How WordPress Plugin Authors Can Better Explain What Their Plugins Do

Back in February, we published a guide containing tips for promoting newly released plugins. Since the article was published, we’ve received a lot of plugin review submissions through our contact form. Some of the submissions have left me frustrated as I can’t figure out what the plugin does or how it works.  Here are a few suggestions to help users understand what your plugin does.

Plugin Explanation Featured Image
photo credit: Jared Cherupcc

Use Video To Explain How It Works

The plugin’s description should be as descriptive as possible. Not every plugin needs three paragraphs of explanation but it doesn’t help if it’s only a few words. Explain what the plugin does, what problem it solves, and how I’d get the most use out of it.

In 2010, the ability to include videos within a plugin’s readme file was added. In my opinion, this has been one of the best improvements to the plugin repository in recent years. Videos hosted on YouTube, Vimeo, and VideoPress are supported. Plugin authors, please use this invaluable tool to walk new users through your plugin and explain what it does. One example of using video in an effective way is the Meta Slider plugin. The video is clear, to the point, and I’m able to determine how to use it.

Videos are not limited to just the description page. The FAQ section also supports videos.

Use Screenshots As Visual Explanations

Screenshot Of Meta Slider On The Plugin Repository
Screenshot Of Meta Slider On The Plugin Repository

While screenshots on the plugin repository are limited in size, sharp images give a good representation of what the plugin is capable of. I suggest showing screenshots of the options page, examples of the plugin in action, and any administration panel related to the plugin. I recommend using both screenshots and video to cover all of your bases.

What Does The WPTavern Community Think?

I asked the WP Tavern community on Twitter what tip would they give to a plugin author hosting a plugin on the WordPress plugin repository in order for users to immediately understand what it does. The most popular response was to create a video. Here are a few of the replies I received:

By providing a clear explanation using text, images, and video, users are less likely to skip over the plugin due to not understanding what it does. I’m also more likely to review it because I understand how it solves a problem.

What other tips and suggestions can you give to plugin developers so users immediately understand what it does and how it works?

6 Comments


  1. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time now. I think most of us just suck at video/audio work which stops us from doing this type of thing. I’ll make sure I get onto this at some point though :)

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    1. While audio helps, I’ve come across quite a few videos where the audio is silent. The author just clicks around, shows you what to do or how to configure the plugin and that’s good enough for me most of the time.

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      1. Hey Jeff, thanks for using Meta Slider as an example! I’m a regular reader (and background podcast listener) so it was a nice surprise to see this post pop up :)

        I’m also paranoid about my voice, so we asked someone else to voiceover this video for us. I’ve seen videos where the audio is recorded using a text-to-speech app which seems like a nice alternative to recording your own voice.

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  2. I think there’s a real opportunity here for a new kind of WordPress service industry — creating readme, screenshot, and videos for plugin and theme authors.

    I know personally, I’d rather be coding then doing videos. I did a few for one of my plugins (https://www.youtube.com/user/SurniaUlulaCom), but design / video work just isn’t my thing.

    And lets not even talk logo / banners… :-p

    Maybe we need a market place — a website where coders and designers can exchange services. ;-)

    js.

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  3. For 5 of my WordPress.org hosted plugins I’ve already made some introductory videos that already helped a lot of users. It’s especially helpful for new users. I can only encourage everyone to try this out. It’s really not that difficult to make a little screencast. Sometimes to show and explain goes a long way for some users.

    It’s all about user experience, hehe! :-)

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  4. For my Google Maps plugin, I found that just adding screenshots of the plugin working, with the shortcodes as captions for the screenshots, doubled the daily downloads overnight. When I finally got around to building a demo site for the plugin, daily downloads doubled again. Talk about your plugin all you like, but nothing gets the point across like a picture, and letting people touch and see a website using your plugin can really convince them it works.

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