Currently, there are over 40,000 plugins available for free in the WordPress directory, and there are thousands more that are available for purchase -- choosing your WordPress plugin for each need can be quite overwhelming! Here’s a guide to help you weed through them all and find the ones that are best suited for your site.
Plugins are bits of software that extend the core functionality of your WordPress site. A good plugin can add advanced functionality to your site with little more than the click of a button. But a poorly written plugin can make your site vulnerable to hacking and slow site performance, and can even crash it altogether. So it goes without saying (but is so important that I’m going to say it anyway) that you should choose with care which plugins to install on your site.
Is the plugin doing what you need it to do? It’s easy to be dazzled by fancy features and lose sight of what you really need. Read the description and take a look at the screenshots provided to be sure it’s actually providing you with the functionality your site needs.
Is it compatible with the version of WordPress you’re using? The plugin should list the latest version of WordPress with which it’s compatible. Make sure it works with yours.
What are past and current plugin users saying? Are the reviews positive? Has it been tested by others without any major issues or concerns?
How often is the plugin updated? When was it last updated? Does the plugin stay up-to-date with the latest versions of WordPress? If the plugin hasn’t been updated recently, that may be a problem. But, if there are plenty of recent reviews indicating that the performance has not suffered, it’s probably just fine.
A good support forum can save you hours of frustration if a problem does arise. Many plugins (especially paid ones) also offer ongoing direct support.
Does the plugin setup look easy and straightforward? Not all plugin installations are created equal; be sure the process is simple and well-documented.
If you work with a developer, get their opinion. They might have some valuable insight that could help -- maybe they’ve used the plugin before or has used a similar one that they think is even better.
If you’ve done your due diligence and everything seems to check out, download the plugin you chose and give it a try!