There are 55,000 plugins available on WordPress.org. There are countless others on personal and business websites. Choosing the best plugin for your WordPress website can be a daunting task.
You must consider the functionality you are looking for, any integrations with your current theme, any integrations with existing plugins, knowing where to look for plugins, and of course, the price.
With your list of requirements, let’s look at how to select a WordPress plugin.
Start with WordPress.org
Always start your search for a plugin on the WordPress.org repository. A group of volunteers review each plugin before listing it on their website. Conduct a keyword search for the functionality you need (i.e. contact form).
If the search results do not reveal a plugin with the required functionality, broaden your search.
Check Online Marketplaces
Several websites operate an online marketplace for selling WordPress plugins. Some of the more popular websites include Elegant Themes, ThemeIsle, Code Canyon and Themify. Personal websites include WP Rocket, Gravity Forms, and Pippin’s Plugins.
If you fail to find a suitable plugin, conduct an online search using one of the search engines. Use a search string such as ‘Best WordPress contact form plugin’.
With a list of possible plugins, compare each search result. Delete the plugins that do not meet your requirements. Some items to look for when comparing plugins include the last updated date, number of installations, and ratings and reviews.
Also check the number of outstanding support issues, WordPress version compatibility, good documentation, and the changelog.
Ideally, you want to select a plugin with regular updates, lots of installations and good ratings and reviews. A good plugin has few outstanding support issues, works with the current version of WordPress and has a clear description of fixes in the changelog.
Note that not all plugin authors list the same information.
Test and test again
Before installing a new plugin on your live website, you must test it. Use a testing server (can be a subdomain of your regular website). Load the new plugin on your test server. Does the plugin break the website? Does it break other plugins?
Run a performance test before and after installing the plugin (compare the results to determine the impact of the plugin on your page loading speed).
Once you are happy that the new plugin does what you need, then you can install it on your live website. Taking the necessary precautions will help ensure that you don’t inadvertently cause your website to stop functioning properly or even worse, cause it to stop working.
Take your time when selecting a WordPress plugin for your website.
Warning: When installing a plugin, remember that you are running another person’s code on your website. There are instances where certain plugins break a website or spread malware and viruses. Carefully check each plugin before installing and activating it.
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