As of today there are 29,118 plugins on WordPress.org and counting! There are also numerous premium or paid plugins available on other sites such as Code Canyon and many other private companies. With so many choices, where do you begin? Here are some simple tips to help make your selection process easier:
1 – Start with a Google Search
First off, if you want to find a free plugin at WordPress.org, you will NOT finding it using their search box. The WordPress search is notoriously unhelpful. Search for plugins using a Google search. Be as specific as you can such as:
event registration wordpress plugin
Once you have some results, you can start evaluating them based on the following criteria.
2 – Pay attention stats, support, and documentation
If the plugin is free, it will be on WordPress.org. Don’t download free plugins from any other site except WordPress.org. If you do, you might be downloading an old version, one that isn’t maintained any longer, or is malware.
When you view the plugin’s page on WordPress.org, look at the following information:
- Compatible up to: The plugin should ideally be listed as compatible up to the current version of WordPress.
- Last Updated: The plugin should have been updated within the last two to three months. Some simpler plugins may need fewer updates, but typically, you want a plugin that is regularly updated or shows sign of some ongoing concern for its functionality, which is most obviously evidenced by recent updates.
- Downloads: When choosing between two plugins, it’s almost always best to go with the one with the greater download numbers. Download numbers might be skewed if a plugin is old, so look also at Stats tab to see the recent history. Typically, I don’t use a plugin that has few downloads as I’ll question whether or not it will be maintained over time due to the lack of interest in the plugin. I’ll start to wonder why I need this plugin no one else seems to need — perhaps it’s because there is a better one, and I need to do a better job in my search.
- Ratings: Star ratings may not mean much if there are too few ratings or too many, but it’s good to see if there are a lot more 5s than 1s.
- Authors: Check out the other plugins the authors have developed. Are they engaged with the community and therefore have a reputation to maintain? That’s important to be user your plugin is going to get future attention.
- Support: View the support forums. Are questions being answered regularly?
- Changelog: Click the Changelog tab and view the updates. Is the plugin author actively involved in solving problems and releasing updates?
- Instructions and documentation: Is the plugin well documented?
All premium plugin sites are a bit different, but there should be a support forum that you can view or product reviews on other blogs you can read to give you a sense of whether or not the plugin will meet your needs. Code Canyon is a popular premium plugin site and has stats, change log, and support questions you can review to make sure the plugin is regularly updated, has a good following in the community, and an actively engaged developer.
3 – Only purchase plugins from well-known, community-supported developers
A few popular premium plugin developers include:
Take advantage of the plugin developer for pre-purchase questions. This will be a good test of how responsive they are and help you make a good decision. Ask about refund policies as well.
4 – Keep your plugins up to date and delete unused or outdated plugins
To avoid security and compatibility issues, always always always keep your plugins up to date. Not doing so can create errors on your site and security loopholes. Hacks often occur from outdated themes or plugins. It’s the number one way hackers have of attacking your site. So, update update update. Replace no-longer supported plugins with ones that are current with the latest technology.
5 – Don’t over do it!
Use plugins with caution. There is no magic number of how many plugins you can use, but beware of compatibility issues with your theme or other plugins and any errors in your error log on the FTP server. Not all plugins are created equal and some don’t play well with others.
Be sure to see my list of Top WordPress Plugins to get you started on your search.