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Extension Suggestions in 3.6

One of the greatest strengths of WooCommerce as a platform is the ecosystem of powerful extensions that allow users to customize and adapt their online stores to address the unique needs of their businesses. In fact, there are very few stores out there that are running without any extensions.

There are 400+ extensions on the WooCommerce.com marketplace, which can be daunting for a user to dig through in order to discover the things that will help their business.

So, starting in WooCommerce 3.6, we are going to start suggesting relevant WooCommerce extensions to users based on details of their store. This post covers what these suggestions are.

What are Marketplace Suggestions?

We are calling this feature/function “Marketplace Suggestions”. They are contextual mentions of official extensions that may be relevant to a customer. This currently includes all extensions on the official WooCommerce marketplace, which is open for submissions and lists extensions written by Automattic as well as by trusted partners and third-party developers.

There are thousands of excellent WooCommerce extensions available on the .org repository and on the web, but there are also many that are not audited and put stores at risk.

It is ultimately the customer’s choice what to use and up to them to determine what best suits their business, but as their eCommerce platform provider, we can serve them by making sure they’re aware first and foremost of the vetted options available.

From our customer survey, we see WooCommerce being used by a growing number of entrepreneurs and small businesses. This segment rely on extensions to customize their stores, and we anticipate that contextual suggestions will be of service primarily to them.

Managing your suggestions

We have set Marketplace Suggestions up to be on by default, but we only show suggestions for users who can install and activate plugins (so could act on them) and only on screens where we think the action will be relevant (for example, extensions to enhance product pages when going to edit products).

We’ll work on making these smarter, more relevant, and more useful over time.

We also acknowledge that for developers building sites for others – who take on the responsibility of purchasing extensions for the clients – these suggestions might not be a good fit. For this reason, they can currently be hidden with the following script:

add_filter( ‘woocommerce_allow_marketplace_suggestions’, ‘__return_false’ );

If the above removal-by-script option proves to be difficult to implement – for example, for those who are not comfortable adding custom code – we will explore introducing a simpler way to turn them off and include this in a point release (e.g. a toggle in core settings).

A technical look behind the scenes

Below is some information about how Marketplace Suggestions work:

  • Phoning home: Suggestions are retrieved via an API endpoint. Filtering and context is handled on the store side so no personal data is sent with the requests, and no “phoning home” is performed.
  • Advertising: we read this as third-party advertising systems, which isn’t what we’re doing here. We checked with the plugins team and followed their guidance on this – which includes making them dismissable
  • Hijacking the admin dashboard: In addition to being dismissible (above) the guidelines state “Upgrade prompts, notices, alerts, and the like must be limited in scope and used sparingly, be that contextually or only on the plugin’s setting page”. In the case of the suggestions, they meet this criteria by being inserted only within WooCommerce UI components, rather than global or on non-WooCommerce screens.
  • Frequency:
    • We’ll only show 1 on the Products screen, and 5 on the Product – empty state, Orders – empty state or Edit Product metabox.
    • Each suggestion is dismissible, we are not providing an option to dismiss all suggestions (other than if you choose to hide them).
    • We’re only showing 1 suggestion at a time, if a customer dismisses this, they won’t see another one for 24-hours.
    • If suggestions are dismissed more than five times. No further suggestions are shown in that location ( i.e. Products Listing ) for a month.
  • Tracking: we don’t track sites that opt out or have no connection to WooCommerce.com, and we offer a setting under WC > Settings > Accounts and Privacy to change preferences at any time
  • GDPR: We don’t collect user data unless someone has opted in to share usage data with us.

We are listening to feedback on usefulness, frequency, and ways to improve extension recommendations. As with all thing open-source, they are subject to change.

By Todd Wilkens

I'm a Catholic, a husband, a father of 6, a designer, a sociologist, an entrepreneur, and a teacher. As a fifth-generation Texan, I believe in audacious goals, practical solutions, and BBQ brisket.

40 replies on “Extension Suggestions in 3.6”

Here is a suggestion… call them what they are: ADS.

These are ads and any attempt to describe them as anything but ads is simply ridiculous.

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Thanks for adding (suggesting?) your thoughts, Carl. We are noting well everything said, here and in other spaces, and appreciate the candid feedback we’re getting.

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That’s already been covered in https://www.facebook.com/groups/woohelp but everyone’s real question is, “How do we turn it off?” / “Please tell us there’s an unhook option to stop this behavior!”. Todd, we’re over this and onto 3.7.

This might be news for “some”, but for those of us who are onto 3.7, this whole concept [we’ve] agreed on to be annoying, and we’d like to have the option to please stop.

Has any of the “We should stop annoying store owners” concept just not been addressed yet?

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Hey Brad. Thanks for your feedback (and ongoing work running the WooHelp group). The suggestions are intended to help store owners find relevant extensions for their stores. We’ve had useful – some quite strongly worded 😉 – feedback and ideas from the community, which we’re considering carefully.

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Kindly, that is just a huge marketing addition and something annoying called a big “nag”. There is already a lot of reactions around this that are not really positive. For example, developer like to advice their clients on what to chose, to keep them focus on what their real needs. There are other good extensions, not “Woocommerce official” ones, that can be relevant too, so that is just not fair.

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This information and transparency is appreciated, though I think the chaotic GitHub issue could have been avoided if this was published earlier. I’d welcome an admin option to permanently dismiss suggestions (instead of only for a month).

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Thanks, Will. It’s helpful to know that this post going up sooner would have better timing.

I’d welcome an admin option to permanently dismiss suggestions (instead of only for a month).

Thanks also for this. The ‘snooze’ option was introduced to allow folks to take a break, but still get notifications down the line when new products launch etc. The option for a permanent dismissal has been raised on the GitHub issue, too. Currently, we are taking some time to fully understand concerns around dismissibility to determine the best way forward.

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You don’t “fully understand” what it means to permanently dismiss a dialog box? Are you serious?

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Respectfully, I understand what it means to permanently dismiss a dialog box.

Now that we have community feedback on the release candidate, we are working hard on making some changes in time for 3.6.

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Hi there!
You should remove this suggestions feature and not release this in the public version!
It just belongs not in there. If I as shop owner or developer first have to remove such things, then all has gotten worse already. This is bad practice at all.

Also, there seems to be a misconception about GDPR in general and especially about tracking!
You just cannot track users without explicit consent or opt-in. You have to make sure that users have opted in and given their consent, then you are free to track them. But you must explicitely name and explain what you are tracking and for which purposes: what data goes where and for what?

Otherwise you would already breaking GDPR.

Please stop these practices. They begin to damage user and developer trust in a once great plugin/product.

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Hi David. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

With regards to suggestions and the GDPR, Timmy Crawford (the release lead) posted some details here: https://github.com/woocommerce/woocommerce/issues/23198#issuecomment-479561992.

To your point on removal: we believe the suggestions serve the best interests of a large segment of store owners and plan to include them. That said, we are open to feedback and are taking on board everything the community are saying right now.

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“Hijacking the admin dashboard: In addition to being dismissible (above) the guidelines state “Upgrade prompts, notices, alerts, and the like must be limited in scope and used sparingly, be that contextually or only on the plugin’s setting page”. In the case of the suggestions, they meet this criteria by being inserted only within WooCommerce UI components, rather than global or on non-WooCommerce screens.”

I disagree, I don’t think this implementation is meeting this guideline.

The ads may be on WooCommerce UI components, but they are far from contextual. They ARE altering a List View something which is used hundreds of times a day by store owners and ad zero value past the first impression.

I wouldn’t call this “sparingly” or “contextual” in such a way that the ads are relevant to the user action. List View is not a settings page so contextual is of utmost importance here since you are interrupting a user’s natural workflow…

Community feedback on this so far is that this is perhaps the worse “feature” that has been implemented on WooCommerce core. It doesn’t add any value to the user, it only adds value to WooCommerce.com in the form of revenue raising.

There is already a fantastic page under WooCommerce->Extensions which is fully searchable and relevant, provides more information, etc. Why interrupt people’s work days with irrelevant advertising???

So my question is, are you guys planning to forge ahead with this even though feedback on the feature is wholly negative?

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There has been quite a bit of helpful feedback on the placement and execution of the Products List banner, which we will be taking into consideration. Also, there have been some suggestions around how the Extensions Screen might be optimised which you touch on, too. All this to say: thanks for feeling strongly and saying what you think.

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This is in direct competition to every 3rd party developer that is not selling on WooCommerce’s marketplace. I am one of these. This is advertising for your commercial products, no matter how you try and wrap this. You have an extensions page already which is more than enough, but advertising your products every 24 hours is going too far.

This is completely unacceptable.

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I hear you, and I’m sorry that it feels like it’s a competition killer. That isn’t the intention: there had to be a line drawn somewhere around what to suggest, and the decision is that it be the vetted extensions available on the official marketplace. In terms of advertising every 24 hours, we don’t wan’t to annoy users, and are looking into the guidelines around dismissibility to ensure we make the right decision on frequency.

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No! Why are you adding suggestions like this and then making it the Developers job to remove them when clients start complaining about endless, annoying notifications! The Dashboard is already full of them, and now you’re just making it worse. How about doing it the other way around and letting developers turn it on via a filter, if they really want these useless notifications, rather than us having to turn it off on every install.

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Hi Anthony. Thanks for adding your thoughts. From our customer survey, we know there are a lot of users that set up new stores themselves and need guidance choosing extensions. So, we’ve decide to have the suggestions on by default, but make it possible to remove them.

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I don’t like that terrible system of suggestions as I see if using Jetpack. Put it on a separate page if customers likes suggestions and only there.

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We’re adding them thoughtfully to specific places and pages. This is just the first iteration and we will work hard to make them more relevant and helpful as time goes by.

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Best joke of the day: “If the above removal-by-script option proves to be difficult to implement – for example, for those who are not comfortable adding custom code – we will explore introducing a simpler way to turn them off and include this in a point release (e.g. a toggle in core settings).”

Do you really think that everyone is confortable with adding a line of code? Just asking… best decision ever for people leaving WooCommerce to another platform.

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Hi Aurélien. No, we know not everyone will be. Right now, the way to remove them is with that code.

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Why was this not discussed in the core dev chat that just happened? If this was something to be proud of, why is this feeling like it’s being snuck in at the last moment?

I’d be curious who believes that dismissing a notice five times in a five day period is a good experience, and why you think after five no’s, that a month later requiring to start this process over again is actually something the store owner wants?

I need solutions I can trust that aren’t in 6-12 months going to make decisions that I don’t find acceptable for our clients. If this is the trend being set, and if I can’t trust the future of WC to not be an Idiocracy style plastering of ads on everything … then WC may not be the best platform we work with for larger sites. If it wants to be the platform built for small store owners then we will keep it in the market it is happy in and focus our large site efforts elsewhere.

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Hey Patrick-

Why was this not discussed in the core dev chat that just happened?

That is a great question. My planning for the agenda revolved around items in 3.6 that I felt would be pressing concerns for extension developers and store builders. As such talking about the REST API classes only loading on REST requests ( and the fatals we had been seeing around that during Beta in external and internal code ), and the product lookup tables which is a fairly big change.

As always in the few dev chats I’ve organized, I ask for agenda items, and prefer for the agenda to be community driven – but this time there wasn’t many items submitted from the community so I assembled items that had been on the top of my mind. I’m new to this part of the Woo community, and still learning what should be deemed the most critical things to talk about, so I apologize if I missed the mark here.

I anticipate this being the main topic of the next Dev Chat though, as you have already requested – and I imagine we will keep the balance of the agenda thin to provide plenty of space for feedback.

why is this feeling like it’s being snuck in at the last moment?

I’m sorry you feel this feature was developed and merged in quietly. I do want to highlight though that this feature was developed in the open in a quite long-running feature branch/PR ( https://github.com/woocommerce/woocommerce/pull/22857 ), and was merged to master a month ago. It was mentioned in the Beta 1 Release notes, and was testable during Beta1 and prior on master.

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Thanks for your feedback. We don’t want anything to be bloated, and are listening out to feedback from the community on how to strike the right balance.

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@itsgauavjain22 Actually, “most” store owners really don’t have a clue about all the extensions. Over the last 10 years, I have read every page of every doc of every payment gateway and every plugin from “Conditional Content” to the old “Splash Popup” and everything offered by Bubble Storm (sorry WooDojo) ((sorry, I meant WooThemes)) (((sorry, I meant Automattic))). I can, with absolute zero hesitation, tell you that there is absolutely no way people are aware of all the extensions.

If folks over in https://www.facebook.com/groups/woohelp are even a tenth of a representative focus group of the larger WooCommerce audience, then they are totally unaware of all the things they can do with WooCommerce.

I don’t know why Ryan isn’t still cranking out videos, but they really need to work on the psychology and analytics of marketing across the board. From affiliate banners that are completely vague, no training for ‘what it is that I’m about to buy & why I need it’, and not understanding the heart and mind of how busy and NON technical minded the Business Owner is…. Automattic could really do a better job at marketing themselves besides putting an ad in the single-product.php meta box.

Automattic needs someone to guide them with healthy boundaries so that they can be part of the solution to both raise awareness and revenue for their other plugins and extensions.

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Interesting to watch all the backlash this update is getting. Are you going to update this announcement with additional information for dissatisfied users?

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Last week, the release candidate was running on my staging server, and out of nowhere, I noticed these ads being inserted inline with the rest of the WC admin list tables. What a shock that was! I thought I’d developed a bad case of malware or something. What nasty plugin was corrupting my core, default products table, order table, etc?! Oh, just core WooCommerce.

I have never once gone looking to add a plugin to my site by starting at the “Products” tab. Cause it doesn’t belong there. If I want to install an extension or plugin, I will go to the (aptly named) “Extensions” tab or “Plugins” tab.

It is rather telling that we as longtime developers who attend every Dev chat, bookmark and check this Dev blog daily, and test all your betas and release candidates STILL had no idea about this blatant abuse of trust.

If you have the talent to build and maintain this entire (wonderful) ecosystem, surely you have someone in your ranks that can develop one admin checkbox to turn all suggestions off. If not, sign me up. I’ll do it on my lunch break.

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Hi Tobin. Sorry to hear you a poor experience discovering this feature.

We’ve had pretty consistent feedback from developers that the Products List doesn’t feel like a good space to see notifications and are thinking about how to balance this with a known discoverability issue around extensions for less experienced merchants building their own stores.

> If you have the talent to build and maintain this entire (wonderful) ecosystem, surely you have someone in your ranks that can develop one admin checkbox to turn all suggestions off. If not, sign me up. I’ll do it on my lunch break.

We do – and are working on some additional options around suggestion management for 3.6 based on feedback received.

Please do keep contributing to the conversation, and to WooCommerce core – perhaps in your lunchbreak? 😛

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add_filter( ‘woocommerce_allow_marketplace_suggestions’, ‘__return_false’ ); //This is NOT WORKING!!

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Then while I’m about it – why not add the ‘Advanced Tab’ which only has a menu order – cant see what so advanced about that – add that to the General Tab

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And heres another thing – if the ads which are being forces upon us had at least some value, it would be great – but considering the number of woocommerce users and the number of ads you can actually force upon us in our online stores – there are going to be millions of people who have going to have no use for the plugins you advertise – its is humanly impossible to add something of value to all stores owners- the free ones are absolutely hopeless because they all link to products that were updated 2 yrs + ago and no one in their right mind will at the plugin to their store – check up on jameskoster – i really dont think he is around anymore because he hasnt updated any plugin in years!! – yet they are amongst the recommendations you make – as far as I am concerned – this is a load of bull – it is so blatantly clear that whoever in their infinite wisdom very evidently did not quite think this thing through! – all these external links fucking up my content security policy which is already fucked up because of WordPress inline styles and scripts – I’m actually on the verge of dumping Woocommerce once and for all in favor of something more robust!

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