the checkbox based on if they have enabled front-end registration in your plugin. 

The second option makes more sense right? Right? Of course it does because by doing that you’ve just lowered the user friction, the touch points of your plugin and made it easier to use. 

Easier to use plugins are a good thing. Very few people want something to be complex and complexity for the sake of complexity is never a good thing. 

Apply these practices and your users will love you. 

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