It’s no secret that WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world for creating websites daily, due to its ease of use and the abundance of its free plugins.

Adding features to your site has never been easier. Whenever you need a new feature for your website, there is a big chance that you will find a free plugin out there that does that job for you.

With over 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it can be confusing to know how to choose the right WordPress plugin for your website. Especially when you find out that there are plugins that claim to do the same job. So how do you know which plugin to choose? Which one is the most convenient for your business?

Choosing the right plugin is essential. You need to make sure

  • it actually does what you need
  • it won’t slow down your website
  • it doesn’t have security holes
  • it doesn’t conflict with the other functionalities of your website

That is why, in this article, we will uncover the 12 criteria that you can use to determine how to choose the best WordPress plugin for your website.

#1 Choose the right WordPress plugin by knowing the objectives first

Before you start looking for a plugin, you must first determine what you need precisely from it to do.

Write down what you need to do, like the list of essential features you are looking for.

Knowing that will help you save time and narrow down only the plugins that can actually do the job you need.

 

#2 Where to find WordPress plugins

search form at the wordpress plugin repository

The world’s largest WordPress plugin directory can be found at WordPress.org.

With over 50,000 plugins, they all come for free, and they are all verified by WordPress experts.

All you have to do is type in the keywords relative to the functionality you have in mind. You will most likely find a plugin if not multiple plugins for it.

 

NOTE: To search for a plugin it’s better to use google search, ex: “Anti malware security WordPress plugin”. From our experience, the search engine is way more accurate in results than the internal search of the WordPress plugin directory.

 

In some cases, the free plugin may not offer all its features, simply because they are only accessible if you buy their full premium version.

Though that could be accessible through the official developer’s website (which can be found in the plugin’s description), or in CodeCanyon, you can buy full Premium plugins for a reasonable price.

With that said, be aware to NEVER download any free plugins from another source aside from the ones mentioned above. Especially nulled plugins, which can potentially harm your site in many ways.

The most common damage would be malware infection which can slow down your site, miss up with your SEO ranking, and potentially consume your bandwidth excessively. We have a full article on this subject.

 

#3 Check the description

description section for a wordpress plugin

The first thing that you should check in a plugin is its description. This is very important because this will explain what it does and what kind of features it offers.

Most plugins descriptions have a FAQ at the bottom, which will provide you with some more insight.

We also recommend that you check the screenshots of the plugin to see what it looks like, that should give you a better idea of what it can do.

Based on that information, you can find out if they match the functionalities that you are searching for.

If the plugin doesn’t fit your needs, then proceed to another one. The WordPress repository is vast for you to explore other plugins.

 

#4 When was the WordPress plugin last updated

date for when a wordpress plugin was last updated

A vital factor to consider when choosing a WordPress plugin is to check when the last update was done.

A plugin that hasn’t been updated for a long time or isn’t frequently updated could mean that it is more likely to have vulnerabilities. And possibly have been abandoned from any further developments by the plugin author.

Therefore, because it is no longer updated with the latest security fixes, that can makes it a target to being exploited by hackers. They usually look for security loopholes of old versions of plugins. If that happens, it will compromise all your site.

So choose a plugin that was last updated in less than 4 months. Any plugin with an update above that period should be avoided.

 

#5 How many times was the plugin downloaded

how many times has a wordpress plugin been installed and downloaded

As mentioned earlier, there are many plugins you can find in the WordPress plugin directory that have the same role. But some of them have an edge over the others.

So you might be asking yourself, how do I know which plugin to pick? What is the best plugin for my site?

One way, as we discussed earlier, is to check the description for each plugin and see who offers more in terms of features.

If that doesn’t help, then the way for you to select the best option is to check the number of active installs. Basically, this shows you how big the plugin’s reputation is. If it’s been installed a lot more than the others, that’s because it’s a very popular plugin among the users.

So a plugin’s reputation is an important factor to keep in mind as well. So it’s better to go with the most popular WordPress plugins.

 

#6 WordPress plugin Reviews and Ratings

rating and reviews for a wordpress plugin

The most important criteria for judging a plugin or any product before testing it would be the Reviews.

They are useful as they uncover the feedbacks of users who had actually tested the plugin. Make sure you read them, positive and especially the negative comments, because they describe in great detail what went wrong with the plugin.

Another thing to watch out for are the ratings. The key here is to see if the plugin has at least 4 stars from the overall score. Also, the number of votes should be significant.

For example, a plugin with just 3 votes rated 5 stars and only 15 downloads, isn’t exactly convincing. It’s most likely a brand new plugin. So it remains to be seen if there are some issues with it or not.

 

NOTE: It’s worth mentioning that in some cases, there might be a 1 or 2-star review, you can click on the rating bar to read the review related to that rating.

#7 Which version of WordPress does the plugin support

Compatibility is very important because it ensures all your website components work in harmony without compromising one another’s functionalities.

For this reason, you need to make sure that the plugin that you are about to download supports the latest version of your WordPress core.

latest wordpress version that the plugin has tested with

If you choose to ignore this fact, then be prepare as it might have some consequences on your site, such as the following:

  • Causing PHP or 500 errors
  • Crashing your site
  • Resulting in the white screen of death

So as you see, it’s not worth the risk. Do this right and make sure that your WordPress core and the plugin you intend to use are compatible.

#8 Check the changelog

It’s important to know if the plugin authors are active. Checking the changelog will tell you the latest features or bug fixes that have been applied in the past.

A plugin with good developers will show that there are frequent updates in the changelog. That says the plugin is in constant improvement. The authors actually care about improving their product for their users.

Here is an example of a plugin with consistent updates:

plugin change log showing all the updates and fixes added

#9 Support Forums for Plugins

This is often an overlooked factor during the plugin’s assessment.

Checking the support section of a plugin should never be neglected. It’s like a forum, it has different questions created by the users. Most of those questions are asked because they are seeking solutions for problems that they are facing with the plugin.

So check the topics and see if you can spot any common problems that keep coming up. This should give you a clear idea of what to expect.

You can judge the support on two factors, first by checking how responsive their support team is to every question, like in the image below:

comments and answers for questions in the plugins support forum

Second, the support must also be useful in bringing solutions to their user’s complaints. You can verify that by checking the number of resolved issues from the following section:

number of resolved issues for a plugin in 2 months period

#10 Free Plugins vs Premium Plugins

If, for some reason, you still can’t find what you’re looking for in the WordPress plugin repository. Then we highly recommend you to try another source which is CodeCanyon.

All the plugins there are Premium and come with a paid license. You will more likely find what you need out there, and they offer much more in terms of functionalities than free plugins.

With paid license plugins, you get the help of an excellent support team to assist you with any request you have. That’s another advantage to keep in mind.

A typical paid plugin costs between $29 and $99. Think in the long term, if a paid plugin is going to benefit your business for a long period, then it’s worth it.

 

NOTE: Before you purchase a premium plugin from CodeCanyon, make sure to follow the same process, by checking the rating, reviews, last update, compatibility, support, etc…

 

#11 Test if the plugin is slowing down the site

Now that after your WordPress plugin meets all the above criteria, you need to put it into the test.

But just to be safe, back up your site first before proceeding any further.

When that is done, after installing the plugin, make sure it’s not slowing down your website, you can use GTmetrix to run a speed test to verify that.

GTmetrix wordpress plugin speed test

And also, the “Query monitor” plugin can tell you if you have any queries/requests within the plugin that slows down your site.

debugging slow wordpress plugin queries

Poorly coded plugins can also slow down your site. You can check that only by using your browser’s developer’s tools by pressing on (F12 for windows).

checking plugin errors with browser developers tool

If it shows a lot of errors, then it is best to pass on this plugin.

 

NOTE: In some rare cases, when you install the plugin, if you get any incompatibility issues, try disabling your other plugins, one at a time until you find the other plugin that has a conflict with.

 

#12 Exceptions for plugins

Considering all criteria we mentioned in our article, sometimes you might find a plugin that doesn’t have any rating (or only a handful), low reputation, etc…

That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not a good plugin for you. However, there is a possibility that it’s still new in the marketplace. So keep an eye for those as well.

 

Conclusion

Plugins are great assets to have when you want to add various functionalities to your site.

Keep them at all times updated. But please bear in mind, to install new plugins only when necessary, because the more plugins you install, the more likely it will affect your site’s performance. So don’t overdo it. Use them wisely 😊

That’s it for this article. We hope this checklist will help you choose the right plugin for your site. If you have any questions, feel free to leave us your comment.