Plugins are what make WordPress the best CMS of all time. They make it possible to extend the functionality of a basic WordPress installation into whatever you need.
But with more than 30,000 plugins available for this great Content Management System, choosing the best ones for a specific purpose becomes an uphill task, especially for beginners. This article will try to make the process of selecting the plugins to use for your WordPress website simple and painless. This is actually the process that our experts here at Trimorph use to pick the best plugins.
First things first
Before you start the selection process, you must have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. Knowing the type of website you are building is a great place to start.
List down all the features you want included sorted by relevance. This will help you know which plugins to give more importance. For example, if you are building an ecommerce website, some of the most important features would be ecommerce capability and SEO optimization. Therefore, plugins to have would be ecommerce and SEO plugins.
After you have listed down all features you want, you can now move on to finding the best plugins for WordPress.
Start from WordPress plugin repository
If you are a beginner, we recommend that you start from the official WordPress repository. You can find WordPress plugins for all functions here and most of them are free which is great for minimizing the cost of putting up your website. In addition, the repository is structured in such a way that getting relevant information about plugins is quite straightforward.
For simplicity, this article assumes that you are using the WordPress repository to find your desired plugins.
How to pick the best WordPress plugins
Once you start searching for plugins, you will realize that in many cases, there are many plugins that perform the same function. In these cases, you would need to compare several factors to make the best pick.
Open each plugin in a new tab so you can make side by side comparisons more easily.
1. Confirm Compatibility
The first thing you want to find out for each plugin is whether it will work on your version of WordPress. You will find this information on the right sidebar of the plugin page under the ‘Requires’ and ‘Compatible up to’ sections. If you are using the latest version of WordPress, make sure that is what is indicated under ‘Compatible up to’. This way, you are assured minimum compatibility uses I future.
2. View Ratings and Downloads
After you have confirmed that the plugin is compatible with your WordPress version, check out how many stars it has, and how many ratings too. Keep in mind however, that most users will use a plugin and never leave a rating. In this case the number of downloads comes in handy. It is a good indication of the plugin’s popularity and the more the downloads, the more popular the plugin is assumed to be.
3. Read User Reviews
Users are always requested to rate a plugin when they leave a rating and this could prove to be an invaluable source of information. Many users will explain their experience which could help you decide whether or not to choose that specific plugin. For example, a user may give a WordPress SEO optimization plugin a 5-star rating but mention in the review that it needs an expert to set it up correctly. If you are a beginner, you will know from the onset that while it works well, you are better placed finding a plugin that works out of the box for your SEO needs.
4. View Screenshots
Screenshots provide a quick peek at how the plugin will look on the front and back end of your WordPress website. They could even help us understand how to set up the plugin better than a lengthy and confusing plugin description. You can therefore have a look at how the plugin will look like and decide whether that is the look you are going for or not.
5. Read Through FAQs
Make sure to read through the plugins’ FAQs because they contain some useful information on how to use the plugin. Some of the issues you may encounter when setting up the plugin could be explained here which will save you a lot of time wondering what you are doing wrong.
6. Test the plugin
There are things that you cannot learn from the plugin page that you will only discover after you have installed a plugin. The plugin’s effect of overall performance is one of these. If the code is clean and well-written, you should not experience any decrease in performance unless it is a really big plugin. If your website becomes sluggish, that could be an indicator of poorly written code that could cause you sleepless nights in the future.
We hope this guide has been helpful in helping you choose the best plugin for your WordPress website.