WordPress is one of the world’s most popular content management systems. However, straight out of the box, WordPress functionality is somewhat limited. However, the lack of bells and whistles in WordPress is not a problem because thousands of plugins are available that provide more than enough functionality for most websites. And many of those plugins are free.

However, website owners must understand that plugins are developed and maintained by third parties. So, plugins can vary considerably in quality. And there are no guarantees that installing a plugin will not cause issues. It has been known for plugins to create security issues for sites, for example. And some plugins might cause problems with other plugins or the core functionality of WordPress.

Still, most plugins are well-written and do the job they should. But care should be taken when selecting and installing WordPress plugins. So, here are some tips to help you choose the best WordPress plugins for your website.

Define Your Requirements

It is fair to say that there is probably a plugin available for almost every conceivable type of website function.  But, because you can do it does not mean that you should. Indeed, every plugin you install adds more code to your site, which could impact performance. And the more plugins you have installed, the greater the risk of experiencing a conflict between plugins.

So, the first thing to do is decide what functionality you want to add to your website. Then, check that your theme or an existing plugin you have installed cannot meet your needs. If not, you can begin your search for a suitable plugin.

Premium or Free?

When searching for plugins, you will find that some are free, and some are not. In some cases, free plugins will provide the functionality you need. However, the advantages of premium versions of plugins include regular updates, support, and increased functionality.

Free plugins can be helpful if you are working with a limited budget. And it can be beneficial to test the free version of plugins before you pay for the premium versions. The good news is, though, that premium WordPress plugins are not usually prohibitively expensive. So, it is generally best to invest in premium plugins if you can.

here to Search for the Best Plugins

The best place to begin your search for a plugin is Google. A Google search will help you locate plugins that provide the functionality you require. You can also search for plugins on the WordPress Add Plugins page, but the search capabilities on that page are a bit limited, so you may not find what you need.

You will also find numerous plugin reviews on Google. So, a search for “best mega-menu,” for example, will provide some insight into the available plugins of that type. However, be aware that many plugins have affiliate programs. So, reviews may not always be as unbiased as they first appear.

What to Check Before Installing a Plugin

Once you have located a plugin you like the look of, it is best to research it before installing the software. Here are the main things to look for when selecting a WordPress plugin:

Number of Active Users

Of course, the number of users does not guarantee the quality of the plugin. After all, you could be the first person to have stumbled across the best free plugin ever written! However, unless you want to be a trailblazer, it is generally best to choose plugins with a reasonable number of active users.

If a plugin has thousands of users, you know it has been tested, and most bugs will be ironed out. And a high number of users will also mean that the rating and reviews of the plugin will give you a more balanced idea of the quality and reliability of the plugin.

The number of active users for each plugin is displayed on the WordPress Add Plugins page. If you visit the plugin author’s website, you might also find an indication of the number of users.

Rating

Each plugin listed on the WordPress Add Plugins page has a rating displayed. This rating indicates users’ satisfaction with the software, shown as a rating out of five stars. But, as mentioned above, the star rating of a plugin with only one hundred users could be misleading. And, of course, there could be many unhappy users who did not bother to rate the plugin.

However, suppose a plugin has 50,000 users and a 4.5-star rating. In that case, you can be reasonably confident that the plugin is safe and reliable. Plugins with fewer than three stars are probably best avoided, or at least you should carefully read the reviews left by unhappy users.

Read the Reviews

Clicking on the More Details link on a plugin listed on the WordPress Add Plugins page will reveal more detailed information about the software. There, you will find screenshots, a detailed description, and installation information. There will also be a changelog, FAQs, and reviews of the plugin.

Reading a sample of the reviews will give you a good idea of the suitability of the plugin. Check out the best reviews, and you will find why other people like the software. And, of course, the negative reviews will highlight the issues that people have had with the plugin. Probably the most crucial thing to look for is repeated instances of the same problem.

WordPress Version Compatibility

You will find when the software was last updated at the bottom of each plugin listed on the WordPress Add Plugins. And you will see if the latest version of the plugin is compatible with your version of WordPress.

A plugin listed as being untested with your version of WordPress is not necessarily going to damage your website. Indeed, it may merely be a sign that the software author has not updated the listing of their plugin. However, it would be best to avoid these plugins if they have not been updated for some time.

Documentation

WordPress plugins are generally straightforward to install and use. However, you may need some help with some of the more complex plugins. So, it is best to check what documentation and support are available with a plugin before installing.

Most of the best plugins have a separate web page with user guides. And you will probably find helpful user tips for the most popular plugins on third-party blogs and YouTube.

Conclusion

If a plugin does cause issues with your site or you change your mind, plugins can be deactivated and uninstalled. And, if the worse comes to the worse, you could restore your website from a backup. However, it would save you a lot of time if you considered the above points before installing any plugin.

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