Best Plugins for WordPress: How to Choose
How can you choose the best plugins for WordPress? There are hundreds of thousands of plugins out there, and it can get overwhelming pretty fast. How can you make sure you’re picking the best plugin? Luckily, there are quite a few factors you can take into account that will help you pick the most quality plugins that match your needs.
- WordPress Compatibility
- Active Installations and Ratings
- Third-Party, Reviews, Forums, and Discussions
Plugins can be found at the official WordPress Plugin Repository and various other third-party repositories. Some, like our plugin, have their own website. Make sure to research any third-party repositories or websites you download software from!
It might seem obvious, but a plugin’s description is a goldmine of information. Even if you prefer to skim, you’ll usually find a feature list, FAQ, and other important info clearly noted. Search for bolded words, bulleted lists, and headings to glean the most information from a description while skimming. If you’re looking for a specific feature, you can use your browser’s Find command (ctrl-F) to search for keywords.
You might find it helpful when making comparisons to write down both plugin’s features, so you know what you’re missing out on if you pick one or the other.
If you’re using the Plugin Repository, it should be clearly stated in the sidebar the last updated date and WordPress version. It’s almost always better to choose an active plugin over one that hasn’t been touched in years. No updates often mean no support if things go wrong.
“WordPress version” and “Tested up to” will let you know what versions of WordPress it’s safe to use a plugin with. It’s usually fine to use a plugin that’s been tested at least with the current major version of WordPress.
If a plugin hasn’t been tested in a long time, the WordPress repository will notify you with a message.
Active Installations and Ratings
Active installations cover not just all installs of a plugin ever, but the current number of sites that currently have it active. It’s a good judge of how popular and effective a plugin is, so the more the better. However, a more popular plugin might not be as good as a less popular, but better coded one, so don’t base your decision off popularity alone.
Ratings, however, is one of the most important indications of a quality plugin. Every plugin is going to have one-star reviews, but too many — especially if there are almost as many one-star reviews as five-star — can be cause for concern.
Don’t just look at the rating. Read the reviews and see what people are saying! And here’s a tip: the most balanced insight into a plugin’s pros and cons often come from the four-star reviewers.
When something goes awry, you want to know the plugin authors will be there to help you. The WordPress plugin repository contains a handy look into the responsiveness of the creators: “Issues resolved in the last two months”.
A high percentage often means the plugin authors are willing to help and fix bugs. If that count remains at 0, you know that the plugin is probably dead.
You should check out the support forum and see what issues people are having. A poorly-made plugin can take your site offline, so be sure that there are no serious problems being reported.
Third-Party Reviews, Forums, and Discussions
The WordPress Repository is a great source of info itself, but eavesdropping on conversations across the internet is another great way to find out more about a plugin. And if you find a plugin on its own website, you definitely shouldn’t take the reviews and ratings there at face value. Do your research before you install anything.
While reviews from bloggers and websites can paint a more detailed picture of a plugin, reading forums and discussions can be a particularly helpful insight into whether or not a plugin is actually good.
Choosing the Best WordPress Plugins
There’s a lot to take in when you’re picking between a few plugins, and it can be difficult to choose. But hopefully, this checklist has helped you narrow down the factors that go into a good plugin. Now the only thing left to do is install it and see if it does what you need!