Why I Hate Relying on Third Party Plugins

Third party plugins break!

I’d been using a plugin called MyMail for a year now to send out my email newsletter about new posts and everything was peachy. Then I update to WordPress 3.9 and it breaks… while I’m in Boston with family (the worst possible time because I’m not available to fix it).

When you’re not in control of you’re own code, you can’t expect everything to continue working properly. Plugins don’t get updated or they get updated poorly and they BREAK. Then you’re sitting there all mopey and frustrated, wondering: now what?

You can’t rely on the developer for support

Some developers provide GREAT support! But others… it doesn’t exist. I filled out two support “tickets” with the MyMail developer and never heard anything back. (Also the “tickets” felt a lot more like emails. They were through a form on his website but I couldn’t view, modify, or add onto the tickets. They were just sent off, and that was it.) Then the fact that he didn’t reply made me question whether or not they even got sent properly, since there was no record of them.

When he wasn’t responding to support, I reverted to the comments section of the sales page. I made some complaints (just reiterated my problem: the plugin wasn’t sending emails), other people made some complaints, and after about two weeks of no response, people are now posting comments like this:

“I want to buy but I am scared with the comments about WP 3.9—You didn’t respond to your customers for more than 15 days.

Are you still alive? if I buy, will I get in panic mode because you don’t answer?”

“No too sure you you will gain tons of fans by not providing any support and not responding to your actual customer.”

“well, I know my question was not even 24h ago, but I just realised that nobody got any answer/support for the last 6 pages…. wish I saw that BEFORE buying your script. Now I regret since I can’t even use it and can’t get any support for that.. Plus, there is no option on your support forum to ask question. With more than 5000 buyers, least you could do is say that no support is provided. I’m trully disapointed.”

“No support for this plugin?”

So you can see, I’m not the only one pissed off.

I don’t like waiting for other people to fix things

If something’s going to go wrong on my site, I’d rather it be MY fault—MY code. If I’m the one who created it in the first place, at least the fact that it’s broken is on ME and it’s up to me to fix it (and if I made the thing in the first place, I probably can fix it). But if I have to sit around and rely on others to fix it (which they may or may not do), it drives me nuts!

If you’re capable of making it yourself: do it!

That’s the lesson I’ve learned. I know not everyone has coding skills and if you can’t make your own theme or plugin then I’m not expecting you to. But after weeks of frustration, the lesson I’ve learned for myself is to take everything into my own hands. I learned that with my “Ask Me a Question” feature and I learned that again with my email subscription feature.

I like being in control of all the code and features on my site. I like being responsible if it breaks, and I like being able to fix it myself. Not only does that make me self sufficient (I don’t have to rely on others for support/fixes), but it’s also a fantastic learning experience. I never would have thought I could code my own email newsletter plugin but I did because I was forced into a situation where I needed one.

Have you ever been really disappointed with customer support when you bought a plugin or theme?

Since publishing this post, it seems the MyMail developer has returned and is now responding to comments on his plugin page again. However, I’m still not returning to MyMail for fear of him disappearing again. (And I made my own plugin, which suits my needs just fine.)
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I'm a 30-something California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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    1. Hmm I’m not sure yet. I’ve been struggling with whether or not to sell this plugin. I think I have a couple concerns:

      Mainly, the plugin is very, very simple. It doesn’t have as many features as something like MyMail, but that’s because I personally didn’t need all those MyMail features. I made the plugin to be exactly what I want and need, and with little ‘bloat’. I guess part of me is just thinking: is this good enough to sell? I don’t know.

      Then I’d need to write up some documentation about how to set it up before I sell it and I just haven’t had any time to get around to doing that.

    1. Honestly it’s the same for free plugins. Someone can release a plugin for free and you come to rely on it.. but then they stop updating it. Yeah I guess it hurts more if you paid for the plugin, but it’s just as horribly frustrating if the developer of a free plugin disappears, leaving you with something that doesn’t work!

  1. I personally have not been disappointed in any purchases for online plugin and theme purchases but that’s simply because the only plugin and theme purchases for me was from Creative Whim. People could take some much needed lessons from you. I haven’t had any problems, only questions and the support is phenomenal. I thank my lucky stars every day that I ran across your site before getting sucked into something else. The horror stories out there are amazing. I don’t know how they stay in business.

    Carrie recently posted: Alpha, Jasinda Wilder
  2. When I first switched to WordPress I bought a theme and couldn’t make it do any of the things it said it could. I contacted customer support and still (9 months later!!) haven’t had any kind of response. Now I can’t code yet (I’m slowly learning so maybe someday) but what that did teach me was to stick with those developers that I or people I know have used and can rely on. Which is why I bought your theme and always refer people to you. If you can’t code, a developer you know you can count on to reply to even the tiniest work order in a timely manner is the way to go!!

    Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun recently posted: The Queen’s Army by Marissa Meyer | Short Review
  3. Quick question for you. Since you had Mailchimp before why didn’t you just use their email newsletters? Oh, one more….you said you made your own plugin. Are you going to put it on the market or is it just for your usage? Sounds like it would be an amazing buy.

    Micky recently posted: Choose Yourself by James Altucher
    1. I didn’t want to use MailChimp because I would have had to pay $15 per month (or more). That just wasn’t worth it to me when I could make my own and only pay $1 per month in email sending fees.

      The free plan for MailChimp allows for up to 2,000 subscribers. I don’t have that many, so I’m okay there. But you’re only allowed 12,000 emails per month. I have about 600 email subscribers and send 1 email per day (usually). That’s about 18,000 emails per month (600 * 30 days in a month).

      However, their lowest paid plan at $10 per month only allows for 500 subscribers (and unlimited emails). So I’d have to bump up a level…

      Ultimately I just didn’t want to have to pay $15 per month so I made my own.

      I’m not sure if I’m going to sell my plugin or not. I’ve definitely thought about it. The reason I haven’t is because my plugin is very simple, because I just needed something simple. It’s perfect for MY needs, but I don’t know if it would work for other people. For example, MailChimp and MyMail both have strong visual editors for composing emails. Since I can code my own templates, I didn’t make anything like that.

      Ultimately, my plugin works, but it works well for me. I think I’ve just been afraid that it won’t suit other peoples’ needs so I haven’t bothered trying to sell it. Plus I’d need to write up documentation first anyway, and I haven’t had time to do that!

        1. Thanks for letting me know! There seems to be a bigger demand for it than I thought!

  4. When I started my first blog, I decided to do it myself. I loved it, and loved that I could make things just the way I wanted them to work.
    Then the years passed, the web evolved, the platforms multiplied and I couldn’t keep up: transition to HTML5, responsive layout, evolution of SEO, anti-bot security and so on. I knew how to deal with these individually, but I just lacked the time to do it all by myself, and sometimes the knowledge to do it the best way. I also realize at some point that there was no point: for everything single feature I could think of, some people would have made a library (or a plugin) out there.
    When I became a freelance developer, it became even more apparent: I just can’t do everything myself. There’s only so much time in a day and I would rather focus on doing the most important thing well.
    Of course, I do get annoyed at libraries & plugins that are not well done (in French you would say “written with your feet”), but now I quickly check them out. If I don’t like it, I change. If it’s so so, I try to override some of the code in a spare file.
    But overall, it is most of the time a huge gain of time. That’s why I bought UBB by the way 😉

    Lily recently posted: The Four Kings by Scott Spotson
  5. Ashley after I submitted my first response I realized you answered the other ladies already about your plug in. Sorry about that.

    Makes a lot of sense now that you wouldn’t want to use Mail Chimp for your newsletter. I wish I knew coding because those of us non-coders have to rely on those third party plug-ins.

    I installed a plugin the other day and it didn’t work. The developer had an instruction video but comments were disabled. Ugh! I sent him an email and nothing. I noticed it took him like 3 months to respond to the other guy who had questions, so I just deactivated it. Sigh…..

    Micky recently posted: Choose Yourself by James Altucher
  6. Yeah, for non-developers, I would advise sticking to as few plugins as possible, or only the most popular ones. WordPress changes fast, and if you go with a plugin that has few users and little support, it really is bound to break sooner or later – and could get problematic if you’ve come to depend on a plugin for a core site functionality.

  7. I wish I was better with coding, because I would’ve just done the same thing. It’s such a pain to love a plugin and then have it die out on you. I’m honestly scared to deal with many paid plugins because of it. All my paid plugins come from you. More people need to take a page from your service. I know it’s been said before, but if you ever do decide to sell your mail plugin, even with super simple templates (honestly, whatever it is you do with yours is just ideal. I love things simple and clean) I will totally buy it. I’m not displeased with Mailchimp, but I wouldn’t mind something better and more server side. It seems like it can’t be hard to have something easy.. I mean, I just want an email that looks like my blog post to be sent out, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to make it happen without a service like mailchimp. As it is, I am always worried with Mailchimp because I don’t like their payment systems either and I just keep getting more and more subscribers and I don’t understand why. Too many of the emails that register look like spam mails to me and so it feels like people are just subscribing to take up my numbers, because my blog isn’t popular enough (and I don’t update enough) to have as many as I do or to continue getting as many as I am each week.

    I totally just rambled there. I’m sorry. I can’t even remember where I was going with that. Pregnancy brain is getting to me. I need to stop commenting places. Haha. ^-^;;

    1. Thank you!

      My system is interesting because the WordPress plugin figures out when to send an email (based on when a new post is published) then it sends that information along with the list of subscribers to Mandrill, who then handles the actual email being sent. But Mandrill is run by MailChimp. So you can actually create your email template inside Mandrill (pure HTML though). However, since the two are connected, you can apparently design your template in MailChimp then export it to Mandrill.

      But since Mandrill is JUST an email sending service (and doesn’t manage subscribers or have a way to send email without code), it’s only a fraction of the cost of MailChimp. There are no subscriber limits since Mandrill doesn’t handle subscribers (my plugin does), and your first 12,000 emails per month are always free. Then, after that, they cost $0.20 (yes, 20 cents) per thousand emails.

      So with 600 subscribers and one post per day, you’d send about 18,000 emails per month, 12,000 of which are free. Then you pay $0.20 per thousand ($0.20 * 60), so $1.20 per month.

      But the plus side of coding my own plugin is that spammers don’t know about it. One of the reasons you get a lot of spam subscribers is because spammers recognize MailChimp. I have no idea WHY they sign up, but they recognize the format of the signup form so the “bots” can automatically sign up.

      But when you code your own plugin, it’s unrecognizable to bots!

  8. I am promising myself to eventually learn more coding.. I’m good with HTML but since HTML5, I need to take a refresher course. I’m trying to learn things slowly, one level at a time, HTML5 is first on my list and then CSS and then if I think I can handle it – PHP. PHP honestly scares me the most because I have absolutely NO idea what it’s about. I know it’s the base for my WordPress themes with HTML5 over that and then CSS as sort of the icing on the cake for design.

    I don’t like to rely on plugins that I’m unsure about – hence when I feel any sort of doubt about a plugin I won’t download it. I also make sure that the plugins I do download that are for very important features like email subscribers (I use the eNews Genesis plugin that refers people to Feedblitz form to sign up.) I do have a couple of plugins that I use that aren’t updated regularly, but if they went bad, I would have no issue of deleting them, and one of them I am in the process of switching things over so Feedblitz is taking care of it’s function and I won’t have to worry about it any more – (it’s Evergreen Tweet, it automatically tweets out posts that are in my archive that are in specific settings I’ve chosen (only reviews with 4 or more star ratings.) It bummed me out that the other plugins that I found that were more frequently updated just didn’t have the same ease of options as Evergreen.

    I try to eliminate any Plugins that I’m not using regularly as well, since it just adds extra code and potential issues to your site if you become a hoarder (which is easy to do at first on WP.org!)

    I fear that even when I do learn enough coding to be able to help fix potential issues – and tweak themes, that I’ll never be able to actually build a plugin from scratch. It amazes me people like you who can do that! It’d be awesome to be able to do it!

    It’d be awesome if you did put your plugin on the market, I didn’t go with Mailchimp, I did go with Feedblitz which has roughly the same price plan except they at least have RSS services with it, so I liked having everything in the same place. I thought about using Jetpack for the free option but it scared me that once I did make that move – (and having to add everyone over manually like I was re-signing them up one by one, ugh) that I’d also lose any type of control of migrating to a new host in the future since I’d lose any access to who had signed up for my email list! Which I think is absurd that you can’t even view your own email subscribers!

    1. A good way to start with PHP is to first get super comfortable with HTML and CSS to the point where you can code a website comfortably from scratch. Then move up a little and try to turn that into a WordPress theme. The PHP used to make a WordPress theme is very easy since you can mostly just copy and paste from a template/tutorial (until you learn it enough to do it yourself).

      I think it was a good decision to not go with Jetpack. I personally think their email service sucks. They strip out all shortcodes from the emails, so if you use those at all they wouldn’t show up in the emails.

  9. Myeah, highly irritating when they do disappearance acts.
    I’m cool with Jetpack handling email subscriptions, and Feedburner if anyone’s up for that one. My posts aren’t heavily coded, just pretty much simple content or code that’s basic enough to either “translate” or that works just well as basic text, ie book blurb, links, images. Most of my subscribers aren’t via email anyway, they’re RSS/BlogLovin’ or something along those lines.

    I tend to do my best to stick to plugins that do simpler things to cover my needs but aren’t likely to be abandoned than try ones that do cool, complex things but that might leave me hanging any minute pretty much. And I don’t honestly see myself trying to code my needs, lol, I simply don’t have the time between all the different kinds of work I do, lol. Whatever time I have left is dedicated to reading & my book blog, I can’t go into the guts of it all and handle coding too, sadly. I’d like to, because I am kind of a control freak, lol.

    But sometimes I just have to learn to deal with things and prioritize. Plus, I know if there’s some serious need I have, I have who to turn to for fabulous work *stares pointedly at you*

    Livia @ Butterfly-o-Meter Books recently posted: Book-o-Sphere Flutters ~ May 18th Edition & Fan Art Up! (2)
  10. Hi Ashley!
    At first, congrats on the great job! You’re content is amazing , and I’m reading every single Bitchin post – just can’t stop. And I started reading your reviews too – I really enjoy your writing style.
    I finally decided to start blogging, and wanted to start the right way (wordpress.org, plugins, etc.). That’s when I discovered the UBB plugin. I’m still trying to figure things out (not just the plugin, but the whole WordPress stuff), but I’m in love with UBB already. I just regret I haven’t found the Tweak Me theme before I chose mine – that was a long road, 10 days through Theme Forest trying to match my expectations (and I’m not sure I’ve chosen the right one yet).
    About third party jobs, it’s always the same, it doesn’t matter your subject. I’m a designer too, but I just deal with print (most Art books, hard covers, and so on). You wouldn’t believe how many problems I face because of others… I don’t like Photoshop at all (too many ways to achieve the same result), but I had to master it because people just don’t seem to make things right! Sometimes, for important projects, I need to deal with images myself, because people will ruin everything!
    Talking design, in this beginning I’m a little frustrated, because I’m a total old school control freak, and I don’t seem to get the same control I’m used to on printed projects, specially over typography (InDesign lover here! lol) – at least with no coding. Let’s see what I can do. But I have no words to say how your posts are helping me. Thank you so much! <3
    PS* I can't believe you don't like Illustrator! It's so smart and powerful – I absolutely love it!

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by! 🙂 I’m so glad you’re loving UBB. It’s great to hear that!

      Haha, and I think it’s funny you don’t like Photoshop! To each her own, I suppose. 🙂

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