Think about how you chose your life partner, or your friends. You most likely chose them because you liked a number of things in them. Choosing based on looks, wealth or social standing alone would probably make a very poor decision.
The same goes with choosing plugins from your WordPress site. With the WordPress.org plugin repository hosting thousands of plugins it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. How do you choose a contact form plugin when there are 10 potential candidates? Or an SEO or Backups plugin? Well, you could check our plugin roundups here on WP Mayor, but today my aim is to teach you how you can evaluate plugins yourself based on a few criteria.
The first thing to remember is that the number of downloads is absolutely not the no.1 criteria you should take into consideration, simply because it is not an accurate reflection of the quality of the plugin nor does it confirm whether a plugin is the most currently downloaded one for that purpose. The download count is purely the total times of the plugin was downloaded since it was released. Therefore a plugin released in 2009 and abandoned in 2013 will most likely still have thousands more downloads than an excellent plugin launched in 2014. So you’d be making a mistake in downloading the former over the latter.
Here are a few things you need to consider when choosing which plugin to use:
- Is the plugin in active development?
- Does the plugin have a sustainable business model?
- How many people are working on the project and what is their level of commitment?
- Is timely and high quality support offered for the plugin?
- Is the plugin well-coded with security and performance best practices in mind?
- What do the major WordPress blogs and experts say about it?
Consider also what current and future features you’ll need a plugin to have. Lets say you want some forms on your site. There are plugins that are super simple and do a good job of providing you with contact form functionality for your site. If that’s all you need, then you can go ahead with such a plugin.
However, if you will need more advanced forms with conditional fields or even payment enabled forms in the future, you’d be better off thinking long term and going for an advanced forms plugin like Ninja Forms or Gravity Forms.
The same goes for all other plugins you install on your WordPress site. Think beyond the download count and first impressions. That little time invested in the beginning will save you a lot of time, money and grief in the long run.
Photo by Sean MacEntee