Review: New feedback tool for WordPress plugin developers
A few days ago, the guys from Sellcodes.com (a place where developers can buy and sell codes) told us about their free tool for WordPress plugin creators which they recently released. We rolled up our sleeves, warmed up our chairs, and reviewed it ourselves.
Here’s our take on it.
What is it?
For plugin creators, it seems to be a flashlight in the dark.
If you create plugins and offer them publically (e.g. in the WordPress plugin directory), you don’t know much about what users do with your plugin, if there are conflicts with other themes, plugins, PHP or WordPress versions, etc. (so users delete your plugin again). It’s like you walk in a dark alley, something punches you in your leg (ouch) and you cannot see what it is to stop it.
The new tool allows you to enhance your plugin by integrating a feedback system. This will tell you who your users are, how they interact with your plugin, why they decide to deactivate or uninstall your plugin and so on.
It gives you the chance to:
- get clues on how to polish and improve your plugin
- send notifications to your users in case of major security updates
- send marketing-emails to your users (e.g. about new features in your premium plugin)
- increase your plugin’s value (user data is value!)
- get feedback system for users who uninstall the plugin
How is it integrated?
Integration is done automatically. You just upload your current plugin file & the new readme.txt on Sellcodes (i.e. sign up and then go to the WordPress feedback section, set the new version of your plugin, and click on “Start compiling”. That will compile the plugin and download a new version, which includes the feedback system, ready to be uploaded on WordPress.
How will it look like?
When end-users active a plugin which has the feedback system integrated, they will see a notification like this:
If they agree, the following data will be collected:
- Profile information: Name and email
- Site information: URL, WP version, PHP info, names of used plugins & themes
- Events: Activation, deactivation and uninstall
If users de-activate the plugin they will be asked for feedback on this screen:
If they select options “The plugin didn’t work as expected”, “I found a better plugin” or “Other”, a text field will appear where they can enter further information (e.g. what didn’t work, or which other competitor plugin they preferred).
Where to find the data collected?
Again, go to the WordPress feedback section on Sellcodes where you (the plugin creator) can see:
- how many users opted-in overtime;
- graphs and pie charts;
- section to download all the data (including users’ emails)
You can download more detail data in CSV reports:
On top of that, your data is automatically screened for patterns and, if anything noteworthy is found, notices are displayed such as:
- Benchmarking: How well your plugin is doing compared to others
- Improvement ideas: E.g. if an above-average share of non-English users deactivates your plugin quickly after installation, it’s a surefire sign of translation work and rolled-up sleeves on your end.
- Alerts: E.g. if the number of new installs declined sharply.
This is how your notification screen may look like:
Does it comply with the WordPress guidelines?
They claim it is in-line with WordPress Plugin guidelines, and that it got the official ok from the WP plugin team, so there doesn’t seem to be an issue. That makes sense, because the user is first asked to agree to it.
What are the alternatives?
The features above (especially the collection of emails) are indeed quite important for plugin creators, so it’s no surprise that Sellcodes isn’t the only player who identified this as a market opportunity. Also, Plugineye is focused on helping plugin creators to collect valuable data about their users.
Comparing Plugineye with Sellcodes:
- As of now, Plugineye seems to focus exclusively on the collection of emails and getting feedback from the user upon de-activation. No pattern recognitions yet (e.g. providing the plugin creator with alerts and tips on how to improve the plugin). However, according to our opinion, collecting emails is the most important element, so that isn’t much of an issue.
- Plugineye seems to be quite a new service, and there are the occasional typos here and there, however, we’re convinced those will be corrected soon.
- Integration with Plugineye requires a bit more handling of codes compared to Sellcodes, where the new plugin version gets compiled automatically.
And another difference: while Sellcodes is free, Plugineye comes at a fee of 19 USD per month, or 99 USD annually (as of September 18, 2019). This amount is justified considering the value it adds; however, why pick it if Sellcodes is free?
For us, the big question is how long the feature by Sellcodes will be free. On their blog, they claim they offer it for free in order to build up a relationship with plugin creators. This sounds plausible enough, however, there is no guarantee that it will stay free forever. In any case, as long as it is free, it can be used without spending any money.
Another alternative altogether would be to re-create this feature (i.e. by the plugin creator, so that it can be used for his/her plugins) – it’s all open source codes! The big advantage would be that no data is shared with any third party. However, it can be quite a hassle to create a stable version, and maintaining it (making it compatible with the latest PHP and WP versions), therefore it’s probably easier to use a service such as Sellcodes or Plugineye.
Conclusion and final thoughts
Collecting users’ data is crucial for a number of reasons, especially for alerting users in case of issues with the plugin (e.g. newly discovered vulnerabilities – informing users pro-actively to update), marketing reasons (upselling to a premium product), as well as identifying opportunities to make the plugin better.
If you don’t like Sellcodes, check out Plugineye, which offers the key features as well.
For further information, read Sellcodes’ article on their WordPress Plugin feedback tool (includes screenshots) and share your thoughts below in the comments. Thank you!