The WordPress.org Meta team is on a roll this month. Following the successful launch of the new theme directory, the plugin directory is getting the same treatment with a fresh coat of paint and a set of brand new features.
Browsing the official plugin directory is now similar to searching via the admin plugin browser. Having all of this code on hand made it easier for the meta team to replicate the experience in the directory.
In addition to the new design, the directory includes a new section for logged-in users to manage favorited plugins. Previously, users had to navigate to their own profile pages to access this information. With more than 36,000 listings in the directory, favorites are becoming an important feature for users who want to keep track of plugins they use frequently.
The “Popular” section seems to be populated by extensions with the highest number of active installs. It would be helpful to be able to further sort popular plugins based on different criteria, i.e. the most-favorited plugins and those with the highest ratings.
Beta Testing is a new section which you may recognize from the WordPress admin. It lists all the feature plugins that are currently under consideration for inclusion in core at some point in the future. This more prominent display will help users discover the plugins, resulting in an increase in feedback for contributors.
Users can also now search for plugins based on author, keyword, or tag. Searching is lightning fast, but it could be improved with filtering options to further narrow down the results.
Although individual plugin pages did not receive a design update, they now reflect more accurate data with the number of active installs for each plugin. This provides plugin authors with a better understanding of how many sites are actively using that functionality, as opposed to just having downloaded it once and then uninstalled it.
The new design is more visually-oriented than the previous one, making it easier for users to quickly scan through a long list of results. It is now more important than ever for developers to prioritize plugin branding if they want their work to stand out in the official directory.
In his announcement about updates to the plugin directory, WordPress.org contributor Scott Reilly said that a backend reimplementation of the directory is on the roadmap for a future update. If you find a bug in the current implementation, feel free to open a ticket on meta.trac.