How to Choose the Best Plugin for WordPress

Last updated on October 18th, 2014 by Robert Abela. Filed under WordPress Security Tutorials & Tips

When looking for a plugin for WordPress there are several things you should keep in mind. WordPress plugins are powerful scripts that plug in to your WordPress installation to extend the functionality of your WordPress blog or website, thus they are very powerful. WordPress plugins are open source; typically plugins are maintained by someone for free. Some plugin authors might even be inexperienced software developers, or people who do not have the time to maintain the plugin and keep up with new WordPress releases.

Therefore before choosing a plugin for WordPress there are a number of things you should consider and you should do your homework to make your site work the way you want it. First of all replacing a WordPress plugin might be a cumbersome experience. A WordPress plugin might also jeopardize the security of your WordPress installation or even breaks it.

Below are some tips to help you choose the right WordPress plugin for your website or blog.

Downloading a WordPress plugin

You should always download a plugin for WordPress from the official WordPress plugin directory. There are over 20 thousand WordPress plugins in this directory. By downloading a plugin from the WordPress plugin directory you are making sure that the plugin you will be installing on your WordPress is legit. Thousands of plugins are downloaded every day from the WordPress plugin directory so if there is something wrong with one of the plugins, people will complain and the issue will get rectified.

By downloading a plugin for WordPress from the WordPress plugin directory you will also be automatically notified when an upgrade is available for the plugin and it would also be very easy to upgrade the plugin without suffering any website downtime.

The only reason why you would need to download a WordPress plugin from a third party website is if you are going for a paid plugin and it is only available from his or her plugin website.

Choosing a plugin for WordPress

When looking for a plugin for WordPress you will notice that there are several plugins that fit your need, thus choosing the right plugin might be difficult. So ideally once you decide what you need and start searching through the WordPress plugin directory, pick at most 5 plugins which will suite your needs and use the below tips to choose the best one.

How many times was the plugin downloaded?

WordPress plugin informationWhen looking for a plugin for WordPress, start by looking at how many times this plugin was downloaded. The more times it was downloaded, it means the more popular it is. A plugin which has been downloaded just a few thousand times is obviously different than a plugin that has been downloaded by millions of users, A plugin becomes popular because it is well maintained, works as advertised and does not have any, or have just a few issues.

WordPress Plugin ratingsWordPress plugin average rating

The WordPress plugin rating is also a reflection of the quality of the plugin. If a WordPress plugin has a few ratings, or low ratings it is not a good sign. A good plugin for WordPress that works as promoted will definitely have very good rating. Never go for a plugin with less than 3 stars (unless it is a new plugin and not many people rated it so far).

Which version of WordPress does the plugin support?

If the plugin was not updated for a long time, it will be outdated and might not work with the latest versions of WordPress. Though it is also common that a WordPress plugin works well on the latest version, but the author never updated the plugin details to reflect this.

When was the WordPress plugin last updated?

It might be that the plugin author will no further improve the plugin and in the long term it might not work anymore. If you see a plugin that hasn’t been updated for over a year, you can assume that it is not being maintained. If a plugin hasn’t been maintained for over 2 years, you will also be alerted by the WordPress plugin directory. This is not a good sign as if bugs are discovered in this plugin, they will never get fixed.

WP White Security Blogger Tip: Plugins that work for WordPress version 2.8 most probably still run on the latest version of WordPress, but the more time passes and the more complex the plugin for WordPress is, the more the chances that you might encounter problems using such plugin.

WordPress Support Forums for Plugins

WordPress plugin support forum buttonOn every WordPress plugin page you will see a ‘View Support Forums’ button. This is where plugin users typically post their feedback, complaints and bug reports. Some of the plugins, mostly the popular ones might also have their own forum pages, so make sure you check that as well.  This forum is also a good indicator if the author is responding to complaints and feedback, which means the author have interest in maintaining the plugin.

WP White Security Blogger Tip: If the plugin has its own page and website that means that there are more chances that this plugin for WordPress is well maintained by the author.

The Exception

It is important to note that if a plugin for WordPress does not meet all of the above requirements, it does not necessarily means it is a bad plugin. It could be that it is a new plugin or that it’s not necessary needed by the masses. Though from our experience, the more popular the plugin is, the more frequent it is updated and the more feedback you find related to the plugin, the more the chances are that the WordPress plugin works as advertised and is well maintained.

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