WordPress plugins are useful tools that help in extending the functionality of a website or blog. However, with over 37,000 plugins available in the WordPress Plugin Repository, choosing the most suitable ones for your site can be overwhelming and challenging no matter whether you're a beginner or an experienced usee.
In this post, I'll share you with some important aspects that you should consider when choosing a WordPress plugin for your website.
Before Proceeding Further
Remember when you're searching for a plugin, make sure to jot down all your requirements about what you want a plugin to do. In essence, create a checklist containing a set of features that you're seeking in a plugin. Not to mention, choose a plugin that offers features to meet your exact website needs.
You don't necessarily have to choose just one plugin that can do all the work for you. Instead, you can consider installing 2 or more plugins if they together can facilitate you with the desired features. But, avoid installing too many (and unwanted) plugins in your website.
You can easily search for the plugin in the WordPress plugin directory. The plugin directory comes with thousands of free plugins. The official plugin directory looks something like:
As you can see in the above image, you can find all the featured plugins as you scroll down the page. You can also easily find the most popular plugin options, by clicking on the “Popular” tab and so on. Being able to find free to use plugins from one single destination is indeed good for beginners, but the overwhelming number of plugins makes it difficult to pick the best plugin.
Now, let's move ahead to understanding some key aspects to choose the best WP plugin worth considering.
Key Aspects For Selecting a WordPress Plugin Worth Exploring
The best way to know which plugin you should download for your website is to compare the plugins based on information like ratings, reviews, compatibility, etc. In this section, we'll be talking about some of the most important factors you should take into account to decide which plugin will best suit your needs.
1. Do not scour over the net to get your desired plugin.
Yes, you heard that right! Most of the WordPress users have a habit of scouring the net to learn about the best WP plugins. But, amidst thousands of search results, finding an appropriate plugin for your site can be a tedious process. Instead, one best way to find a good plugin is to know if any bugs are found in a plugin (especially the one you would like to use for your site). To do so, simply head to the plugin's support page on wordpress.org.
The support page for the plugin won't only show the bugs that have been reported by other plugin users, but will also help answer your queries (if any) relating to a WordPress plugin.
2. Be wary of using disallowed plugins.
While a plugin does help in extending a site's functionality, there are a few plugins that can slow down your site because of using excess resources. These kind of plugins are banned from being used on sites. You can know about such plugins, by looking at the WP Engine list of disallowed plugins.
Make sure not use any plugins on the list, as they're banned since WP Engine provides all of the features (offered by different plugins) themselves like caching, creating backups, etc.
3. Consider using plugins of well-established contributors.
Lastly, it's worth looking at who developed the plugin you want to install on your site. Check out if the plugin author is a well-established member of the WordPress community or not. In addition, do make sure if the plugin creator is a contributor to the WordPress core, have they authored other well-regarded plugins and so on. You can find the profile of plugin authors in the WordPress.org plugin repository.
4. How many times a plugin has been downloaded?
The first thing you should consider when choosing a plugin is the number of times it has been downloaded (also referred to as active installs). The more a plugin will be downloaded, the more popular it will be. A popular plugin is the one that best fit users' needs, is well-maintained by its developer, have fewer or no issues and works well compared to the plugins that are downloaded only a few times.
For example, as you can see when the two shortcode generator plugins, i.e. Shortcodes Ultimate and Easy Bootstrap Shortcode are compared based on the number of downloads, the former one with 4 lakh active installs beat the second plugin with 40 thousand active installs.
5. Which plugin has a good user rating?
Another key factor that will help you decide which plugin is better compared to other available options in the similar category is to check out the Plugin Ratings give by users. The classic star rating of 1 out of 5 stars is used to rate a plugin; the plugin getting 5 out of 5 stars is the most popular and high-quality plugin. It is advised that you should avoid using a plugin having a low rating (ideally less than 3-star rating) unless it's a new plugin that is yet to be explored by users.
You can check a plugin's rating from the main plugin directory window, as shown in the screen shot below:
Also, you can view the rating of a plugin given by users by opening a plugin page:
6. Which WordPress version the plugin supports?
Not all the plugins will support the latest version of the WordPress platform. And so, make sure that the plugin you want to use is compatible with your WordPress website. In case, the selected plugin does not work on the latest or old version of your website, then it won't possibly work on your WP site's version.
You can know about whether a plugin will work well on your website version or not, by checking out the “Requires WordPress version“ option given in the sidebar section of a plugin page:
7. Read user reviews on a plugin.
One clear way to determine if a plugin can help meet your website needs or not, is to read about users' experiences about the plugin. Reading user reviews regarding a plugin will make you understand things like how a plugin helps in solving an issue or what kind of functionality it adds to a WordPress install.
Through this post, I've tried to cover the most crucial aspects that you should consider when you're about to select a plugin for your WordPress site. You can decide on choosing a plugin by viewing the times a plugin has been downloaded, or by seeing the ratings and reviews given by other WP users. Though the above discussed factors might not help you in choosing 100 percent perfect plugin for your site, but will definitely let you make an informed decision.
Note: Avoid choosing a plugin that hasn't been updated since a long time.