The Mistake Too Many Plugin Developers Make

Have you ever painted your home?

About a year ago we moved into our new home in Houston. The house was great but had three different colors on the walls. The first thing we did was to pick a color and have folks paint all the walls – one singular color.

Have you ever painted your home? If you have, even just a wall, you’ve likely done what we did. We headed to a store to pick a color.

Does that look familiar? It’s the wall of paint colors that stores show you so you can pick your favorite color.

Has this ever happened to you?

I had a friend who picked a color once and after half her house was painted (she had left to run errands), she came back and hated the color.

For us, when we had our walls painted, the color looked light blue in some rooms, and grey in others.

Oh well. I wasn’t going to change it.

Why am I telling you about painting walls when I normally write about WordPress products? I’ll get there. I promise.

But before I get there, I want you to imagine walking into the paint store to pick a color.

The crazy thought experiment

Imagine you walk into the store, head to the wall of color options, and stand there feeling shocked.


Imagine there were only four colors. Just four little swatches for you to pick from.

That would be crazy, right?

So you step over to the manager and ask where all the other colors are. His response?

“Those are my favorite colors.”

What? Why on Earth would that have anything to do with the paint they’re trying to sell?

The mistake product developers make

The thought experiment is insane, right? It would never happen in real life. Right?

Except it does every day.

Ever look at a WordPress plugin and notice a feature seems to be missing? So you ask the developer if the feature is on the roadmap. Or if there are plans to add it.

“No. That’s not what it does. It’s a focused plugin that just does what I want.”

Maybe that’s not the direct quote you hear, but the sentiment is familiar.

Don’t get me wrong. Focused plugins are great. And bloat is bad. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about “scratching our own itch,” a sentiment that we hear about all the time as motivation for product development.

Here’s my main point

Product developers should get comfortable creating products they might not use.

Product developers should learn to build products for users that don’t look or work like they do.

You should learn to build products for customers that are nothing like you.

Because if you don’t, you’ll be making exactly the same silly move that our fictitious paint manager made.