Freemius Insights has announced that its analytics service that was previously only available to WordPress plugins is now available for themes. The company was founded in 2015 by Vova Feldman and his team after discovering how much information is not available to developers who host plugins and themes on the official WordPress directories and marketplaces.
Freemius Insights for themes gives developers an opportunity to collect a large variety of data, including, email addresses, PHP, plugin, WordPress version distribution, and more. When a user installs a theme that uses Freemius, an opt-in prompt is displayed that notifies them that data will be sent to Freemius.com to help improve the product. Selecting Skip prevents data from reaching Freemius.com.
Feldman says that he and his team have worked closely with the WordPress Theme Review Team to ensure that Freemius Insights does not violate the theme directory requirements. One of the most informative features that Freemius Insights provides is the ability for users to provide feedback if they decide to switch to a different theme.
When a user switches away from a product using Freemius, a prompt is shown with randomly displayed questions asking for feedback. These responses are saved and can be viewed at a later time in the Freemius dashboard. If a user switches themes because it doesn’t have a specific feature and it’s added at some point, a developer can go back and notify them that the feature exists.
Data Collection Leads to Description, Settings, and Documentation Improvements for FooBox
Adam Warner, Co-founder of FooPlugins.com, added Freemius Insights to FooBox, an image lightbox plugin after noticing that other plugins were collecting opt-in usage data. His team realized they needed the data but didn’t have the resources to build a custom solution in a reasonable amount of time.
Warner shares what he discovered with the data collected by Freemius. “Install, uninstall, deactivation, and feedback data is some of the most important data we’ve obtained,” he responded.
“Not long after we discovered that of those who deactivated the plugin, the two top reasons were ‘expected something else’ and ‘didn’t understand how it works.’ That is valuable insight that we might not have had otherwise and allowed us to revamp our plugin description on .org and in the plugin settings.”
One of the main reasons for collecting data is to improve the product. Based on the data collected, improvements to FooBox were geared towards documentation and the plugin’s settings pages, “After learning from the insights that Freemius provided us, we wrote longer explanations of various settings and what they do, as well as putting in links to documentation and video walkthroughs,” he said.
Freemius Usage Data Ramps Up Priority for NextGEN Gallery Wizard
NextGEN Gallery is Freemius’ most popular plugin tracked so I asked Erick Danzer, Founder and CEO of Imagely, makers of NextGEN Gallery, what his team has learned and if any improvements are a direct result of the data collected.
Since adding Freemius to NextGEN Gallery, the opt-in form has been exposed to about 200K new users. Out of these, 37.5% or 75K users have opted to submit data.
“We’ve learned that 21% of users deactivate or uninstall the plugin entirely,” Danzer said. “Conversely, that means we have about a 79% retention rate. It’s hard to know how that compares to the WordPress ecosystem as a whole, but our sense is that retention rate is not bad (even if we’d like it to be better). I’d love to see comparative data across other plugins at some point.”
Of those who uninstall the plugin, 20% which is the largest share, do so because they don’t understand how it works, “This wasn’t a surprise. We know that NextGEN Gallery is powerful and thus overwhelming to some users,” Danzer said. “But this is the first time we’ve been able to put actual numbers on that behavior.”
Some of the biggest improvements to NextGEN Gallery that are a result of the data that’s been collected deal with the user interface. “We now know that 21% of users uninstall and that the biggest reason is too much complexity getting started,” Danzer said. “That tells us that if we want to improve our retention rate, we need to make it easier to start.”
“To that end, we’ve done two things. First, we just released a start-up Gallery Wizard late last fall that walks new users through the process of setting up their first gallery. Second, we’re about 70% done with an overhaul of the interface to simplify the presentation of options. These are both things we probably would have done anyways, but we upped their priority based on Freemius data.”
Data From Freemius Insights Points to a Common Dead-end With Plugins
For more than a year, Freemius Insights has been collecting mountains of data for plugins. Feldman was gracious enough to supply the Tavern with some interesting data. There are more than 750 developers registered to the site and more than 400K users have opted-in to usage tracking. NextGEN Gallery is the service’s most popular tracked plugin active on more than 1.5M sites.
Out of the plugins tracked, there have been 114K feedback responses on why users deactivated a plugin. The top five reasons plugins were deactivated are:
- 23% Expected something else / didn’t work as expected
- 21% Didn’t understand how it works
- 20% No longer needed
- 13% Found a better alternative
- 6% Didn’t work
The most interesting aspect of this data is the second most popular reason why users deactivate a plugin. When users activate a plugin, many don’t know what the next step is. It could be searching for a link to the settings page or not doing anything at all. Most of the time, users have no idea because the plugin doesn’t tell them.
Not every plugin is as complex as WooCommerce and doesn’t need a onboarding wizard. For these use cases, developers might consider using Admin Pointers, a feature that was added in WordPress 3.3. With Admin Pointers you can inform users about a new feature or provide further instructions after a plugin is activated.
Insights for Themes is free for non-commercial themes however, only two weeks of historical aggregated metrics and the 100 most recent user emails will be collected. In exchange for aggregating the data, Freemius asks that a symbolic attribution that ‘freemius’ is a contributor be added to the theme’s readme.txt file. No email exports or webhooks are included with the free plan.
Freemius is an example of a service that is filling a huge void of nonexistent data from WordPress.org for plugin and theme authors. A void that doesn’t appear likely to be filled anytime soon. As noted above, the data that is collected, especially direct feedback from users, has surfaced issues that may not have otherwise been discovered.
If you use Freemius Insights in your plugins or themes, please tell us about your experience and what you’ve learned from the collected data.