How to choose the right WordPress plugin

You have finished installing WordPress. You might have even chosen a perfect theme for the new site and started to customize the details. Now it’s time to install and set up WordPress plugins that everybody’s so fond of. But do you know where to search for various extensions and how to find the plugins that will be just right for your site?

Although the search might seem trivial, there is more to finding plugins for your site than just writing a search phrase and selecting one from the list. Do you know how to check if the plugin has the right features? How to see when it was last updated? Can you trust users’ reviews and ratings? There are different things you should consider when searching for WordPress plugins, and we’re about to guide you through the process.

Before you start searching…

You should have a list of features that you need from a plugin. Open a new file in Notepad or take a pen in your hand and write down what you need from a plugin.

Let’s say that you’re looking for a plugin that will create an under construction page for you. Do you want the plugin to be simple or do you want tons of customization options? Do you want it to come with lots of images or you have a picture that you want to use instead? Do you need to connect the plugin with Google Analytics to track visits? Should the plugin be optimized for SEO? Do you want it for free or are you ready to pay for the plugin?

Write a list of features

Since there are so many WordPress plugins, it’s just natural that there are many similar ones. Usually, there will be dozens of plugins that practically do everything the same way. So, even one feature may be a deal breaker.

Once you have the list prepared and when you know what you’re looking for, everything will be much easier.

Where to search for plugins?

We already mentioned that there are different types of WordPress plugins. So, before you limit yourself just to free ones from the official directory, you must know that various other marketplaces offer both free and premium plugins.

Official WordPress repository

With more than 30,000 plugins, you will probably be able to find a free plugin for anything you need. So the first stop should be the official directory.

You can use the integrated search function from the dashboard, or you could use the official website to perform the same search. More often than not, by Googling for plugins, you will end up on the same repository pages.

CodeCanyon

CodeCanyon is one of the most popular premium plugins repositories. There are thousand of amazing WordPress extensions to be found, but all of them are premium items which mean that you will have to pay for them.

Other marketplaces

Besides CodeCanyon, many other markets offer WordPress plugins. Here are just a few you might be interested in:

Independent publishers

Unlike repositories that we just talked about, there are thousands of companies and individuals who offer WordPress plugins from their own websites. You can find free plugins on Github or various others sites.

Also, many developers sell their products on sites outside famous repositories. Some will offer bundles, while other will focus solely on one item. It all depends on the plugin and the company that’s developing it.

Be careful if going outside the official repository

While activating plugins from the official repository is completely safe, you should take extra caution if you decide to download extensions from any other location. Since WordPress plugins are actually a code that’s being added to your site, any extension may contain dangerous code that might result in disaster.

While purchasing plugins from CodeCanyon and other popular marketplaces is relatively safe, be extra careful about sites that offer free plugins outside the official directory.

Also, try to avoid downloading nulled plugins (premium plugins that someone offers for free) and bundles of premium plugins that promise dozens and hundreds of premium items in one package. In most cases, those types of packages will contain malware that can render your site unusable or even worse – they will let a hacker access your site through the plugin without you even knowing it.

How to choose the right WordPress plugin

Go back to the list of features that you have compiled. Depending on the price you’re willing to pay, start Googling for the plugin. To follow the same example of under construction page, you can start by searching for free plugin on the official directory and other marketplaces. If you decided that you want a free version, you could skip CodeCanyon and other marketplaces since they offer only premium ones.

If you searched for the keyword, you probably noticed that there are dozens of plugins that can help you. So, how to settle on the right one?

Last updated

The time of the last update should be the first thing to check for the plugin. It doesn’t matter how good the features might sound and how good the review is if the developer doesn’t care about the plugin. While it is ok to find a plugin that hasn’t been updated for a few months, you should stop yourself if you see that the item hasn’t been refreshed for more than two years. Even WordPress will warn you about such plugin.

Plugin details

Even though such plugins might work without problems (and many just don’t need updates on a regular basis), this is a thing to worry about. If you really want that plugin, note that there are probably several more that offer the same thing, and yet they’re regularly updated. If there is just no alternative, check the forums or contact the developers to ask about the compatibility and security issues before installing the plugin on your site.

Number of downloads

Next, check the number of active users or downloads (if you’re using another marketplace). Although the sheer number doesn’t mean that much, it is obvious that a plugin with 100,000 users will take your interest over that one that has only 10,000 active installations. Of course, that doesn’t have to be a reliable indicator of a good plugin. But more often than not, higher numbers will indicate that users actually do like it and that the plugins has something good to offer.

Ratings & Reviews

No matter the marketplace, plugins will have ratings. So, check out the number of stars it received, and don’t forget to see what people had to say about that particular plugin.

Average rating for WordPress plugins

Also, take into consideration that no matter how good a plugin might be, there will always be a few negative ratings and bad reviews. Some people will trash talk about Ferraris, but that doesn’t mean that the car is bad.

But if a plugin has more bad reviews than the good ones, that would be a clear indication that something isn’t right. So, check the extension more closely and see why so many people disliked it. Usually, this will show that a plugin doesn’t work at all or that some of the features cause problems for the entire site.

Support

Check if the plugin is supported well. If you’re taking a look at a premium plugin, see the description to examine what the developer said about support. You can even send a direct message to the developer to ask about their support and to see how long does it take for them to answer your email.

Support for WordPress plugins

If you’re looking for a plugin in the official directory, open the support tab to see how many threads are there. Furthermore, check if and how often does the developer answer to those threads.

Demos, screenshots, and videos

Most of the plugins will have a few screenshots that will let you know what it looks like. Usually, screenshots will show the most exciting features, and sometimes the settings page. Recently, many plugins offer videos and demo pages. If so, give it a few minutes to see the plugin in action.

Developer credibility

There are well-known developers who have developed dozens of free and premium plugins that you can trust. There are also authors who have published just that one plugin. Although it might not be that important, you should take the developer credibility into the whole picture.

Web Factory developer on WordPress repository

While an unknown author with just one plugin may have an amazing item, a renowned developer might have better support, more frequent updates and a better understanding of WordPress as a platform and its users. Experience is a major factor as well.

In some cases, a particular developer might have a bad reputation, so you will want to know that before choosing their product. Especially if you’re about to pay for the extension.

Don’t focus on this while searching for a plugin, but remember to check the developer if you can’t decide between two plugins. Just sometimes, this may be important.

Search for the plugin on Youtube

If a plugin isn’t entirely new, the chances are that there’s already a video about its features and usage on Youtube. Many developers will publish videos by themselves, while there might be dozens of different reviews and guides for that plugin.

Search for the plugin on Youtube

This is an incredible opportunity to see the plugin in action before you even download it and install on your site. Sometimes, it will be enough to view a quick video to see if the plugin is a good fit for you.

Test the plugin locally

After finally choosing a plugin, you could still test it locally before uploading to the live site. If you have installed WordPress on your computer, or you have staging site, you may install the plugin and run it in a test environment. Just in case the plugin doesn’t work or isn’t compatible with your theme or any other plugins you might have, you can see that on a local test site instead of risking the live one.

Follow blogs about WordPress

There are hundreds of blogs which cover everything about WordPress. Some professionals and power-users test different plugin and write reviews and comparisons on a daily basis. So it is always a good option to check a few popular blogs to see if they covered that particular plugin you’re searching for. You can also search for best plugins in specific categories since many blogs write lists of best ones for a particular job.

For example, if you’re looking for the best under construction page plugins, just Google for the term. There will be dozens of different lists that offer the best and most popular plugins in one place.

Wrapping up

When you’re starting out, all plugins might seem the same, and choosing that right one for your blog will take time. But as soon as you successfully finish the search for a few plugins, everything will become much easier. You will familiarize yourself with marketplaces and how they work, so finding plugins will become your second nature.

What was the first plugin you searched for? How long did it take to choose it?

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