WordPress has thousands of plugins to help you extend the functionality of your website. Adding new tools and functionality to your existing website at the click of a button is amazing and something that should be utilized. But wait! Not every plugin is the right fit for your site. Deciding the best plugin to use can be tough. With so many options, you need to make sure you know how to judge a plugin before installing it on your website. Below I have listed a few tips to keep in mind when searching for your next plugin installation.
This may seem like an obvious one so we’ll keep it simple. Yes, the more stars, the better. WordPress does a nice job at keeping the plugin ratings honest. If a plugin has 5 stars, I generally feel a little better about pursuing it as an option. While 5 stars is nice, make sure to also read over some of the the plugin’s reviews to get a better understand of the plugins ratings.
Reviews go hand in hand with Ratings. when looking over a plugins reviews, I recommend not only looking at the 5-star reviews but the 1, 2 and 3-star reviews. You may find that while the plugin works well for the majority of WordPress users, the plugin falls short in specific situations. You may discover other non-website related issues that could potentially turn you off such as poor support or slow response times from the plugin author. Any bit of information you can find about the plugin can save you time when trying to find the right solution.
Last update date
Making sure the plugin has been updated recently is always a good indicator that the plugin and the plugin author are still active. But before you go throwing away plugins with over a year past since it’s last update. Understand, some plugins offer simple solutions that may not require an update every week or so. When considering the last time an update took place for a plugin, take a look at some other factors like if there was a big WordPress update recently, if the plugin’s purpose is complex, or whether or not it relies on 3rd party services. These are just some of the examples that can help you understand how to value a plugin’s last update date.
WordPress Version Compatibility
This is an easy one; ask yourself, will this plugin play nice with my current version of WordPress? The plugin’s page will inform you on the required WordPress version and up to what version of WordPress the plugin was tested on. It’s good to take a quick note of this as you may find the plugin may not work with your WordPress website, regardless of if it’s the perfect solution for your needs. Once again, and much like the last updated date, plugins can still run fine on new versions of WordPress but tread lightly when testing, an incompatible plugin can cause your website to crash and the clean up can be difficult.
The Support Tab
If you ever have an issue with a plugin, the Support tab on a plugin’s page can be a great starting point to finding a solution. While it may not always have the exact answer to your problem it can sometimes supply the breadcrumbs you need to solve your problem. The support tab can also provide some insight on some of the issues other WordPress users are experiencing. Much like the plugin reviews, the Support tab can tell you in advance what to potentially expect. But please keep in mind, some plugin authors place heavy priority on their independent support systems. Meaning, if a plugin author is not active on the Support tab for their plugin, this does not mean they are not active and supportive of their plugin altogether.
Getting a clear picture of what you may be in store for when installing a plugin on your website can save you time and headaches. Above all make sure to always have your website backed up before installing any new plugins!