WPHelpful: A User Feedback Plugin
WPHelpful is a plugin created by Zack Gilbert and Paul Jarvis that allows users to rate the helpfulness of a post. It can be a useful addition to sites that offer tutorials, lessons, documentation, or any content where user feedback is warranted. Version 1.0 is available for free in the official WordPress plugin directory, but it also has a pro version that offers additional features.
I enjoyed giving this plugin a test drive. As a former business owner, I could see where this plugin would’ve helped me gather feedback from my customers on product documentation and better catered to their needs.
WPHelpful has huge potential, but its version 1.0 is still a 1.0. It’s far from being a polished product at this stage. It needs time to mature as a good free plugin. The current batch of pro features should have made the cut for the free version.
The free plugin available in the plugin directory won’t get you far unless you just need a basic rating system. It is limited to:
Showing the feedback form on posts and pages. Changing the colors for the form button. Adding custom CSS (a feature already available on all WP sites via the customizer).
All other features and settings are available in the pro version. Unless your goal is to simply allow user ratings on posts or pages, you can’t do much with a free copy. There are existing plugins with a more mature codebase for handling basic ratings.
One of the most notable aspects of the free version is that it allows you to test the pro settings in a development environment. This provides an opportunity to decide if you want to shell out the money to go pro. I am now officially recommending that every other plugin developer do this when possible.
What the Plugin Gets Right
The plugin is simple to use. You can choose to automatically append the form to posts on the front end or opt to display the form with the [wphelpful] shortcode.
If nothing else, users shouldn’t have any problems getting the plugin up and running. I tested it against a variety of themes with solid results.
A custom [Gutenberg] block would’ve kicked user-friendliness up a notch. Plugin authors need to start thinking in terms of building a block first and a shortcode second. I’m hoping this makes the feature list for version 2.0.
Post Types: Paywall for the Most Useful Feature
The most important feature for this plugin is the ability to select which post types the feedback form can be used on. Unfortunately, this feature is behind a paywall, limiting user feedback to only posts and pages. This is a foundational feature that would be nicer in the free version.
The post type feature is also limited in the pro setting. In 1.0, you cannot pick post types individually. The drop-down field limits you to a single post type, all post types, or pages plus all custom types. There’s no way to select two different custom post types.
The plugin doesn’t use the proper post type label, so you may get some weird labels like “Wp Area Types” (from the Gutenberg plugin) or “Jt Documentation Types” (a custom post type on my test install).
Non-public post types also show up in the list. So, post types that don’t have front-end output show up in the select form.
These issues are easy fixes, and I’m hoping this review sheds light onto these problems so they might be corrected for users.
How the Plugin Could Offer Better Pro Features
Screenshot of the current post feedback report.
Plugin authors need to eat. There’s always a delicate balance that developers must strike between offering a useful free plugin and making enough of a return on their investment to continue maintaining the code.
Currently, most of the plugin’s pro features are basic items like custom colors and form labels. These are things that would better serve users in the free version.
A more useful pro feature would be a “Reports” screen in the admin that offered options such as:
Sorting posts by rating and total ratings. Displaying a graph of user feedback by month, year, etc. Other reports that provided an overall look at feedback.
The plugin also only allows logged-in users to provide feedback. That’s certainly an easier way to go to avoid spammers and bots. Due to the added complexity, a pro extension for enabling any site visitor to provide feedback would be worth exploring.
How Does the Code Stack Up?
I’m going to get a bit technical here. Feel free to skip ahead if programming is not your thing.
What the plugin needs is time to mature. Version 1.0 is not supposed to be the best a plugin can be. It’s about shipping a minimum viable product, so I’m a bit forgiving. If this were 2.0 or 3.0, I’d be unrelenting.
There’s a lot to like about the architectural decisions. Much of it is set up in a way that it should be relatively easy to maintain in the long term. This is important because it means that correcting issues, such as those listed below, shouldn’t be tough to fix.
There are code issues that need patches. The plugin currently:
Uses a PHP variable for textdomains (not all translation tools run in a PHP environment). Hasn’t internationalized all of its user-facing text, so not everything can be translated. Registers multiple options in the database instead of storing all options together, which creates unnecessary clutter. Doesn’t clean up after itself and delete its options upon uninstall.
These are not insurmountable issues, and they don’t break anything to the point of making the plugin unusable. They’re just issues that need to be addressed.
The Final Verdict
Version 1.0 of WPHelpful lacks the feature set to be a particularly great free plugin. It could be useful in some limited cases. However, you’ll probably want to opt for the pro version to get the features that would make this plugin worth using.
WPHelpful has potential. I could see it growing an audience of 100K, 500K, or more users over time with more polishing. It’s not there yet. The plugin doesn’t have enough meat on its bones for me to recommend it yet, but I’m hopeful that future versions will offer a more robust experience.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use free plugin that works with just posts and pages, it could serve your needs.