In a Mountain of WordPress Plugins, How Do You Find the Gems?

When hunting for the right WordPress plugins, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with options. Use these for tips to find the safest and best!

If you are like me, you love to tinker with things. Cars, computers, various appliances sitting around the house, even the way you keep things organized. Ideally, I like make things as efficient as possible. Un-ideally, as as long as I can put whatever I’m working on back together again, I’m happy. Web crafting is one of the perfect tools for me to scratch that tinker itch. There is something oddly satisfying about working on my site and exploring different WordPress plugins to find the best methods possible.

One of the things I quickly discovered is that there are massive amounts of plugins out there and not all of them are created equal. Some plugins will break a site (Backup your files, people), don’t work as advertised, or malfunction when paired with other plugins. How are you supposed to know which plugins are good to go and which ones should be avoided?

Let’s take a look and some guidelines that will hopefully make your plugin searches faster, easier, and less troublesome.

1. Who Made It?

Just like in literature, films, or research, different names hold greater credibility than others. Steven Spielberg has won more Oscars than Tommy Wiseau. You may be entertained by both of their products, but if you had to trust one to create the next blockbuster, you’d go with Spielberg hands down.

WordPress plugins work the same way. Look for options produced by trustworthy names such as Yoast, *cough* Ninja Forms *cough, cough*, Pippin Williamson, bbPress, Automattic, etc. These developers have both the support system, reputation, and experience to handle any problems you may face.

2. What Do the Reviews Say?

Okay, this one seems fairly obvious, but it’s often overlooked when focused on just finding a solution. Take a few minutes to read over the reviews for the plugin.

First, check the quantity. A highly reviewed plugin should have a more accurate representation in the reviews than one that is only sparsely reviewed.

Second, read the quality of the review. A scandalous secret is that developers will ask their friends and family to review their products for some free publicity. Shocking, I know. Make sure you read through the reviews and look for consistency in the comments, well written feedback, and that specific details of the plugin are mentioned.

In short, read between the star ratings to find the comments from real users who have tried and tested the plugin. If none can be found, table the plugin for more research later and keep looking.

3. When Was It Last Updated?

So, this is going to sound weird, cliche, or both, but a good plugin is like a child. A solid developer won’t just release it into the world…wide web and hope for the best. They will continue to develop the code and make sure what could have been overlooked is taken care of.

Also, other programs that it might run in conjunction with could also go through updates. A safe plugin is one that is continually supported, so look for something that is regularly updated. A nice rule of thumb is that if it has been longer than a year without an update, you should look elsewhere.

4. What Is The Next Update?

Communication from both the users and the developer is important. Part of what that looks like from the developers side of the conversation is that they actively look for criticism from the users and provide and changelog for what they are working on/have improved in the past.

Furthermore, the changelog should be easy to find. This goes hand-in-hand with “When Was It Last Updated?” A plugin should tell you exactly what changes it has gone through in its development, and give you an idea of where it is going next. Can you find a good plugin without a changelog? Yes, but since this is your website you’re building, you should look for transparency in exactly what the developer is doing in their product.

These 4 tips will make finding your next plugin a better (and safer!) experience!

Obviously, anytime you select a new plugin you are going to want to explore it in depth and make sure it is as safe as possible and right for you. Following these guidelines, however, will help make your search easier and limit the possibility that you waste your time on an unsafe plugin, or install a plugin that could do some serious harm to your site.

Do you have a something you always look for when selecting new WordPress plugins that we haven’t mentioned here? Be sure to share it in the comments and let us know what works for you!