Not sure how to choose the best WordPress plugins for your website? Don’t know how to pick the right WordPress plugins? We’ve got you covered.
You need the best WordPress plugins for better productivity and efficiency of your website. With the right set of plugins, you can easily add powerful features, improve your site’s appearance, and make your site more friendly for users.
However, the process of selecting the perfect WordPress plugins is a bit tricky.
First and foremost, there’s an ocean of plugins (more than 60 thousand plugins including free and paid) available. Anyone can get confused! Second, there are many plugins of a similar kind, offering the same features. How to pick the best from many alternatives?
Besides the dilemma of choosing one from many, there are other quality factors to consider when selecting a plugin. We’ve covered all the things you should consider and prepared this checklist for choosing the best plugins. Let’s begin!
Why You Should Use the Best WordPress Plugins?
First of all, let’s talk about what a WordPress plugin is. Plugins are the small pieces of code that add extra features to WordPress. In other words, a plugin is a small extension app that you can install on your WordPress site to extend its functionality.
The plugins in WordPress are really useful and important. The fact to be told, WordPress core is a simple, cleanly coded, and lightweight software designed for publishing simple content online. But nowadays, you can use it to build any type of site, and even run a powerful eCommerce business. Plugins make it possible.
With plugins, you can add any functionality imaginable to your WordPress site. And, there are thousands of plugins available. But, not all plugins are built equally. Among the thousands of available plugins, some are outdated and even harmful.
Choosing the bad plugin could:
- Slow down your website – Bad plugins can harm your website speed badly. As a result, it also harms your site’s SEO and user experience.
- Crash your site or cause an error – WordPress plugins work on top of the core software, so have the ability to change the main site’s features. Installing a poorly coded plugin can cause errors or even crash your site.
- Expose your site to security vulnerabilities – Some low-quality plugins fall prey to hackers lurking around the web. Through such plugins, your site can also get in hands of bad people who can misuse your site data.
- Add a malicious code to your site – If you install any random plugin out there, then there’s also a chance of you installing malicious code. There are online thieves with glittery products. Using their plugin, you could get yourself robbed off.
- Make your site unresponsive – Responsive design means your site’s layout that adapts with all types of screens including mobiles. Old and outdated plugins can damage your site’s responsiveness.
These damages are plenty enough to explain why you should use only the high-quality good plugins. Plus, there are more points like technical support options. We’ll explain all of them below.
Choosing the Right and Best WordPress Plugins – Things to Consider
1. Make a List of Required Features
There are many different features and functionality that plugins can add to your WordPress site. Some are important for every kind of website whereas some are dependent on the type of website.
For example, a security plugin, an SEO plugin, a backup plugin, a contact form plugin, and a speed optimization plugin are a must for almost every website. Besides these are specific plugins useful to specific plugins.
So first, you must decide your site’s niche and prepare a list of plugins you’ll need. If you’re going to make a blog, then you need a specific set of blog plugins. Similarly, you need a different set of plugins for an eCommerce site, business site, or online portfolio.
In a nutshell, the list of required plugins differs for every website according to the goal, type of content, and model of business it follows. Therefore, you should write down your requirements and make a list of functions you need at first.
Next, you can start the search for the best plugins offering those functionalities. This will guide you in the right direction and also keeps you from getting distracted while choosing for the plugins.
2. Search for Plugins by Keywords
Once you have the list of plugin functionalities that you want, you can get into searching for the plugins that provide those features. Be it free or premium, there are lots of plugin stores from where you can get plugins.
Among all, the WordPress.org plugin directory is the most trustworthy place to get yourself free WordPress plugins. They alone have more than 57,000 free WordPress plugins.
Created by web developers around the world, you can get these plugins completely for free. And these plugins can be trusted for a minimum standard quality because they go through a rigorous review process before appearing on the directory. The plugin review team at WordPress.org is responsible for this job.
So, for free plugins, go to the plugins page at WordPress.org and start the search by entering a keyword in the search box. For example, you can type in ‘SEO’ in the search box and run the search.
Once the available SEO plugins appear, you can view each one by their features, user reviews, author’s reputation, etc. and choose the best WordPress plugins from them.
If you don’t find what you’re looking for in the free plugin repository, then you can search premium plugins. The most popular and largest paid plugin store is CodeCanyon, a plugin marketplace run by Envato. You can go to CodeCanyon’s WordPress category page and start the search.
There, you can find over 7,500 premium WordPress plugins by developers around the globe. You can pick a plugin suitable for your needs by checking different factors that we’ll discuss below.
Besides, there are many other third-party WordPress plugin provider websites that offer different types of plugins. You can check stores like WPEverest.com, Yoast.com, etc. for quality plugins.
3. Consider Your Budget – Free or Paid Plugin to Use
In the second point above, we talked about free and paid plugins and where they can be found. But now you may be thinking whether the free or paid (premium) plugin should you use. Let’s discuss this now.
As you know, there are thousands of free and paid WordPress plugins available. For every feature you search, you’ll find multiple plugins, both free and premium ones. Now, this creates the question – free or premium, which one is better?
The confusion gets more difficult when you see that free plugins promise almost the same features as provided by the paid plugins. Then, it’s a genuine question; why pay money for a premium plugin if your needs are met by a free plugin.
If it’s true that your needs are fulfilled by free plugins, then you can use them without any doubt. But if there’s more you’re looking for, then you should try premium plugins.
Generally, premium plugins charge you money for advanced options and better support. Actually, many of the free plugins also have premium plans where they provide additional features and dedicated support.
Besides that, premium plugins usually offer advanced and refined functionalities. Since they’re doing business for money, they constantly adjust their shortcomings with updates. Premium plugins are a great choice if you want a cleaner and good quality plugin.
But you should not haste on getting one without some research. Purchasing a premium plugin when not necessary is a waste of money. Therefore, it’s best to carry out plenty of research before proceeding to choose free or premium WordPress plugins for your website.
4. Check Out the Most Popular Plugins
The most popular plugins are the plugins most used, most loved, best-selling, and best-rated plugins. The plugins tried, tested, and still popular are usually the best plugins. So, they’re worth checking out.
The official WordPress plugin repository has a category ‘Popular’ where you can see the most popular plugins in a row. These are the plugins with the most active installations, most downloads, and best ratings.
You can scroll down this page and check if the plugins you’re looking for are there. If you like any plugin on this page, then you can check out details about that particular plugin, reviews by its users, support options, etc. We’ll explain how to check these in the steps below.
Similarly, there are various ways to find popular plugins in the CodeCanyon plugin marketplace. It has separate category pages for weekly best-sellers, all-time best-sellers, new bestsellers, trending, best-rated, etc.
This way, you can easily find out which plugins other people are loving. And, you can also try the popular products on your site.
5. Read User Reviews and See Ratings
User reviews and ratings are the most valid things you can check to actually know how a product is like. Users write what they actually experienced when using the product, be it good or bad. So, reading reviews by previous users is the best strategy to find the best plugins.
For plugins at WordPress.org, it’s easy to read user reviews. In every plugin download page, there’s the ‘Reviews‘ tab. Simply click on it and then you can see user reviews along with the average ratings based on those reviews. For example, see the review page of the Elementor plugin below.
By reading these, you can learn about the pros and cons of the plugins. From ratings, you can get idea of how many people loved the plugin and how many didn’t like it.
Similarly, you can find the ‘Reviews’ tab on the CodeCanyon plugins page as well. Upon clicking on the tab, you can see the latest reviews of the plugin along with the total number of them and average ratings.
For example, the screenshot below is review page of Slider Revolution plugin. It has 5 out of 5 average ratings out of 10,031 reviews. The 3 recent reviews look interesting too.
Always, make sure to check the customer reviews and feedback before installing a plugin on your site.
6. Choose Plugins Regularly Updated
It’s important for a plugin to have frequent updates to keep up with the latest WordPress updates. It’s also necessary to handle issues that users may have reported before. Thus, frequent updates mean more reliability and better security of the plugins.
For the free plugins at WordPress.org, you can easily find out when a plugin was last updated, which WordPress version uses, tested up to which version, and which PHP version it uses all at a glance. You can see these in the ‘Details‘ tab on every plugin’s download page.
For example, you can see the update details for Yoast SEO plugin in the screenshot below.
Similarly, you can find plugin update and compatibility details on other plugin stores too. At CodeCanyon, you can see these details on the right sidebar inside a box. There, you can find when the plugin was last updated, which other plugins it’s compatible with, which WordPress software version it supports etc.
For example, here’s how Essential Grid plugin’s update details appeared.
In case, you want to buy plugins from other plugin stores or plugin developer’s sites, you may see these details in other spots. Make sure to check the site well and find these details.
7. Customer Support and Documentation
Customer support is one very important thing you should never forget to check. It’s finding out how well plugin developers offer help when you need it. No matter how experienced you’re, you may need help at some point, while using the plugin. So, make sure to check it.
Factually, support options are usually better for the paid plugins in comparison to free plugins. The cost you pay also buys you quick and dedicated support, which is what spending money for premium plugins make it worthy.
If you download a free plugin from WordPress.org, you can get support from the plugin’s support forum page at WordPress.org. Every plugin there has a support page where users ask queries and the plugin authors respond to them.
On the plugin’s download page, you can find the ‘Support‘ tab, clicking on it will open the support forum.
You can find the link to the support forum on the right sidebar below the ratings as well.
When support forum page opens, it looks like this.
As shown in the above screenshot, you can see the questions by previous users, when they posted and whether the issues are solved or not. Clicking on the specific questions, you also find the answers by plugin authors. Plugins that respond soon are good.
Similarly, you can find a ‘Support‘ tab on CodeCanyon plugin pages too.
Clicking on that will redirect you to a specific plugin author website’s support page. You can request help from there. Sometimes, they’ll also redirect to their documentation page.
Documentation is another important thing to check out. Documentation refers to a collection of tutorials where they show how to use the plugin step by step. Also, they offer solutions to frequently asked questions. You can find documentation on specific plugin’s website.
Both free and paid plugin providers usually have this help option. Sometimes, support and documentation are organized on the same page too. For example, here’s Slider Revolution plugin’s support and documentation page.
In conclusion, make sure to check their documentation well before getting the plugin on your site.
8. Check the Reputation of Plugin Author
Before getting a WordPress plugin, it’s also important to consider its brand reputation. Since a good brand reputation comes from good work, you can trust the plugins from reputed companies.
Normally, you can expect the established and popular brands to provide frequent updates, fix the bugs or shortcomings quickly, add new features according to customers’ suggestions, and provide good support.
The most obvious way to check the brand’s reputation is by visiting its official website and view the testimonials. Or, you can check the company’s profile on review sites like Trustpilot.
For example, MemberPress is a popular WordPress plugin useful for building membership sites. Here’s company’s presence on Trustpilot.
Besides, you can also check the plugin provider’s portfolio on plugin stores like WordPress.org or CodeCanyon. For example, ‘sevenspark’ is a plugin author at CodeCanyon which developed the popular menu plugin UberMenu. On the plugin landing page, you can see author details like below.
The ‘Power Elite Author’ is a badge that Envato Market uses to signify the plugin authors that sold more than 1 million on its platform. It shows the brand’s popularity too.
Or you can simply search for the company’s testimonials online using search engines like Google.
9. Avoid Bad Plugins
In spite of all those tips, there are chances of choosing bad plugins. And, we’ve already discussed how choosing bad plugins can harm your site. So, you cannot afford to have any of these issues on your site. So, you should be very careful while choosing your plugins.
Here are some easy ways to avoid bad plugins.
- Always choose the plugins with frequent updates
- Check the user reviews and feedback
- Look at the number of users using the plugins because you can trust a plugin trusted by many
- Always test the plugins on a staging site or on localhost before installing them on your live site
With these points considered, we’re sure that you’ll find the best and right plugins for your site.
Best “Must-Have” Plugins for Every WordPress Site
Done with the steps on how to choose the best WordPress plugins, let’s quickly explore some of the must-have best WordPress plugins. As we stated above, there are some plugins useful to all the sites. They are mainly used for improving site speed, security, and etc.
To help you find the essential best plugins quickly, we’ve prepared a quick list here. Let’s explore.
- WordPress Backup Plugin – You should install a backup plugin as soon as you start your website. That’s because it’ll store all your site data in a secure location and allow you to restore your website immediately if you accidentally lose it. For backup, you can use UpdraftPlus (free) or VaultPress (paid).
- WordPress Security Plugin – Having a WordPress security plugin is important because it protects your site from being hacked. A good security plugin includes features like site scan, firewall, instant notifications, etc. For security, you can use Wordfence or Sucuri. Both are freemiums, available both in free & paid versions.
- WordPress Performance Plugin – A performance plugin helps you run your site faster and improves user-experience and SEO. It will take care of things like caching pages, minifying files, and compressing images. For speed optimization, you can use WP Super Cache (free) or WP Rocket (paid).
- WordPress SEO Plugin – Having a good SEO plugin can help you optimize your content to rank better in search result pages. Better search rankings hugely grow your site traffic and grow your sales. For SEO, we recommend the Yoast SEO plugin. It’s available both in a free and premium version.
- WordPress Form Plugin – Every site needs a contact form to communicate with the users. Plus, you may need subscription forms, feedback forms, etc. So, you need a form builder plugin. For WordPress forms, you can use WPForms (freemium) or Gravity Forms (paid).
If you want to check more of our recommended plugins, then please check our handpicked list of best WordPress plugins.
We hope that this article helped you learn how to choose the best WordPress plugins for your website.
As suggested above, start your plugin search by making a list of required features. And, then you can look for the best plugin for every feature you need.
You may also want to check our article on how to choose the right theme for your WordPress website.