How to identify the best WordPress plugin for your website
Before searching the WordPress plugin directory you must consider the feature(s) you want to add and how your users will interact with them. Doing this step before and planning properly will save you a lot of time in the long term.Category: WordPress | Read time: 15 minutes Read more
WordPress Plugins – Why we need them?
When installing your new WordPress installation there are many features that come with the WordPress platform. In most cases however you may want to add additional functionality to extend the offering of your website. By installing plugins you don’t need to rely on hiring a developer but there are pitfalls with that if you want to extend or maintain them.
WordPress.org currently has a directory of over 58,000+ plugins to choose from. This is growing exponentially year on year thanks to a growing community of plugin developers who offer free and in some cases paid plugins.
This does however cause a dilemma – How do I select the “best” plugin for the job?
Overview of the plugin directory
The directory is fully searchable and you can filter on different tags. When you open the plugin directory you see a grid of “Featured Plugins”. As shown below. It is broken up into key areas (as highlighted below in the list format).
- Name of Plugin – “Jetpack – WP Security….”
- Star rating plus number of reviews – Jetpack has 4 Stars and 1595 reviews
- Description of the plugin
- Author of plugin – “Automattic”
- Number of installations
- Tested and compatible with this version of WordPress
Browse the plugin reviews
When looking to install a plugin it is similar to the process of purchasing or hiring a product/service. This means you should take time to look at other peoples reviews. This will give you some clarity in whether this plugin is suitable for your site and does what you are trying to achieve by installing it.
Look at the small selection of reviews as there may be lots of reviews. Like with anything there is always unfortunately going to be negative reviews as they are not always as flexible for what that user wants.
High levels of low stars below 3 will most likely be best to avoid. As I rule I tend to go with 3 or above. Mostly in the region of 4 and 5s.
Tip: Look at 3 top reviews and 3 low star reviews and compare them.
Review the Change log for updates
An important question to answer when installing is how often the plugin is updated by the developer.
Under each plugin you can view the “Change Log”. It will show a chronological list of changes that have occured and therefore shows you how often the developer maintains the codebase.
Tip: To avoid any potential security issues it is important to choose a plugin that is updated regularly. Spend time looking at the change log to see common changes.
Compatibility with the latest WordPress Version
WordPress and its community are constantly growing the Content Management System (CMS) to enhance the experience for Developers, Designers and Content Writers alike.
With this it is extremely important to keep plugins up to date and compatible with the latest WordPress versions. Being behind can leave your site vulnerable.
Tip: When you have found a plugin check to see if it is compatible with the version you have installed. WordPress does flag incompatible plugins but it does allow you to install them anyways so use these at your peril.
How can plugins affect your website performance?
It can be tempting when you install a couple of plugins to keep adding more. You should be mindful of adding too many. A site that is reliant on plugins makes it vulnerable in the future as things become less supported or fundamentally change and this causes real issues.
Performance wise this can negatively affect the speed of the website. Some plugins have a vast amount of scripts and files that are needing to be run each time you load a page.
Tip: Run your site through GTMetrix to measure site performance and then review again after installation. Be conscious of any performance hit that has occurred since installation.
Does WordPress have issues with Website Security?
Being conscious of what you install is massively important as “22% of WordPress sites are hacked because of a security issue within a plugin”. This is emphasises the importance of keeping your plugins up to date as this is where the weaknesses will be rooted that will effect your WordPress website.
Updates are released periodically that will patch any weaknesses alongside any other changes to the plugin. Why not create a schedule for your updates to make yourself accountable to keep things up to date to minimise potential weaknesses.
What do I need to remind myself of when installing plugins?
When deciding on a plugin run through the following questions and this will help you select the best one:
- Can you achieve the functionality without the use of a plugin?
- Does the plugin do exactly as you need? Or are you happy to compromise.
- What ratings/reviews are there for the plugin?
- Is it compatible with your current WordPress version.
- How many installations has there been?
- Is the plugin of choice still supported?