Right now there are 16,852 free plugins on WordPress.org and numerous other premium plugins for sale on developer sites around the web. At Bourn Creative we stick to a core group of plugins to accomplish what we need and want, but occasionally a need will arise that is out of our normal stable of trusted plugins. When this happens and our clients’ project has a limited budget that doesn’t allow for the development of a custom plugin, I start the hunt for a plugin option.
If I am looking for a free plugin,I start out at wordpress.org (never from inside the WordPress dashboard). After searching and finding potential candidates, I look at the information on the plugin page: (I won’t use a free plugin that is not hosted on WordPress.org)
Here’s What I Initially Look For When Evaluating a Plugin:
- Version History: Is this a new plugin or has it been around for a while and the author continues to support it and fix bugs?
- Number of Downloads: If the plugin has been downloaded a million times odds are it will be more stable that one has been downloaded only a few hundred times.
- Compatibility: Is the plugin compatible with the latest release of WordPress? Some plugins on WordPress.org were written a while ago and may not be compatible with the latest version.
- Last Time Updated: This one isn’t necessarily a do or die if I will use the plugin, but a history of updates and bug fixes is a good sign the plugin author is continuing to update and support it.
- Plugin Documentation: Most good plugins will have fairly decent documentation on its WordPress.org page, and many also will have links back to the developer’s site with further installation, configuration, and troubleshooting documentation.
- Plugin Author: I like to look and see what other (if any) plugins the author may have created and investigate the same items above.
If The Plugin Looks Good, Here Are My Next Steps:
If I like what I see on WordPress.org about a particular plugin my next step is to visit the developer’s website and check out any of the further documentation. After that I go to Google and do a search for the particular plugin. The first few results are usually for the plugin developer’s website and wordpress.org, but after that you can usually find a review by someone else. There are lots of great WordPress blogs out there (like ours) and almost all of them will do plugin reviews as blog posts.
If everything sounds good at this point and I think the new plugin will fit my need, I feel pretty comfortable testing it out. We maintain an extra hosting account just for testing, but most people with a WordPress site don’t, so just be sure to perform a complete backup of your site before a trying out a new plugin.