How to choose the right plugin?

How to choose the right plugin?

Plugins offer a great opportunity to extend the functionality of your website. WordPress itself has a lot of options, but it’s not unthinkable you want more. A few plugins are inevitable to start with, like anti-spam, a contact form and SEO. Some basics that are best to care of the moment you start your website or blog.

Most WordPress themes, especially premium themes, have a lot of plugins built-in. Even then you can still have the need for extra plugins.Then your search for the right plugin starts.

What functionality?

Let’s say you want to extend your website with social share options or a better recent posts-widget. Before you start searching for the right plugin, it is important to know what you want. Make a list of needs and requirements. Take a look at other websites. Create a picture of how it should look and feel.

Search for plugins

Now you know what you want and what you need, you can start looking fort he right plugin. The best place to start your search is the plugin-page off WordPress. In this repository you can find all the plugins that are approved by the WordPress team.
Start searching with a keyword and browse through all the results. Every plugin presented on WordPress.org is free. Many developers also offer a paid (Pro) version, with extended options. It depends on your needs whether to use the free version or buy the Pro. For pro-version you will always be redirected to the website of the developer.

Choose carefully

After you found the plugin of your liking, take a good look at the details:

  • Read the description of the plugin you found. Does it match you needs and requirements?
  • Take a good look at the options list. Are they part of the free version, or do you have to pay for he options you want?
  • Take a good look at the screenshots, when available. Sometimes you will be redirected to the page of the developer. Do the wanted options appear on the screenshots?
  • Read the support tickets. Do problems get solved?
  • Take a look at the reviews. Read what others say about the plugin and the developer.
  • Take a look at the Stats. How many times is the plugin downloaded? It’s an indication of its popularity.

Carefully read all the information under every tab. It can help you choose.

Compatibility

Very important to know: does the plugin work with the most recent version of WordPress? You don’t want to start with a outdated plugin that isn’t supported anymore. Most WordPress site owners have had the feared “white screen of death” because of an outdated plugin! You can find this information on de plugin page.

Pro version

Did you choose a pro (paid) version? All of the before still stands. Browse the website of the developer. Try the demo, if present. Search for reviews, visit the support forum. Test the demo site with GTmetrix for performance. You are going to pay for it, so you want tob e as sure as possible about the quality, the functionality and the support.

Install and test

After downloading the free or paid plugin, it is time to install and test it. Preferably not on the “live” website.Be sure to test all the options, even if you’re not going to use them. Get familiar with all the options to configure the plugin the best way possible.
Some plugins can’t be fully tested on a localhost. For example social share plugins, that won’t let you share posts from a localhost. If you don’t have an online test site, you will have to test it on the “live” website. Try to do this in the quiet hours. And always backup your site before testing!

Does the plugin everything you want and need? Then you can go “live” with it!

Conclusion

Be prepared when you start looking for additional functionality. Thousands of plugins won’t make it easy to choose the right one. Free plugins you can try as many as you want. It will only take time, no money. You can use the free version to try it before you buy the Pro.

How do you select your plugin? Do you use free or paid plugins? And why? Please leave a comment below!

Ronald Heijnes

Since 2008 I have been busy with the functionality, management, maintenance and performance of self hosted WordPress. I like to share this knowledge!

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