For many bloggers, choosing a WordPress Plugin is as simple as finding something that will do the job. After all, there are thousands to choose from, and most of them are free, right?
Yes and no.
Choosing the wrong plugin can cause some serious complications on your blog, and it can even cost you some of you hard earned visitors.
Here are 9 things to keep in mind when you choose a WordPress plugin:
1. Every additional plugin you add, slows your blog down…
It even slows your admin area down. As your blog loads slower because of your adding more and more plugins, it leads to a poor user experience.
Some of them will leave, losing you money you could have made from them. On top of that, Google knows that slow blogs represent a poor user experience, and they will rank your posts lower in the search results.
So – before you add any plugin to your blog, ask yourself: Is this really, really necessary?
If you decide to continue and install a plugin, consider the following for any option you look at:
2. Are there plugins that combine the features you need?
For instance – do you use one plugin that provides both your social sharing buttons, and your social follow buttons? Or are they two separate plugins?
3. Check the functionality
– and see if it is going to do exactly what you require from it. I cannot even begin to explain how many time I have installed plugins, only to find out later that they don’t really do what I need them to do. A good idea is to now only read the overview, but to also look at the screenshots provided – those will give you an idea o the available settings, and also how it can be.
For instance – there are a number of viral list building plugins available. Most of them only offer a limited number of subscribers for free, and after that you have to pay for the service on a monthly basis.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid using plugins that aren’t free, but consider the medium term affordability. If you are new to blogging, it usually takes quite a while before your blog starts making money – and the expenses can add up quite quickly.
Alternatively, instead of going for a plugin that requires a paid monthly service, you may rather want to go for a plugin that you simply need to buy once – even if it is more expensive.
5. Does it require the installation of another WordPress plugin?
Considering the fact that every additional plugin slows your blog down, even if only by a little, take note of whether it requires the installation of another plugin in order to function. It’s not a deal breaker – it’s your choice – but do consider the total “load” of plugins your blog has to carry.
6. What’s the last time it was updated?
The WordPress database gives you a load of useful, relevant information to help you make the right choice. Once of those is the last time of update. In many cases, you will see a plugin is specified as “untested with your current version of WordPress.” That doesn’t mean it won’t work – it just means that nobody tested it and gave feedback after the last WordPress Core update.
However, if it is untested, and the last time it was updated was a while ago – say a month or more – then it is safe to say that the developer may not be able to update it regularly. That could mean that, even if it works now, it could stop working at any given time after a WordPress Core update in the future.
7. What is the version of the plugin?
If you don’t mind trying out new things, and replacing plugins often, then this shouldn’t be a problem. But if you are like me, who just wants everything working so I can focus on blogging, then you don’t want to install something that you may have to replace in a month or three from now.
As such, experience has taught me to look at the version of the plugin, combined with the number of user, and combined with the last time of update. Those three factors tell me for how long this plugin has been around, and how likely the developer is to continue updating it.
So – if you see a plugin that is at version 0.9 or 1.1, with only a hundred users, and the last update was three months ago…
On the other hand, if you see a plugin that has several thousand users, with a version number greater than 2.0, which was updated within the last month or so, that is a good indication that the developer will continue to work on updating the plugin.
Note: In many cases, however, plugins don’t require updates after WordPress Core changes – but then it shouldn’t show up as “untested with your current version of WordPress.” Combined with the above, that is a definite red flag.
8. How likely is it to cause problems?
The reality is that these plugins are developed by different people with different approaches, often continents apart. Most of them don’t know one another. As such, it is to be expected that there will be times when different plugins just won’t be able to work together.
The reasons are complex (for those of us who are not into coding), but think of it as a personality clash between two co-workers
Some things just don’t work well together.
So – do a quick Google search for “plugin name + problem/clash/conflict”, and see what turns up. If it is a plugin that causes problems, chances are that someone has asked a question about it on a forum somewhere. You can often find the info on the developer’s website (many of them have forums attached).
If you don’t see anything, go ahead and install – but do check that everything else is still working as it should.
Note: Depending on how important the plugin is, and whether thee are alternatives available or not, you may want to replace the plugin it clashes with instead.
9. How much is the impact on the loading speed of your blog?
Before and after you have made your choice and installed your new plugin, check the page loading speed of your blog (just do a Google search for “web page speed test” and pick one that works for you). Note the change. Is it small enough that you can live with it? Or does it slow your blog down too much?
Note: You can also use the page speed test to check the influence of your current plugins on the loading time of your blog, and if need be you can reconsider any plugins that contribute substantially to your page loading time.
At the end of the day, it comes down to a few basic things – is it necessary, will it get the job done without any problems or side effects, and will it keep doing so in the future.
It is within your discretion to compromise as needed – depending on your priorities – but every compromise carries a risk.
It’s your choice whether you want to install any WordPress plugin that poses a risk – but do consider whether it’s worth it or not.