As a WordPress user, it’s important to understand that not all plugins are created equal.
WordPress is opensource software, and this means that independent developers are able to create and publish plugins (and themes).
This is great because it means that the plugin ecosystem is very large and well supported. But there’s a drawback to this: it means that some plugins are created by unskilled (or uncaring) developers.
This article covers the key things you need to know before choosing a plugin for your WordPress website.
> Four Things to Check Before Installing a WordPress Plugin
>> 1) Check User Reviews
>> 2) Check Number of Active Installations
>> 3) Check Date Last Updated
>> 4) Check Support Is Responding to Issues and Questions
What to Know Before Installing a WordPress Plugin
When an unskilled developer brings a plugin into the world, there are two key concerns you should be aware of:
- It’s more likely that the plugin will introduce serious security exploits to your website.
- It’s more likely that the plugin will cause your website to run slowly, or potentially break completely.
Anyone who has a career in the WordPress industry will have stories to tell about a plugin that broke a website due to poor quality coding, or stories about how a bad plugin gave hackers access to a website.
Four Things to Check Before Installing a WordPress Plugin
So, how do you avoid making a bad decision when it comes to installing your plugin of choice? Great question!
The answer is due diligence: spend some time looking for evidence that the plugin is well supported by the developer and well received by the community.
If you don’t take the time to properly check your potential plugin as discussed below, then you’re putting your website at risk.
1) Check User Reviews
User reviews are an important consideration. Ideally, any plugin you decide to install should heavily lean towards overall positive reviews across a large number of total reviews.
Even the very best plugins will pickup a sprinkling of negative reviews. As long as the plugin you’re considering is mostly well-received by the community, this is a very good sign.
2) Check Number of Active Installations
A high number of active installations is a good sign that the plugin is compatible with the majority of other plugins and WordPress software.
Put another way, a low number of active installations might be an indicator that the plugin might not play very nicely with the active plugins that are commonly found in the current ecosystem.
For reference, the most popular plugins on the planet boast millions of installs.
We generally would be fairly cautious about installing a plugin that has less than 90 000 active installations. Though, this isn’t to say we would disregard a plugin with a low number of installations, simply that we would spend more time investigating it before deciding to use it.
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3) Check Date Last Updated
Plugins that are actively maintained by their developers are much safer to use than plugins that have been abandoned by their development team.
As the WordPress ecosystem continues evolving over time, plugins that are abandoned by their developers eventually introduce serious security flaws and are likely to break other functionality of your site.
Be very careful about installing any plugins that haven’t been updated within the last 6 to 12 months!
4) Check Support Is Responding to Issues and Questions
Have a quick look through the support section of any plugin you’re considering.
If issues or questions are going unanswered by the developer, this is a red flag. Ideally, you should see that the developer is responsive, helpful and providing assistance to any questions.
Final thoughts: dealing with a faulty WordPress plugin is an unfortunate possibility of working with an opensource software like WordPress. Before you install a plugin for your site, make sure it’s well-received by the community and being actively supported/updated by its developer.