WORDPRESS users are spoilt for choice when it comes to loading their sites up with helpful tools, fun widgets, and value-added extras.
But with more than 50,000 plugins available to choose from – and more arriving daily from the worldwide WordPress community – how does the time-pressed businessperson sort the wheat from the chaff?
When there can be dozens of plugins doing similar tasks, it can take an age to research and rank them all – especially if you are not super tech-savvy and not concerned with subtle variations on a theme.
Luckily the WordPress users are great at providing feedback on their own experiences of using plugins so the number one tip is to take the time to look at what other users say.
This is definitely a case of spending a bit of time now to save time later – installing the wrong plugins is at best a waste of your time, but more importantly can cause big problems down the line by creating a less-than-smooth visitor experience, slowing down your site – or even worse introducing security vulnerabilities a hacker can exploit.
The advice is the same whether you are looking at free or paid-for plugins – just because something costs does not mean it is better.
So where to start? With user-generated ratings. Just like your experience downloading an app from the Apple Store or Google Play, the WordPress site encourages users to share their experiences and the simplest way is a star rating – five is best, one is to be avoided.
Look at the average ratings as a way to start culling the crowded plugin field – perhaps just stay away from anything with less than a four-star review. Why would you want something that thousands of other experienced WordPress users say is not really that good?
You will find the ratings easily on every plugin page under the Description tab inside the plugin repository.
Once you have started a shortlist of potential plugins, you can delve a bit deeper and read some reviews – just as you might choose to avoid a restaurant with lousy comments on Yelp, consistent negative reaction to a particular plugin is probably a good warning sign. It is worth reading both the highlights and the lowlights to get a rounded picture of the pluses and minuses of a specific tool. Reviews are posted just beneath the Download button.
The next tip is to look at how many active users there are – it stands to reason that people will jettison a plugin pretty quickly if it is not working for their website, so the more active users, the better. Naturally, consider what you are asking the plugin to do – if it is something highly specific there may not be a very big market for it in the first place, and newer plugins have not had a lot of time to generate users. The number of active users is displayed on the Description tab.
Of course, software changes rapidly and what may be the bee’s knees now can look very creaky and clunky in a couple of years – so it is also worth considering how well the plugin is updated and maintained. How often are the developers bringing out new versions and fixing identified problems in earlier versions? As WordPress itself – and the myriad of browsers and operating systems out there – are updated and evolve, older plugins that are not kept up to date can become erratic at best or downright incompatible at worst. The Description tab will not only show you when the plugin was last updated but also which versions of WordPress can run the plugin – a vital piece of info as incompatible plugins can have a nasty side effect on other plugins if you are not careful. To check your WordPress version just look at the bottom right of the page in your Dashboard.
And having a look under the Changelog tab will show you how busy the developer is in keeping the plugin running smoothly and up to date, with new features and fixed bugs.
Finally, have a look at what support and information is available for the plugin – does the developer just let you work it out for yourself or are they providing how-to guides and a detailed FAQ arena for guidance on making the most of their tool? Are they responding to user questions and concerns or is it an abandoned outpost?
Support forums are found in the Support tab in the repository – though it may well be worth Googling the plugin itself as many developers will put their support info on their own websites rather than in the repository.
Thankfully, BizSwoop makes choosing plugins that work best for your business and website, maintaining, and customizing those plugins super simple. Don’t believe us? Check out our catalog of ready to use solutions or schedule a consultation to discuss custom options and solutions for your business.