WordPress offers thousands of opportunities for you to create a stunning website and test whether you can validate a new business idea, blog, or community page. Choosing a plugin for your website could be tricky. As a part of the WordPress community, we’ve helped a lot of users to develop and maintain their own WordPress websites.
Debunking Some WordPress Plugin Myths
Here are two popular misconceptions that you may have heard on the topic, and why we think hearing those may be misleading you.
WordPress plugins can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, a high quality plugin can help you add the functionality you need without spending extra time on development or without having to research the proper way to do it.
On the other hand, it’s all way too easy to wind up with too many plugins installed, if you’re not careful and want to please your client by adding every little feature they’ve discovered online.
Our take on this
Your website performance can be affected by poorly coded plugins, but there is no direct correlation between the quantity of plugins and the website performance. You can have as many plugins as you like, in order to add extra functionality to your website, provided that the plugins are high quality and are properly installed.
It is quality, not quantity that may impact your website performance. Any number of poorly coded plugins may or may not lead to your site consuming too many server resources, and in turn produce a sluggish website.
There are certain plugins with a proven track record over the years. It would make sense to first consider using those plugins for adding a certain basic functionality to your website, before looking for ways to create a custom plugin to do the same job.
What you should be considering as well is: the plugin’s rating, reviews on the plugin from your peers, plugin author reputation, compliance with the best WordPress Coding Standards.
Common problems, related to installing too many plugins, include 500 error, the notorious “white screen of death”, and your website crashing.
Our take on this
If you install a plugin, which hasn’t been developed following the best WordPress Coding Standards, or is using deprecated functions, that could cause fatal errors on your website, such as the “white screen of death”.
If the plugin is poorly coded, it might cause additional loading of scripts and styles on every page load, or might have an incompatibility with the theme and/or other plugins installed.
So again, it’s quality, rather than quantity, that may cause you headaches in the long run.
How to Choose Plugins for a WordPress Website
It goes without saying that the quality of the plugin plays an important role when choosing among hundreds of them. However, it should not be the only deciding factor. You also need to consider the functionality of the plugin and whether it will improve the user experience for your visitors.
Finding relevant plugins to meet both those conditions is not always an easy and straightforward process. When you’re faced with a decision on which plugin you should choose, answer the following questions:
1. Can I Add the Desired Functionality Without Installing a Plugin?
If you are working without the help of a professional WordPress retainer, do some more extensive research on what standard WordPress features you could use.
There certainly are less known features, or as we like to call them, “small hidden treasures”, inside the WordPress Core. They can help you add the desired functionality you need or find a suitable workaround to achieve the results you are looking for.
2. What Is the Reputation of the Plugin?
For plugins found in the official repository, check the ratings and reviews first.
Generally speaking, you’ll want to look for plugins that have a 4-star or higher rating. You can click on the individual stars to read the reviews. Some reviews won’t be helpful, especially if they consist of one-word descriptions.
Try to find reviews that are more articulate, well-balanced, and go deeper into the functionality and performance of the plugin.
If you’re using a plugin from CodeCanyon, read the comments left by the buyers and check the overall plugin rating. Similarly to the official repository, you’ll want to choose a plugin that has more positive comments that go in-depth about the practical use of the plugin.
Make sure that the plugins are following the best WordPress Coding Standards.
3. Is the Plugin Maintained?
A good way to find out if a plugin is well maintained is to check whether the author is following the support forum and fixing potential issues, as well as answering user questions on a regular basis.
For any plugin that you’re considering, check the date of the last update and whether it’s compatible with the latest version of WordPress.
Avoid plugins that haven’t been updated in the last year as of the time of your research, since installing such a plugin can lead to security issues, among others.
In some cases, that can also be a sign that the developer has no interest in maintaining the plugin, which means no new functionality is likely to be added in the future. You do not want that, as you would want your website to be compatible with any changing requirements in web development and any third-party software you may be using.
4. How Reputable Is the Developer?
Aside from plugin reputation, you should also check the credibility of its developer. Clicking on the plugin author’s name will show you how many plugins they’ve developed and whether they’ve contributed to WordPress in any way.
Check how many support threads they have resolved and if they have a website listed. On their website, look for information about them, check if they have support documentation and if the website looks credible.
Be cautious of developers who only have a single plugin listed and don’t actively participate in the support forums.
This could indicate that you may be left to your own devices if you run into any issues with the plugin. Having only written one plugin is not necessary a bad sign, but it should make you more cautious, and we urge you to do careful due diligence on your part.
5. How Clear Is the Description of the Plugin’s Functionality?
Regardless of where you’re downloading the plugin from, make sure its description is clear enough for you. You’ll want to look for plugins that have a detailed description and a FAQ section.
Having a proper demo (if applicable – demos are not always possible), screenshots of the plugin’s functionality, options page and look and feel, can help you better understand what the plugin you are buying is, and how likely it is to do the job you are expecting it to do.
6. How Many Active Installs Does the Plugin Have?
Generally speaking, if the number of people using a plugin is relatively high, it’s less likely that it will cause potential problems. You can easily see this information on the plugin’s page, but do keep in mind that some plugins offer a very specific functionality which may in turn result in a low number of installs.
In such cases, you’ll want to pay extra attention to the ratings, reviews, and other factors mentioned above.
Plugins That You Might Consider Using
Now that we’ve covered what to consider when choosing quality plugins, here are just a few examples of useful plugins to consider, when building your own WordPress website without the help of a professional maintenance service provider.
While WordPress comes with many SEO benefits, this plugin allows you to optimize your posts and pages for search engines as well as generate a sitemap. It includes other benefits such as verifying your site with Google, Bing, and Pinterest as well as integration with Facebook Open Graph and Twitter cards.
If you need an easy way to integrate Google Analytics into a WordPress site and give your clients the ability to see the stats in their dashboard, then this plugin is the solution.
Some of the key features include amazing analytic tools and easy-to-use interface, universal or asynchronous Google Analytics tracking code, the ability to track search results, outbound links and downloads, and more.
Contact Form 7 remains a popular plugin and with good reason. It’s regularly updated, easy to use, and allows you to create multiple contact forms. The form supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering, and more.
Comment spam is a fact of life for every website owner. With Akismet, you can reduce the amount of spam, not only in the comments section, but in your contact form submissions as well.
You can save some time and effort, using Easy Image Gallery to showcase images. It allows you to easily create an unlimited number of awesome image galleries in any post or page, and then reorder them by dragging and dropping each image.
Remember to carefully consider what kind of functionality you are looking to add to your website. Try to imagine in detail exactly how you’ll be using that functionality and how you or your visitors will benefit from it.
Weigh all your options. Finally, evaluate plugins, based on quality and relevance.
After you have created your WordPress website, and you have started growing your guest count, your next goal would most probably be to enhance your current website’s security and stability, while also lowering your costs.
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