In the old days (like back in 2009) Tampa Bay business owners had to hire expensive programmers to code the functionality on their websites, but today if you own a WordPress website, you have access to more than 20,000 plugins, most of which are completely FREE! Sometimes there may be a modest fee associated with a plugin, or a paid upgrade available for additional options or enhancements, but oftentimes the plugin author simply requests credit for developing the plugin. There is nothing wrong giving credit where credit is due!
With so many plugins to choose from, evaluating the right plugin for your needs can be a time-consuming chore. Here are some tips for weeding out the inferior plugins until you only have one or two excellent prospects to evaluate.
- Have a clear idea of what you are looking for. For instance, maybe you want to display the local weather in your sidebar widget or you want to create a form that visitors can complete and email to you from your website.
- Search for plugins right from your WordPress Plugins > Add New page, using keywords and phrases that describe what you are looking for, i.e., weather, widget, sidebar or contact form, email.
- You’ll have several plugins to choose from, maybe even several pages of plugins to go through!
- Read the summary to see if it seems like a good fit.
- If so, the next step is to click the Details link underneath the plugin title.
- Read the more detailed description of the plugin. If you are an English speaker you’ll want a plugin with instructions written in good English that you understand. Programmers live all over the world and WordPress is a global application, but if you get a plugin written in Portuguese, it may be challenging to correct problems.
- If the description is compelling, continue your evaluation by looking on the right side of the page under the red Install Now button.
- How many days has it been since the last update? You’ll want to see that the plugin author is keeping up with WordPress and that the plugin is compatible with the current version of WordPress. If you see a note that the plugin is not compatible or that the author has not updated it in many months or even years, you’ll want to pass on it.
- How many times has this plugin been downloaded? If it’s been downloaded several hundred thousand of times that’s a sign of its popularity. Plugins become popular when they work well. If it’s only been downloaded a handful of times but is a very new plugin, you might want to try it keeping in mind there may be some fine tuning or bugs to work out.
- Don’t be fooled by the star rating! If the plugin has 5 stars but has only been downloaded a handful of times and the score is based on 3 ratings, those 5 stars really don’t mean much. However, if it has 4 1/2 stars and has been downloaded 200,000 times and the score is based on 500 ratings, that’s a very good indication this is a quality plugin.
- Click on the WordPress.org Plugin Page link.
- Scroll down a bit and look for a green button on the right side of the page that says View Support Forum.
- Now here’s where you can get a really good taste of what to expect from this plugin. Are there positive comments such as “This is a wonderful plugin,” or negative comments “Help! Why doesn’t anyone answer my questions!”. Do you see that the plugin author is responding to questions and resolving issues promptly or are there numerous “Bump” messages (people will post “Bump” to remind the plugin author about their pending question or unresolved issue)? When the plugin author responds to posts, is he/she polite and courteous or snippy and condescending?
- If you got this far and the plugin still seems suitable for your purposes, click the Screenshots link near the top of the page. This will give you an idea of how the administration panel of the plugin works. Does it look simple and include explanations? Or does it look complicated and overwhelming?
- Having completed your evaluation, go back to the plugin description through your WordPress Dashboard Plugins > Add New page, and click the red Install Now button.
Following these tips will get you started in the right direction when evaluating a new plugin for your WordPress website.
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