Everybody loves free! You get what you want and you don’t have to give up anything for it!
But is it the best “value”- even at $0.00? Is anything ever really free? Can we really get something we want without trading something for it?
TL;DR Why we love paying for plugins
- You can trust they will be updated and improved over time
- They are a safer cart to hitch your horse to for the long haul (path dependency)
- Support exists and is usually very helpful
- The author / company has a VERY keen interest in your success with their plugin
What about free WordPress Plugins?
Don’t get me wrong, we love free plugins too. There are free plugins that we use almost all of our WordPress projects. There are many high quality and reliable plugins built by people that we know (some we like ;) ) and trust.
Why pay for WordPress Plugins?
However, we really love paying for premium plugins as well. But, when many in our community expect things for free, we feel the need to dig into why we love to pay for WordPress plugins.
Open Source works phenomenally, but sometimes the author / company’s interest in providing well for themselves is an even more effective and predictable incentive.
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.
– Adam Smith
The Wealth Of Nations, Book IV, Chapter II
Quality of the Plugin Code
The first thing you might expect us to reference here is quality. The assumption is that if you get it for free you must be sacrificing quality.
In reality, free does not automatically translate to a lack of quality. Conversely, paid or premium items do not automatically guarantee a high level of quality.
Quality in WordPress plugins is a highly objective matter. Does the code follow security best practices? Does it do what it promises (and many times, only what it promises), and is it easy for our clients to use. (Note: here is how we feel about extending Enterprise-level WordPress with plugins)
In our space, there are many free plugins that greatly outrank the premium plugin alternatives in terms of quality.
The reasons are also tied to incentives. Companies can build extremely profitable businesses on the back of a free plugin via “Pro” add-ons, extensions, support, and connections to larger service projects. (AKA Freemium) Also, many individuals take pride in their public WordPress reputation and are incentivized to maintain quality as a matter of pride (no negative interpretation implied).
Even though they’re not being incentivized through direct plugin sales, there is still a huge pressure to maintain the quality on a free WordPress plugin.
So, quality could be a reason but why else do we really love to pay for plugins?
It’s reliability. If there is no path to getting paid for their work, we cannot rely on that developer to keep the plugin updated with current WordPress versions or provide support for the occasional bugs.
For us, this is the most important reason why we’re happy to pay for code used on our client sites. We’re not looking for quick solutions for these features. When we choose a plugin (or build a feature ourselves) we are committing them to a “path dependency“. We want it to be a fantastic path.
With any plugin that we choose to integrate, we’re looking for long-term, quality, and reliable sources that will best serve our sites for as long as possible.
How about you?
Have you experienced this? Any tools or resources you excitedly pay for rather than get for free? Tell us about it in the comments!