Criteria for choosing plugins

by Jan 14, 2016Helpful Hints, Tools

I have a love-hate relationship with plugins. They tend to be a necessary evil and some people get carried away adding them without caution. There are a plethora (figuratively speaking) of free plugins out there. They run the gambit in functionality and some seem like a great idea. But, I’ve revamped many sites who were using out of date plugins because they were no longer supported by their authors and this causes security risks and compatibility issues.

I’m very particular about the plugins that I use. Here are my criteria for choosing a plugin:

  • Does the plugin do everything I need without duplicating function provided by another plugin I have installed?
  • Is the author actively responding to support questions?
  • Does the plugin has a premium version available?
  • Is it compatible with the latest version of WordPress?
  • Does the author provide documentation?

Having overlapping plugins tends to be a recipe for disaster. If they do the same or very similar things, their code can sometimes conflict. My goal is always to have as few plugins as humanly possible. Plugins can slow down your load time. If you don’t need it, get rid of it.

Always look for authors who are active with their support threads. If an author hasn’t responded to anyone for a few weeks or a month, forget it. You are going to waste a bunch of time and energy on trying to figure something out when the plugin in is not being supported properly. This is always the first thing I look at and my biggest consideration when choosing a plugin.

If the plugin has a premium version available, you can be pretty certain that the free version will be supported and supported well. Often, the “freemium” version is how a company will get you in the door. You fall in love with the basic version and move up to the premium version. They tend to provide better support and documentation than someone who isn’t going to be making any money of their plugin. This may seem a little money hungry but it takes a lot of time and dedication to develop and support a solid plugin. You can’t expect people to continue out of the goodness of their heart. If you really like a free plugin, donate to the author. It’s helping you out, show a little love in return.

The plugin should always be compatible with the latest version of WP. If not, don’t look twice. Move on. Again, you are looking a security risks and compatibility issues.

Documentation is your friend. Perhaps, your best friend. Plugins with documentation make me smile and sometimes a little giddy. It means that the plugin is supported, has an active community and is most likely well made. Even if it’s just a thorough readme file, good documentation can go a long way.

What criteria do you have for plugins?

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