WordPress plugin directory redesign: great potential, great power

Sometimes I wonder if those who work on WordPress.org website projects realize just how powerful their decisions are. I think they do, though I'm also confident the direct commercial impacts of their decisions will never be their first consideration.

The WordPress plugin repo is in line to get a complete redesign and rebuild. Free plugins are a huge component of many WordPress businesses, and this project will likely have a significant impact on at least some plugins in the ecosystem.

Like any businesses that rely on third parties, these types of changes are expected. In this case — and often times elsewhere — change is welcome; but it doesn't come without challenges.

The end goal for the meta team (the team that works on WordPress.org) will be to better serve site visitors, as should be the goal. Konstantin Obenland has outlined the objectives and the user roles that will be affected by the project:

Objectives

The primary goals of the new version are to make it easier to change the plugin directory and to open source all of its code. Additionally, the site should feel faster and be easier to use. A big part of improving the site will be a better search interface. The Plugins API must to continue to be backwards compatible through out these changes.

User Roles and Responsibilities

  • WordPress users
    Browse the directory to find a plugin that fit their needs. Improved search and a faster front-end will cater to that. A refreshed site design/layout will make the site more intuitive for them and will help them navigate the directory more easily.
  • International WordPress users
    These users are almost the same as WordPress users (listed above), with the addition of a localized site, including plugin descriptions and developer documentation. Search results will prioritize translated plugins, making them easier to find.
  • Plugin Authors
    Authors are looking for documentation around writing and submitting plugins, submitting new plugins to the directory, and managing their existing plugins. Powering the directory with WordPress (instead of the current bbPress), allows us to use wp-admin for an administration interface, letting them manage their plugins, add committers, change tags/categories, etc.
  • Plugin Reviewers
    Make sure that submitted plugins meet all requirements and approve/reject them accordingly. Here again we can use WordPress’ built-in wp-admin to give them an improved interface. Improved roles also allow us to open up the review process to other contributors. We can also make use of post statuses with capability controlled permissions for a review workflow. An improved plugin submission process will be able to run automated checks on submitted plugins, requiring less of reviewers.
  • Site Administrators
    Manage the WordPress.org network, maintain the system, and add new functionality. Here, a new, open source directory allows community contributions, speeds up development time for new features, and makes on-boarding new admins easier.

The project goal is to have a working MVP in March, with a launch in June. In WordPress meta terms, that's very fast, I think.

If you have an interest at all in the plugin repo and its future, it's a very good time to get involved. Check out the announcement post, or the project page that includes a full scope of the tasks ahead. There have only been two versions of the plugin repo before, in more than ten years, so these decisions will likely last a long time.