Shiny New Toys: A Weekly Report of New WordPress PluginsEach week, I browse the latest new plugins on the WordPress Plugin Directory and share my thoughts on the ones that stick out. Some are great, others not so much. Either way, it’s an interesting way to look at the evolution of WordPress as a platform and the Open Source community in general.

This week there’s some interesting developments in SEO, Social, and what I’d personally call the “Shiny New Toys” plugin.

Checking In on Previous Weeks

This is the fourth installment of Shiny New Toys (I know! Already!?). So I wanted to give a quick glimpse of the past 4 weeks and how some of the plugins I’ve covered are fairing so far. This is just a quick list of the most popular plugins I covered from each week and any progress they’ve made so far.

  • Week 1: ACF to REST API
    This plugin, of all I’ve reviewed so far has the most minor releases: 6 minor releases already! But that’s also meant they are already at 100+ active installs.
  • Week 2: Social Pug
    Social Pug is obviously the most popular plugin I’ve reviewed so far with 200+ Active Installs in roughly 2 weeks (that’s 100 active installs a week!). They’ve got 2 5-star reviews and 4 minor releases. But I’m really glad to see that they implemented my one major suggestion of ditching the non-dismissable admin notice. It even looks like they took some notes from our admin banner article too. Nice!
  • Week 3: Mobile Call Now & Map Buttons
    In just one week this plugin already has 30+ Active installs, 1 5-star review, and one minor release. I’m glad to see that they’ve strengthened their CSS, and added color pickers for the button colors and background color. I’m still holding out for ditching that slider in the settings. I think they’ll work that out eventually, it’s only in version 0.2 at the moment.

OK, let’s take these toys for a ride!

I really like the idea of “Easy Sell“. It’s kind of like our own QuickCheckout, or the reason we built Give. Basically, you want your visitors to be able to give you money as quickly and as easily as possible. You don’t want to hassle with a cart, or adding tons of products, you just have an eBook or a custom T-Shirt that you want to get out there. So, Easy Sell, right?

Unfortunately, no. It falls really flat for several reasons:

  • It only supports ONE product. I mean I want easy, but being able to add at least 2 products to my site is still Easy.
  • It’s impossible to know intuitively how to add the product to a page or post. Basically, no in-app documentation at all. Instructions on the Plugin Readme work, but I really don’t think that’s sufficient.
  • No options for a product image

So this plugin is a good idea — not a WooCommerce killer or anything — but it’s way below par for basic implementation. Here’s what this author needs to do:

  • Make each product a custom post type so multiple products can be added via a shortcode. Basically convert the current settings page into a CPT to support multiple products
  • Make the resulting shortcode obvious either directly in the Product Edit page, or in the list of products page.
  • Use the featured image of the new CPT for the product image

Really, those simple changes would make this infinitely more useful. There’s definitely more polish that can go into it, and I’m certain this author built this for reason I have no idea about and didn’t ask for my opinion. But I do this kind of thing for a living, and there’s plenty of reasons (like the story of Andrew Angell making tons of money on a free plugin) for even this plugin author to take his code seriously and step it up.

This looks like a really powerful new plugin — IF you are into BuddyPress. Basically, it’s pitched as the best way to give your BuddyPress members the ability to have their own Photo/Audio/Video galleries associated with their accounts. That’s a powerful feature. You can check-out their announcement post as well.

Out of the box I had issues with uploading images — it threw errors about the image format which was incorrect.

While I think there’s issues to work out still, the potential for this plugin is pretty significant. Until this past year, BuddyPress was the defacto social-network-ish plugin for WordPress. That is until Peepso entered the scene. See below on that. So I don’t have detailed feedback for this plugin at the moment, I’d just advise folks to keep tabs on it, it could become very useful this year.

I grabbed this because I thought it might be a Yoast competitor (lots of room for competition in that space still folks!). But it turns out this it more like an email marketing tool. There’s some polish to it, so it seems like the authors are serious about their work, but so far I’m not very satisfied. It looks like something we might even like to use on GiveWP.com or WordImpress.com but here’s a few reasons why I’m not excited yet:

  • It requires the version 1.0 JSON API to work correctly. I can’t for the life of me figure out why someone would release a new plugin on the Repo that requires the OLD API? First off, there’s the new 2.0 API which is far better — require that instead! Or, there’s quite a bit of the 2.0 version in Core now. If the Core support has all the endpoints you need, then you don’t need to require anything. This move makes no sense to me.
  • They require an API from their website as well. There’s nothing wrong with that, plenty excellent plugins do that (Akismet, Postmatic, to name a couple). But They use a janky-looking iframe in the settings page to request the email signup. That’s just tacky.
  • But most importantly, I take the time to visit their website and I still don’t know exactly what the expect from this plugin. I believe you can make email campaigns that are sent from your SMTP provider (a useful feature), but it’s not clear how I’m collecting the emails to send to these campaigns to. It’s not clear the purpose of each campaign. Overall, it’s clear they’ve put quite a bit of attention into the website, but not the right kind of marketing attention that is necessary to convert users.

While I don’t have a lot of positive things to say about this plugin currently, my hope is that we can revisit it in a couple months and it’ll be drastically improved. It seems like a tool that could be very valuable, but just needs the right attention to detail and clear and useful marketing.

Now isn’t this just about perfect!? They should have called this plugin the “Shiny New Toys” plugin. It adds a “New” tab to the “Add New Plugins” screen so you can show all the newest plugins right there in your WordPress dashboard. Makes my life even easier for these posts!

Seriously, is the author of this plugin a reader and busted this out just for me!? Thanks!

OK, this is not a NEW plugin. But I’m not cheating… I promise. Peepso came out Summer of 2015 with a big bang! The makers of a popular Joomla plugin, called JomSocial, wanted to do a WordPress version. They reached out to a friend of ours, Dave Jesch at SpectrOMtech and created Peepso. They got some really great initial reviews and several strong write-ups from the community.

Peepso is a freemium plugin and uses the Add-on model, but as bundled Add-ons similar to Gravity Forms. Their current list of premium Addons is impressive, and I think their pricing is very generous.

So it caught my eye when I noticed not one, but three free Peepso plugins on the Plugin Directory that were released within this past week. Each of them authored by Dave and the Peepso team. Here they are:

  • Peepso Location (aka. “Locso”) — imagine the community you are building on your WordPress site is a bunch of business owners. Wouldn’t they all like to display the location of their business? Enter “Locso”.
  • Peepso Tags (aka “Tagso”) — I’d probably call this “Mentionso”, but that doesn’t really roll off the tongue as well. This enabled “at mentions” within a thread just like Facebook or Github does. That’s a must-have in my book.
  • Peepso Moods (aka “Moodso”) — This is that “How are you feeling?” feature that Facebook implements. Basically, members can post their status and add how they are feeling at that time with emoji support.

Overall, Peepso really looks like a formidable product, it’s well developed by one of the best WordPress developers we know personally, and their business model is sound. Highly recommended if you’re looking to create a self-hosted online community of any sort.

Other Notables:

  • Push7: I featured another Push Notification plugin in Week 2 of Shiny New Toys. I didn’t do the full implementation of this plugin since the site that powers it is all in Japanese. But it’s interesting to see more of these plugins popping up. Who’s going to enter the push notification space with force this year?!
  • Quoty: I like plugins that make sharing content easier. I’ve seen a few website implement this feature. Basically, highlight some words in an article and social sharing buttons popup so your visitors can share that quote. Kind of an alternative to Tweet to Click, but much more subtle.
  • EDD Related Download Carousel: Honestly, there can’t be enough EDD extensions in my opinion. I love seeing new EDD extensions popup on the repo spontaneously. I’m hoping that in a year we’ll start seeing the same for Give.

In a Nutshell

Like last week, I came down a bit hard on some of these plugins. I don’t regret it though. Personally, I wish before I launched my first plugin on the repo that someone would have grabbed my keyboard from me and said “Think before you commit, Matt!”. It’s relatively easy to get published on the Plugin Directory. Really… it’s not that hard. But it’s hard to actually create a product worth owning and being proud of. Do your homework, stay current with the latest code in WordPress (like the REST API), know what else is already out there, and only commit the best most awesome code you can possibly produce.

See you next week!

 

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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