In the past few days, I’ve seen a lot of discussions centered around author credits in themes and plugins. Part of these discussions center around this particular guideline in the plugin repository:
The plugin must not embed external links on the public site (like a “powered by” link) without explicitly asking the user’s permission.
Themes on the other hand don’t have this as a guideline.
No hidden, paid or sponsored links in the theme. Links back to the author’s site are fine.
This has led me to do a little experiment. Download one theme and plugin from the repositories and see how many times I am told who created the theme or plugin. First up, the Atahualpa theme.
So right off the bat, I know who has created this theme with links to the authors defined homepage and the theme homepage which are different urls. Now I’ll install it to see who created it.
After installing the theme, I have to browse to the Themes section of the WordPress back-end in order to activate it. On this page, I see the name of the theme, the version and once again, the authors name which links to their forum. While configuring this particular theme, they have taken the options page to the next three levels with over 200 different things to configure. At any rate, I’m once again told where I can get support on their own forum with links to donate to the author. On the front-end of the website, within the footer, I see the following text: Powered by WordPress & the Atahualpa Theme by BytesForAll. Discuss on our WP Forum the theme name links back to the theme homepage and BytesForAll links back to the authors website with an additional link to the forum. Of course, this all shows up in the source code as well.
For this particular theme, there are four different places that tell me who created the theme.
Now let’s take a look at one of my favorite plugins, Exclude Pages. The plugin page tells me the authors name of the plugin which also links to the users profile. There is also a link to the authors homepage and a link to the plugin homepage.
While browsing the plugin management section of the WordPress back-end I get to see the name of the plugin while also seeing the authors name which links to his own website. This plugin is pretty conservative compared to other plugins dealing with credit links. In fact, Exclude Pages is an excellent example as to how all plugins should behave when it comes to credits. The information I need to know is in the two spots that should have that information. Not in my source code, not in my footer or some other place.
Obviously, each plugin and theme is going to produce different results but as I’ve shown, there are plenty of areas that show who created the plugin or theme without placing links on the front-end of my site. I think the theme is deserving of having a credit link in the footer of the site although Atahualpa is a bit extreme with three different links. What I don’t like are plugins which need to tell me in every place within the back and front-end of WordPress Hey, You’re Using So And So By Bla Bla with a link to the authors site. There are two distinct places where this information is meant to be. The actual page for the theme or plugin on the repository and the theme/plugin management pages in the back-end of WordPress. There is no reason to have links on the front-end of the site in the footer, sidebar or wherever. If a plugin does its job and does it well, I’m most likely going to tell others about it, write a review about it, put a link to it on twitter, etc. I’m pretty sure all of these measures of advertising and press are much more effective than just a dumb link in the footer of my website. Let the plugin speak for itself.
One thing I’m fine with is plugins inserting a little plug (pun intended) to themselves within the source of the site. I’d prefer the plugs to be the title of the plugin with the author name instead of website URLs of the authors website. In fact, I’ve discovered some cool plugins running on sites this way. This is also acceptable for Guideline 4 of the plugin repository.
So I go back to my original question, as a plugin or theme author, how much credit do you really need?