Ok, today I am going to talk about plugins. Believe me I have made a number of mistakes over the years. Choosing the wrong ones can really cost you a lot of time and money. In this article I hope to teach you about the best practices for choosing plugins. Picking plugins out can be a task in hand; there are a number of things you need to keep in mind. As webmasters if we are developing websites on the WordPress CMS there are number of things you need to know.
There are a ton of free WordPress plugins for the pickings at https://wordpress.org/plugins/. If you are like me and so many other webmasters your eyes light up when you see them all. Whenever a client wants something done I usually go to the WordPress site to see if I can find a free WordPress plugin that will do whatever I need it to do. Free is better than paid right? Well sometimes.
Just for an example, let’s say you’re experiencing lots of traffic on your server. You need a caching plugin to help reduce the server load. So, what a lot of people do is go to WordPress and type in “caching plugins” As you can see there are pages and pages of caching plugins:
By default it’s sorted by relevance. Optionally, you can sort by newest, most popular, and highest rated. You can see how many downloads there are for each particular plugin. Then you will see a five star rating system. 1 star pretty much means there are issues with the plugin or people don’t like it. 5 stars generally means people are happy with the plugin. But, just don’t make your selection based on the plugins star rating.
Now, lets say we want a SEO plugin. There are a ton of them out there. For example lets take a look at the WordPress Yoast Plugin. When we go to the description page we can see a description, installation, FAQ, screenshot, changelog, stats, support, reviews, and developer tab for each plugin.
The description tab tells us about the plugin. Basically, the Yoast Plugin is a SEO plugin. It tells you about the plugin and the features. A lot of the times they will have a video tutorial showing you the ends and outs of the plugin. Make sure you read the description page and make sure it will do what you want it to do.
Installation. This is pretty basic and shows you how to install it.
FAQ. This shows questions people have had or FAQ’s the developer of the plugin has put out for the plugin.
Screenshot. This shows the frontend and backend of the plugin. Not all plugins use the screenshot section. It’s always nice when they do though.
Changelog. This shows the updates that were done with the plugin. For example, there are usually security patches or new features that the developer has updated for the plugin.
Stats. This gives the stats of the plugin. Basically, it just shows how many people have downloaded the plugin. Daily, weekly, or yearly.
Support. This is a forum of questions that the developer has answered. Make sure that the developer actually takes the time to answer people’s questions. Nothing is worse than developing a site and realizing that you have no support at all from the developer.
Reviews. This is self explanatory and shows what people are saying about the plugin. Make sure there isn’t a trend where people are constantly complaining about something with the plugin.
Developers. Think of this as a more detailed tab for changelog.
Check the Compatible Version and Latest Updates
One thing I have been guilty of over the years is not making sure the plugin is compatible with the version of WordPress I am using. Meaning if I am using WordPress 4.0.1 and the plugin is only compatible with 3.8.2 then the plugin might not function correctly on my site.
Do not ignore the “last updated” section. This is very important. It shows when the developer last updated the plugin. Years ago I used a plugin and found out that it was an abandon plugin that the developer didn’t even bother to update in 1 year. Meaning that I had no support with the plugin and if it ever stopped working it would break that section of my website. The plugins should be updated every two to three weeks.
Remember that you can always use the free version and if there is an option for a paid premium version you might want to consider that later on down the road. Sure, you can test out the free version to see if you like it or even test if there are any problems or issues. Typically, if it’s a paid plugin the developers will do a better job at answering any question or concerns you might have with the plugin.
In conclusion, there are a ton of plugins to choose from and you really need to make sure they are compatible with the version of WordPress you’re using. The plugin needs to be updated every 2-3 weeks. Anything longer is too long and you run the risk of picking a plugin that might not work with the next WordPress update. There are a number of free WordPress plugins that I always try out before deciding to go with a premium plugin. Make sure you take note of the support if you do decide to go with a free plugin. It’s no fun having to completely uninstall a plugin and update tons of pages were the old plugin was installed. I hope this article has been helpful on choosing a WordPress plugin.