The Problem With “Get Pro” Plugin Notifications

 This is a contribution by Sufyan bin Uzayr. 
Quite possibly, the biggest and most obvious factor behind the popularity of WordPress is the fact that you can extend its features and functionality with the help of plugins and themes … all within minutes.

Need to add an eCommerce store to your website? Cool, have no fear! How about a job board or a help desk, right next to your WordPress site? A forum for your readers? Yes, all of that is possible!

As such, it is only normal that an entire ecosystem has evolved for WordPress-related products, such as plugins and themes that operate solely by helping you do more with WordPress. The core WordPress content management system remains the same, but by installing certain specialized plugins, you can extend its features to suit your needs.

We have free plugins/themes, premium or paid plugins and themes, as well as plugins or themes that follow the freemium model, that is, offer a free version with paid add-ons, or more commonly, offer a free “lite” version with a paid “pro” version.

free-vs-pro

Amidst all of this, it goes without saying that margin or scope of profitability arises for such products if they can manage to turn their free users into paid users. Preferably, by offering better features, additional enhancements, and priority support.

This business model has worked both on and off the internet – telephone lines, web hosting, digital television networks, and so on! WordPress ecosystem of related products too is not an exception.

Question is, where does one draw a line? When does a simple request for free users to consider giving the paid version a try become a nagging annoyance?

The problem with “buy pro” notifications

Of late, there has been a growing trend among WordPress developers and designers to launch two variants of their products: a Lite version, and a Pro version, with the former being available free of cost, albeit without priority support and with limited functionality, whereas the latter being available for a price, though with priority support and additional features.

The WordPress theme repository is full of such Lite themes that have a Pro version sold elsewhere, either via marketplaces such as ThemeForest, or directly through the developer’s website.

Similarly, the plugin repository too contains many “free” plugins that are fully free in nature, but have premium variants on sale elsewhere, or are backed up by paid add-ons.

This business model, as stated above, is (at least in my opinion) fair and justified, and to a great extent, praiseworthy.

I mean, if developers spend a good deal of time, efforts and energy to build something and offer part of its features for free, it is only fair that they seek to earn some revenue out of the paid version. And if, in the meantime, the users get added features, everybody wins!

However, there seems to be a problem…

Generally, such free variants of plugins and themes operate by informing users of their paid counterparts. Such information can be discrete, or obsolete, or outspoken, or outright blatantly slapped to the user’s face.

Most of the time, WordPress plugins don’t utilize the Live Customizer, so whatever “get pro” notice they do attempt to show, gets displayed either:

  • on the plugin’s own settings page (best case scenario),
  • in the main WordPress dashboard, or
  • (worst case) across every single page in the wp-admin.

plugin 1

Apart from that, some plugins also prefer to occupy a lot of real estate in the already crowded WordPress admin panel:

plugin 2

The problematic and worrisome part is that this trend is ever on the rise, with more and more plugins resorting to this practice. The moment you activate one such otherwise respected and very useful plugin, you are presented with a notice or popup about the paid version.

Close it, and it comes back after each update.

Even worse, close it, and it comes back when you log back in the next day.

Even more worse: there is no option to close unless you edit that plugin’s core files.

What to do? How to live?

Of course, it can be argued that it is not unfair for a developer to seek to monetize his or her product. Surely, that’s correct. However, there is an acceptable and an unacceptable way of doing it.

Consider the case of WP Product Review.

Granted, I am biased here. After all, that plugin was built by the CodeinWP guys, but it just so happens that it handles that whole “pro notice” thing rather well.

Namely, it does not hog the limelight in your admin panel by asking you to consider the paid offerings on every page. Instead, it has a separate add-ons page marked out, wherein you can get a bird’s eye view of all the paid products associated with this plugin.

WP Product Review

In the end, it isn’t impossible to get the premium version of your product noticed without resorting to covert spamming of the WordPress admin panel.

Considering the fact that nags and pop-ups related to “pro versions” are becoming a norm nowadays, the practice of proper display of such notices and information needs to be promoted better.

In fact, the plugin review teams should probably make this a point worth considering – to ask the developers to keep notices related to premium offerings and other features discrete and non-obtrusive.

Or is that just me?

Have you come across such plugins that display unwarranted notices of some sort? What are your thoughts about this issue? Please share your views in the comments below!

Sufyan bin Uzayr

Writer; published author; coffee-lover; web dev; the guy behind Code Carbon.
  • Sheila Atwood

    The problem I see with some plugin pro update advertising is that they are heavy and impact on your site’s load time.

  • Jeff Sararas

    Limiting functionality and support is no way to attain paying customers. I’ve never understood this approach. Balsamiq (a non-WordPress example) let me use their product, fully featured, fully supported, for months. They kept extending it until I was fully versed in the program. And guess what I did next? I happily paid for a license. I got to the point where I was convinced it was the right tool for me, and the only thing left to do for me was pay. My suggestion to plugin developers is to figure out a way to monitor usage, and ask heavy users to pay. Ask with a nice email, not a nag.

    • Totally agree. If someone likes a product and its services, they will buy it anyway, so there’s no need for “spamming” with lots of pop-ups, notifications, and other stuff. This will only make me choose another product.

  • Bo Johnson

    Recently bought a third party Genesis child theme called Brunch Pro. It came with the recipe plugin ‘Simmer’, a paid plugin. I was changing themes, so was already happy with the recipe plugin I was using.
    Great, now on the admin page is Brunch Pro recomments Simmer. I can’t seem to stop it. So annoying that, even though I paid for this theme, I’m seriously considering switching back to the one I was using.
    Ugh!!!
    Not only won’t it peruade me to use the plugin, now I’m unhappy with the whole theme.

    • Right, using tons of notifications won’t make the user buy a product, but on the contrary, it will make us run away from their services.