How to choose your next WordPress plugin, the right way

Choosing a plugin can be a daunting task if you don’t know what you’re doing. The wrong plugin can make your website buggy and hard to use, crash it entirely or introduce a security vulnerability that can be exploited by malicious hackers. So it’s mandatory to always choose an updated and well supported plugin to fulfill your needs.

Discover our plugin selection process

Choosing a new plugin is a delicate and important matter for us, so we dedicate quite a good amount of time researching the right one. Here is our plugin selection process, step by step:

1. Find all the possible plugins that fulfill your need

We take for granted that you have already defined the exact feature you want to add to your website, we suggest to write down exactly what you need.

The first thing to do is to find all the plugins available to fulfill your need. This involves three different places where to look for:

  • A first search in the WordPress plugin database and other marketplaces like CodeCanyon or YITH Themes, using the exact keyword for the feature (e.g., “caching”, “image optimization”, “social sharing”, “page builder”).
  • Search on you favourite search engine for “best WordPress plugins for [insert your feature here]” or “how to [insert your feature here] with WordPress”. Be sure to filter results published only during the last year. You can get even more creative with the search query, but it’s up to you.
  • Search, or even asking for advice, in specific Facebook groups. We recommend WordPress Plugins Suggestion with 11k+ members, WordPress Plugins with 18k+ members, and maybe a few other smaller groups in your language if it’s different from English.

The aim of this first phase is to find a list of all the plugins that can solve your problem. Sometimes you won’t find an exact match, and you will need to adapt your needs to what a plugin can do or hire a professional developer to create a custom solution (in this last case, you can skip this guide).

2. Are the plugins popular, updated and well supported?

Once you’ve compiled the list of all the plugins that do what you need, you need to find some key information about them:

  • How popular is it and how many installations/sales does it have? The more, the better. A popular and widely used plugin will make it easier to find help if a problem arise.
  • What’s the average rating? If users can give a vote to the plugin, look only for the plugins with the highest rating (e.g., at least 4 out of 5 stars).
  • When it was launched and when it was last updated? We prefer older and established plugins which have been updated recently. Avoid at all cost plugins that haven’t received an update in the last year.
  • How often is the plugin updated? See if you can find a change log. If a plugin has frequent new releases it means that the developer is actively working on it, and that’s a good signal.
  • How well is the plugin supported? Look for the plugin official support forum, if available, and check how many resolved and unresolved issues are there. You don’t want a plugin with a lot of unresolved issues. If there isn’t a public forum find out what are all the available support channels and test them yourself by asking a pre sale or technical question.

You should discard plugins not updated in the last year (or even better in the last 6 months), with a low rating, with just a handful of installations (if possible), and with lots of unresolved support requests.

3. Who are the authors?

You should also get to know better the author(s) of your plugin.

  • Who are they? A single developer or a team? We prefer a team of developers, for obvious reasons. But sometimes simpler plugins are developed by just one person.
  • Check their public profile, if available. For example if you downloaded your plugin from the WordPress plugin directory, you can find a link to their profile at the bottom of the page, under the “Contributors & Developers” section. How many plugin have they developed and how popular are them? Have they contributed to WordPress in other ways or are they actively participating in the community?
  • Check their website, if available. Does it look professional?

You should trust those guys, so better gather all the information you can about them.

4. What do other people think?

By now you should have already stripped down your list, by deleting old, unsupported and untrustable plugins. It’s time to see what other people think about the one that are left.

  • Look for reviews where you originally downloaded the plugin. If there are negative reviews, read them carefully and evaluate them. They might be old issues that have been resolved with recent releases. In general you want to use a plugin with a high ratio of positive reviews received during the last 6 months.
  • Search on your favourite search engine for blogs and forums where people talk about it. You can easily search for “[insert plugin name here] review”.
  • Search again on Facebook groups and see if people talked about the specific plugin in the past.

Other people’s opinion are important as they might have precious insight about the pros and cons in a real scenario.

5. How to take the final decision?

If you still have more than one plugin in your list, it’s time to take the final decision. Here are a few tips to help you having the best outcome:

  • Do a search about “[insert plugin name here] vs [insert other plugin name here] “.
  • How many time it appeared on the first position when you read articles for “best WordPress plugins for [insert your feature here] “?
  • Test them yourself. But in this case it’s better if you can do it on a local or staging environment of your website. Never use you production website as a playground!
  • If you bought a WOptimization Plus or Enterprise plan, ask us! You can use your Support & Development hours included in your plan for this.

6. Is it worth to buy a premium plugin?

It depends. Most of the time it’s worth it, as you can take advantage of better support and more advanced features. But if a free plugin or the free version already do what you need and you, or someone in your organization with good development skills, feel comfortable solving issues as they arise, you might save some money.

Bonus tip: giving back to the community

Have you found the perfect plugin to fulfill your needs? Consider giving back to the community by rating or reviewing it. If you also feel generous your could also consider supporting the author with a donation or by buying a paid version. In the end it helped you grow and improve your business online.

FYI: We’re compiling a list of our favourite plugins to cover the most common needs. We will release at same point during the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

[ Header mockup credits: Freepik / WordPress]

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