Have you ever had to rent your house? When choosing a prospective tenant, you would first need to find out all you could about the tenant. This would probably mean running a background check, checking rental history, etc. Only when you were completely satisfied would you turn over the keys to your house. Right?
Choosing a WordPress plugin works the same way. You need to make sure the plugin is safe before you install it on your website.
But why should you be careful when choosing a plugin?
It’s very easy to find similar plugins for the same functionality in the WordPress plugin repository. However not all plugins are properly maintained or have been coded correctly.
So, let’s take a look at Three tips for choosing a safe plugin from the WordPress Plugin Repository.
Most people just look at the ‘Average Star Rating’. And although this is helpful, these three tips will help you make a wiser choice:
- Version Compatibility
- Last Update of the plugin
- Number of Downloads
Before we jump in, remember never just install a plugin. First, verify the following safety tips.
1) Version Compatibility
Check the ’Requires‘ value. This tells you what version of WordPress the plugin requires. If the WordPress version is very old then chances are that the plugin has not kept up with the latest WordPress developments and should be avoided.
Also check the ‘Compatible up to’ value. It is not always essential that it should be the latest version but it should be close to the latest WordPress version. Stay away from plugins that are compatible with a very old release of WordPress.
For e.g. If the latest version of WordPress is 3.5.1 and the plugin is as follows:
Compatible up: to 2.8.2
This would definitely be a plugin to avoid as the plugin developer may not be supporting this plugin anymore.
Next we should look at how often the plugin is updated.
2) Last Update of the plugin
Check the ‘Last Updated’ date. This tells you when the plugin was last updated. Good plugins are regularly updated to keep up with the latest trends in WordPress and to provide new features. And it also means that the plugin developer is actively supporting the plugin.
If the plugin has not been updated in over a year. You should avoid that plugin, because even though the plugin may have been downloaded in the past the developer may have moved on.
3) Number of Downloads
Look at the number of ‘Downloads’. This will tell you how many people have tried or use the plugin. Popular and safe plugins are obviously downloaded more often. If the plugin has been downloaded only a few thousand times, make sure it is a new plugin or a very niche plugin.
For e.g. If you are choosing a plugin for a contact form, which is a very common feature for a website. Choose a plugin that has been downloaded in the hundred thousand range. This will ensure that you get a tried and true plugin.
I will build website without plugins!
Unfortunately, all WordPress websites need a few basic plugins. Even if you have just a simple blog. You do need to have functionality for common things like social media, backup and spam protection etc.
So while it’s not good to overload your website with plugins, you still need a few starter plugins.
There are thousands and thousands of plugins available in the WordPress Plugin Repository. And while care should be taken about installing too many plugins, you cannot get away from the fact that you need plugins.
Just like you need to choose the right tenant before you hand over your house keys. Always first look at the plugin for:
- version compatibility
- last updated date
- number of downloads
This will help you make a wise and safe plugin choice before you install it on your website.
Have you had a problem with a plugin? Do share your experience with me.
If you still feel unsure, don’t hesitate to Contact Me. I will be more than happy to answer your questions.