How to find and evaluate WordPress plugin

Evaluate WordPress plugin fit without looking at the code in 8 steps

You have a WordPress site up and running and you need to add new functionality.

Simple, add a plugin right ?

Right. However how do you search for right plugin from 47,748 plugins on WordPress repository ?

This is just the official repository, for simplicity, I am leaving out other sites and plugin vendors.

Back to our question, how do we find a plugin, simple search for the keyword.

So you go ahead and do that and find 1000+ results sorted alphabetically !

This is where it gets interesting (and sometimes daunting) for a non-technical user.  How do you find and evaluate a WordPress plugin without looking at the code ?

Let me give you simple steps to find and evaluate a WordPress plugin.

For explaining the steps, I will search for a caching plugin. Let me break it down our evaluation in two phases viz.

  1. High level evaluation: To search for 3 top choices for plugin
  2. Detailed evaluation : To evaluate WordPress plugin  or make up your mind to go with it

High Level Evaluation

Step #1

Yes, you guessed it right, go to WordPress repository.

Step #2 Keyword Search

Search for relevant keyword, in this case caching.


Step #3 Check top three based on active installs

At the time for writing this article, 1 plugin that stands out on this criteria is W3 Total Cache(W3TC) which exceeds a million installs, second  is Comet Cache with 40,000 + and third is WP Super Cache with 30,000+ active installs.

At this point, it is pretty clear that we will choose from one of these. To make up our mind, will need to further carry out detailed evaluation with each of the above choices.


Detailed Evaluation

This involves checking the plugin detail page


# Step 4 Check plugin compatibility

For W3TC, these are the numbers as of today

Requires: 3.2 or higher
Compatible up to: 4.6.1

Hence it is compatible with our WordPress setup.

# Step 5 Check plugin ratings

What are the ratings ?

W3 Total Cache has 4.3/5 which is good rating.

How many ratings make this average rating ?

Just high ratings is not enough,  important question to ask is how many people(%) have contributed to make up this average rating ? If a plugin has just one rating and that is 5 star might be misleading. Here 2,413 people have given a 5 star rating which is quite impressive.

# Step 6 How actively is the plugin updated ?

This is important as there are quite a few plugins which were started and have not been updated for over 2 years. They might pose a problem with compatibility and might well be abandoned by the author who has chosen to pursue some other projects.

# Step 7 How active is the development and support ?

If you are stuck, is author responsive to queries. How many support questions lie unanswered ? If there is a large enough community using it you might get them answered by community else you pretty much need to find it out on your own.

These are the numbers with my comments in brackets.

Last Updated: 2 months ago (project is pretty active)

35 of 392 support threads in the last two months have been marked resolved. Sizeable number of queries resolved in last two months but need further investigation on what is the big chunk which is not resolved. In such a case you might need one more step to make up your mind.

# Step 8 What are the outstanding support questions ?

I would answer the following three questions to make up my mind

  1. Are there any major issues outstanding for a long time ?
  2. Or are all issues regarding understanding of how to use the plugin OR
  3. Are most issues new issues of ‘I don’t know how to do X with your plugin’ ?

Looking at the forums, I don’t see any major issues outstanding and most of the first page issues were posted few hours ago. Which gives me confidence to go ahead and use the plugin.

Now this is a great plugin, I have used it, does not mean you might like it as well as it has too many options to configure which might overwhelm a non-technical user.

I recommend, repeat the 8 steps to evaluate WordPress plugin with the other two choices and make up your own mind.

Happy evaluating !

Video Update : How to find and evaluate a WordPress plugin ?

This is a video update to this post as of 15th Feb 2017

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