The Definitive Guide to Evaluating a WordPress Plugin
6 June 2014
Not all WordPress plugins are created equal.
It’s important to evaluate each plugin you put on your site. Every plugin you install could potentially cause problems or conflicts, and will need to be updated regularly when new versions are released. So, when it comes to WordPress plugins, our motto at Exygy is “less is more”.
But plugins can also save us lots of development time and provide cool functionality on our sites at the click of a button. So let’s walk through an example of how we evaluate WordPress plugins at Exygy.
Let’s say I want to be able to add social feeds to my site for Twitter and Instagram. I’ve just searched the WordPress Plugin Directory and found Feed Them Social, which looks promising.
Criteria #1: Is it the right tool for the job?
We’ll read the description and check out the Screenshots tab to make sure the plugin does what we need it to do:
Ok, it looks like it offers feeds for Twitter and Facebook. I’ve just checked out the two demo links and they look pretty good.
Now let’s check out the Screenshots tab to get a better idea of how the plugin works:
If I scroll down the page, I can get an idea of what options are available to me (in the admin), and how the feeds will look:
Looks good so far! Let’s move on to the next step.
Criteria #2: Is it compatible with my site?
We need to make sure our plugin is compatible with a recent version of WordPress.
We see in the top right corner that the plugin is compatible up to 3.9.1, which is the latest version of WordPress at the time of this post. That tells us that the plugin developer has tested the plugin on 3.9.1.
If you’re using an older version of WordPress (which you shouldn’t be!), you’ll need to check the Requires field to make sure the plugin doesn’t require a higher version than you are using. If it does, you’ll probably want to upgrade to the latest version (which you should do anyway to stay current, and to minimize the chances of your site being hacked).
Alternatively, if the plugin said it was only compatible up to 3.7, for instance, then I’d check the lower right Compatibility section. That will tell me if other people say it works on the latest version of WordPress.
Criteria #3: What do other people think of it?
Lots of people are probably using this plugin already. Let’s see what they have to say:
We can see that the plugin has been downloaded almost 50,000 times, and that the average rating is 4.6 out of 5 stars. That’s very good! If I wanted, I could also check out the Reviews tab and read some of the reviews, but with a rating that high, I’m going to skip that step.
Criteria #4: How is the support?
It’s important that a plugin is well-supported. You want to be sure the plugin developer will respond if there are bugs in the plugin, or if it breaks when a new version of WordPress comes out (which does happen).
First, check the “Last Updated” date. It should have ideally been updated sometime within the last year. This one was updated yesterday. Awesome!
Next, we’ll want to check whether the plugin developer is responsive to support requests:
We see that 4 out of 6 support threads have been resolved in the last 2 months. That’s pretty good, but not perfect. Let’s check the Support tab for more info:
It looks like there are several recent requests that haven’t been resolved, but going down the list, most of the requests have been marked [resolved], so I feel pretty confident about that.
Now the last thing to do is to try it out! We highly recommend NOT doing this on your live site.
Install it on your development site or staging site first, play around with it and test it out. Once you’ve found that it will fit your needs, then you can install and configure it on your live site!