Chosing a plugin wisely

Chosing a plugin wisely

Why Research WordPress Plugins?

Plugins are code written by humans, or a single human, who may not be 100% dedicated to maintaining or supporting the plugin code. Plugin code that isn’t updated quickly can lead to security holes in your website. Do your research at the beginning of a project to ensure each Plugin is reliable and works with other plugins you choose.

WordPress & Plugins

The WordPress core software is constantly being updated by community coders so that the software continues to improve over time as browser software changes. Plugins are the software tools for WordPress written by individuals, groups, or companies. The best plugins are constantly updated to work with the most recent version of WordPress. 

The WordPress Ecosystem

WordPress is written in PHP and uses a database to store most of the information on your website. I call this an ecosystem because all plugins do not work well together. It would be best to plan your plugin ecosystem so that each part should work with the other. For example, if you run WooCommerce, each Plugin you choose for your website needs to play nice with WooCommerce; that includes forms, translations, and many other types of plugins.

My Friend Uses this Plugin; Why Shouldn't I?

Not all projects are the same. What is an excellent plugin on one website could be overkill on another website. You don’t need all of the features for every project. If a simple plugin works for your needs, then that is the best Plugin for you.

How to Research Plugins, an Example.

Here is an example of how you could research for a contact form plugin

  1. Compile a list of functionality that you need before you start researching plugins. Do you need the contact form to be simple or complex? Simple forms need to be easy to set up and look good. Complex contact forms can do amazing things, but you don’t need that for every website. Know your project, and choose the Plugin that has the smallest footprint for your needs.
  2. Now that you have your list of functional requirements for your plugins, you can search Google for “Best Contact Form Plugin 2021”. You can trust WP-Beginner to give you accurate info (https://www.wpbeginner.com/).
  3. Now that you have a few form plugins on your list from step 2, you can narrow your search by reviewing “Form” plugins on WordPress.org at https://wordpress.org/plugins/. The search feature is pretty terrible so try multiple search term variations on “form,” “contact form,” etc. The plugins that you find this way can also be accessed in your WordPress admin dashboard under Plugin > Add New Plugin.
  4. With your list of potential plugins from #2 and #3, it’s time to dig deeper into the software developer for the Plugin. Ask yourself the following questions:
  • How well is the Plugin rated?
  • How well is the Plugin supported?
  • How often is the Plugin updated?
  • How old is the Plugin?
  • Is your Plugin compatible with your current version of WordPress?
  • Is this Plugin compatible with your other plugins?

Summary: How to Measure Plugin Reliability

In summary, the following are the essential plugin variables to review. 

  1. response time on support on WordPress.org
  2. frequency of plugin updates on WordPress.org
  3. plugin reviews on WordPress.org
  4. plugin compatibility (with the rest of your plugins)
  5. plugin recommendations online (“best ‘contact form’ plugins 2021”)
  6. plugin recommendations on WordPress.org

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