Kevin Muldoon

WordPress Reviews | Internet Marketing

3 Little Annoying Things That Sneaky WordPress Developers Do

I am grateful for all of the developers out there who develop WordPress plugins; particularly those who choose to release their plugins free through the official WordPress plugin directory. However, there are a lot of little things that certain WordPress developers do that annoy me.

This article lists the three sneaky things that WordPress developers do to integrate their plugin and their brand deep into your website.

1. They Add Widgets I Don’t Need or Want to My Dashboard

The WordPress dashboard has become the dumping ground for many plugin developers. They display blog posts, special offers, stats and more.

WordPress owners Automattic use the dashboard to promote “WordPress News”; which is another way of saying they promote WordPress news from websites and blog they own, but not from any independent sources.

WordPress Dashboard Widgets

Thankfully, WordPress allows you to hide the widgets you do not want to see using the Screen Options box at the top of the page. However, I do still find it annoying that I need to go in and specifically hide widgets from the dashboard. In my opinion, plugins should have to ask for authorisation to be added to your dashboard. Authorisation should not be implied when you activate a plugin.

WordPress Show on Screen

2. They Add Their Plugin to My Main Admin Menu

The more plugins you install, the more likely it is your admin menu will be hijacked by plugins that believe they are more important than they are. The majority of plugins should be placed under the settings menu.

Unfortunately, many developers add a link to their plugin to the main admin menu. This quickly makes the admin menu crowded and more difficult to use. Take the related posts plugin I use, for example. After activating the plugin, I will rarely use the settings page again as the plugin is configured the way I want it to be. So why is there a link to the plugin in the top level?

Stop Hijacking My WordPress Menu

According to WordPress, it is rare than any plugin would require the creation of a top-level menu. It is difficult to believe this as so many plugin developers ignore this advice. Even Automattic break their own rules and add most of their plugins as a top-level menu.

Their advice on determining the location of new menus states:

Before creating a new menu, first decide if the menu should be a top-level menu, or a sub-level menu item. A top-level menu displays as new section in the administration menus and contains sub-level menu items. A sub-level menu means the menu item is a member of an existing menu.

It is rare that a plugin would require the creation of a top-level menu. If the plugin introduces an entirely new concept or feature to WordPress, and needs many screens to do it, then that plugin may warrant a new top-level menu. Adding a top-level menu should only be considered if you really need multiple, related screens to make WordPress do something it was not originally designed to accomplish. Examples of new top-level menus might include job management or conference management.

You can manually add, remove or modify menu links by adding a function to your theme’s functions.php template. Alternatively, you can control what is displayed and what is not by installing a plugin such as Admin Menu Editor.

We should not need to go to the hassle of installing another plugin in order to stop plugin developers breaking suggested guidelines. If plugin developers (including Automattic) continue to place their plugins in the top-level menu, then WordPress needs to update the WordPress core in the future so that we can control what is shown in our admin menus.

To put it more simply, we need the functionality of a plugin such as Admin Menu Editor built directly into WordPress so that we can decide how we use our menu. After all, we know what is best for us and our websites.

3. They Try and Control How I Configure Their Plugin

I have noticed a few plugins that dictate how I configure the plugin. For example, Related Posts by Zemanta. The plugin has an option for me to display related posts on the post compose screen. I do not like this feature as it slows down the post editor page; therefore I disable it.

Every time the plugin is updated (which is usually every two weeks), the checkbox for that option is re-checked again. I initially thought that this was a small bug, however every other setting always remains the same; it is only that setting that is forced upon me.

I have seen many other plugins do this with their credit link; always re-enabling the credit link back to their website on updates after you had explicitly stated you did not want to link back.

Controlling My Settings

I do understand why many WordPress developers use these tactics. If a developer releases a product free, they need to get something back. For some that means pushing their brand to the user, for others it means heavily promoting the premium version of the plugin. Though it is worth noting that many premium plugins have these annoying features too.

Whilst I do understand the reasoning why plugin developers use these tactics, I do not like them. Developers should adhere to WordPress guidelines and they should be stopping us from controlling how we use plugins on our websites.

I hope you all enjoyed my little rant of annoying things WordPress developers do. Please feel free to share your own frustrations about WordPress plugins and themes in the comment area :)


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About Kevin Muldoon

My name is Kevin and this is my blog :) I am an experienced blogger who has been working online actively since 2000. Through this blog I talk about internet marketing, technology and travelling. You can get updates to this blog by subscribing via RSS or Email. Alternatively, you can follow me on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

19 Replies

  1. I like how the Jetpack plugin breaks their own rules and adds the plugin icon to the very top of the left hand side menu, not to mention not using the standard/native WordPress UI.

    1. Nearly all Automattic plugins break their own guidelines. Plus look at the “Featured Plugins” listings on the plugin home page. They’re nearly all Automattic plugins. They’re still trying to push that crap bbPress to people.

      1. bbPress is awesome, you’re just not using it right… Threw this up last month –

        1. Hi Jake,

          I used bbPress in the past on a few websites. It’s very easy to install. The problem is that it lacks so many features that are essential for a good forum. These can then be added using plugins, but before you know it, you have added over a dozen plugins to add functionality that should be part of the core.

          I do respect the work that guys like John James Jacoby are doing for the plugin, but from a website owner’s point of view, bbPress is not a great option for a forum. I published an article about this a few years ago entitled “Why I Didn’t Choose bbPress For Our Discussion Forums“. A lot of the criticism I levelled at bbPress still remains true today.


  2. Oli Dale

    To Add: plugins which add links to the front-end of your site for SEO.

    In regards to the WordPress news widget, check out something I set up called “A Better Planet” which features news from a wider range of independent blogs :

    1. It’s that there is an alternative out there Oli. Unfortunately, by default, WordPress ships with a widget that only links to their own websites. Why is WPLift not listed, or WPHub, or WP Squared? They use a lot of tactics like this to push traffic to their own products.

  3. That third one is a real bummer. Reminds me of how iTunes deletes and re-installs itself instead of updating so it can bug you about becoming the default MP3 player again. Seems pretty counter intuitive if it would encourage people to stop updating.

    1. Yeah I really need to look for an alternative. I’ve been lazy in that regard. iTunes is still the worst software I have ever had to use. Apple pride themselves on making things simple, yet I cannot add music to my devices unless I install that crap. What’s so bad about drag and drop?

    1. Thanks for clarifying this Otto :)

      1. Hey, great article and thanks for using Zemanta plugin as an example. I wish it would be used in a different context, but… :)

        Anyway, I’m a product manager at Zemanta and I take care of our plugins in plugin directory, including Related Posts. Re-enabling the “display related posts on the post compose screen” option after update was actually a migration bug and we already fixed it.

        We’re bloggers too and most of the time we don’t like to annoy other fellow bloggers… But if it happens that we do something you don’t like, please let us know either on plugin’s support page or drop us an email at support at zemanta dot com.

        1. Thanks for responding Mateja. I still use your related posts plugin on this blog, so I hope it didn’t come across like I was complaining for the sake of complaining. I had noticed the bug happening in several updates, so I just assumed it was intentional.

          I appreciate you reaching out to me. It’s always great to see developers reach out and help those that are using their free scripts.

  4. Jetpack is the worst for #3, automatically enabling new features. Pain in the arse!

    1. Agreed. It’s very annoying, especially when it’s something that adds load to your website.

  5. Plugins that add columns to the post listing screen. I’m looking at you Yoast. So much noise.

    1. Great point Thomas. I don’t know why I forgot to include that in my list.

      I use Codepress Admin Columns on most of my WordPress websites because of that.

  6. Hi Kevin, really a nice post here.
    #2: You’re right: there are a lot of plugin out there with a single page settings that use Admin Menu. It’s a non sense.
    #3: If this is intentional, it’s a lack of respect for users, and a wrong strategy: most users will uninstall the plugin.

    About the #1 I must admit that my plugin is in that situation: it put a box with the recent rating put from the users. Honestly, nobody complained (until now) about that. Maybe because it’s usefull data (no ads or something like that) and is conceptually similar to the “Activity” metabox.

    1. Thanks for the comment Dario.

      I rarely uninstall a plugin that does take over my admin menu. Functionality comes first. If the plugin helps me, I will use it, regardless of the menu situation. Still, I do find it very annoying :)

      1. When I said “will uninstall” I mean the #3 fact, I think that is very frustating to save again and again the plugin settings on every update 😉

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