WordPress has been around longer than most Content Management Systems, iterating on its product as the blogging and content landscape has progressed. Among the hordes of data-hungry content specialists, WordPress is still a crowd favorite. And the workhorse behind the machine is the incredibly powerful WordPress plugin.
Plugins can help take your site to new heights, or they can break it. However, just the right amount can make your website incredibly powerful. Luckily, there are ways to choose the right plugins that won’t slow down your site, confuse readers, or worse, crash it altogether.
How Do I Choose The Right Plugin?
Like apps, there are tens of thousands of plugins and they all have a purpose. Some help gather analytics while others provide a portal for member signups. Essentially, if you can think of it, someone has probably created a plugin for it. But, like apps on your phone, not all plugins are created equal. Some things to consider before diving in:
- Does the plugin save enough time upfront to justify ongoing maintenance and testing?
- Try to understand what third party libraries your site already uses and avoid plugins that duplicate those dependencies.
- Is the plugin needed on every page and post of the site, or just one place? Often when you add a plugin, it loads extra files on EVERY page of your site, even if you only need it once.
You should also ask yourself what you’re looking to accomplish. Some examples of popular plugin tasks include booking delivery time slots for customers, auto-managing comments to check for spam and hate speech, and even creating unique passwords for applications so users don’t have to reveal their main passwords
And that’s just the easy stuff. Once you’ve decided what you want out of your plugin, head to the WordPress Plugin directory, a library of over 57,000 approved and beta plugins. You can peruse by category, popularity, and more all while sorting through ratings and reviews.
What Should I Avoid?
Like most things in life, plugins are about quality, not quantity. Getting the ones that work best for you is more important than having ones that cover every base. Remember, when they go haywire or don’t work the way you thought they would, they can slow down your website, or even break it.
Avoid plugins with poor support ratings. Be sure to check to see how many people opened support tickets related to issues with the plugin and see how many of those were actually resolved. A high number doesn’t necessarily indicate a poor plugin as long as the developers are actively working to solve the issues. See a lot of tickets but not many of them resolved? This plugin might not be ready for widespread use.
Many plugins may actually accomplish more than one task. It may add a widget to your site, but also may provide a template tag you can use in your WordPress theme. This is good to know and can keep you from downloading plugins with crossover functionality, which may actually interfere with each other in the long run. Make sure you read the FAQ section before downloading to get as much information on the plugin as possible.
This may seem straightforward, but it can be easy to miss. Are people actually downloading this plugin? The barrier to entry for plugins is much lower than the iOS App Store, and many authors might start a project and then quickly become overwhelmed. This means there’s a fair amount of enticing plugins that haven’t been downloaded very often. You can check to see how many activations a plugin has before you download, and if that number is low, it’s a good indicator there’s no one behind the wheel.
When it comes to choosing the right plugin, make a plan. Decide what you need to accomplish and why. Then, find your plugin. Use reviews, ratings, downloads, and support data to ensure you’re finding a well run, well tended-to addition to your website. Live by the mantra “less is more”. Many plugins accomplish multiple tasks, and the less you have to manage, the less chance there is of conflict and breakdown.