Why Free WordPress Plugins are Bad for Everyone

We all love free stuff right? It’s hard to look past the benefits of a free product when it comes to web development, whether that means a plugin, or a theme. You, the plugin developer, know this first hand. You can understand how people look at plugins, because free plugins are everywhere!

Trust me, I know. As someone who grew up in Israel, paying is not part of my culture — we like free stuff too!

People might overlook your plugin if it’s not free after all. There are so many free plugins on the marketplace, and after toiling around with code for hours, the idea of a user ignoring your long hours of work seems horrendous. At least if it’s free it’ll get seen right? Perhaps people will donate! And if it’s expensive, people won’t invest into the plugin.

However, the best and most popular plugins have actual businesses behind them. That means plugins like Yoast, Akismet, Jetpack, W3 Total Cache, WooCommerce and ManageWP — which are all within the official WordPress.org Repository. People pay for these plugins, either through a premium version, or paid add-ons / paid support. These businesses make a lot of money which lets them maintain quality development. Do we hate these guys? On the contrary — WE LOVE THEM!

If you don’t make any money with your plug-in, the course of the plugin’s life, and thus your attention to the project can never reach it’s full potential. There are thousands of plugins with great potential on the .org repository that are abandoned because developers received no financial return on their creative investments, therefore had to stop the development. These free plugins are often host to many problems. Since many of them lack continued development, they become outdated and often have security issues.

I mentioned donations earlier. If you think the donations are still working, or that they really ever worked, then you are wrong! I was running RatingWidget for 3 years, as a side project, for FREE. I spent over 300 hours on weekends — working 20 hours on the weekend alongside a full time job! I consider RatingWidget a highly successful project as it grossed over 200,000 downloads as a side project, but with all of that work I only received $30 in donations. 3 years, 300 hours and only $30!

If you’re a plugin developer I highly encourage you to immediately think about premium features and start monetizing your plugin. And in my opinion, the freemium model is the best way to monetize. With this model, users have the choice to pay for the premium features, while free users can benefit from the constant maintenance, updates & support — which is sponsored by the paid customers.

Now, if you are a blogger, publisher, business owner or just using WordPress in any way — I challenge you to examine the importance of developers earning revenue for their hard work, because it impacts everyone!

Like I said before, when developers make money from their plugins, this provides longer development processes to ensure projects can keep growing. Developers can write better code, maintain their plugins, provide support, add new features, and thus create better plugins for the whole community. Free is free after all, but it is not necessarily better.

What do you think? Are developers better off with promoting free plugins? I would love to know your opinions on this subject.

6 comments

  1. No we don’t love them.

    Yoast and W3 Total Cache are really great.

    Akismet is a data leech and Jetpack bloated.

    WooCommerce kicked their customers in the face by increasing prices without warning. It worked at first, but they made some enemies and will lose a lot of customers as soon as they find an alternative.

    And you shouldn’t think that business models of big players and leaders of their area can be adopted by small or medium plugin developers with the same success.

    Especially don’t believe everything Chris Lema and people like him tell you – he is best at two things: promoting himself and sell ideas and products to beginners. His interests are not your success or that of your customers in many cases.

     
  2. I don’t necessarily agree with this entire article. I think free plugins are good. I think paid plugins are good. We really can have it both ways. I really think it’s on WordPress to do a better vetting process so that the free plugin market is dragged down, because not every awesome plugin is going to be a for profit undertaking. I look closer at all this in a post I just wrote. Feel free to take a look. https://www.futurehosting.com/blog/free-wordpress-plugins-are-good-for-everyone/

     
  3. We wouldn’t be where we are if not free plugins. Without those people who spent countless number of hours making those free plugins or free themes WordPress wouldn’t grow that big, and we wouldn’t have the current economy around it. Of course times are different now, but there’s still a need and place for free stuff

     

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>