Worried About WordPress Plugins Crashing Your Site?
Installing a plugin in WordPress is quite easy, even if you don’t know much about WordPress. What can be difficult, sometimes, is finding a good plugin that doesn’t break your site. Some plugins will conflict with your site’s theme, or vice versa. Some plugins are poorly coded and just don’t work. To find WordPress plugins that won’t break your site takes just a little investigative work.
In this article I am going to talk about:
- What are plugins and why you need them
- How to find WordPress plugins that are worth finding
- Premium vs Free Plugins
So, let’s get started.
What are plugins and why you need them
Basically, plugins add functionality to WordPress. WordPress is pretty bare bones when it is first installed. At Its core, it is designed to be lightweight and flexible. You can then customize the functionality of WordPress by adding plugins. This way you only have the functionality that you need and not a bunch of extras that don’t do you any good and only slow your site down.
Think about it this way, WordPress itself is the frame and engine and wheels of a car. Without these components, you are not going to go anywhere.
Where you have your website hosted would be the transmission. A good hosting platform will help you to have either a faster or slower speed. They can either get you up into fifth gear or keep you stuck in first.
The active theme is the sheet metal on the outside of the car, making it look like either a Yugo or a Mustang. The theme is where style comes in. They can look clunky, or sleek, or merely functional, just like automobiles.
WordPress Plugins are all of the cool accessories and gadgets that make the car fun. They add functionality, like a better stereo, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, rear camera’s, GPS, Heads Up Display (HUD), heated seats, etc.
If there is something that you want your WordPress website to do that it currently doesn’t, there is probably a plugin that will help you to get there.
You should also know that most plugins are FREE.WordPress Plugins are like all of the cool accessories and gadgets that make a car fun. Click To Tweet
How to Find WordPress Plugins that are Worth Finding
The first thing to do is to search for the type of plugin that you want to add. There are ways you can do this;
1 – go to the admin menu of your WordPress site, hover over Plugins and then select Add New, or
2 – go to WordPress.org/plugins/. They will both show you the same basic list of plugins. This is the main repository for FREE plugins.
There is a third way to look for plugins, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
I’m going to show you how to do this using the first way, the admin menu.
Hover over Plugins and then select Add New.
Next, search for the type or name of the plugin that you need. In this example I am going to search for a plugin to help us with SEO (Search Engine Optimization), so I type SEO into the search box, hit enter, and WordPress.org returns well over 1700 plugins to choose from.
“Holy cow!! How do I decide which one to use?”
That’s a good question. There are some telltale signs to look for on each listing as to whether or not the plugin is a good one. There are three things that I look at each time I am searching for a plugin:
- Helpful Plugin Ratings
- The Number of Active Installs
- Last Updated / Maintenance
If I like what I see on each of these, I will go ahead and give it a try. There is no absolute guarantee that it will still work for me, but it definitely increases the odds.
1 – Helpful Plugin Ratings
Does the plugin have a good rating, and is the rating based on a relatively large number of reviews. If the plugin has a 5-star rating based on 1 review, well, that just doesn’t help me. For all I know, the developer’s next door neighbor left that review in exchange for some IT help.
A three-star review based on 1000 reviews is much more helpful. Select ‘More Details’ and then ‘WordPress.org Plugin Page’. This will take you to the WordPress repository page for that particular plugin. There you can see all of the ratings, good and bad. You can click on the ‘1-star’ rating and see the negative comments if you want.
Just a side note here. As I am sure you are aware, there are a lot of negative people in this world, and there will almost always be negative comments on even the best plugins. I generally feel that the most helpful comments are in the two to four-star range. A lot of times these are the most well thought out reviews.
One star ratings can also be people who just didn’t know what they were doing and used the plugin incorrectly, but decided to blame the plugin instead of their own ignorance.
2 – How Many Active Installs?
The next thing that I look for is right below the rating; the number of installs. The more the better. The more people that are using it, the more it has been tested, the better it probably is.
In our SEO example, take a look at Yoast SEO as compared to everyone else. Yoast has over a million ACTIVE installs. This tells me that Yoast has a vested interest in keeping this plugin up to date and as bug-free as possible, as well as doing what it is meant to do.
This doesn’t mean that a plugin has to have a million active installs to be any good. The number might be 1,000 or 10,000. It’s kind of a relative number that you have to compare to other similar plugins.
3 – Is the Plugin Being Maintained?
The next thing that I look for is when the plugin was last updated. If the plugin is being actively maintained, you know that the developer is keeping up with any changes to the WordPress core and trying to fend off any conflicts.
One good way to know if the developer plans on continuing to update the plugin for the foreseeable future is whether or not there is a premium version of the plugin. If there is, this again tells me that the developer has a vested interest in continuing to maintain the plugin because they are earning income from it.
There are a lot of newer plugins out there that just haven’t had enough time to have very many ratings, if any at all, and they may only have a few installs. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t any good, they are just too new for reviews to be a good indicator of whether or not they are a good plugin.
Generally, I won’t use one that doesn’t have good indicators, however, if the functionality that I am looking for can’t be found in a well established plugin, I will give a new plugin a try and see what happens. If It breaks my site, I know how to deal with it; I can get rid of the plugin and try another.
Premium vs Free Plugins
I said earlier that there is a third way to find WordPress plugins, it’s not that hard really. Just do a Google search for what you need. For example, search for ‘WordPress Plugin for SEO’.
Yoast SEO should be at the top of, or very near the top of the list. This one will probably take you to the WordPress repository. Further down the list, there will be another link that takes you to the Yoast website. There, you can download the plugin directly.
This will be the case for most plugins that you find through search engines like Google or Bing. There are a lot of plugin developers out there and many will have a free version of their plugin on the WordPress repository and then a premium paid version on their own website. If the indicators on the free version are good, then it is a pretty safe bet that the premium version will be good as well.
You will, undoubtedly, find WordPress plugins that don’t have a free version listed in the WordPress repository. This makes it a lot harder to know if the plugin is any good. The normal indicators won’t be there.
You will have to do a bit more work to find WordPress plugins that are any good. You will have to search for forums for reviews of the plugin and see if they are favorable. If you can’t find any reviews or the reviews aren’t any good, you probably will want to avoid that particular plugin. Let the buyer beware.
In the next post, I’ll show you how to install plugins as well as how to get rid of bad ones if they break your site.
Has it been hard for you to find WordPress plugins that were any good? Have you ever had an experience with a bad plugin? Are there any other indicators you use to find WordPress Plugins. Please leave a comment below.