Donation buttons and self promotion in your plugins and themes.. yes or no?

December 14, 2011 | Personal Blog, Shameless Plugs, Statements and Rants, Wordpress | 3 comments

As regular readers might have noticed, I am a (more than) full time WordPress plugin and theme developer. I have spent the last few years doing this and have an intimate knowledge of WordPress. Because of this, like so many others, I have a base stock of plugins I tend to use for my clients’ sites which I use for a number of reasons.

The list of reasons tends to include the obvious things like ‘are they any good or not’ and ‘are they free’ (always a winner that one). However, one of my other criteria is to do with the existence of the other plethora of rubbish that some developers seem to chuck into their plugins almost as a matter of course.

This post was to do with donation buttons but I suppose that we can extend it to the following:

Automatic backlinking

When I looked at my sites XML Sitemap the other day I noticed that there was a nice little comment in there attributing the work to the guy that wrote the plugin. I find this incredibly annoying as, if it were an option in the plugin, it would almost certainly be turned off.

Donate buttons

I appreciate that plugins take time to write but little cheeky buttons that suggest they want $5 for a coffee is a particular annoyance of mine. I have one donate button and it’s on my homepage sidebar. This means that anyone wishing to give a donation can do but I never expect anyone to. The important thing is that whenever I go to the settings page on a plugin it’s not sitting there in a little box begging for some cash or, more suggestive, suggesting I look at their Amazon wishlist.

Flashing/fixed admin banners

I find that within some plugins people have gone as far as to write a nag box to show within the admin screens to ask for money or to show me a ‘sponsored’ news feed. Often the developer has copied and pasted some code to add this and managed to add it to that all roles can see it, not just Administrators.

News feeds

This one doesn’t bother me as much but I do appreciate an ‘off’ button. On the WordPress dashboard there are boxes linking to WordPress RSS feeds for plugin news and updates. Some developers like to put their little boxes on there too. If I were to allow people onto the admin backend of a site the last thing I would want to show them would be several boxes picking up content from RSS feeds I have no control over.

Social media buttons

The curse of social media now means that every man and his dog wants a Facebook or Twitter button on their site. I actually found myself considering getting a Twitter account the other day but then slipped out of that coma and came back to my senses. My personal feelings on people wasting their life posting ‘status updates’ aside, seeing these boxes splattered all over the admin systems that I use is as much of an annoyance as anything else. Social media sites are great for companies wishing to promote themselves and for people ‘getting back in touch’ (as often is an excuse given by Facebook fans.. what ever happened to email. Given it’s a new technology I know) and not to mention SEO but do I need a dedicated sidebar on admin pages for some plugins telling me what the developer ate from breakfast and is currently doing on the toilet.

HTML comment backlinks

I notice these all the time.. in fact I was speaking to a good friend about them last night when I mentioned I had written a major app which is being used by a few big name companies and he said that I need my name in there somewhere. I suppose my point is that if I have been paid to write something for someone then it’s their name that goes on it, not mine. It’s a little bit different with ‘free’ WordPress plugins where the author needs their credit but then again that’s that the Author Name and Author URI comment fields are for within each plugin and theme.. to attribute credit in a clear, consistent and unbiased/customer facing manner.

Forced suggested donations

I came across this idea when using a plugin this morning. I am working on a client site and wanted to remove a little blue box which keeps popping up suggesting I buy him a coffee or pay his mortgage or something. There was a convenient little button to dismiss the box which I clicked (who wouldn’t!) and it took me to his site which was splattered with both advertising, follow buttons and an explanation saying that if I were to pay him some money they he would ‘arrange for those boxes to flutter away’.

Security concerns

I have some concerns here.. in effect the developer has written a back door into the site (and he’s not the only one.. lots of plugins do it). He can easily log my site address or any other information sent with the request and note how often it’s being used. It’s stats heaven for the developer but rather concerning for anyone else. In effect in order for advertising to ‘flutter away’ he needs to add my site address to a list he has somewhere which will cause the advertising not to show. Feels a bit wrong to me.. thoughts anyone?


I tried to be impartial in this posting and intended to weigh up the pros and cons of this shameless self promotion (whoops) but clearly failed. It’s a shame that I really have to stop using, or just edit the code inside, some plugins because the person who wrote it feels that, for offering an open source plugin, they get carte blanche to advertise/nag/demand money from you until you jump through a hoop or two.

Plugins written for free should really be rated highly on the WordPress plugin directory. They should be talked about, celebrated and, as such, the developer will see both an improved site ranking/self popularity and most likely end up with more work because of it.

I have several plugins in the plugin repository myself and have offered tens of plugins on this site for free. In each one the only link to me or my name is the plugin author and site. The rest is on this site (sans social media and advertising and only the one small donate button if people really feel the need). I would love for a few more developers to take this approach as there are some really good plugins out there which I simply can not use out of the box because of one (or frequently more) of the afore mentioned reasons.

To see a list of the things I offer on this site then take a look at my downloads page

Ho ho ho and happy holidays everyone. I shall be working up until Christmas Eve undoubtedly but I hope to have written a new theme for this site by the n new year. Let’s see if it happens!

A Donate Button!


  1. Shanni Einer

    Wow, was this ever a post and so many valid points. I followed in from learning about coin of the realm as I’m searching to build a downline community and looking at options. Thanks for so many valid points of bloggers – no nagging “beg for my daily coffee links!” – that is appreciated. No – hands down, no!

    • Sean

      Hey, glad you appreciated it. My rant posts are often the best!


      ps: hope you are enjoying coin of the realm

  2. Ese

    So many valid points Sean, they can never be passed across in a better way!



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