What Do You Think of the Recommended Plugins Page in WordPress?

In late 2014, WordPress 4.1 added a Recommended Plugins tab that takes into account the plugins you have installed and suggests plugins based on which ones are commonly used together. After nearly a year and a half since it was added, I asked the Tavern’s Twitter followers if they have ever installed plugins recommended by WordPress.

I was surprised to discover that some people don’t know the tab exists.

Steve Brown says the recommendations are useful.

Some people view the page as an opportunity for Automattic to advertise its plugins while others don’t trust the recommendations.

When I viewed the recommended plugins page in 2014, the results displayed plugins that weren’t updated in years.

Plugins Recommended To Me Based on Data of Sites with Similar Plugins Installed
Plugins Recommended To Me Based on Data of Sites with Similar Plugins Installed

Today, the page displays more relevant results with recently updated plugins. On the first page of results for WP Tavern, only one plugin from Automattic is recommended. The second page of results doesn’t list any plugins authored by Automattic.

Recommended Plugins in 2016
Recommended Plugin Results in 2016

To help determine how useful the recommended plugins page is, I’d like you to take this short survey. Results will be displayed on Tuesday, May 17th. In addition to the survey, you can leave your feedback in the comments.

http://wptavern.polldaddy.com/s/wordpress-plugin-recommendations

Would you like to write for WP Tavern? We are always accepting guest posts from the community and are looking for new contributors. Get in touch with us and let's discuss your ideas.

36 Comments


  1. I did not know that existed. I wouldn’t trust those “recomendations” anyways.

    Report


      1. I generally don’t trust any recomendations/reviews, how do you know they are genuine?

        When you go to Plugins > Add New, the first 3/4 (wp super cache, jetpack and Akismet) are all Automattic plugins, the first one is BBPress, it shows as the bbpress community (not automattic) as author.

        Those 4 are ALWAYS showing as the first 4 when you go add a new plugins (on your site’s admin dashboard).

        5th is buddypress, 6th is themecheck (an otto42 plugin).

        Nothing against otto or anyone at automattic.

        I think the recomendations should be by most active/downloaded or something like that. Not by someone from the greater Automattic family.

        I would say the same thing if we were talking about Drupal, phpbb, joomla and so forth, just change automattc to whatever they have running them.

        However the whole most active/downloaded recomendations could be “biased” since Hello Dolly and Akismet are automatically downloaded. I delete Hello Dolly and install Hello Spock, I use antispam bee too.

        What’s to stop from a “friend” of Automattic plugin from sneaking on the list of recomendations.

        Would Akismet always be in the recomendations for spam? What about others like antispam bee? I like options.

        Report


  2. I’m sure you’ll know which poll answers are mine, lol. Very top heavy with Automattic recommendations. Same on the Featured and Popular, which I’m not sure I’ve ever paid any attention to.

    Who actually needs Hello Dolly?????

    Report


    1. Hello Dolly is more of a cultural thing. It’s a plugin kept there by Matt Mullenweg because he loves jazz. Every CMS has a culture/lore around it.

      ;)

      Report


      1. Sorry, but that’s not an answer to who actually needs Hello Dolly. We’re all aware of the reason there is such a plugin and why it comes default installed.
        Why on earth it would be a recommendation when it’s obviously been uninstalled is another matter entirely.
        My recommended list looked like an Automattic ad basically, the top ten had 4 of them in there.

        Report


      2. So you won’t install my Hello Spock plugin?

        I am so tempted to upload a new plugin: Hello Donald Trump.

        Report


      3. I don’t know that I need “Hello Dolly,” but I certainly use it in my install in a version where I replaced its lyrics with the lyrics to The Beatles’ “Revolution.” :)

        Report


  3. Ah ha! I did not know that you could favorite things in WordPress.org and access them from your dashboard. Now that is helpful! I am always cutting and pasting their URLs into a list on a Trello board I have for interesting software and apps.

    Report


  4. Also didn’t know this existed. But I have never installed a plugin through this interface, so maybe no surprise. I search plugins online, try to discover which seems best, download a selection, look at the code and functionality in a test environment and only then install one by uploading it to a website.

    Report


  5. I’ve never clicked on that tab ever, but I just did after reading this article. I’ve to say that those recommendations are pretty good. But again, it’s recommending some of the most popular plugins which I’m likely to download anyway.

    Report


  6. > Today, the page displays more relevant results with recently updated plugins. On the first page of results for WP Tavern, only one plugin from Automattic is recommended. The second page of results doesn’t list any plugins authored by Automattic.

    Possible that WP Tavern already uses a few of the most popular automatic plugins and active plugins are not shown on the recommendation tab? (Would make sense)

    I’ve got there three automatic plugins
    plus three plugins connected less or more with automatic: http://take.ms/MWawK

    WP SuperCache, bbpress, Jetpack, Akismet, BuddyPress, ThemeCheck

    That looks like the plugins WhoIsWho of Automattic;)

    I like the recommended plugins and have no problem to see them presented there but i have no personal need for them so these are not much suitable recommendations for me.

    Report


  7. I think some people are missing this point:

    “Recommended Plugins tab that takes into account the plugins you have installed and suggests plugins based on which ones are commonly used together.”

    This is the key point. The results you see on that page are based on what plugins you have installed and what plugins other sites are using. It’s totally automated data, basically.

    That said, you’re highly likely to see some high profile and commonly used plugins which you don’t already have. For example, Contact Form 7 probably is in your results if you don’t have it installed, because a lot of other sites do have it installed and are also using a lot of the same plugins you are.

    That’s how the Recommended tab works, it takes all the plugins each site uses (based on the update checks), and builds statistical similarities between them. So based on the plugins you have installed, it tells you other plugins that fit similar profiles to that set.

    Report


    1. Well, then, my recommendations would indicate that people install at least 3 caching plugins together, run multiple forms plugins together, and have a variety of backup plugins to choose from installed all at once.

      I can’t say there’s anything redeeming about the thought of actually running a site that’s set up like that ;-}}}}

      Report


      1. No, your recommendations show that most people who run the plugins you run also run caching and backup plugins. It’s a statistical thing, showing you the most common ones amongst the same set.

        Report


    2. Like Kim, I get recommendations for plugins that are covered by the plugins I’ve already got installed. Plus Hello Dolly (cute, time to give up the jest) and for some reason a multibyte Japanese fix on a site that has no non-English content nor plugins to translate the content.

      It’s an odd feature anyway – Why recommend people install more plugins just because? I install plugins on sites because I need to have a feature. The odds of any non-AI level recommendation engine correctly identifying a feature that I need and don’t have is pretty low.

      PS: There are 1372 items on the Recommended tab on this site. Uh… come on, folks.

      Report


  8. It’s more advertising for Automattic and buddies (Yoast). The list is worthless and completely dismissive of the plugin authors who have made WordPress what is is today.

    It makes me sad to see this kind of open nepotism inside open source.

    Report


    1. Great topic for a poll and a discussion though.

      Otto’s point about how the featured (default tab) list changes on a per site basis surprises me. I manage nearly 100 very diverse sites and the list almost always the same: Akismet, Jetpack, Yoast, Buddypress, bbPress, ThemeCheck (lately), WP Super Cache (the only independent). This featured list is very stupid as I have two of those installed already on the particular site I’m checking now.

      Ah, I see Recommended is another tab with a slightly different selection. Perhaps Featured needs to be done away with and the Recommended tab put out front. I get about the same plugins you do though Jeff on my sample site which suggests the algorithm is far from exciting or likely to show new faces.

      The info would be much fresher if the featured/recommended plugins should rotate among top ranked plugins almost regardless of active installs (set a minimum of course, whether 200 or 1000).

      Report


      1. We’re not talking about the “Featured” tab. We’re talking about the “Recommended” tab.

        The Featured tab is indeed a fixed set. The Recommended tab is not, it is based on the plugins you have installed on that site as compared across all sites.

        For example, let’s say you have plugin-a and plugin-b installed. Now, we happen to notice that 48% of sites with plugin-a and plugin-b have plugin-c installed. We also notice that 85% of sites with plugin-b also have plugin-d. So those go on the list. Basically, it’s a bunch of math. Statistics. Comparing sets to all the other sets and drawing conclusions about what other items might fit into your set as well.

        Now, of course this is imperfect. Lots of sites have Yoast-SEO. So it fits quite a lot of the time, with a very diverse cross-section of other plugins. So really it’s all about weighting there to tweak the results. And also consider that you probably have some set of plugins you always use. So, those will be on your site, so you’re quite likely to see the same results on any site you make. But somebody else, who has a different set, will see different things.

        That’s how the Recommended tab works.

        Report


      2. Otto, you’ve just denied my empirical observations. I’m unlikely to have the same plugins as Jeff. We have existing form plugins (two or three). No reason for Contact 7 (to give a single example and not bore everyone to tears).

        Thank you though for confirming that Featured is nepotism 24/7. Featured is the only tab which counts as its the only one anyone every sees. Disappointing to see WordPress remain an advertising platform for a single company and its very BFFL.

        Report


      3. I am curious to know what the logic is behind the “recommended” section, which after ‘seeing’ I have installed what I consider to be the best SEO plugin, on the last 64 websites I built, has decided I should be running three others instead, or as well?

        If there is no intelligence behind this “recommendation” then it is a complete misnomer and should be changed to something like “other stuff you might like to bloat your blog with”. 8^)

        What’d you think?

        Report


  9. Personal need is what gets me into the repository, or an article about a new or useful one that catches the eye. ‘Recommended’ means little to me personally. Another way is also a https://wordpress.org/plugins/browse/new/ (which is not linked anywhere on the .org site that I can see) it is good for discovering and possibly finding a new gem.

    Report


  10. The Recommended label for this tab is a complete misnomer. The plugins listed as “Recommended” aren’t actually being recommended at all. They are just supposedly installed on other sites running similar plugins.

    But the math on that makes “supposedly” the operative word. I use a lot of plugins that don’t have so many users on wordpress.org, so I doubt I’m served a list of showing what others using these same, niche plugins are currently also using. That might actually be quite interesting, but I doubt it’s what I’m getting.

    In fact, the Recommended tab on most of my sites just lists a ton of well-known plugins, most of which I’ve tried and really dislike.

    Report


  11. Same here. Not using it, never did and will. I’d be rather happy to see all that clutter removed. Maybe just show a Featured and “your WP.org favorites”, and maybe a “latest searches” history tab?

    The latter one would actually be a great feature, eg. you accidently closed that browser tab, or forgot what it was what you looked up, and now can back to your old search ..

    Time for a proper overhaul?

    cu, w0lf.

    Report


  12. Even though I use Favorites all the time, Featured plugins was something that I only noticed today. Some of the suggestions are interesting, but my first impression was that it was a list of alternatives to plugins that I already use. It took me a while until I realize that the logic was different.

    For example, if I already use Yoast SEO, it doesn’t make much sense to me to see All in One SEO (and vice versa) as a recommendation. Of course, on the other hand, that would make sense on the condition that the suggested plugin was significantly better (more popular / higher rated, better supported and maintained) than the one that I already use.

    I find the idea promising, though, and I would prefer to see Recommended as the main tab instead of Featured. In fact, perhaps it would be interesting if recommendations could somehow take into account factors such as:
    – number of users who favorited a plugin
    – popularity / ratings of the plugin during a relatively recent time period (e.g. last year)
    – trending of the plugin (e.g. spikes of its popularity for the past week)
    – Site specific settings like language, multisite, whether comments are turned on or off etc.

    Report


    1. Recommended plugins on a per category basis would be awesome, something like a top 30! Unfortunately that only seems to be possible automatically with a better tagging system. (Predefined and one time authored list of tags instead the ability for everyone to create custom tags)

      I only use the plugin page when i am on the search for a specific plugin out of a specific category. I would never use the recommendation tab as it only shows unrelated plugins compared to my current search.

      Report


      1. I agree. Currently, tagging system in the plugins repository is a mess and a more strict categorization would definitely help.

        Besides that, I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find the whole “tagging” idea a bit outdated in general – something that belongs to the “blogging period” of WordPress, with not much use nowadays (in most cases, categories is a much better way of organizing content). In fact, I disable tags in all my sites because sometimes editors find it confusing.

        Report


      2. Tags are a different concept than categories.

        See them as keywords (which is its German translation, too), so kind of hints, shorthand notices, not as a major way to categorize content.

        The tagging concept also only starts to work out well if you have a bigger amount of data. Just take a look at social bookmarking sites (like Delicious or Scuttle), location directories (like Yelp) or Wikis (like DokuWiki). Oh, and of corpse search engines :)

        cu, w0lf.

        ps: I see the concept working out very well with my scuttle install, which mainly acts as my personal cross-platform bookmark service, and has been in use for over 6 years ;)

        Report


      3. @Giorgos ~ absolutely spot on with the Categorization issue and what little control there is in this area is not enforced.

        If this resource was to be managed better (stricter categorization) then you would be able to ask for a recommendation (most popular), and wouldn’t get 1,558 “recommendations”.

        Report


  13. Betting on a plugin release that disables the featured, popular and recommended tabs!

    Report


  14. I never used this tab or even wanted to click on it. I prefer to install plugins that I know I need to run my blogs. Plus I like reading reviews of plugins online that gives me a general idea if I want to play with it on a test blog or not before installing it.

    Some plugins might not work well with other plugins and that’s why I use new ones on a test environment.

    In real life if someone recommends me to do something, naturally I’ll do the opposite because I like to make my own decisions and deal with what comes after that. It’s beer time, see ya’ll

    Report


  15. The recommended plugins for all 11 of my sites is almost a match for the screenshot in your post. A very generic list, based on popular plugins it seems. The idea is nice. But, as is, it’s not useful.

    Report


  16. I’ve used some recommended plugins and I would’t recommend some of them! Guess they’re good for newbies and to that extent, no harm.

    Report


  17. We haven’t seen a lot of great results in the recommended tab, either. Today it included Hello Dolly, so anything else there should be taken with a grain of very skeptical salt. We put together a list of the best WordPress plugins that we recommend for our WordPress maintenance members. We’ve got them separated by category to make it easier to find what you’re looking for, and no affiliate links! Just putting it out there.

    Report


  18. I am going to take this one to the stretch. However, I think it would be amazing if the recommended plugins would be able to scan your site and then provide recommended plugins based on what your site was already running.

    With the introduction of AI into so many of the things we do in everyday life, I feel this would be an incredible feature if it were a doable function. On another note, I would like to see plugins which are NOT current with the latest version of WP moved to a lower que. I think providing more relevancy to the items that were current would provide users with a better experience with the plugins overall.

    Report

Comments are closed.