The top WordPress plugins are… a little sad?

This is a little negative-nancy-ish, so if you aren’t feeling that right now — just close this tab 😜.

It struck me recently how this list of plugins I saw in the 2023 Annual WordPress Survey wasn’t full of fun and interesting plugins that do interesting and unique things, they mostly just fix boring problems that users shouldn’t even be worried about having to fix at all.

Yoast SEO / All-in-One SEO — I think SEO is obnoxious generally. But also, these plugins overpromise, the “update” file churn on them is nuts, and the upselling has pushed well into annoying territory. I don’t think it should be required at all for a CMS to need an extra plugin to do “Technical SEO”. If the HTML output needs to be a certain way for the best outcome for site owners, the CMS should try to get you there itself.

MonsterInsights Google Analytics — I sort of get the idea of a plugin that helps you install Google Analytics. Really, it’s just a snippet of JS you put on the page, so I wouldn’t use one myself, but not everyone is comfortable editing theme files. Then this puts an analytics dashboard right on your site, which again I sorta get, but I’d rather just use the dashboards at the horse’s mouth rather than re-created ones. These quotes rub me the wrong way, too:

We believe that it’s easy to double your traffic and sales when you know exactly how people find and use your website.

Hear that everyone? It’s easy to double your sales. What is with all this overpromising? Slimy.

WordPress Importer — This is from the team itself and just provides the basic functionality of importing stuff from an export file. I sort of get the idea of breaking off functionality into plugins that are niche usage, but this has many millions of installs so maybe just bake it in.

All-in-One WP Migration / Updraft Plus — These I get! I’m always needing to pull down the production site to the local site so I’m working with all the correct data. I’m a WP Migrate guy though, which has worked wonderfully well for me forever (and Jetpack for backup).

Wordfence — It stinks to me that people feel like they have to (or do have to) reach for third party software to make a WordPress website secure.

Contact Form by WPForms / Contact Form 7 — The fact that these are so popular is evidence that people need basic forms! A CMS with access to a backend language should offer this built-in, in my opinon. I imagine it’s complicated because the server would need reliable email sending which is maybe too much of an assumption? I dunno. I’d probably use Jetpack Forms myself.

WP Mail SMTP — I imagine some hosts don’t even want to give you an outgoing SMTP server at all with inexpensive hosting so a plugin to use some other service seems to make sense. And for power users who want email coming from their own preferred servers. It still feels unfortunate that this has to be a top plugin though, as it seems like it is popular because of hosting problems and WordPress users not getting the emails they expect from their site. It’s popular because of negative reasons not positive reasons.

Elementor Website Builder — Even though this kind of thing definitely is not for me, I get this one. People like drag-and-drop and visual editors. This is a super different approach to site building and a plugin is a fine way to do it.

Duplicate Page / Yoast Duplicate Post — Feels kinda silly to me that you need a plugin to duplicate things. I do get that this is kinda niche and might lead to people doing dumb things accidently, but with two plugins on the Top 20 it feels like time to bring that one home.

Akismet Spam Protection — Akismet does a pretty good job, and this is (and has to be) a cloud service. One big service that everyone uses and thus everyone benefits from the spam-learning that comes from all sites. It’s fairly priced and all that is fine. There is just something funny about giving away a problem and selling a solution. It’s like selling dry t-shirts in the gift shop after an amusement park ride that splashes water on you.

WooCommerce — Totally fine. Adds a ton of functionality that isn’t and shouldn’t be a part of the core CMS. And it does a good job so it’s popular.

Classic Editor — I get it, but it’s just a bummer to me that we’re like half a decade into the much-improved block editor experience and it’s still not only possible to not use it but one of the most popular plugins is to not use it. I’m hoping it’s mostly just understaffed legacy sites that people want to maintain just can’t prioritize a major change.

Google Site Kit — This feels like a Google meeting where they are like WordPress is pretty popular I guess we should have a plugin or something. It’s not really necessary and doesn’t do all that much. I have used it before and it’s fairly well done so no major shade, just kinda meh. The best feature is being able to see somewhat detailed individual page metrics.

Really Simple SSL — It looks pretty well done, but correct SSL handling is a concern mostly of the host, which should be enforcing it and helping with any issues. Again a bit of a bummer that some people have to reach for a complex plugin for a core need.

Jetpack — Jetpack has gotten more than its fair share of flack over the years, and you’d think I’d be harping on it here on this list of plugins that bum me out, but I actually think Jetpack is pretty damn good and the things that it does are perfect for plugin functionality. The CDN handling of images and search replacement alone are my two favorite features.

Litespeed Cache — Aside from features that need third-party cloud services to help, I don’t think users should have to install plugins to help them make their sites faster. This is a host concern and a CMS-level concern, not a plugin concern.

This content was originally published here.