5 Things to Think About Before Choosing a WordPress Plugin

5 Things to Think About Before Choosing a WordPress Plugin[ 5 min read ]

One of the main benefits of WordPress is that you can easily develop or improve your website by adding in a plugin – often for free or for little costs, they are like magic tools for your website!
Plugins can add features, improve functionality, and streamline processes, making your life as a small business owner or a novice user much easier – all without needing to hire a developer. But with thousands of plugins available, choosing the right ones can feel overwhelming. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Here are 5 crucial things to consider before installing that shiny new plugin on your WordPress site

1. Do You Really Need It?

It’s tempting to get carried away with all the cool features plugins offer, especially when they’re free. But before you go on a plugin installation spree, take a step back and ask yourself: “Do I really need this?”. With each plugin you’re adding bulk to the website and database which could eventually slow the site down. Ideally a WordPress website should have no more than 20 plugins.
Sometimes, finding a multi-purpose plugin, or a creative use of existing features can achieve the same result without adding extra weight to your website. Here’s how to decide:

  • Make a list of your needs. What specific problems are you trying to solve, or what functionalities do you want to add?
  • Research alternative solutions. Could your theme handle some of the features you’re looking for? Are there built-in WordPress features that can do the trick?
  • Is it a ‘nice to have’ feature? Sometimes we just add the feature because we think it’s cool rather than a genuine need that’s benefiting or adding value to customers – for example, a plugin that makes it look like it’s snowing at Christmas.
  • Consider the complexity. A simple contact form might not require a full-fledged plugin, while an e-commerce store will likely need one.

Remember, more plugins can slow down your website and potentially create compatibility or security issues. Only install what’s truly necessary.

2. Security Risks

WordPress is a secure platform, generally, but plugins can introduce vulnerabilities and even malicious code if they’re a bit dodgy. Here’s how to choose plugins that won’t compromise your website’s safety:

  • Check the developer’s reputation. Look for plugins from well-established developers with a history of creating secure and reliable products.
  • Read reviews and ratings. See what other users are saying about the plugin’s security and performance. Look for a good feedback score and a lot of active installations.
  • Look for active updates. Regularly updated plugins are less likely to have security holes. A plugin that hasn’t been updated in a year or more is a red flag and may stop working with more up-to-date software.
  • Beware of free plugins with too-good-to-be-true features. Free plugins might be tempting, but some might bundle in unwanted code or make your site vulnerable to attacks.

When in doubt, err on the side of caution. It’s better to invest in a premium plugin with a good reputation than to risk your website’s security.

3. Compatibility

Imagine installing a new piece of furniture, only to find it doesn’t fit the room. That’s what happens with incompatible plugins and can cause all or part of the website to not work as it should. Here’s how to ensure smooth sailing:

  • Check for WordPress version compatibility. Make sure the plugin is designed to work with your specific version of WordPress. Using an incompatible plugin can lead to malfunctions, breaking your website entirely.
  • Theme compatibility is important too. Some plugins might conflict with your website’s theme. Check the plugin’s documentation or test it on a staging site before installing it on your live website.
  • Consider potential conflicts with other plugins. Before installing a new plugin, research how it interacts with the plugins you already have. You can find this information on the plugin’s website or documentation. Some plugins will also give you a warning in your dashboard if there’s a conflict, once it’s installed.

4. Friend or Foe? – Ratings, Reviews, and Support

Not all plugins are created equal – anyone, no matter their experience can create a WordPress plugin albeit The WordPress plugin directory does have guidelines developers should be following. User reviews and ratings can be a valuable source of information:

  • Look for plugins with high average ratings and positive reviews. As mentioned earlier, this indicates a good track record and user satisfaction.
  • Read the reviews! Reviews can reveal important details about the plugin’s functionality, ease of use, and any potential bugs/issues.
  • Check for responsive support. What happens if you run into problems? Does the plugin offer helpful documentation, tutorials, or a reliable support team? Or is it widely supported by the WordPress community? Some themes and plugins have their own Facebook Group for examples, where people can ask questions.

Having access to quality support can save you a lot of headaches down the line.

5. Remember to Update and Check PerformanceRegularly

The world of WordPress is constantly evolving, and your plugin should keep up with the latest versions of software to ensure it is future proof. Here’s how to ensure your chosen plugin keeps pace:

  • Regular updates are crucial. Outdated plugins can become incompatible with newer versions of WordPress so just stop working properly – and they pose security risks, too. Checking for updates manually will also tell you if they are no longer supported, or have even been removed from the WordPress Directory due to malicious code or bad practices. Choose plugins that are actively maintained and updated by their developers. We have a guide on updating WordPress here.
  • Performance matters. Some plugins can slow down your website. Look for plugins that are lightweight and well-coded. You can also find performance reviews online or test the plugin on a staging site before installing it on your live website. If you notice your website has slowed since adding a plugin, consider looking for an alternative.

Remember, a slow website can hurt your search engine ranking and user experience.

Bonus Tip: Think Long-Term

Choosing a plugin is a decision that can impact your website for a long time. Will the plugin be able to grow with your needs? Does it have add-ons or upgrades that offer better functionality later down the line, for example?

Need a bit of professional help?

If you need help adding or even picking a plugin, it doesn’t have to be expensive – check out our budget website options for different ways we can help you.

Suzi Smart Bear

I'm Suzi - the owner of The Smart Bear.

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