Our Step By Step Guide To Choosing A WordPress Plugin
As of the time of this article, there are over 55,000 WordPress plugins to choose from. Just that thought alone is overwhelming, but then actually choosing a WordPress plugin for your site is a whole other level of “oh…. $%^&”.
As a web designer and developer, I have experienced the joyous moment of when a plugin does EXACTLY what it’s supposed to do, and unfortunately I’ve also sat at my computer, banging my head off the desk, wondering what I was thinking ever installing one in the first place.
After ten years of building sites, I guess you could say I’ve learned a thing or two about evaluating the authenticity, security and quality of a plugin. And now I’m here to hopefully keep you from making some of the same mistakes I’ve made over the years.
If you’re thinking about installing a WordPress plugin onto your site, definitely take a few minutes and read the following step by step guide on evaluating a plugin.
How To Choose A WordPress Plugin:
Step 1: Look at Reviews
A great plugin will have a 4-5 star average. But even if it does, make sure to see how many reviews it has (I never install a plugin with less than 25 reviews and prefer that it has at least 100) and to read the negative reviews to be sure that when something does go wrong, it doesn’t tank your entire site (Yes, that’s a thing. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s definitely a thing).
Step 2: Check when it was last updated
A lot of people don’t realize that plugins have to be maintained. As new versions of WordPress, PHP, and other programs come out, a plugin has to adapt to stay secure and functioning propertly. A plugin that isn’t maintained regularly is more likely to allow a malicious attack on your site or to have functionality issues (which reflect poorly on you and your brand). NEVER install a plugin that says it’s no longer being maintained, or one with reviews that say it’s outdated. Anything that hasn’t been updated in the last six months is a big NO for me.
Step 3: Make sure it does exactly what you want it to do
Plugins are usually designed with one specific purpose in mind. When choosing a WordPress plugin for your website, always read the documentation and make sure it’s going to do exactly what you want it to do. Otherwise, it’s just more clutter that needs to be maintained on the back end. No one needs that in their life.
Step 4: Is it compatible with your theme/builder/other plugins
Not all plugins are compatible with all versions of WordPress, and some do not play nicely with others. If you use a builder like Divi or Elementor, make sure to do some research ahead of time to make sure they play well together. Typically a simple “Does X Plugin Work With X” will bring up any issues.
If your answeRs to the last four questions are YES, YES, YES, and YES. Then, the plugin you are looking at *might* be a great choice for you.
I recommend backing up your website, or having your website maintenaince professional do so, prior to installing it (Some hosting companies do this for you as well). That way, if something breaks, you can easily switch back to the previous version of your site.
And, as always, in order to avoid security issues and to maintain proper functionality on your website, make sure to remove any plugins you are not using and to keep your plugins up to date. Your web designer will thank you. 🙂
If you have any more questions about choosing a WordPress Plugin, contact your web developer or let us know in the comments below!
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