An important point to be aware of when dealing with CMSes like WordPress that have the facility to take “plugins” (ie easy software addons), is that not all of them have the quality you might want for your website.
We recently had one of our blog authors completely take down a large WordPress site by installing a badly broken plugin.The question is, how can you assess that quality before making the mistake of installing a bad plugin that destroys your website?
It’s not always obvious what plugins you can trust, so how can you tell? Over the years we’ve built up some simple rules for getting a quick idea of the quality of a piece of open source software, which apply equally well to checking out a plugin.
Here are some of the checklist items that we use in assessing quality levels of opensource software:
- The plugin is well documented – maybe it has some good screenshots, a clear description of what it does, and some clear tips or configuration items. Spelling and grammar errors are a red flag – if they have errors in the documentation that you can see, what’s in the code that you can’t see?
- The plugin has at least 3 stars (ie 3 out of 5) – means that other people think it’s OK
- The plugin has a high download count – if only 10 people have used it, 4 stars is meaningless! On the other hand if 10,000 people have downloaded it, you could guess it might be fairly stable.
- There are good reviews on the internet and press for the plugin – this is a very good clue that the plugin is more likely to be trusted.
- Talk to other developers and find out what they are using – the good experience of others in your network is always a great recommendation! Particularly when those people are smart and/or experienced.
- Use paid plugins particularly if the amounts are small and the plugins are good – they are more likely to be supported and more likely to be higher quality. Of course, they should pass most of the above as well as being paid! Often “paid” means as little as $10 or $15 which counts for little over the lifetime of a website if the plugin is useful.
Hopefully these tips have been helpful – please let us know some plugins you like using and comment on this article if you’ve found it useful.