Improving the Plugins page

The WordPress Plugins page has barely changed in 5 years or more – compare WP 2.7.1 with 3.9.1.

The very first page seen by a new user who clicks on the Plugins tab is a list view showing two installed plugins. The main thing thing that has changed since 2.7 is that the way to find and install new plugins has become less obvious.

Similarly, the plugin-install page has barely changed in that time: WP 2.7.1 and 3.9.1.

The default page is very much geared towards maintenance by established users. The most common interaction is probably deactivating and reactivating plugins for troubleshooting – certainly a necessary task, but I think it misses a good opportunity for helping people to find and use the plugins they need.

There are a number of improvements that could be made with relatively minor changes:

Improve the experience for new and infrequent users.

  • The obvious fix here would be to make the path for discovering and installing new plugins much more obvious than the “Add New” link. Perhaps even go as far as making plugin-install.php the default page.
  • The Search Installed Plugins box on plugins.php is easily mistaken for a plugin directory search. Either make it less confusing, or use a unified search.
  • When searching for plugins in the directory via plugin-install.php, tailor the results to the current WP version. Give more weight to those that are compatible with the current version, and/or filter out those that are likely to be incompatible.

Help users to discover the plugins they need, especially the most robust and well-maintained.

  • On the Add New page, the most common tags in the cloud are “widget”, “post” and “plugin”. It’s next to useless. Replace it with a well-defined list of categories more in line with common needs: “contact forms”, “image galleries”, “security” and so on.
  • Improve the quality of plugin directory search results generally. Incorporate things like ratings, support stats, age, usage stats, and update frequency in the relevancy scores.
  • Augment or replace version compatibility votes with stats based on active installs per WP version.
  • Re-evaluate the tabs on the Install Plugins page. Is “Newest” helpful? Should “Popular” or “Featured” have a summary on the main page?
  • Improve the algorithm used for averaging ratings, to smooth out errors for plugins with only a handful of ratings.
  • Change the columns displayed in Search Results. “Version” doesn’t need a column; but compatibility and age ought to be shown.
  • Also show compatibility for installed plugins #27699
  • Improve the ordering and filtering possible in the plugin search API #12696 and #27316

Improve the way detailed information is given about plugins.

  • Either eliminate the thickbox for the plugin details, or make it more consistent with the theme browser (allow next/prev)
  • Add a Details view for installed plugins #17902
  • Show reviews in the detailed view #22599
  • Show contributors in the detailed view #19784
  • Show the plugin’s banner in the detailed view, and generally make it more consistent with what’s on the web site.

Help and encourage developers to publish and maintain their plugins.

  • Support screenshots, logos, or banners in the search results, installed plugin list and plugin directory.
  • Do a better job of handling ratings, reviews, updates, and support stats, especially when determining search ordering and popularity.
  • Improve the profile page to list version compatibility, support stats, and other useful info for all your plugins.
  • Add a version requirement check and/or upgrade prompt #26909 and #27323

And finally there are some other tickets suggesting improvements and fixes that could use a second look:

  • #28085 – Recently Updated plugins view (recently updated installed plugins)
  • #20578 – allow delete without uninstall
  • #27110 – allow filtering the plugin list
  • #26202 – bugfix for thickbox title truncation
  • #27623 – search results for a single space
  • #27994 – handling of automatic plugin deactivation in the event of an error

I’m working on the API side, starting with improvements to search quality. There are tickets above for many of these items already. If you’d like to help out, keep an eye on the Plugins Component in trac, open and help with tickets. Or leave a comment here with your suggestions if you’re interested.