A few weeks ago we, wrote about a proposal to add data collection facilities to WordPress. The proposal was rejected, but that doesn’t mean the points it made weren’t valid. Collecting data about real-world software use can be valuable to developers. Wisdom is a premium WordPress plugin that allows plugin developers to collect information about how and where their plugin is used.
There’s often a disconnect between software developers and their users. It can be hard for plugin developers — who are WordPress experts — to put themselves in the shoes of the average WordPress user. What seems like a great idea to a developer may get no traction at all with users. Interfaces that seem intuitive to a developer might confuse users. And a developer could waste weeks of time building new features that aren’t used.
Real-world usage data helps developers focus on what matters most to users. But that’s not the only benefit. Armed with detailed information about usage patterns, developers can create user-friendly interfaces that reduce the amount of time they’re required to spend dealing with support requests. For developers with premium plugins or premium tiers, data collected from users can help increase conversions and revenue — if you know what users want, it’s easier to build a business providing features they’ll pay for.
Wisdom makes it easy for developers to collect useful information from sites that install their plugin. Developers simply install a snippet in their plugin files and tracker code on their website. When a plugin user agrees to have their data harvested, the developer will receive a variety of information, including the theme installed on the site, the WordPress version number, and which plugin settings are being used.
The WordPress plugin repository is strict about data collection from users. Plugin developers can’t collect data without getting an opt-in from users. Wisdom includes a two-part opt-in process. Firstly, users can opt in to having general usage data collected. Secondly, they can agree to have their email address collected. Email collection can be useful to developers, but users are often rightly wary of allowing emails to be transmitted to a third-party. Wisdom allows developers to deactivate the email collection opt-in altogether.
If you aren’t using the WordPress plugin repository, it’s possible to disable the opt-in altogether, but I’d advise plugin developers to be open about data collection.
Wisdom isn’t inexpensive, and the range of data it can collect isn’t as a rich as many full-blown analytics solutions, but it’s worth consideration if you want to know more about how your plugin is being used and make evidence-based decisions about future development.