That’s the number of plugins you can find on the WordPress plugin repository. And when you read this post, the figure is probably higher.
But there is a catch.
While one of the reasons we love WordPress so much is its expandability, it comes with a price.
That price is called analysis paralysis.
There are too many plugins to choose from, and sometimes picking the right one becomes difficult.
To tackle this issue, take these seven steps as your guidelines when you select a new plugin for your website.
- What Do You Want?
- What Is Its Average Rating?
- What Others Think About It
- When was the plugin last updated?
- What Are the Licensing Terms?
- What about Customer Support?
- Compare, Compare, Compare
1. What Do You Want?
Let’s start with the obvious question: What do you want the plugin to do?
For instance, you may want to download it because:
- It helps compress your images and make your website faster to download.
- It makes your website maintenance more manageable.
- It helps you with formatting your content.
Only you know the correct answer to the question.
Don’t know it yet? No hurries; take your time!
2. What Is Its Average Rating?
The first thing I look for in a plugin is its average star rating. It makes sense when you think of it.
If you go to the WordPress plugin repository or access the Plugins view in WordPress (Plugins > Add New), the star rating will catch your attention:
The rating indicates what others think about the plugin. But stars aren’t everything.
What’s even more interesting is the figure in parenthesis. That’s the number of reviews that form the average star rating for the plugin.
The fewer ratings there are, the less confident I become when choosing a plugin. For example, if Akismet had only ten reviews with an average of 4.5 stars, I would be hesitant to try it out.
When you click on the plugin name (like Akismet Spam Protection), you can enter its details. Inside the details, you can find even more information on the reviews.
In the case of Akismet, the star rating breakdown is the following:
Even with a distribution like this, the plugin still has 838 reviews rated with five stars. And although everything looks good, you can analyze the rating further.
3. What Others Think About It
Let’s look at the rating part bit closer.
Click any of the star links, and you’ll see all the reviews of that rating.
For instance, when I clicked on the 5 stars link, I landed on the rating page on the WordPress repository with the following view:
When I clicked any topic headlines, I could open up an individual review. You can do the same to find out why the person gave it five stars.
But great reviews are only half of the story. Go ahead and take a look at the 1-star reviews as well and why people left them:
These lower ratings are important, too, because they can give you valuable information about the plugin’s shortcomings. But remember to look at these reviews with a grain of salt. Sometimes people had a bad day when they left a poor rating.
Make sure that you also look at the trend of ratings too. When you go to the plugin’s rating page, you’ll see the link See all reviews.
Click the link so that you can see all the ratings so far.
You’ll notice first that the latest review was left over a week ago. That’s a good sign; it tells you that people actively download the product.
But what is even more valuable is the continuum of 5-star ratings. On the contrary, if the product suddenly started getting 1-star ratings, I would be interested to learn why.
And, of course, some googling with terms “plugin name” + reviews or “plugin name” + experiences will do wonders, too.
4. When was the plugin last updated?
Even if all the user reviews praise the plugin, it doesn’t mean you should download it.
One crucial factor to check is when the plugin was last updated.
When you look at the screenshot, you see that the vendor updated the plugin two weeks ago. This means that the plugin still gets updates and is still in active development.
On the other hand, if the vendor did the latest update a year ago, I would find it a bit risky to download the plugin.
5. What Are the Licensing Terms?
Pay close attention to what the licensing model for your plugin is. The model describes the terms for using the product.
The licensing will directly affect how much you’ll have to pay for the plugin.
The licensing terms may also restrict you from doing something with the product.
So make sure the check the licensing in detail so that you don’t find any nasty surprises later down the road.
6. What about Customer Support?
You just downloaded a plugin that others rave about. Everything looks great until you run into a problem. So what do you do next?
One obvious way is to google the problem or access forums if you can find the suitable one. But what happens when none of those options work out?
You are on your own.
Plugin vendors often offer some kind of customer support. And if you have upgraded to the premium version of the product, your support options become better and response times faster.
Customer support is essential to your plugin’s lifecycle because it will guide you through technical issues or other questions that random googling won’t find.
So make sure you always have a helping hand available. Investing a bit more money into your plugin can buy you peace of mind. And if the vendor doesn’t offer any support, consider picking another vendor that will.
7. Compare, Compare, Compare
At this point, you have chosen two or three plugins you want to try out. But now, it’s the decision time; which one will you choose to download?
This phase is about finding the balance between the previously mentioned points in this post. I’m not saying the decision is easy, but eventually, you know the right plugin to choose.
In my case, I would compare the features together to find out any shortcomings. I’ll also look if a plugin offers something unique that the other doesn’t.
And if I still can’t pick a plugin, I’ll just turn off my computer and do something else for a while. Often this step gives me clarity to make the final decision.
These are my tips for choosing the plugin for your website. Perhaps you have some guidelines I didn’t mention here? If so, let me know and leave a comment below.
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