The things I learned while maintaining a WordPress Plugin

A bit of ….

Almost two years past from the date I started to maintain and develop Post SMTP plugin and let me tell you something, it’s one of the best roller coasters I had the pleasure to ride.

No one is preparing you for the show behind the scenes, you do develop, support, design, writing and much more.

I want to share some of the things I learned, some of them may be clear to you and some may help you with your current ride or future ride.

Don’t be possessed by numbers

Start your plugin because you believe in him and the solution he delivered, if you start it to see the downloads counter go up you will not get far.

 If you build it, they will come

Field of dreams (1989)

Make sure your debug log is empty

You can’t believe how many users has their wp_debug turn on.

Your readme file is very important

Your plugin page is like any normal webpage and your readme file is “mirror” for Google searches. think and structure him very carefully so you can catch the search query you want to be shown in Google search results or WordPress search.

WordPress SVN

Always remember

  • if in future versions you add a new file, in most of the SVN clients you need to “add” it manually.
  • Always double check your files and versions in the readme and the plugin file – Between the trunk and tag release there is a queue that sometimes can be very full so your “release version” will be your “current trunk” until your tag will be zipped and update.

Take your support threads on WordPress forums seriously

Besides the fact that you want to show that your users can count on you, The rumor says that the closed tickets ratio is part of the repository search algorithm.

WordPress forums or self-hosted forum?

The WordPress forums are fine and users familiar with them but ….

  • There are very strict rules on how much info you can get from the users to troubleshoot like asking him for login credentials
  • There isn’t any way to upload images (screenshots).
  • You can’t make your life easier but implement “out of the box” solutions – I made a simple bbPress bot

Releasing versions

Even when I had an issue with a release, just in really critical issues I released a version. if it was something minor but that thing really disturbed the users I waited until I released again.
Something in my mind told me that releasing “a lot” is not looking good and just causing the downloads counter to blow up.

Then I read a post by Mailpoet CTO “why the release a version every week”:
https://www.mailpoet.com/blog/continuous-delivery/
it’s completely bought be and I’m going to adopt it, I think you should to but I let you decide.

Reviews are not personal

I spent and still spending hundreds of hours to maintain Post SMTP, so the first bad review (stupid one too) was like a punch below the belt.
If the review is justified of course you can learn it from and improve, but there are reviews that will blow your mind – leave it and don’t answer!
After a while, I understand there are people the can see only the bad size in anything so it’s not specific to your plugin.

Marketing

To my humble opinion, you don’t need to be an expert marketing guy to attract users to your plugin, you can do stuff like:

  • Social Sharing – Facebook and Linkedin have some huge groups with a ton of users. you can publish a post about the plugin and problems he can solve. just don’t be a spammer.
  • WordPress blogs – bookmark the top WordPress blogs and when there is an article that is relevant to your plugin drop a comment.
  • Google Alerts – get notified when keywords you insert are mentioned online.

That is all I have, I will continue to update this post if something else will come up.
What about you? do you have a tip for WordPress plugins maintainers?
Comment below ๐Ÿ™‚

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