5 Ways New WordPress Plugin Directory will impact the way you choose plugins for your website
Take a glance at the new features as WordPress plugin directory 3.0 is almost there
During WordCamp US Contributor Day I had a chance to do some testing of the new WordPress plugin directory. With Konstantin Obenland and Dion Hulse, authors of the new directory, answering all my questions I was not only able to give it a test ride, but also understand the reasoning behind many decisions made. Here's what I think you may find interesting.
1. It's all about keyword search
WordPress plugin directory was always more about searching than browsing, so it's understandable that improving search engine was a priority. It's still a work in progress, but some big changes are already visible. There is a big look&feel difference as the large search field dominates the starting page.
But changes are far beyond the design. The entire search engine has been reworked, and the result you get for the same queries has changed significantly. For example, all plugins that haven't been updated in the last two years do not show up in the search results. This way there's the smaller risk you'll end up installing a plugin that is no longer supported.
2. Sorting is the king
WordPress plugin directory has always offered only one option of sorting the results, which the development team calls "by relevance". However, the way relevance is calculated has changed significantly, so it's not only a different set of plugins that is being returned, but also different plugins will show on the first page.
3. Hidden tag navigation
As mentioned before, the tag sidebar has been removed, and users are encouraged to use searching instead. However, if you want to browse by tag, there's an option for that. You just need to find a plugin that is tagged with the tag you are looking for and click it. You can also use the trick mention in the next point. Additionally, the number of tags has been reduced to 5 per plugin.
4. Tag and author search is (almost) gone
In the previous version keyword, tag and author search had the same priority and interface. Now the latter two has been removed, and you are left with keyword based search only. I assume that the keyword search was by far the most popular, but if you feel like searching by tag or author here's a trick! Just type into your browser: WordPress.org/plugins-wp/tags/tag-name where "tag-name" shall be substituted by the tag you are looking for. The same goes for the authors where you need to go to WordPress.org/plugins-wp/author/author-name. By the way, don't be surprised if the author you are searching for won't be featured in the plugin on the search results page, as now there is a separate place in the readme.txt file where those "header authors" are set.
5. Stats & compatibility information no longer available
Changes are also visible in the single plugin view. Apart from the new one-page design, plugin statistics and compatibility information are no longer available. Luckily the number of active installations is still shown, and it's used as a sorting parameter in the tag and author based search.
6. Changes to the embedded plugin directory in WordPress dashboard
New things are coming to the embedded plugin directory in WordPress dashboard as well. Although in the current stage of the project, the interface will remain the same, new search engine will be implemented, which means changes in what plugins are being shown and it what order.
WordPress Plugin Directory 3.0 is already available for everyone to try it out, but it hasn't been decided when it will replace the existing directory. Spending years in the Joomla Extension Directory team I know that being hasty in implementing new interfaces is always a bad thing. The proper implementation should be preceded by extensive A/B testing to make sure that users find what they are looking for more often with the new directory then with the previous one. Watching the way the changes has been rolled out so far I'm quite optimistic about that.