WordPress Plugin Directory Launches New Design

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.

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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.

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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.

47 Comments


  1. One thing I can no longer see, is sorted by newest. Every few days I would browse the newest plugins to see what is out there. I can no longer see how to do this :-(

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    1. This was a problem even before the new design went public. I too struggled to find the Newest plugins link. I had to bookmark it as it was a pain trying to find it every time.

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      1. To be honest, I thought we had removed all traces of the new and updated lists years ago. They’re not useful and prone to gaming. I’ve blocked dozens of plugins for making repeated meaningless updates, for example. Those lists are fun for aficionados, but not actually useful for the majority of users. We should remove them entirely.

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  2. Before, when logged in, you had links to the newest plugins, and the latest updated plugins. Now you have to manually type in the urls of these pages. I tried to provide both links here, for anyone who misses those two pages too, but the spam filter rejected my post, probably because there were 2 links in the post!

    Let me try this:

    ../plugins/browse/new/
    ../plugins/browse/updated/

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  3. The best thing for me is switching from downloads to number of active installs. That reflects plugin usage much more clearly, I wonder how accurate those numbers are.

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  4. I have to agree with @nick6352683 on this. I never understood why they hid the “new” or “updated” plugins page link to logged in users only. What’s the purpose of this? Why make it hard for people to find those pages?

    Don’t get me wrong, I like the new design as it reflects the WordPress UI, but with this redesign i hoped things would improve, instead now those links are completely removed, why?

    Wouldn’t it be easier to just add a 1 or 2 more links in there to those missing pages? An idea would be to add a notice like the “Popular tags” are mentioned at the bottom.

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  5. While I appreciate forward movement, and the recent switch to “installs” vs. “downloads”, I don’t care for this iteration.

    I have to scroll more, to see less titles. I would prefer the option to have a simple text listing, instead of the grid with all the distracting visuals. The logo for the plugin is larger now, which doesn’t help me search for and find, the functionality I’m looking for.

    I hope the ability to sort search results by date updated, and the number of installs is high on the priority list of to-do’s. There’s probably a plugin for that :)

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  6. Logged in on yesterday and for a second i thought i was on the wrong page, i think the navigation is better for me

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  7. Until the redesign, when you were logged in, you could see the “Newest” plugins. I used to go over this tab every day to see what new plugins where introduced. After the redesign, the “Newest” tab is gone. Could you please bring it back?

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  8. Is this a joke? If you search for backup, the first result is a plugin that has not been updated in years! It probably will crash your site or be full of security issues.

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    1. I must say I don’t like it. I didn’t like the new version in WordPress admin, so I had stopped using it to find what I wanted. It could do with a list view with more details.

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    2. The fact that you can’t sort by “Last Update” is really poor. I know not all plugins that are compatible are listed as such, and the date of the last update gives a big clue about whether it might be worth the risk.

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  9. I’m largely unimpressed. The design is cool, yeah. It still doesn’t address any of the real issues (e.g., permanent featured plugins, sorting search results) and even takes away from some of the useful features (e.g., newest, last updated).

    It’s the same with the theme directory too. They made a cool design and took away the link to the theme page on the theme author’s Web site. We’re still lacking features such as the readme-generated tabs and email subscriptions to theme support topics, which plugins have had forever.

    I’m hoping that a lot of the backend work they’ve been doing is at least moving us in a direction to address issues that are long overdue a solution. I know the folks behind this have been working hard on getting things moving, so I don’t want to give them too hard of a time.

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      1. I actually think they should’ve shipped. Feedback and iterative improvement are the name of the game. There’s a lot of real, actionable feedback given here in the comments and elsewhere. That’s a good thing, even if some of it is negative.

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    1. The theme directory was a ground-up rebuild. The goal there was not to add new functionality, but simply to move everything to a more modern system. It now runs in WordPress, not in an old version of bbPress. Adding new features like, say, multi-author support and readme’s, is something we’ll add on later, once the system is stable and I’m not committing bugfixes every other day. :)

      The plugin directory is basically a re-skin. It’s still running the same old code behind the scenes. Just with a new theme for it and some minor improvements here and there. Big changes will wait until we’re at the state where we’re satisfied with the theme-directory code and can use that experience gained to rebuild it too.

      You need to understand that there is always a push to make things “look better” because people like change and new and different are generally considered good. Making the theme directory look like the themes browser in core created the push to make the plugin directory look like core as well. So on that level, the plugin directory needed to get this change in order to keep up and help us find what works, what doesn’t, what needs to be altered, etc.

      But at the same time, making deep functional changes is difficult because these are tightly integrated systems with lots of inter-dependencies. The themes directory talks to the API system to hand out theme updates to installations, it talks to trac for the review team, it talks to the profiles pages for showing themes made by users.. All these have to be accounted for, so making backend changes like this is difficult and takes time. Reskinning takes less time, but doesn’t produce any path forward for underlying functionality improvements.

      Everything is a work-in-progress, always. Profiles were updated today to show new information from the new themes directory and the new ratings system. The API got a change to make the featured themes rotate in a more sane way. We’re continually watching how people use the system and making adjustments based on that, while at the same time trying to improve the back-end and add new functionality that people need and which will help our users use the site in better and improved ways.

      But all changes take time, and sometimes we’ll change things in ways that some people don’t agree with. That’s fine, we don’t expect everybody to agree with everything. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop working on what we think will make things better in the long term. :)

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      1. I fully expect awesomeness to come. I know y’all just changed themes from bbPress to WP, which couldn’t have been a small feat at all. I imagine that’s going to open up all kinds of possibilities.

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      2. The majority of the new themes code is in the meta.svn, BTW. Open and free to help out with.

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    2. I’ll echo @tadlock here, it’s unfortunate the lag between the plugin pages versus theme pages and the tightening of passing a link to theme authors page.

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      1. We redid the theme’s backend first for two reasons. 1, less themes than plugins, 2, that lag. Expect rapid change in the next couple months there, as we explore what is possible with a new and improved system. Sorry we couldn’t introduce new features on day one, but I’d prefer to take change slowly and with input from the community first.

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    3. Jeff,

      “36,000 listings” ~ yes, but how many of them A) have been tested with the latest WP release?, and B) how many are still being actively maintained?

      And what use is plugin branding if you can’t find one that won’t crash your site or add a whole bunch of insecurities because its out of date?

      I think you are right when you say “a fresh coat of paint”.

      Its just a shame that they are still having to paint over the cracks.

      Personally I would much rather see the fundamentals get fixed first.

      Terence.

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  10. How do they know if a plugin is active? This seems to be a privacy issue.

    Also would the stats take installs if I install via the admin panel on my site AND from worpress.org?

    How do they know I will install the plugin after I download it from the website?

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    1. Look in wp-includes/update.php and search for function wp_update_plugins(). The full list of your plugins (as well as the list of active plugins) is sent to wordpress.org each time it is checking for updates.

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      1. Thank You. I find this concerning. I understand that why they need a list of my plugins to check for updates but it should be just for that and not used for anything else. I hope they keep the information SAFE and that no one is able to access it and tie it to my site. If a hacker has a list of what I have on my site then they will know how to go about hacking my site.

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      2. You may not realize it but a simple google search can turn up a list of most of the plugins on your site. I can literally find nearly all sites that run my Popup Maker plugin by searching for the js file that gets loaded. This can’t be said about all plugins, for instance a plugin that doesn’t leave a noticeable trace on the front end.

        That said the information is scrubbed from my knowledge and is purely used for statistical analysis. This is also how they make decisions such as when to drop support for older versions of PHP & MySQL. They have to know this information or they may make bad decisions which could break millions of websites.

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  11. One distinct difference between the Plugin Directory page and the backend of WordPress is that, the backend uses up the entire screen while the public facing directory is limited to the center width of the site’s design. I much prefer utilizing all of the screen space which allows up to three cards/plugins per line versus two.

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    1. Jeff,

      What about if WordPress put a button where people could choose to go 2 plugins/cards or 3? Think of Youtube videos how you have regular size/full width/full screen options.

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      1. Better yet, let users choose from grid based like it is now, or list based. Similar to the media browser in the wp-admin.

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      2. I agree with this. I’d much rather have a grid to browse than big images. It’s something that has been done for the media page in the admin, with an option to switch to a list view which is definitely more useful!

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      3. The big images really need to go.

        I would also love to see an option where only plugins compatible with the version of WordPress that I’m running are displayed.

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  12. Well. That seems like a universal thumbs down. Oh dear. I wonder if anyone thought of asking the users?

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  13. Some underlying stuff still seems broken, like naming Plugins (similar to naming issues with duplicate themes trying to update custom themes). For example, how does a plugin named “Profile” get into the Directory? Clearly it’s created an URL issue – https://twitter.com/kelter/status/572829011870679040

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    1. One of the reviewers makes one little mistake, and everybody jumps all over it. ;)

      The reviewers didn’t know that that should have been a reserved word. No biggie. I talked to the author, he’s changed the plugin name to “profilepress” instead and will upload the new code there soon.

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      1. Hah – just doing our jobs too ;) Only thought there would have been automated rejection based on urls or something. Glad to see these things are caught quickly, though. Thanks!

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      2. There are checks, but checks can only check for things we’ve thought of before. Nobody ever tried “profile” before. It’s blocked now. :)

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  14. The favorites section is definitely going to be a help for me to keep track of the plugins I use all the time.

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  15. You lot complaining up there ^ need a healthy dosage of positivity :)

    I like the new changes. Some are weird, but I’ll chalk that up to experimentation. Overall I think things are heading in the right direction. Thanks to Otto and co. for their hard work :)

    My favourite recent change, is the “active installs” counts. Those are hellishly useful for working how popular a plugin really is. Something can have crazy high download counts, but that doesn’t mean much if people aren’t actively using it.

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    1. Yes, I do like the active installs feature.

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    2. Props should go to dd32 and coffee2code for the plugins changes. I had no involvement there.

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  16. I would like to see how many people have deinstalled a plugin as well

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    1. Hah! Clever idea, but we don’t track historical data in quite that way. Keeping a current count is hard enough. :-)

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  17. Is there a way (that I haven’t discovered so far) to search for a plugin (say “events” for an example) and then sort by number of installs? What order are results sorted by in the first place? Also, would be handy to allow filters such as minimum tested compatibility.

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