Are WordPress Plugins like Restaurants?

January 13, 2014| Mike Stott

That certainly seems like a bit of a bold statement and a random topic to write a blog post about… Well, I’ve been thinking over the festive period (coupled with eating a lot in restaurants) that the customer experience for Premium WordPress plugins is a little bit like the experience in a restaurant….   to help explain my thinking, lets look at this from two both sides….

The Chef – WordPress Plugin Developer


The Chef is highly talented. A lot of time goes into thinking up new menu ideas, planning them, and then practising cooking them before even putting them on a menu for somebody to purchase and consume. The chef obviously thinks that his food is fantastic, it’s his pride and joy…

The same can be said for a WordPress plugin developer, what would make a good WordPress plugin, what would people really enjoy, hours goes into planning, coding, testing, re-writing and documentation before even being able to offer the plugin for customers to purchase..  The plugin developer loves his plugins, they work they’ve been tested and many hours, days and weeks of straight up development time goes into them.

So the Chef has set his menu, priced his menu and the plugin developer has written the code, tested the code and priced the code for people to purchase and consume.

What happens next? Customers see the menu, they see the plugin and they come along and try it.

[This may have a tinge of “urghh just shut up and eat your meal” but this post is intended to be exploratory and help gain insight from readers about what makes a good plugin]

The Diner – WordPress Plugin Customer


Introducing the customer (cookie monster seemed to fit a little bit with websites “cookies” and food). The customer goes to the restaurant, perhaps after a long day of working and wants everything taken care of. The customer just wants to make their purchase, consume the goods and then move on, fully satisfied and perhaps they’ll come back… they expect the food to look just like it does on the menu and they have expectations about how it will taste and make them feel.

Just like with WordPress plugins, the customer expects to be able to download and install the plugin to their website and it work without issue exactly as they had come to expect and how the plugin should work, perhaps a thought of

ooo I can use this to do this…

But what happens if it doesn’t go to plan

In both situations the first thing the customer can do is complain, it wasn’t meant to go this way… the chef didn’t want to cook you something that you didn’t like, nor does the developer want to develop you something that doesn’t work.. the last thing that anybody wants is for someone to complain. Maybe the cake comes with custard and not cream, but you thought it looked like custard.. oh no

There’s a lot of things that can go wrong with a meal

  1. It may have been overcooked or burnt by the chef
  2. There may not be enough food on the plate
  3. The service of the restaurant could be slow
  4. You may turn up to the restaurant already full

All the variables in the above equation that could go wrong with a meal, simply cannot happen with a plugin.. except one..

  1. The plugin is code, it cannot be overcooked or done differently
  2. The amount of code is the same for everyone
  3. The delivery is instant, moments after purchasing it’s yours

Which leaves…  4. You may turn up already full. That’s true… even with a WordPress plugin you may already have so many other things going on on your website that the plugin simply cannot function as it was intended if there was an empty plate.

So.. if you complained at a restaurant

I didn’t enjoy that meal, I already ate too much at lunch..

what would the reply be? Would you even complain?

Why are plugins different in this case? if you have a lot of plugins on your site, chances are they may conflict, or may try and do similar things… like two cats trying to get through the catflap at once..  it may not work as designed if you try and do too much… would you complain? rate the plugin poorly and have a poor experience? What are your thoughts?

Does the fact that you have paid for the meal mean that you should be excused from turning up full and be provided a refund? Or should the meal or restaurant recognise you’re full and cater accordingly.. I suspect not many people would consider this?

Another comparison to a restaurant I would like to make is the service of the chef, or the plugin developer. If you were sat having a meal, would you want the chef to invite you to the back, show you exactly how he guts that fish… or would you rather just enjoy the taste of the fish without knowing the ins and outs of how it’s made?

I know which one I would prefer..

Would you rather be shown how to make a WordPress plugin, or would you simply be guided as the best ways to enjoy your meal, savour the taste and really come out of the experience with something you can be proud of?

If you weren’t sure on how you should be feeling when you eat a meal, or how it should taste, would you expect the chef to come out and talk you through each element of the meal? Maybe at a high end restaurant you would be able to request the chef to see you, but often the chef may be too busy to see all the diners and still cook the meals

But, you’ve paid for the meal, doesn’t this mean that the chef should sit down with you and answer every question about the meal.. maybe this would help avoid that negative review? but would the chef still be able to cook more meals and continue the restaurant if the chef individually spoke to every customer while they ate their meal?

So what is the best thing for a plugin developer to focus on (with views from a chef’s world)?

  1. Thinking up new meal ideas (Increase number of WordPress Plugins available)?
  2. Explaining how to cook your own meal (WordPress Plugin Development Tutorials)?
  3. Spend more time talking to customers (With the risk of the restaurant closing)?
  4. Provide guidance about which meals to put on your plate to get the desired taste (How and Which plugins to use to setup a SaaS site, to setup a Bookstore? to setup a booking service)?

What number do you have in your head? Are a lot of you thinking 3.) would be good, to make sure you fully understand what you are ordering off the menu before you take the plunge. Or would you prefer more of 1.) and 4.)

I think there are already a large number of websites out there that offer tutorials on how to develop a plugin, or how to add that bit of CSS (just do a search on Stack Overflow) and you’ll see there’s lots out there..

What I do not think there is a great deal of out there is 1.) and 4.) … there’s always room for epic new ideas (if you have any please do comment in the box below) and there’s also a lot of areas where you can use WordPress plugins to develop something quite cool BY YOURSELF without needing to pay for a developer… bonus!

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