How to Pick the Right Plugins for Your WordPress Website (In 4 Steps)

A little bit of structure can help expedite the selection process. Below are four easy steps that you can follow to pick the right plugins for your WordPress website.

Step 1: Identify Your Plugin Requirements

The first step is to decide what you need from a plugin. While this may seem obvious, assessing your exact needs can be surprisingly helpful. After you’ve created a list of features you’d like, you can also try prioritizing them. This can help you focus on finding a plugin that matches your primary requirements.

Many plugins have multiple uses. These tools can be time-savers, especially if you have several related needs. However, you may want to consider mixing and matching plugins, as this flexible outlook can expand your options.

It’s also important to understand that some plugins come at a cost. A premium plugin typically offers benefits such as extra features or priority support. Therefore, you may want to decide what functionality you’d be willing to pay for. If you’re on a tight budget, though, don’t stress. You’ll likely be able to find a free plugin (or a combination of similar plugins) that’ll help you achieve your goals even if you miss out on some of the premium features.

If you’re unfamiliar with WordPress extensions as a whole, we recommend browsing a few popular WordPress plugins to get an idea of what’s available.

The WordPress.org plugin directory displaying popular options.

With so many options, it can be easy to get turned around. We recommend keeping your particular needs in mind throughout the process to help you focus on your key features and establish some structure for your search.

Step 2: Search for a Plugin

After you’ve laid out your must-have features, you can start the process of searching for a plugin. Many developers offer downloads from their official sites. However, if you’re looking for a more centralized marketplace, it’s hard to go wrong with the WordPress Plugin Directory.

The WordPress Plugin Directory.

The WordPress Plugin Directory is the official place to find WordPress-approved software. Staff members check each submission for quality and security, so you’re likely to find a wide variety of top-notch programs.

As we mentioned earlier, some premium plugins require payment. However, you may also encounter tools that offer a free version alongside their premium options. Jetpack is an example of this “freemium” model.

An excerpt of Jetpack’s plugin description.

You might also come across free versions of premium plugins through unofficial channels. While these may seem appealing, we recommend avoiding them at all costs. They are often stolen versions that can put your site at risk for malware.

To ensure that your search circumvents pirated material, you stick to reputable websites. You might also want to steer clear of any scenarios that seem “too good to be true,” as these are often illegitimate products designed to trick users.

Once you’ve decided on a place to search for your plugin, you can start actively looking for a tool. Don’t be afraid to spend some time shopping around and exploring your options. After you’ve found a plugin that catches your eye, you can proceed to the next step.

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Step 3: Review Information About the Plugin

Next, you can focus on a single plugin. There are a variety of factors you’ll want to consider at this stage. In the WordPress Plugin Directory, most of the important information is accessible by scrolling down on the plugin’s page.

The WooCommerce main page in the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Using WooCommerce as an example, let’s start with ratings and reviews. You can find this section on the right-hand side.

A portion of WooCommerce’s information page showing the “Ratings” section.

WordPress ratings work on a star system, with one being the lowest and five being the highest. You can also access reviews by clicking on See all. These often include more specific information regarding the program. It’s important to peruse both positive and negative reviews for a balanced picture.

Next up, consider a plugin’s active installations and update schedule. This section is located directly above the ratings.

A close-up of WooCommerce’s installation statistics.

Last updated displays the most recent update, a crucial part of site security for any program. A large number of Active installations can also indicate a high-quality plugin. You can even check to see if the plugin is compatible with your version of WordPress to avoid breaking your site.

Let’s move on to the Support section, typically located under the ratings.

The support section of the WooCommerce plugin.

A high number of resolved issues is a positive sign, as it indicates that the developers are responsive. Reading through some support questions can also give you an idea of potential challenges you may face when using the software.

Finally, there’s plenty of other information on this page that might be helpful. For instance, scrolling down to the section marked Screenshots can show you the User Interface (UI). You might also want to check the FAQ section to learn more about common issues.

We recommend focusing on the factors that you find most important. Then you can use that personalized metric to easily compare different plugins. After you’ve narrowed your choice down to one tool, you can move on to the last step.

Step 4: Download and Test the Plugin

Finally, you can download the plugin and test it on your site. We encourage you to consult a plugin’s installation instructions before downloading it because they may contain important information to help you avoid software-specific issues.

Once you’ve checked any instructions, you can navigate to your WordPress dashboard. Select Plugins > Add New from the right-hand menu. Next, enter the name of the plugin you want to install in the Search plugins box. Here’s the WooCommerce result as an example.

The WooCommerce plugin as viewed from the dashboard.

Click on the Install Now button to start the process. After it’s done, the button will change colors and read as Activate.

The WooCommerce plugin button labeled “Activate.”

You must activate the plugin to use it on your site. Click it as soon as you’re ready to move on. Similar to installation instructions, some tools may come with an introductory message or setup tips. You may want to read these over in case they contain useful information.

After you’ve set up the plugin, you can start testing its performance. An important issue is how it impacts your site’s speed. To test this, we recommend using a tool such as GTmetrix.

The GTmetrix test tool.

Before you activate the plugin, we recommend testing your site’s baseline speed. You can write the results down and re-test once the plugin is up and running. If the plugin has a considerably negative effect on your speed, you may want to reconsider using it.

There are other ways that you can test a plugin. For instance, you may want to send a basic question to support to see how responsive the developers are. Alternatively, you might use a staging site to determine usability and front-end functionality.

In Summary

WordPress’ flexibility is wonderful. However, too many options can overwhelm you and make deciding difficult. Fortunately, you can find a well-fitting plugin by approaching the search systematically and focusing on your site’s needs.

In this article, we covered four steps to help you pick the right plugins for your WordPress website:

  1. Identify and prioritize what you need from a plugin.
  2. Search for your options in legitimate, quality marketplaces.
  3. Review the available information on each plugin’s page.
  4. Download the software and test it against your expectations.

Even with the perfect plugins, putting together a website can be tough.