WordPress is open source, which means there are thousands of freely available plugins to enhance your website. If there’s something you need your site to do, chances are there’s a plugin for it!
But since many plugins are developed on a voluntary basis by community members, their quality can vary. By choosing the right ones — like those with a strong reputation — you’ll be less likely to encounter performance issues or experience conflicts with other critical plugins. Plus, quality solutions help you steer clear of potential security risks.
Here are a few qualities to look for in the best WordPress plugins for your website.
What to look for with WordPress plugins
Loading dozens of plugins can affect the speed of your site, which impacts both your visitor’s experience and your search engine rankings.
You can improve the performance of your website by using plugins that perform more than one function. For example, plugins like Jetpack handle everything from image optimization to security, social media sharing, and contact forms.
A good multi-functional plugin like this will allow you to activate only the features that you need.
2. Great reviews
The WordPress community is amazing; they’re active, involved, and reliable. When looking for a plugin, be sure to check the star rating and written reviews that they’ve provided.
If you’re looking for a premium plugin from somewhere other than the WordPress Plugin Repository, make sure there are plenty of customer reviews and endorsements added to their site. You may also want to check websites that use the plugin to see how it performs.
Thousands of WordPress users can’t be wrong when it comes to plugins. The most popular plugins are that way for a reason; they perform an essential function, and they perform it well.
When looking in the repository, check the “Active Installations” stats on a potential plugin. Even more obscure functions that might not appeal to all users should have several hundred installations, at a minimum, to serve as an endorsement. Not every user chooses to leave a rating, and the more users, the more likely you’ll find someone who had a specific complaint. But if the sheer number of users is high, it’s a good sign that overall, it’s a high-quality plugin that can be trusted.
4. Recent updates
When considering a plugin from the WordPress repository, check the “Last Updated” information on the page. A high-quality plugin will be regularly updated to stay current with WordPress requirements. It should have been updated at least once within the past six months. Plugins that haven’t been updated in more than a year are to be used with caution; those that haven’t been updated in even longer may have security issues and should be avoided.
Also check the plugin’s page for the “Tested Up To” information. A good plugin will have been tested with the most recent major release of WordPress; ideally, it will be actively tested on the latest minor version as well.
Premium plugins available from third-party sites should always clearly post their release history, bug fix tracking information, and WordPress core versions supported. Make sure the plugin is still under active development and keeps up with core changes and security issues.
5. Solid support
Most of the plugins available for free in the WordPress repository are created and supported by community developers on a voluntary basis. This means that some plugins get more attention than others, and have faster support response times.
If you’re worried about plugin quality and aren’t sure you’ll be able to troubleshoot problems on your own, then available support plays a big role. Check the repository Support page for a history of help requests. Look for a pattern of quick responses by the actual development team.
If support is very important to you, consider looking into Premium plugins. Most include better, faster support for a limited amount of time after purchase; make sure you’re clear on the support terms before buying.
What to avoid with WordPress plugins
1. Nulled plugins
It can be tempting to save money by grabbing a free version of a great premium plugin, but these can cause huge problems on your WordPress site, including:
- No access to updates, leaving your site open to security issues.
- Injected malicious code to steal client information or add spam links.
- No access to support, ongoing updates, or new features.
- Lack of funding for WordPress developers, discouraging innovation and product growth.
Make sure you’re being a good community member and keeping your site safe and protected by downloading free plugins from the WordPress repository — which only approves verified options that are clean and safe — or premium plugins from reputable sites.
2. Plugin conflicts
It’s rare for major, popular plugins to conflict with each other or aspects of WordPress core, but this can happen.
Before installing a new plugin, do some research to make sure you won’t introduce a known problem to your site. If you’re running major plugins like Jetpack or WooCommerce, a quick online search for conflicts will tell you if the plugin you’re considering is safe, or if you should look elsewhere.
Stick with the best
Overall, a little research can keep your website stable and help you choose the best WordPress plugins for your site. Stick to versatile, recently-updated, and popular plugins from the repository, or premium plugins with a clear licensing and support structure. Carefully choosing your WordPress plugins will build a high-performance base for your site to support and grow your business.
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