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Block Editor Sidebar Panels Are the New Admin Notices

There is a problem. Well, it is not an OMGBBQ problem, but it has the potential to become one. Maybe by calling attention to it, I will set off a landslide of copycats who will see this as another trick of the marketing trade, implementing it in their own projects. I am torn, but it would be a disservice to our community to not provide a place for them to share their thoughts.

I am always looking for exciting new plugins or even those old ones that I have missed. In particular, I love to see what others are building on top of the block editor.

Several months ago, I activated my first plugin that used an editor sidebar panel to advertise its pro upgrade. There were no usable options. It was simply an ad, so the decision to deactivate and delete it was a no-brainer. I did not need anything taking up valuable real estate on the post-editing screen. I do not remember its name; it was on the site and off again in moments. A few months later, I saw another plugin with a similar panel.

I have simply ignored those extensions. They were somebody else’s issues. But, when the problem comes knocking at your own door, it is tough to not know it is there.

I hate to be the bad guy who calls out WordPress businesses for trying to make a buck. I have been there and tried to walk the tightrope between putting food on the table and creating a positive user experience with my products — said the guy who is now employed as a writer.

However, can we not do this?

WordPress editor open.  On the right, the post sidebar is shown with the ExactMetrics plugin's panel highlighted.  It has disabled options and simply an upgrade to pro link.
Sidebar panel with disabled options and a pro upgrade ad.

This panel seemed to appear suddenly on the Tavern’s post editor not long ago, and it has been an annoyance ever since. I dug around to find that this was a new pro option added to the ExactMetrics plugin last month. Users of the “lite” version just get the panel — free of charge.

There are a few choices when faced with such a situation. Learn to live with it, deactivate the plugin, or disable the panel via the preferences menu.

WordPress editor preferences menu overlay modal.  The Panels tab is selected.
Preference menu overlay.

At least the editor has some built-in noise control. I am not sure how many users are even aware that it is possible because it is almost hidden. It takes three clicks to get there (Options > Preferences > Panels) and another click to switch a panel off.

The JavaScript for the panel still runs on every load of the editor. And, clearing local browser storage means it will reappear — I will blame that one on WordPress for not storing preferences via user meta. But, at least panels can be hidden.

WordPress users have enough noise with plugins shouting at them at every turn. It is easy for them to become desensitized to the barrage of admin notices, a part of their daily existence. I do not even click the dismiss button for some at first glance. I let them sit, untouched, wondering if they will simply disappear into the ether without my direct interaction. Other times, I install Toolbelt and let it tuck them away.

But, this new thing? The post editor was a place of solace, an escape from the commotion allowed through the admin notices hook elsewhere. It was a quiet room for focusing on content.

At the very least, this form of advertising has given me the necessary kick in the pants to perform a full audit of the Tavern’s plugins. We are in the process of cleaning house, and I have already tossed the first into the trash heap.