Considering a different approach to onboarding new plugin users – feedback requested - General Discussion - ClassicPress Forums

How many times have you installed a plugin and thought, “Now what?”

A lot of plugins add a Settings link to their row in the plugin page and that’s often a good way to find the plugin’s settings and admin pages. Great. But, what do you do when you get there? Do you just know what to do next? Or, how to get started? Perhaps not.

If the plugin has pretty much just added a custom post type or two, you’ll automatically know what to do when you see the page – it looks just like any other posts admin page that you’ve interacted with before. But, what about other plugins… plugins with completely new interfaces or processes? You’ll probably be looking for a quick start guide or something.

Bearing in mind that I’ve developed a fair number of plugins already – with more on the way – it became apparent that some sort of onboarding process was needed. So, I wrote the code and called it a day. That was a few months back.

A few days ago, though, I had a thought. ~ Code Potent

Since ClassicPress already has a built-in “help” mechanism, why not leverage that for onboarding instead? This would mean less code to maintain and, well, it’s virtually sitting there waiting to be used for something useful. To make sure we’re on the same page, I’m referring to those little Help tabs that appear on most admin pages up near your username.

Now, you’re probably thinking… yeah, but who ever clicked on that tiny little Help tab way over off to the side? Who ever even sees it? How is that going to do any good? And I can’t disagree. So, I’ve built a small plugin as a proof of concept and would like to get your feedback on what I’m thinking.

After activating the plugin, nothing out of the ordinary happens. The user is not hijacked redirected to the settings page – I hate it when plugins do this. The way I’m thinking it will work is that (only) the very first time you visit the plugin’s own admin page, the help screen is already popped out, as depicted in the screenshot. Then, on subsequent visits, it would be hidden as usual and users would have to pop it out themselves if they needed it. Moreover, the user would know it’s there…and where to find help, info, and resources…without my having to jam it into places it doesn’t belong. I think it’s a very unobtrusive way to achieve the goal of making sure users get off to a good start with a given plugin.

As I’m considering implementing this across my (larger) plugins, I’d like to know what you think about this approach to onboarding new users.


This sentiment and the folks sharing it in the CP forums are a draw to the project: they don’t see the admin dashboard as a billboard for plugin developers.