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The Ins and Outs of Picking the Best WordPress Plugins for Your Website

Working at a website design company for almost four years now, I’ve had my hands in a lot of website projects. Each project varies from the simple brochure-style website to the more robust “Sears Winter Catalog” website with all of the bells and whistles. However, at its core, each website of ours works essentially in the same way by operating on a WordPress content management system platform.

WordPress is designed to be lightweight and lean, in order to provide maximum flexibility and simple code structure. To add functionality to the platform, plugins are programmed that offer custom functions and features to a website so that you can tailor your website to fit your business’ needs.

WordPress plugins are available from a variety of sources, but the most popular and WordPress’ “official source” for plugins is the WordPress.org repo.

At the type of this blog release, there were 47,882 plugins available for download within the repository. Looking at this figure, it’s astonishing the amount of functionality that can be added with a quick click, however, it’s important to learn a little about each plugin before doing so. Due to that, I felt it was important to educate novice WordPress users before they look into downloading each and every plugin that sounds interesting.

Start off with a quick “search” for a plugin you’re interested in adding to your site.

Plugging in the words “photo gallery” or “directory” is a great way to start the search for finding the best plugin for your needs. Those 47,000+ plugins will turn into a more reasonable few hundred.

Read the plugin description 

Each plugin listed in your search will have a short plugin description that will mention all of the attributes of that plugin. Although this is a beneficial feature that will help you immediately slim your list down to a few, it’s not as helpful as it could be. Due to this, I would recommend clicking on the plugin you are interested in learning more about to get a more in-depth plugin description, Installation tips, FAQs, screenshots, and even potential video breakdowns of the plugin functionality.

Take a look at their ratings

You might find a handful of plugins that sound like they have all the functionality that you are looking for at first glance, however, take a look at their ratings. It’s possible that the plugin you are interested in doesn’t function as well as the plugin description makes it out to be.

See how many downloads have been made for the plugin

Clearly mentioned in the WordPress plugin’s listing there are the Plugin name, description, ratings, and the number of times the plugin has been downloaded. Popularity is important when searching for a plugin. It’s more likely that one of the following is true when seeing large download numbers:

  1. A lot of people are looking for the same functionality you are and this developer was awesome and developed it!
  2. This plugin works pretty brilliantly and adds functionality to many individuals’ websites that other websites should be jealous of.
  3. The plugin developer really knows their stuff and is awesome at providing support when others are in need.
  4. The plugin is up-to-date and continuously adds new attributes that make it even more amazing.

Make sure the plugin is still up to date

The last thing you want to do is fall in love with a plugin that hasn’t been supported in years. Out-of-date plugins are a HUGE risk to WordPress websites by providing antiquated code that can easily be hacked into by bots that plant malware in your website, causing it to be taken down or flagged as malicious by Google.

All of these tips should give you a great head start to doing some plugin research on your own! When it is all said and done the most important thing for you to know when searching for a plugin that is the right fit for you – take a chance and download a few. In the end, you can always get on your website, delete it, and try another!