Shiny New Toys: A Weekly Report of New WordPress PluginsShiny New Toys is a weekly report of the latest, free-est, shiny new plugins in the WordPress Plugin Directory. We share our insights into the viability and value of these free, new tools and have a bit of fun along the way.

The WordPress Plugins Directory grew by 248 plugins this past week. That’s the largest number of plugins we’ve seen added in one week so far this whole year. Someone on the Plugin Team got busy!

There’s also been some interesting developments since last week’s article as well. Here’s the highlights:

  • We featured Pagelines page builder plugin called Platform 5 last week. It’s already at a staggering 1,000+ active installs and nearly 8,000 downloads in just one week. Wow! They really hit the ground running. It doesn’t hurt that they already had a year of product marketing and development on this product before releasing it on the Repo though.
  • We also featured a new plugin called WP-InstantArticles. Since then, Automattic announced it’s own Instant Articles plugin and released it on Github. I think the writing was on the wall about that since Automattic had already developed an AMP plugin as well (which we discussed in early February)
  • Last week, in our “Other New Notables” section we highlighted “Comment Reactions“. It gives you Slack-style emoticons on your comments. Since then Gary Pendergast released a plugin that does the same thing. The difference here is that Pendergast is part of the WordPress Core team and has submitted his plugin to be considered as a Feature Plugin already. Personally, I’d love to see Pendergast collaborate with Aki Björklund of “Comment Reactions.” Also, if you scan the reviews of Pendergast’s plugin you’ll see that so far users are not excited about this going into Core at all. Unfortunately, I think this little and relatively innocent plugin represents another disconnect between the WordPress Core Team and the interests of WordPress users and developers, both in the fact that several “Reactions” plugins already existed and none of them were nudged to submit this as a Feature plugin, and that the community is clearly vocalizing against its inclusion. We’ll see how that feedback is received in the long run.

OK, moving into this week, there’s just one word to summarize the new plugins this week: SaaS!

Naturally there’s been a trend toward more sustainable business models with plugin developers and shops and the SaaS (Software as a Service) model is very sustainable. But I do bemoan the fact that the really robust and passionately developed stand-alone plugins are really becoming few and far between on the Plugin Directory. Regardless, let’s jump into the week:

 

Our first SaaS of this week comes from Ghost Monitor. This is a cart abandonment service. It saves your users’ name and email address on your cart before the submit their order. If they don’t finish the order this service sends them a series of emails to say: “Hey, looks like you left something in your cart!” It’s a very valuable service for anyone doing online e-commerce.

We use a similar service called Cart Hook. CartHook came highly recommended by Pippin of Easy Digital Downloads. It’s been a valuable service.

I have to say that from the website there’s several things about this service that are very attractive to me in comparison to CartHook:

  • The pricing is ridiculously cheap in comparison.
  • The data and statistics look much more thorough and complete
  • The email generation template looks a bit more robust.

Those things together definitely make Ghost Monitor an attractive offering.

You’ve heard of Slack, right? They really hit the market hard by solving a problem most people didn’t realize they had. Communication with remote workers and within teams in different buildings really sucked. Slack defined that problem and solved it with their custom solution.

Sparemin seems to be trying to do something similar. I didn’t realize that I have a spare time problem! Think of all the phone calls I could be making in my spare time! If I had spare time that is; and if I did, would I spend it on the phone!?

Joking aside; this service sets up a phone call queue for you. If people want to chat with you for five minutes — no more than five — they can get in your Sparemin queue, and when you’re ready to chat you go online and set your availability and you’ll get to talk for 5 minutes with the next person in your queue that’s available.

It’s a fascinating concept that’s just a little hard to sell. It really requires both parties signing up for this service to work well. If you are interested in this kind of tool, you can ease your mind knowing there’s a WordPress plugin for that too!

Our last SaaS for this week monitors your website user activity and provides you with detailed reports of how they interact with your website. This is provided by site24x7.com. The service provides a giant array of services to monitor just about everything about your site. The WordPress plugin is focused on the RUM part — Real User Monitoring.

If you want to get to know your audience in much finer detail then you might be interested in this. But I would make sure to compare it closely with Intercom.io as well. Their free service and dashboard is also very full-featured and useful.

This is NOT a SaaS. It’s a stand-alone plugin. Hallelujah! And it’s actually quite nice.

The future of WordPress (and most likely the Customizer) is front-end editing. There have been a slew of front-end editing tools available, all of which are primarily premium tools and very complex. FrontPress is instead extremely simple and purposely limited.

Basically, when logged in as a user who can edit posts, you can view a post and click on the Edit button and you’ll be able to change the content of that post and save your changes.

There is a very simple style editor that let’s you do headings, bold, italic, underline, blockquotes, etc. But there is no way currently to add images. I assume that’s on the roadmap, but would definitely have some complexities.

If you’re looking for a really simple way to edit your posts on the front-end you should definitely try this out.

Other Notables:

  • Easier Excerpts is a very simple new plugin by Tom McFarlin. It simply auto-expands the excerpt box as you type into it. I’d love to see this as a Core patch, it’s simple and useful.
  • POLITICS: ‘Tis the season, right? For those who “Feel the Bern”, install the “Bern Badge“.  Or if you’re a John Oliver fan, install this to Make Donald Drumpf again on your WordPress website.  Also check out my round-up of free political plugins at mattcromwell.com

Matt is Head of Support and Community Outreach at WordImpress.com. He's the author of many free WordPress plugins, a popular blogger at his website, an admin of the Advanced WordPress Facebook group, co-organizer of the San Diego WordPress Meetup, and a frequent WordCamp speaker and attender.

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