A recent update to the WP User Avatar (now ProfilePress) has stirred up quite a reaction from users who previously enjoyed the narrow focus of the plugin. WordPress Tavern reported on the matter, including some screenshots of the former plugin. Click through to read some of the comments.

WP User Avatar went from a lightweight plugin with a very narrow focus used by over 400k WordPress websites, to a more feature-rich almost full suite membership plugin, virtually overnight.

As you can image, lots of users were surprised to say the least.

I sent an email to new product owner, Collins Agbonghama for a chance to comment and explain some of his reasoning to the recent update.

Can you tell me more about the company and the product?

I run a small WordPress development studio called Proper Fraction (https://properfraction.com) where we basically make WordPress plugins. I started out teaching WordPress programming and development on sites such as SitePointTuts+, Designmodo, Smashing Magazine. ProfilePress became a thing because a lot of readers asked me to turn these tutorials into a plugin. I only acquired WP User Avatar plugin. Not ProfilePress.

Future plans are basically continuing to improve our current products.

When did you acquire the plugin and do you have any details about the acquisition you can share?

I acquired the plugin early last year. It had some niggling issues which I fixed and continued to fix. And I was (still am) very responsive to users complaint, bug reports and offering supports to them.

I don’t plan on making any further acquisitions.

How big is the team supporting the plugins? Both in terms of support and development?

We are a small team of 3. Two devs and one support rep.

Are you aware of the user feedback from version 3? How have you communicated with users before and after the update?

Yes, since the update I’ve had a flood of emails asking for even more features. Despite some negative reviews on the WP plugin directory, the vast majority of direct feedback has been very positive. 

Can you explain why so many new features and extended functionality went into a plugin that had a very narrow feature set before? 

Because I saw the plugin was lacking a lot of functionality that crossed over with our product, ProfilePress and many users who used the original plugin were also users of ProfilePress. 

We have gotten a ton of request over the years from profilepress users to allow users to upload avatar especially one that integrates with default WP profile. So I acquired the plugin. And since I think they are complementary, I decided to merge them.

Do you have any opinion on how users react to a free plugin going transitioning to freemium?

Maintaining free plugins is evidently unpaid labour but surprisingly, very demanding. You get droves of users demanding help. Some even go as far as threatening you with a bad rating if you do not help them. Even if you do help them, you might get lambasted for doing so late. 

And as soon as you offer say a paid version to help offset the cost of development and maintenance of the free version, you get criticized. I know as a (former) plugin author yourself, you understand this better.

What challenges do you have as a product owner in the WordPress ecosystem? 

Keeping up with the pace of WordPress evolvement, and finding talented developers to hire. 

In your opinion, is there something you’d like to see in WordPress core or the WordPress.org plugin repo that help product owners better communicate with end users?

I will love to see an in-app notification feature in WordPress. Like a tiny icon at the top corner of the dashboard which when clicked, reveals important notifications theme/plugin developers can utilize to send out important updates. 

I have previously contributed to WordPress Core as my way of thanking the community and would love to contribute to building an app notification system into Core if it becomes a reality.

Regarding version 3.0, is there anything you’re going to do to help users moving forward? 

We are going to focus on fixing reported issues and ensures the plugin is very stable. We recently pushed out a 3.1 release that fixed some of the reported bugs.

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