Last week, I wrote about what you need to know about plugins. In this post, I’m giving you a few notes on choosing plugins for your website.
As always, I recommend starting with a strategy. Write down the features that you’d like your website to have, and then look at the features of the theme you have chosen. Sometimes you’ll find that the theme includes a few of the features you’d like to have on your site. This is a good thing because it minimizes the number of plugins you’re installing
Research the plugin you’d like to install. There are a few important pieces of information to look out for when you’re doing your research. Here are a few of the steps I recommend when you’re choosing plugins.
Choosing Plugins Tip 1: Start with the Official WordPress.org Repository
The repository is a database containing information on all the approved plugins available for installation on a website. Generally, if the plugin is listed on the repository, it’s a good one. WordPress has strict quality controls in place to prevent a low-quality plugin from reaching general circulation. To get a plugin listed in the repository, the plugin’s developers need to meet certain criteria and standards set by the developers of WordPress.
I would first recommend looking to the repository when choosing plugins as it’s also the most convenient option in terms of accessibility and ease of use. The repository also displays a lot of the important information you’d need to read when choosing one plugin over another.
Choosing Plugins Tip 2: Read About the Plugin
I strongly suggest reading the information available on the plugin. Don’t only read the information available on the repository. Do a Google search on the plugin, open the first 3 search results and skim the pages you’ve opened. This will quickly tell you more about the functions and features, and could help make your decision a bit easier.
If there is sparse information online, it becomes difficult to troubleshoot issues you may run into. It’s important to look at whether there are known problems with the plugin that users have documented. This will help you determine whether you’re likely to run into those issues. Doing this can also help you to decide whether you can solve those problems yourself, or whether you’ll need to hire someone to solve them for you (which is, of course, an extra expense).
Choosing Plugins Tip 3: Check the Stats
Unlike most statistics, these are easy to find and easy to understand. When looking through the repository, this information is right below the plugin listing – see example below.
The bottom part of this plugin listing displays the stats you need to look at.
Look at the date on which the plugin was last updated. A plugin that was updated more than 6 months ago might be incompatible with the latest version of WordPress, which could cause several issues (one of which is security – out-of-date plugins are usually more susceptible to hacking). An out-of-date plugin could also mean that the developer has given up on the plugin (i.e. stopped updating and maintaining it), and might be unavailable to answer your questions.
Look at the number of active installations the plugin has. This is the number of websites that currently use the plugin. When comparing plugins, this number could help you to choose one over another. If it’s extremely popular with hundreds of thousands of downloads, this is a safer bet than one with 5 000 downloads.
Look at the star rating that users have given the plugin. A low star rating might be a signal to search for a different plugin. Read a few of the comments that users have left on the plugin page – this is a good indication of the plugin quality, and, in some cases you may find comments about the developer’s responsiveness to queries.
How to Decide Whether you Need a Plugin
A plugin should be chosen carefully as a solution to a problem that can’t be solved in another way. A plugin should not be installed on your site if you don’t know what problem you need it to solve – this will just clog up your site with things that you may not need.
Don’t install two plugins that perform the same function as they could clash and cause each other not to work. Rather choose a good one, set it up properly and run with it. If you’ve used a plugin for a while, tested it thoroughly and are unhappy with how it works, deactivate it and try another one that fulfils the same function. Testing plugins in this way can help you find the best one that meets your site’s particular needs.
Need a bit of Help with your website? Chat to Me!
If you’d like a bit of guidance with your site, I’m happy to chat to you and offer advice. If you’d like to add extra features and functions, but aren’t sure what you’re looking for, or if there’s a way to do it without spending huge amounts of money, I’m sure I can help you. Visit my Contact Page, fill in the form and I’ll be in touch with you soon.
This is the fifth post in my “Website 101” series.
Melissa De Klerk
Writer, Web Designer, Digital Media Strategist, Typophile, Inspiration Junkie, Yogi
Melissa is the owner and creative brain behind Fox & Owl Media. She loves creating content strategies and has considerable experience with Website Design and Brand Management.
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