Adding functionality to your WordPress website can be a daunting task. Whether you want a contact form, a security scanner, or some other piece of functionality, the options are usually:
- doing it yourself; or
- paying someone else to do it for you.
Whilst the second option will most likely guarantee your needs are met, sometimes the first can be worth exploring – assuming, of course, that a) you know your way around your WordPress website and b) you can deal with the potential issues that come from getting it wrong.
So if you choose the DIY approach, what options are there? In most cases, unless you are a software engineer, custom development can be ruled out. If you really need custom work done, then paying someone else is 100% the way to go. That leaves the option we will discuss in this article: Using a WordPress plugin.
A WordPress plugin does what a mobile app does for your smartphone: it adds functionality. The big difference is that your phone is private and your website is not. Any issues caused by installing the wrong plugin (app) on our website can lead to disastrous results for you and the users of your website.
With over 55,000 plugins available in the WordPress.org plugin directory, there is certainly a wide range of potential functionality to add to your WordPress website. But it is not as simple as picking the first plugin you come across.
So before you dive in and start installing plugins like they are going out of fashion a few things should be considered.
How well-rated is the plugin?
The mob can be harsh but often speak the truth when ratings are involved
The plugin’s average rating is your first port of call when grading a plugin. Anything less than 4 stars out of 5 should trigger doubts about a plugin.
Most decent plugins are rated fairly well and chances are with the vast amount of plugins available if you do find one that is low on the scale there will be a suitable higher-rated alternative plugin to use instead.
What do the plugin’s reviews say?
Often it is the poor reviews that tell the true story
After checking the star rating of a plugin, dive into the reviews and see what the people say. People will say whatever they want (it’s the Internet) and it is that unfiltered commenting that can provide some valuable truth about a plugin.
If the reviews are largely favourable then more often than not you’re looking at a good plugin. If the reviews are more of the 1 or 2-star variety then you should be concerned.
In saying that, not all poor reviews will be a fair reflection of the current state of the plugin. Check the date of each poor review – the reviewer might be talking about a particular piece of functionality that was broken that the plugin author might (fingers crossed) have fixed since.
Does the Plugins developer pass the test?
Trusting someone else’s code should be a decision not taken lightly
According to Wordfence plugin vulnerabilities account for 55.9% of known entry points to a hacked WordPress website. That’s a scary thought! That is why it is critical that you perform a few background checks on any plugins you intend on installing on your WordPress website. You need to be able to trust whoever has developed the plugin.
How to tell if a plugin developer is trustworthy
There are a number of checks you can perform to get a good gauge of how trustworthy a plugin and its developer are before installing them on your site. These include (but are not limited to) the following:
How active is the developer? Do they frequently update the plugin?
By updating the plugin on a regular basis the developer shows that they care about the plugin (and therefore, you, as a user).
Updates generally include bug fixes and important security patches, which further enhance the security of the plugin and consequently your website.
Sometimes they answer. Sometimes they don’t: do they actively engage in the support forum?
By regularly engaging in the plugin’s support forum, a developer can stay on top of any issues that arise.
A developer will, of course, test their plugin, but firsthand feedback via a support forum is a valuable resource that good developers make the most of.
Plugins have plenty of redeeming qualities. They can make things easier and a whole lot quicker, and most importantly, they can add functionality to your website with literally the click of a button. You need to be careful but as long as you adhere to my tips above and use some common sense, the WordPress plugin directory is a treasure trove to be explored.
However, not every problem is best suited to a plugin solution. In fact, many are not!
For those problems that require more specialised solutions Mogul can help. As we have just seen picking a plugin can be a risky business but at Mogul we deal with plugins and websites every day and have therefore come across quite a few over the years.So if you need any guidance on your plugin journey or require something more unique to your situation that a plugin cannot provide we are here to help.