WordPress has thousands of free as well as premium plugins in its arsenal and the number is ever increasing. With so much of options to choose from, selecting the right plugin can be tedious and of course, confusing. The question that often bothers WordPress users, especially new users, is what must be considered before choosing the right plugin without having to make innumerable searches to find the right answer? Let me make that easier for you. Here are the 5 most important parameters for picking up the right plugin:
Do I need this plugin?
It is advisable not to overpopulate your admin dashboard with plugins that you don’t need at all. Ask yourself what is what exactly you are looking for in a plugin and why do you need it? Once you are sure of your requirements, it will be easier for you to settle down with the right one. If you have are uncertain about what you are looking for in a plugin, the process of finding out the right one for you is going to be an uphill climb.
What reviews, ratings and download numbers are saying?
While searching for the right plugin, you may come across many that perform similar functions. To know which one is the best of the lot can be difficult without proper instructions. In that case, go through the descriptions, reviews and ratings that have been given by the users of the plugin and WordPress experts. Also, run a search about the pros and cons of the plugin and see whether it is getting more positive or negative reviews. Large number of downloads will also ensure that the chosen plugin is good. If the plugin is listed in WordPress plugin directory, it will show you how many times it has been downloaded. Additionally, you can talk to a user of the plugin directly. In fact, this will be the best way to find out about it!
When the plugin was last updated?
The plugin, which you have chosen, should be a recently updated version of itself to be able to work with the last updated version of WordPress. Suppose the plugin you’ve chosen was last updated in September 2013, it is a big NO! If there has been a major WordPress update recently without a corresponding update to the selected plugin, don’t waste time on it, and look for another one!
How prompt is the Plugin support forum?
Every plugin, whether it is paid or free, has a support forum. This is a place where plugin users post their views, complaints and bug issues. Most plugins that are highly popular among users have their own separate website with a proper support forum. Before installing, you must visit a plugin’s support forum and check how often they are replying to the queries of users. If their actions are prompt, it shows the author is interested to upgrade the plugin and is serious about maintaining it.
How detailed is the plugin documentation?
It will be a risky job to install a plugin that doesn’t come with detailed information about its functioning. The page from where you are installing the plugin must explain
- What the plugin does?
- How it is used?
- How to install it (with clear screenshots)?
- The FAQs (frequently asked questions).
- Should have a video guide.(this is optional, however)
If the plugin documentation gives you very less information and leaves you in doubt, get in touch with the developers or opt for another one that has been documented properly. If a plugin doesn’t fulfill the conditions mentioned above, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s plainly bad. It could be a brand new plugin from a highly experienced developer or maybe it is not considered necessary by most users, but may have the capacity to fulfill your requirements. Here is what experts are saying…
Al Davis from WPTeach.com:
Check what version the plugin is compatible to, as this is a great indicator as to whether the plugin is still being actively developed. If you are unsure how the plugin is going to work on your site, browse through the support forums, see what kinds of issues others may be having and see if those issues are being addressed. Finally, have a look at the screenshots and FAQ if they are available and make sure the plugin actually does what you are looking for.
Angie Meeker, Organizer Of WordCamp Columbus and WordPress Consultant , gives a practical solution to this:
My first piece of advice is to ask yourself (and your trusted WordPress adviser or the WP Support Forums), “Do I really need a plugin for this?” Many new users to WP are unfamiliar with some of its simplest built-in functions (ones you don’t even need to know how to code to use). They go searching for a simple gallery plugin, not knowing there’s one built into the Media Uploader. They search for a plugin to schedule posts, to password protect pages, or to post by email. On finding what you want in the first place: 1. Search with as specific of terms as you can think of. “Rotating Image Galleries” is a better search than just “Image Galleries.” Of course, this is true with all search.
- Google “what you want to do + plugin + wordpress“, and look only at search results in the repository (those with wordpress.org/extend/plugins/ in the url). I find that sometimes searching the repository from within is limiting.
Once you’ve found one : 1. Read the entire description, Installation, FAQ, and Other Notes (ALL of them). If there are Screenshots, look at them to get a hint of what the plugin does. Not all plugins have all of these areas completed, though. 2. Look at the “Requires Version X.X” and Compatible to X.X” If your installation is WordPress 3.1, and the plugin requires 3.5, then it’s NOT the plugin author’s fault when you install it and it doesn’t work. Either upgrade your WP install, or don’t use the plugin. If you’re using 3.5 but the plugin says it’s only compatible to 3.1, then there’s no guarantee it will work with that forward version. It MIGHT, but there’s no guarantee. Sometimes, a plugin author knows for CERTAIN a plugin DOESN’T work with a newer version, and they’ll make a note of it in the description. Remember, the authors of these plugins are not paid to create and update these, so if a plugin is not up-to-date, don’t go berserk on the plugin author. Be polite and ask if/when there might be an update. 3. Perhaps one of the most useful things you can check out: the Support Forums for a plugin. Plugin authors don’t HAVE to give support for plugins in the repository, but many do. Look at the support threads submitted. How many people submitted the same questions? Does it seem like those questions are simply user error (like maybe they didn’t read the instructions?) or are they asking about a bug or a problem with the plugin? If there are bugs, is the author responsive to correcting them or providing hints at how users can make corrections? Does the author respond to questions? In my opinion, these point to a plugin author who is vested in the success of his/her plugin, and that usually equals success for you when using it. 4. Reviews: These are a recent addition to the WP Plugin Repository, so don’t be surprised if many plugins don’t have many or any. 5. Lastly, clicking on the plugin author’s name will take you to a list of all the plugins that author has submitted to the repo. It stands to reason that a plugin author whose overall portfolio has quality ratings, good reviews, maintains the support forums for his/her plugins and keeps the plugins up-to-date probably creates plugins the community can trust. (Source: wptavern.com)
But, the shortest and the smartest one comes form from Scott Reilly:
When choosing an appropriate plugin from the Plugins Directory it’s often best to take various factors into consideration rather than just any single factor. The plugin author, the number of support threads replied to in the past two months, the nature of the types of support threads being created (and the nature of the author’s responses, if any), the number and nature of the reviews being given (or lack thereof), the last update date, and the rating can all play a factor in making a decision.
To sum up, finding the right plugin is no big deal. It is all about reading, proper researching and using your brain to find out which one is the best fit.