Plugins make WordPress an easy and functionality-rich website backend for any beginner. However, with over 56,000 different plugins to choose from in the WordPress directory, it can be challenging figuring out which ones are the best to use on your website. Since many plugins have been created by regular people who happen to be developers, there is a chance you can download something that breaks your website. To avoid problems with plugins, we’ve created this beginner’s guide to choosing the best WordPress plugins for your website.
How WordPress Plugins Enhance Your Website
Plugins are helpful, usually free, packages of code which act as a solution for all types of internet hurdles. A plugin can build a contact form, provide a forum, create private membership pages or turn your blog into an eCommerce platform. Plugins, for a lot of people, are the saving grace and often the reason for choosing the WordPress platform. The open source nature of the WordPress plugin community has led to an oversaturated market, but one that provides just about any functionality you could possibly need on your WordPress website.
When you are starting out with WordPress, there is a plugin for almost everything. But as your website grows, so does the need for more specific and powerful plugins. The challenge then becomes finding the right plugin that meets both your current needs and future requirements.
Before you jump into searching for a new plugin on WordPress, you should have a good idea of what you’re actually trying to accomplish on your WordPress website. What kind of functionality are you trying to achieve?
For example, if you want a contact form for your contact page, do you need that form to do anything special beyond having the usual text fields? Knowing in detail what you want certain functionality to do ahead of your search will help you pinpoint how to look for such plugins.
Remember that it’s the quality of plugins you’re using rather than the quantity. It’s much better to have a top-rated single plugin that does 2 things you really need rather than having 2 separate ones that might not have as high of ratings.
How to Search for a Plugin
The WordPress plugin directory is the best place to start when it comes to finding plugins for your website. The plugin directory is a comprehensive listing of all WordPress plugins that have been approved by the WordPress team. You can search for plugins by keyword or browse by category.
Keep in mind that the search functionality for this directory is not very sophisticated, so if you’re simply not finding what you’re seeking, consider doing a few Google searches. There are tons of blogs out there of avid WordPress users ranking their favorite plugins for various categories, so this can also be a great starting point that will help you narrow down your search.
By default, the WordPress directory shows search results based solely on relevance. From the results screen, you’ll see reviews, the number of installs, the creator of the plugin, and whether the plugin has been tested on the latest version of WordPress.
Comparing Plugins – Which One Should You Choose?
Once you’ve found a few plugins that look like they would be good fits for what your functionality goals are, you can click on each one and compare. When you click on a plugin, you can review the details page to gather more information on exactly what the plugin does, instructions on how to use it, as well as read reviews from others using the plugin.
When comparing plugins, you should make sure that the details outline features you’re looking for, as well as that adequate support and instructions exist. There’s nothing worse than downloading a complicated plugin with no support on how to make it work on your website.
Some key areas to review on the plugin detail page include:
- Functionality details
- Active install number
- Compatibility with the latest WordPress version
Plugin Ratings and Reviews
One of the best ways to get a sense for how good a plugin is – or isn’t – is by reading reviews from other WordPress users. These ratings and reviews are based on user feedback and take into account things such as usefulness and quality.
Spend some time looking over the ratings and reviews, including the bad ones. Keep in mind that there are likely thousands of users that have never left a review as well. Not everyone leaves a review and those who leave a bad review sometimes do so for user errors. Try to fairly review feedback and compare that to other plugins you’re considering so that you can make the best choice.
Plugin Support and Tutorials
There’s nothing worse than installing a plugin and then realizing it’s complicated but you have no support. A good plugin is one that has a lot of tutorials you can use to help yourself in learning the plugin, but that also has technical support for if you are ever experiencing an issue with the plugin.
You can get a good idea of what kind of tutorials and support a plugin has by looking at the FAQs section of the plugin details page, checking the last updated timestamp, and reading through reviews. You can also check the support forum to see if there are any open support tickets that haven’t been addressed. Usually you can get a good idea about support by looking in this section.
Pictures often speak louder than words, so spend time reviewing the screenshots for a plugin to help you determine if it’s going to work with your WordPress website. If the screenshots show a complicated or poorly built plugin, then you may want to look elsewhere at other plugins.
Testing Your WordPress Plugin
Not all plugins will improve your website. In fact, some plugins might offer the functionality you’re looking for, but cause issues on the website that make it not worth the functionality it’s offering. For example, you might add an SEO plugin to your website that slows down your site by 5 seconds. That impact to the speed of your site may not be worth whatever SEO benefits the plugin is creating since speed is also an SEO factor.
You can test a plugin by running a simple speed test on your website before you install the plugin. After the plugin is installed, you can run the speed test again to see if there is a difference in performance. A great free speed testing tool for your website is GT Metrix, which is free to use on a page-by-page basis.
Remember, that WordPress plugins are open source which means that they come with no warranty at all and the plugin authors are not required to answer your questions. That being said, the developers that create these plugins usually do care about the experiences users are having, so if you ever have any issues with a plugin, you should reach out to the support team for that plugin.
We hope that you found this article helpful when it comes to choosing the best WordPress plugins for your website. WordPress can seem overwhelming at times for the simple fact that you can do so much with the WordPress platform, but with the right guidance and creativity, you can make a beautiful and fully functional website!
If you’re ever needing support building your WordPress website, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team. We can help you build a fully custom WordPress website with all the fixings and SEO juice to go along with it! As always, good luck!