Please Stop Abusing WordPress Admin Notices

We’ve recently installed some new plugins on the Tavern and one of them generates an admin notice that can not be dismissed without disabling it. Not only is this frustrating, but it makes it less likely that I’ll give the developer money to purchase the pro version.

Here’s what the admin notice looks like. I’ve hidden the name of the advertised plugin as the goal is to inform people, not shame plugin authors.

Admin Notice With No Dismissal Button
Admin Notice With No Dismissal Button

While I expect admin notices when activating a plugin or after a major update, I don’t appreciate the inability to dismiss them. I also don’t appreciate admin notices that reappear no matter how many times I click the dismiss button. The worst part about the notice above is that it shows up on every page hijacking important screen real-estate in the WordPress backend resulting in a terrible user experience.

WordPress plugin authors, I respectfully request that you use the admin notice feature in WordPress for providing crucial information about your plugins and not as a billboard. Give users the opportunity to dismiss them and make sure that when dismissed, they don’t reappear unless the user clears their browser’s cookies.

91 Comments


  1. Turning users’ admin interfaces into billboards for Plugins and Themes is one of my biggest pet peeves. Sadly, in my experience, some of the biggest/best-known/most-used Plugins/Developers are among the biggest offenders.

    (Themes, not so much anymore. The Theme Review Team works with Theme developers to find a good balance of upsell promotion and respecting users’ Admin UI, for Themes hosted in the official directory.)

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    1. Correct, unless you are buddies with some of the Core guys… or unless you ARE a Core guy (cough, Yoast).

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      1. I realize you have a beef with the plugins created by Joost de Valk but if they violated the guidelines, the plugin directory maintainers would get it rectified. There’s no need to keep reminding us how much you dislike his plugins or suggest that some behind the scenes shenanigans allows him to get away with things others can’t.

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      2. I also don’t appreciate admin notices that reappear no matter how many times I click the dismiss button.

        I’m not into the conspiracy shenanigans either but, FWIW, when you mentioned this I immediately thought of the Yoast plugin and assumed you were talking about the same.

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  2. Totally agree.

    A recent update to a very popular free contact form plugin is doing a very similar thing, showing a persistent warning message which can’t be disabled. Extremely annoying!

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    1. If the contact form plugin you speak about begins with C and ends with 7, the warning message was a real warning about eventual problems related to the forms previously generated – not ad warning or invitation to install something. And it seems that last version of the plugin changed this behavior. This seems very different…

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      1. Agree with Li-An on this one. If it was this plugin, the message was useful message that I went in and fixed my forms.

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      2. Same here. To be honest, notices like this should be tolerated, because they are helping and notifying users about important things/changes

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  3. Amen! Even the ones that are non-sale-pitch can be annyoying. Especially ones that appear every several months with the same info. I’m thinking of a backup plugin…

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  4. I actually get really annoyed by the dismissable notices that some plugins add after every update. Like, “x plugin was just updated. Click here to see what’s new!”

    Yes, I’m aware. I’m the one who updated the darn thing and read the changelog.

    I hate having to dismiss those every.single.time.

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    1. Personally, I’d like to see those types of notices for major versions only but then again, the changelog handles that information so why bother having the notice in the first place? :P

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      1. That’s the new trend if irritating. Sadly some of the best and big ones also do it!

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      2. Sometimes the changelog might not be enough and actually showing the changes to the user I think is far better rather than displaying an admin notice once the plugin is updated.

        I would prefer to be redirected automatically to see those changes like how WordPress does but only major changes.

        I suggest that the use of the admin notice is used properly when the plugin is being installed for the first time and allow proper dismissal should the user choose.

        I don’t even know why the dismissal is even an optional feature to the admin notice. It should be on by default.

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    2. I usually put one of those “What’s new” notices on major updates (e.g. 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 etc).

      Why? Because I know from supporting my plugins that most people don’t read the changelog. I do try to keep it brief and provide links for more information and tutorials. I also send newsletters and tweets. But still some users miss everything!

      I do not use the WP method of displaying a “What’s New” screen as they are really annoying. I’m quite okay with WP doing but I hate it when plugins do because it hijacks the flow. You update 5 plugins and next thing you’re on some plugin’s “What’s new” page.

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  5. In my opinion, if your sole purpose of releasing a plugin on WordPress.org is to upsell, just make it fully premium. Freemium on WordPress.org is becoming more and more of a problem with forcing upsells.

    I don’t have any issues with making your users aware of add-ons available, but don’t be a dick about it and cripple functionality or constantly nag your users.

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    1. I’m not against upselling, and I’m fine with the advertisement in the notice above but I want to dismiss it. Right now, it looks like the advertisement is holding my WordPress backend hostage for ransom money. That’s not cool.

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    2. @Jeff, indeed… which is why Syed Balkhi’s recent WPForms plugin (among others) so obviously stinks. When guys like that get away with blatantly breaking the rules, while others have their free plugins literally deleted from the directory (yours truly) for no reason other that “it wasn’t very unique”… then it reveals a sort of “crony” culture unfortunately.

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      1. There are a few things that I’m not a fan of with WPForms, such as constant upsells, but at least it does what it says without crippling things *too* much.

        Personally, I prefer the plugin to be fully functional if on .org, with the exception of additional non-standard add-ons such as service integrations.

        I made that decision when I released NotifyBot. I didn’t want to upsell and be a pain, but wanted to be able to continue development and fully support it. Of course, this led me to release as a premium plugin to avoid those issues.

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      2. Freemium plugins should be tagged as such so one can filter them out when searching the repo.

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      3. Did you report it to us?

        I have no problems griping at anybody about their plugin being spammy, and threatening them until they fix it.

        Problems don’t get fixed until they get reported to the plugins team.

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  6. There’s even more stupid: admin warnings showing up at subscribers’ dashboard – subscribers being users that, most of the time don’t even know what a plugin is and, anyhow, can’t take any action about it. A very well know SEO plugin is doing this with a bunch of warnings and notices.

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    1. Well, that’s a real kicker. This sounds like a core issue as I don’t understand why Subscribers should see any admin notices.

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      1. I complained about this several times – including at wp.org general support – and nobody – including at wp.org general support – bothered to reply. Until another user posted at their own support pages a function that disables them permanently. Sad. (that’s right, this happens with YOAST and here’s one of those warnings: http://prnt.sc/asms4e)

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      2. Thanks for the insight. I’ll look into this and maybe we can get a Trac ticket started. I don’t understand why Subscribers would need to see admin notices if they can’t do anything about them anyways.

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      3. The word “admin” (for notices) could be interpreted in two ways — either they’re admin / back-end notices, or they’re administrator notices. I’ve always understood that they are the former (notices displayed on the admin back-end), and can be seen by any / all back-end users, so I use “current_user_can()” in my own code to display different kinds of messages. Maybe this is more of a developer awareness issue than a core WP issue. ;-)

        js.

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  7. Amen! Unfortunately this trend is perpetuated by the likes of Syed Balkhi, Joost de Valk (Yoast), and several other who promote a seedy sort of affiliate/hype-artist culture in the WordPress community (and who have been promoted on the likes of WP Tavern).

    As this “first generation” of WordPress “gurus” have a head start on the game, it is important to call them out by name, IMO.

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    1. Jesse, I can attest to a strong sense of a double standard in play. JetPack, WooCommerce, Yoast all get special treatment from what I’ve seen. It will be denied of course but I’ve watched it first hand.

      What’s worse is when the big guys do this, this sets the standard for the whole platform. I’m tired of the “too big to fail” line being used with the whales of the commercial plugins.

      Samuel and Mika should simply kick the whales out until they bring their promotional wizardry in line with the spirit of WordPress (an open source free publishing platform). Crippling advertising is not free. That’s commercial TV where a half hour is not 30 minutes but 20 minutes content and 10 minutes advertising.

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  8. I have a multisite and it shows up at the top of every admin page I open: “Your Google Maps Widget PRO trial has expired! All PRO features have been disabled.” – It’s very inconsiderate.

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    1. As a user, you’re probably more than aware that the subscription expired. Is that notice stuck on every page with no way to remove it?

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      1. If you feel like that notice which is not dismissable is hijkacing the WordPress backend, you should report it to plugins@wordpress.org with the name of the plugin and a description of what it’s doing. That is if it’s hosted in the directory.

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    2. I had the same, asked them why it’s happening although I never bought the PRO version and it appears they automatically enabled PRO version as a trial to all users who never asked anything and then, when this sort of trial ended, they started bombing. I completely deleted the whole crap.

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  9. I have nothing new to offer this conversation aside from a hearty “Preach it, Brother!”

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  10. I don’t think a cookie should be used either. I think clicking the button to get rid of the notice, should make it a permanent removal. If I didn’t want to see it the first time, I never ever want to see the damned thing again. Having to see crap just because I clear my cookies or am on a different machine is infuriating.

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    1. Totally agree with that.

      It’s really not THAT hard to simply add a transient – or if you know your way around, set a transient during the plugin install / activation, which will be REMOVED after the nag message disappears.

      Easy-peasy stuff.

      cu, w0lf.

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  11. I had to create a plugin just to block an admin notice from a very popular SEO plugin once.. I won’t say who.

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    1. HaHa, I installed such a plugin. (Hope it was yours)
      Great work !!!

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    2. I did the exact same thing too. There seem to be multiple solutions to fixing that particular SEO plugin.

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    3. Also created one that hides all the nags for that particular plugin.

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  12. Jeff, have you tried first to contact the author and asked him to remove this message or at least told him that its annoying? You can also use the plugin rating function to make him/her aware of your disappointment. I understand your concern but i never made the same experience with any of the plugins from the wordpress rep i ve installed so far on my sites. (i do not install low rating plugins) So i really think the majority of plugin devs are not abusing the pluginsphere. i would not bet that the author you complaining about is reading here so you have likely a much better chance to contact him directly. Your frustration is noticable without reading between the lines and i fully understand this but from a developers perpective reading the subject of your post feels like an accusation to every developer…not only to the minority of people who “forgot” the dismiss button.

    Btw. Dismissable notices are best created with an permanently stored db entry so you are sure the message does not reapear when a cookie is deleted.

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    1. The plugin author was notified by Sarah Gooding, something I found out about today after the post was published. He pushed out an update, I upgraded the plugin and now the admin notice has disappeared. Regardless, the post is a request and a reminder about how to use the admin notices feature in WordPress at least from a user’s perspective.

      reading the subject of your post feels like an accusation to every developer…not only to the minority of people who “forgot” the dismiss button.

      Ok, I see where you’re coming from. So in that vain, I’ve changed the post title so it’s a general request, not singling out plugin developers even though that’s who I’m asking.

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  13. Don’t use all that crap. Take a break and get a popcorn, comments are rolling ;)

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  14. The plugin in question has been updated and removed the notice. It was an oversight not meet the guideline 11. We apologize to everyone who had problems these days.

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    1. Thank you for the quick resolution. I purposely did not name the plugin or its author because it was unnecessary.

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      1. Not ugly, take when you’re wrong.

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  15. @rene Yes, you’re right and that’s exactly what I did yesterday morning. I contacted him privately. He was not aware of the guidelines and immediately updated the plugin. English is not his first language. It was not meant as abuse. Would be nice to have plugin guidelines translated – I don’t think they are. I don’t believe that many plugin authors intend to abuse the guidelines, as you say. Much better to give them the benefit of the doubt and deal with the matter privately before leaving negative reviews and reporting them for removal.

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    1. I hope you also let him know it’s coupon and not cupom

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  16. It’s good to shed light on this issue. I’ll bring it up to my members of WordPress Chapel Hill and mention the issue to the All in One SEO team, just so they are notified and keep tabs on any notices they build into the plugin. In my experience, they are usually good about that, but I’ll just make them aware of the conversation here.

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  17. Ok I’ll be the evil one. Admin notices are useless to clients and just confuses them resulting in urgent support calls.

    I hate them and they should only be enabled with debug on.

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    1. Many admin notices are useful. I don’t think you could just block them like that without causing UI problems.

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  18. I seriously hate plugins who OVER DO IT on selling the PRO version of the plugin, or their other plugins.

    Like Joost de Valk does with Yoast SEO.

    Just give me a few seconds to at least fart in peace before your plugin blasts me with so many notices thus hijacking my admin dashboard.

    I seriously wonder with Joost “gets away with it” and others wouldn’t come close.

    I can repepat same thing for other plugins, not just Joost.

    WPSmush is also a “culprit” on the notices hijacking.

    Same for Syed Balkhi’s MonsterInsights/Insights, Formerly Yoast Google Analytics, from showing a banner of Yoast’s services, now it shows Balkhi’s services.

    Someone should make a post (not saying WPTavern) of all these highjackers.

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  19. Great job throwing some light on this issue. I definitely agree with much of what has been said in the post and comments.

    There is definitely places to have ads and upsells in a plugin. However, they should be confined to your plugin’s pages and should be dismissible if they are admin notices.

    I am okay with permanent ads in the plugin’s page like in Yoast and similar as long as they do not interfere with the user experience.

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  20. I’m going to be even more evil. Admin notices should not be used for advertising. I get upselling to a degree, and I’m fine with links to pro versions or services or whatever in the plugin’s options pages, but not as admin notices. Admin notices are for admin stuff, like “Hey, there’s an update,” or “Hey, we did some new shit, you might want to take a look as it could effect how this plugin works with your site,” ETC. I’d also love a user_can sort of function for admin notices. If someone’s a subscriber to a site, they can’t do anything. Admins are the only ones who should be dealing with those.

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    1. In my plugins, I’m using my own implementation of the admin_notice “message” that just does that. If you cant “manage_options”, you won’t see a fart or burp of them ;)

      IMHO it’s simple negligence on the side of the developers; just quick rush-jobs to put up a nifty notice of your “here is another bunch of plugins for you (that might pay my rent, too)” and be done with it. Baaaad ways, done dirt cheap.

      cu, w0lf.

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  21. There are loads of culprits that do this, little notice here, a little banner ad there.
    One of my pet peeves. The ones with no dismiss and no screen option to remove are the ones that won’t be getting a dime from us.

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  22. Upselling should be disallowed in Plugin and Theme Directory. Notices should be strictly standardized. That Bluehost in the hosting page should be in the hall of shame too, not as a recommendation for innocent users.
    Why not keep w.org for share, not a sale?

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  23. Please stop abusing WordPress developers :)

    How many hours of work and $$$ Yoast (or any other plugin / theme dev out there) gives for free to all of us with the free version(s) of their work?

    Without upselling of any kind, most of the wp.org plugins would be probably on the Envato servers ;)

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    1. Stop upselling and just make the plugin premium. I am dead sick of the puzzle-piece model where the plugin does 90% of what I want, but the other piece is an upsell.

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      1. Then great plugins like WooCommerce for instance wouldn’t reach millions of people. And yes, they upsell things.

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      2. I am a developer of free plugins for over 7 years… I have donation link for all and thousands of active installations. so far not even one gave even a cent… I spend months developing them… so I put ads now, if you don’t like it, remove it and use other plugins :-)

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  24. Hear, hear!! I make an effort to share whether a plugin abuses notifications in my plugin reviews on .org and I encourage others to do the same.

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  25. As a plugin developer, I definitely support upselling a plugin in the Admin area. I’m yet to do that.

    However, I think this should only be limited to the Plugin settings or other screens added by the plugin. It should definitely not be in the admin notice because that should be reserved for real notices.

    Maybe this should be part of the plugin review process on w.org?

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    1. Among the recent offenders is WPMU Dev’s WP Smush, which had an unintentionally unstoppable notice/ad. It is the size of the welcome panel with a large cartoon figure in it. I think this was a subtle hint that they’ve rebranded.

      It would be great to see some interaction and design requirements/limits on these things.

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  26. I am glad to see some further discussion on admin notices that could help enhance the plugin review process and the plugin handbook documentation.

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  27. I’ve seen many admin notices that are notifying about the premium/pro version of a theme/plugin and clicking dismiss disable it forever. Or at least until the next update. And I’m totally fine with that, especially if it’s done nicely.

    After all, this plugin or theme is a free and people tend to forget that, which is sad. It’s good that seeing other comments, there are still people who respect those developers, event if they cross the line sometimes.

    A side note – if you don’t like the approach, admin notices, or something else, fork the plugin and make it work as you like. That’s the power of the Open Source.

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  28. Could not agree more. Have definitely noticed this happening more and more lately. Often times you can “dismiss” notice but they come right back again next time you refresh the dashboard.

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  29. Hi,

    Thanks for the post mate. It seems the culprit, whose plugin has about 5 000 installs, finally fixed the problem the annoying notice nagging people to up-sell is gone. While I feel for the author, the simple truth is that with this sort of plugin there is not advantage to upgrading to pro just so as to get Google Analytics. It’s a share button for God’s Sakes! Why would anyone want a pro version of something like that?Just use it to show your skills with other plugins.

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  30. I agree with those who name names.
    We need a policy on notices and perhaps a place to put them.
    If plugin developers want to make their settings page look like Times Square so be it, but no more exploitation of other pages.

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  31. thanks for bringing this up! wonder if Jetpack & BWS plugins team is reading this, they must.

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    1. I have to review this awesome plugin !

      —– Original Message —–

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    2. Something like this, standardized is a great idea. If handled well, it will be a good step forward. An important issue that has to be carefully controlled is, what and how can a developer push there.
      Bc. if it allows some kind of abusing, it can quickly become even more annoying than the current state.

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    1. It was a response article to WPTavern’s to bring more awareness as well as suggest a possible solution: something like WP Notification Center built into WordPress core.

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  32. The notification manager will be nice when it is further developed. In the mean time, I am tempted to use thoughtful but counter-intuitive plugins such as https://wordpress.org/plugins/so-clean-up-wp-seo/

    I certainly appreciate the countless hours of Pro bono work that many plugin developers have contributed. The freemium model seems like a great marketing tool if used correctly. I agree with many of the previous comments – keep the advertising on the individual plugin settings page. I have unfortunately have been conditioned to ignore the nagging irrelevant admin notifications and accept the fact that screen real estate is compromised.

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  33. Huf.. I own a freemium plugin, and I don’t support the “Admin Notices” way of up-selling it. In my opinion, advertising inside your plugin’s settings pages without irritating the UI is fine, but not on the entire dashboard. If possible, create a separate page for that, something like “Pro Features”, “Upgrade” etc..

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    1. I agree 100% Joel. Thanks for your dedicated but responsible work.

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  34. I couldn’t agree more! I often log into client websites only to find the content of the page is pushed down below the fold by annoying notices.

    Another major issue of this abuse is it can be very confusing for WordPress newcomers. It’s very overwhelming for a new WordPress user to log into their WordPress Admin Area and be bombarded with these messages, some of which are important and some of which are nearly useless.

    A few months ago I played around with a redesign of the notices (which is somewhat similar to Kooij’s design).

    Mockup: Admin Notices Redesigned

    A few problems this design solves:

    – Doesn’t take up much room.
    – Doesn’t overwhelm.
    – You know who the notification author is.
    – You know what component authored the notice (plugin, theme, WordPress)
    – Easy to see what is urgent and actionable and what is not.

    But I think the problem of admin notices must be solved at the WordPress core level. WordPress should allow messages to be passed to the notification center with specific data only, not unfiltered HTML. That data could be:

    Severity: urgent, significant, normal, promo, etc…
    Author: Plugin/theme name
    Dismissible: true/false
    Message: Content of notification (with length restrictions)

    AJAX links should also be supported.

    If this is not solved at the WordPress core level, there really is no way to prevent this abuse. Of course we could ask the plugin and theme moderators to monitor this but that’s asking a bit much. And that doesn’t even take into account non-wp.org plugins/themes.

    Eric

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  35. Before I typed my comment, I did a hard-search for the word, “ethic.” Return null. Ethics is often overlooked within an open ecosystem, because many contributors have no formal training or guidance in this area. Or, Ethics can be mistaken for “Guidelines” or “Standards.” Many professions require Ethics before you can practice commercially. Notifications are like a UX anti-anti-pattern. Communication Design has come a long way, we no longer require the burden of the obvious—though I stand neutral within Accessibility context #Semiotics. If you’re learning a new technology right now, consider spending just 1 hour on Ethics. You won’t be sorry #EthicsWP.

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    1. @Tada ~ I am right with you on this one, but I also fear we’re ‘flogging a dead horse’.

      It not just the WordPress community. It seems to be all that everyone ever focuses on these days ~ “entitlement” ~ and rarely, if ever, “responsibility”.

      What can I get; not what should I do/give/be etc.

      There’s a lot to be said for growing a community bigger, but there’s also a lot to be said for growing it better.

      As in ~ “ask not what your WordPress community can do for you, ask what you can do for your WordPress community” ~ with a hat tip to JFK.

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  36. There is a nifty plugin called “WP Hide Plugin Updates and Warnings” in the wordpress repository that allows you to block that pesky spamvertising, either globally, or on a plugin basis.

    I use it in all my sites and it’s a real stress reliever :-)

    Bye bye Yoast, WPMU and other nags

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  37. Casper Hübinger of WP Rocket gave a very vivid talk on protecting the WordPress admin interface for plugin developers at WordCamp Europe yesterday.

    Here’s some highlights:

    WP Admin is not your private space. It is a shared apartment.

    Car windshields don’t display advertising.

    Don’t be the one to contribute to Notice Fatigue and Update Paranoia.

    The whole presentation should be up on WordPress.tv at some point. Casper’s talk was the highlight of day one for me.

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