Many of our clients are using WordPress as a CMS because of it’s extreme ease of use and large number of plugins made available by its community. One thing we take for granted is the knowledge behind what makes a WordPress plugin worthwhile. Is it the idea or the implementation? Maybe it’s both. But furthermore we take for granted the number of popular plugins and rarely take a look to see who has possibly done it better.
So here are a few of the things I take into consideration before installing a new WordPress plugin on our site.
Basically, if a plugin hasn’t been updated within the last few months there is cause for concern. Was the plugin really that good to begin with that it never needed to be updated? Chances are someone just forgot about it and it may not even be compatible with your current version of WordPress.
Speaking of compatibility. The WordPress plugin directory just added a new community moderated compatibility box. Once this takes off, if it takes off, it could become the most reliable way to find updated plugins.
Another sign of a quality plugin is just it’s popularity. Every plugin allows you to view it’s stats which can be a great metric for the plugins quality. Spikes in traffic are usually do to high profile referrals from sites like Smashing Magazine and LifeHacker which is usually a good sign the plugin is worthwhile.
Now just because a plugin is up to date and very popular does not mean it’s going to work the way you want. I always check the ratings and look into anything with less than 3 stars.
Proof of Concept
This is usually the first thing I look at when trying to decide between multiple plugins that serve the same function. Most good plugins will have a Screenshots page. I like this for two reasons:
- It shows how the plugin works and what your getting
- It shows the developer took the extra time to set up their readme.txt with the proper information
However, if there are no screenshots I’ll usually click on the Plugin Homepage link to see a working demo or screenshots on the authors site.
When all else fails, this is the best way to learn the inner workings of a plugin without installing it. It’s the easiest way to see what’s working and what’s not. Just look for the “See what others are saying…” text on the plugins Description page for a list of forum topics about the plugin. No topics can mean it’s just not popular or has no problems.
So now that you’re better educated on the art of finding new WordPress plugins, go and explore the WordPress directory with ease.