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Where Is That Settings Page?

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October 8th, 2008
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WordPress Plugins

One of the things I’ve noticed since using WordPress is that after you install a number of plugins, it becomes clear that there is no standard for where to place the plugin configuration link. Sometimes, the configuration link for a plugin shows up in the dashboard while other times, the link appears within the Manage panel. To top things off, many of the plugins provide links to their specific settings in the Settings panel. How much time do you think you have wasted so far by always searching for a particular plugins settings page?

Over the weekend, I happened to come across a post written by Andrew Rickmann which showcased an idea to create a configure link next next to the usual Activate/Deactivate Edit links found within the Plugin Management panel.

Andrew’s point of view is that, instead of adding top level menu items to the WordPress administration panels, it would be far easier to click on a configure link that would open up a sliding panel which would present anywhere from 1-5 configurable settings. Not only does this idea make configuring plugins faster, but it makes browsing the WordPress administration panel much easier as the top level navigation system is not filled with links. On top of that, the configure link makes complete sense to be located next to the Deactivate/Edit links. In doing so, configuration options are in a predictable location.

In my opinion, here are a couple of reasons why we are not seeing something like this already being used. Number one, WordPress is open source meaning anytime you try to implement anything close to a standard, it probably won’t work. People will come up with their own solutions to the problem which is one of the beauties of Open Source but can also be a contributing problem. Secondly, this was brought up over two years ago. You can see the initial forum thread here and the post on the WP-Hackers Mailing List from Owen here. Considering we have gone two years without any move towards a solution such as the one Andrew suggested, perhaps we will always be at the mercy as to where plugin authors place their configuration links.

Plugin authors can bring up the fact that they provide directions within their readme files that indicate where to find the configuration page. While they may help in the short term, that doesn’t solve the root of the overall problem. Andrew’s idea is something that can be implemented by plugin authors right now. In terms of something like this being added to the core, according to Andrew, the process is so simple, it probably doesn’t need to be added.

Where do you stand on this issue? Would you like to see more plugin authors implement Andrew’s idea into their own plugin or is there a better alternative?

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37
Responses

 

Comments

  1. Marisa (5 comments.) says:

    I have no problem reading the Read Me file when I first install a plugin. The problem is when I make changes, switch themes, or otherwise need to tweak something. Having to go back and read EVERY Read Me file for every plugin is tedious and a horrible waste of time. I love the idea of a Configure option next to Dectivate|Edit.

  2. GaMerZ (31 comments.) says:

    I think maybe Just 1 configure link maybe too little. I am thinking of 3 levels of menu.

    1st Level – Plugins Configurations
    2nd Level – Plugin Name
    3rd Level – Add | Edit | Delete | Settings | Uninstall

  3. Stephen R says:

    I wrote about this in June — how to add action links to plugins:

    http://striderweb.com/nerdaphe.....ion-links/

  4. Stephen R (24 comments.) says:

    Apologies — I misunderstood what the article was truly about.

    I would love to see something like this. It would be great for plugins that have entire Settings pages for, say, a single setting. *cough*Akismet*cough*

    I have to say that his article is a bit hard to follow, though, because he’s mainly talking about making the plugin extensible. It would be nice to see an article that shows how to do _just_ the mini-config rather than multiple different things at once….

  5. Doug Smith (17 comments.) says:

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a configure link near the Deactivate/Edit link in addition to, but not in place of, options in the menus. Such configure links would be convenient for the person installing plugins. But for those who use WordPress installed by others, this introduces usability issues by separating configuration options from their context of what they do. The menus offer that context if the plugin author chooses placement wisely.

    • Jeff Chandler (295 comments.) says:

      Valid points made and where those dedicated pages for settings appear is somewhat of a usability issue because of the various names of the top level menus.

    • Andrew (31 comments.) says:

      That’s a great point that I hadn’t thought of. My thoughts were that this would be for plugin config, and not for things like new functionality that really does need a page under manage or settings.

  6. Jim (1 comments.) says:

    I think this is an excellent point–I often find myself searching about for which plugin configures where–a bit exasperating, at least to me. Adding a “Configure” link next to the plugin itself would certainly be beneficial to me.

    I see that some authors already have adopted this–even if it’s a link to another admin location, at least it’s a logical place to start.

  7. kimsch (2 comments.) says:

    I like the idea of a configure link next to deactivate/edit – but not as a mini config (except for something like akismet that has one thing to configure (api key)). I’d like to see the link go to a configuration page as the current links in manage or setting go to.

  8. Jacob Santos says:

    Ah, well the discussion occurred on Trac for leading up to 2.5. However the changes in 2.5 kind of pushed it aside as no one was willing to work on it. As one of those who would also like to see it in, well the biggest argument on the wp-hackers is how to do it. Do you create a filter, new function, an action, etc? Currently, the way you can do it now, isn’t probably wide known and not well documented.

  9. countzeero (1 comments.) says:

    I am not sure if we should be bothering ourselves with this “problem” in wp2.6.(2) especially when we consider the even more unpredictable nature of where a plug-in and it´s settings/options are placed in the wp 2.7 Admin/Dashboard. It would be nice to see a solution for the personalisation/configuration of the wp 2.7 “Left-Hand” Navigation menu in general.

  10. Chris (29 comments.) says:

    I agree with the post, and with GaMerZ proposal. Finding plugin options pages is too confusing. I think the fact that WP is going to see upcoming changes to the admin pages is even more reason to implement this – this would keep from having so many plugin options pages that you have 2 or more lines on the Settings page (and who of us doesn’t have this problem?).

  11. Otto (215 comments.) says:

    As was just recently pointed out on wp-hackers, plugin authors CAN do this, right now. I just added it to my Automatic Timezone plugin.

    It’s super easy to do, all I had to add was a filter on ‘plugin_action_links’, and voila, a Settings link right there. Check it out yourself.

    • Otto (215 comments.) says:

      Ah, I missed the sliding panels thing. Yes, that would be quite nice, and I’ll consider it. Problem with the “sliding” thing is that it’s very javascript dependent.

  12. correz.a (1 comments.) says:

    I think standardization s a great idea. One of the truly remarkable things about WordPress is; it gives a voice to so many people. many of these publishers are not tech savvy, so making little things more accessible will encourage their continued involvement in the ‘WordPress community’

  13. Oncle Tom (2 comments.) says:

    I do not agree on the WordPress is open source meaning anytime you try to implement anything close to a standard, it probably won’t work.

    Open Source has nothing to do with that. Why developpers are using hooks and filters as it’s a standard in WP?
    No, the real question is : do developpers have the knowledge to follow some conventions?

    I think it starts missing something here. i18n integration is chaotic and the problem is everyone needs to redo some code to have a seamless integration.

    Indeed, I rather agree with you than the configure button should not show a panel right under as some plugin have very heavy configuration page. But it would be great to have this a shortcut to a plugin-setting.php?plugin=thepluginname.

    The bad side of that is people don’t have to think “where the hell can I configure this feature”. They will have to remember which plugin is providing it. And it’s not automatic.

  14. no says:

    Best thing ever

  15. Shane (6 comments.) says:

    I think this might be worth checking into. Maybe not for 2.7, but 2.8.

  16. RobtWms (2 comments.) says:

    Wouldn’t every answer to a request for help begin with: “Well, how you did you configure your plugin?”

  17. James D Kirk (6 comments.) says:

    Like any good democracy (note I said “good” and not something lame-o like “our” ;) ) I think that just because nothing happened two years ago doesn’t mean that it can’t be tried for again. Rewrite the desired specification, or standard as you call it, resubmit it to the WP dev folks (I’ve never submitted to them, but I assume that process is in place??) and then do just what you’re doing here; follow up regularly with attention the perceived challenge. If it is “right for the community” enlist the community to help with its passage!

  18. Thomas_U says:

    I totally support the idea of having a config-option. Not only here – on many levels of WP where things can be done in different subsets of structures/approaches/philosophies.

    Imho that´s the way all good software got to pursue: Give more and more decision to the user.

  19. Frank (4 comments.) says:

    I use this complete solutions and i like this way.
    We have diskuss in the wp-hackers mail-list over this feature and i think, this is the obligation for plugin-authors and WordPress 2.7, maybe 2.8 as hook. I hope, WordPress include this two variants in the core with hooks, for small code in the plugins.
    Thanks to two authors for the nice idea and share with us.

  20. Saeed (1 comments.) says:

    I think Andrew’s idea is really a great one and plugin authors should definitely consider it. It would perhaps be even better that the WordPress core were to automatically display configuration settings in such a manner, regardless to coding done by plugin authors.

  21. Pedja (1 comments.) says:

    This is definitely a problem. I find myself confused each time I have to chech soem settings after a while. SOmetimes I even go through all menus and fail to find where are settings for specific pluguns, as there are quite alot plugins.

    I saw several plugins simply add configuration link in plugin description (plugin list), and I found it pretty good solution. I understand logic that settings for the plugin are placed according to plugin purpose, but mostly I know what exact plugin I want to set, and it is the simplest way to go to plugin list, find it (plugins are listed alphabeticaly, so it goes fast end easy) and click on configuration link.

    It would be the best that WordPress demands configuration link for installed plugins and then use it to provide links in organized manner. it it asks for donate link, which has insignificant value, then it should ask for configuration link, which is vital function

  22. George Serradinho (23 comments.) says:

    I agree that sometimes finding the options/settings page for plugins can be awful, but putting a link on the plugins page might create problems for newbies and maybe even webmasters that maintain other peoples websites.

    I’m sure in future releases, they will get some kind of standard and then plugin authors will have to follow the lead.

  23. Álvaro Degives-Más (7 comments.) says:

    I’m afraid that’s an absolutely awful idea.

    Of course, there’s nothing, at least not inherently, wrong with redundancy; including an additional standardized place where to adjust your plugin settings is actually a pretty good idea. And when you’re (re)installing a plugin, you often also want to do something with settings, or at least check them, so it’s a logical place for that link.

    But the notion of having people go to the plugin page first, and then scroll toward the destination as the standard location is just, well, counterproductive. Besides, it suggests that users only or mostly fiddle with settings when they’re adding / removing or (de)activating plugins: patently not so, in my stubborn conviction.

    Instead, I suggest – hypothetically speaking of course, as standardizing open source UI makes herding cats look easy – to find a Settings menu (whatever it’s called) under a drop-down, where to select exactly the thing that you want to engage.

    I like where I can find things now, and thanks to Ozh’ magnificent plugin I can go straight where I need to be; if that top menu moves to a side, that’s fine, too – as long as there’s a way to navigate directly from any admin page to go where one needs to do something.

    But hey, that’s just my $0.02…

  24. Steven (3 comments.) says:

    Like Alvaro, I like where I find configurable options. In fact, if a developer does a poor job making an appropriate link, I drop the plugin. Some are inherently more useful or higher up the heirarchy of need and therefore require (or are more useful with) a high level link.

    But I like redundancy, so adding the feature you speak of is a good idea.

  25. Barry (33 comments.) says:

    Having another link to a configuration page is probably a good idea, but I don’t think it should replace (or aim to) any other configuration pages, and I certainly don’t like the idea of a small config panel opening on the plugins page. A lot of plugins are quite complex (mine included) and a “small” panel just wouldn’t work.

  26. Stephen R (24 comments.) says:

    I think many commenters here are missing the point — he’s not suggesting that ALL pugins should use this. It’s a good idea for plugins that have simple one-time configuration, e.g. Akismet.

  27. Frank (2 comments.) says:

    I would love to see this become standard. I am so tired of lazy plugin authors. I can’t tell you how many times i’ve come across plugins where, for example, the description is from some other plugin where they copied and pasted.

    Plugin authors… take 10 minutes and do it right.

  28. Jacob Santos says:

    This has been added to WordPress and will be available in WordPress 2.7.

    http://trac.wordpress.org/changeset/9124
    http://trac.wordpress.org/ticket/7856

  29. JamesSpratt.org (2 comments.) says:

    Totally with Andrew Rickmann on this. Had thought this myself, would be so much neater. Hope Automattic follow through with this.



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