If you have a WordPress site, then you are probably familiar with plugins.  (If you don’t have a WordPress website then go here) WordPress plugins are added tools that add features and functionality to your website.

Think of them like apps for your smartphone.  Different apps serve different purposes. You download and use the one you need for a specific task.  They enable you to do things on your phone that you couldn’t do before.  When you buy or install an app, a programmer or developer has done all the hard work. You’re benefiting from his/her creation. It’s adding value to your life in some way. 

Similarly, WordPress plugins enable you to do things on your website that you couldn’t do with just WordPress alone. Plugins enable us to easily add extra features to our WordPress sites without having to code or hire a web developer. 

Over 59,000 WordPress Plugins? Oh my!

As with apps, there are thousands of plugins to choose from. There are plugins that work “behind the scene” – like backup, SEO, and security plugins. In addition, there are others that allow you to change the look of your website – such as plugins for image sliders, fonts, and testimonials. I’ve shared my top five favorite plugins, but there are other great ones out there too!

With all the thousands of options, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. How do you know which plugin to choose? Or, whether you really need a certain plugin?

Do I Need This Plugin?

Here’s a very handy flowchart that shows the decision-making process you should follow before installing ANY WordPress plugin.

install wordpress plugin flowchart

Graphic courtesy of SixRevisions.com

Questions to Ask Before Installing Any Plugin

Question 1:  Do I need this plugin?

What prompted you to investigate this plugin? What does this plugin do? Ask yourself if you really need this plugin to gain a specific desired function or feature on your website.

If you answer yes, move to Question 2…
If not, don’t install it.

Question 2: Can I do what I need without this plugin?

Sometimes you can accomplish what you want without a specific plugin. It’s always better to have fewer plugins on your site. For example, you don’t need a YouTube plugin on your site, because YouTube gives you specific code to embed in your site to show a video. 

If you answer yes, don’t install it.
If no, move on to Question 3…

Question 3: Is this plugin better than other competing plugins?

If yes, install it.
If no, create a list of other plugin options to evaluate

Evaluating other Plugin Options:

  • Is the plugin company or creator credible?
  • Which plugin has the best update track record?
  • Does it have many, many (perhaps thousands) of active users?  
  • Does it have a five-star rating?

Here’s a short 2 min video that walks you through the diagram:

Final Thoughts on Plugin Decision-making

It’s fun to play around with plugins. However, it’s important to know some plugin basics AND ask yourself some questions before installing any plugins. For example, installing an old plugin that hasn’t been updated in years could make your site vulnerable to hackers. Also, your WordPress theme might not work well with certain plugins. Badly designed plugins could cause website performance issues.

Before installing a plugin, do your research and go to WordPress.org and look at the popularity of the plugin: the number of active installs, the number of stars, when it was last updated,  the reviews, and is their support forum active.

Need more help with Plugins?

How to evaluate a plugin is a topic that I’ve taught for years in the Website Creation Workshop. Even if you already have some plugins installed on your website, it probably is a good idea to review them from time to time, using the flowchart above. And remember to keep the number of plugins you have to only the ones you absolutely need!


Do you have an existing website with WordPress? Click here to watch my free training on the top 10 plugins that every website needs and join me in the Website Marketing Workshop. https://www.WebsiteMarketingWorkshop.com/

(This article was originally published in June 2015)

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