The other day I was talking to someone about the name of their plugin.
No, not about copyright and infringement, though that comes up a lot. I was talking to them about the meaning of the plugin name. They wanted to pick a name that was memorable, meaningful, and descriptive. I wanted them to drop the last one. Or rather, to reconsider the last one.
Names Aren’t Descriptions Names Aren’t Descriptions
My name, Mika, is not a description, it’s an identifier. Even my handle, Ipstenu, is an identifier. My domain ‘HalfElf.org’ actually is a bit of a descriptor, but it’s also an identifier. I am a Half Elf Rogue to many people, and that’s as it should be. But a descriptor is “Professional Lesbian” not “Half Elf on Tech” and yes, this matters.
A good name is memorable (check), meaningful (check), and descriptive without being a description. Because a name is how we identify and remember the weird tech site we went to, versus the tools we use.
In so far as plugins go, however, you have one more thing to think about, and that’s the plugin slug. The slug is like this post’s URL. Changing it comes at a cost and in the case of plugins, it’s impossible. So while I’m content to allow people to pick some silly names, I’m pretty sticky about the plugin url.
Woo(Commerce) There It Is Woo(Commerce) There It Is
Whenever people submit plugins named “WooCommerce Thingy” they find their slugs changed to
woo-thingy instead of the expected
woocommerce-thingy because, well, they’re not WooCommerce. This sometimes incurs their ire, generally because they didn’t read the FAQ, and I’ve become resigned to linking them back to it. Most of the time, people just go “Oh, okay I get it.” and move on. Sometimes when the slug is less easy to ‘correct’ for them, like if they call a plugin “Google Fast Typing” (slug
google-fast-typing) I have to email them and sort out a new name (probably “Fast Typing for Google” unless “Fast Typing” is trademarked by the Googs).
Like I mentioned before, I don’t really push too much about a display name. You can change it as many times as you want, and coming back in a month to remind you “Hey, if you’re not Google, you shouldn’t start your plugin display name with ‘Google.’ They may get snarky at you.”
But the display name is also very much abused. People use it as an extra ‘short’ description, which really only goes to annoy people who see “Luxembourg – A new plugin that will solve all your woes!” as a plugin name. Thanks. But that’s what the description is for.
Gutenberg is a very popular plugin to make an add-on for these days. And a lot of people want to name their plugins things like “Joe’s Author Blocks for Gutenberg” which nets them the slug
joes-author-blocks-for-gutenberg and I don’t know about you, but I find that excessive.
See, you don’t want to have “Gutenberg” in your plugin slug at all. Unlike WooCommerce (or Google, or Facebook), we know Gutenberg is going to go away. Remember, the goal of Gutenberg is to be in WordPress 5.0!
So that means naming your plugin
author-blocks-for-gutenberg is shortsighted. In another four years, will anyone remember Gutenberg was the project name? Quick way to check, ask people at a local meetup “What’s MP6?” and see who knows.
Name Better Name Better
Think about the future of your plugin, the project, and the related items. Locking yourself into a name you regret later is one thing, but since a display name can be anything, you can name your plugin anything! Making a feature rich Gutenberg add on? Manutius is a great name! Changing the look entirely? Call it Reformation. Making a simple author block editor?
halfelf-author-blocks is an okay slug, but “Block Your Authors” sounds pretty bad.
Just remember, it’s eye before flea, except after sea.