5 ways to choose and use plugins like a pro

Plugins

Plugins – the ideally practical, sometimes clunky accessories of the WordPress world. They can make your website simpler to manage – or they can clash with your theme or other programs and screw everything up.

Ah, plugins. Can’t live with you, sometimes want to stuff your face with kale and make you better (this is the kind of week I’ve had: the kind that only allows me to write semi-coherent blog posts because my brain feels mushy. And not because I’ve been partying. I’m a professional. I get high on gluten-free cupcakes. Also on flying over cityscapes sporting a swank purple cape. More on this soon.)

You’ve searched for something you can use and finally found a plugin that sounds fantastic, like it will maybe make ¼ of one of your dreams come true. But… are all plugins built the same way? How do you choose the right ones? And how should you weed out any that could be holding back your website?

Let’s make your website fitter, happier, and more productive without sending it to a therapist:

1) How to find what you need

You might expect to find everything you desire within the WordPress directory, but this is not the case. Trust Google first on this one. Premium (paid) plugins – such as WishList Member, used to build membership sites – will not show up in the directory even though they may be exactly what you’re looking for. So try Google first, and if you have no luck, move on to the WordPress directory.

2) Reviews

Take a minute or two to peruse the reviews. You may quickly learn of any existing bugs to be mindful of. And whether the plugin sucks.

not updated

3) Updates

When is the last time your plugin of choice was updated? The WordPress directory will alert you with a rectangular yellow box if it has not been updated in the past two years. Forget those. Get demanding with this and go for one that’s been updated in the past six months, ideally. This will help ensure there are no bugs and that it is compatible with the latest version of WordPress and perhaps even other programs you may be running.

4) Ask yourself

Do you really need it? Is there a plugin you already have that can fulfill the functions of the one you want to install? Can you find a plugin that carries out several functions you need at once? For example, if you have a plugin installed that automatically backs up your website, and you’re also using a security plugin with multitasking abilities, you could perhaps configure the latter to also back up your site. You could then deactivate and delete your original backup plugin while still having your website automatically backed up and the files delivered to you regularly.

5) Discard non-essentials

Deactivate and delete any plugins you are not using. Even when deactivated, they can still interfere with their peers and cause mysterious and frustrating problems – don’t be surprised if you’re running dozens of plugins and encountering random issues with your site! Think of it as weeding toxic people out of your life. I do this about once a year to help me consciously grow healthier and happier (do I sound like a hippie yet?). So go zen and let go of any potential plugin villains that may be undermining your website. And ugly fonts like Comic Sans. And shoulder pads. Although some hipsters seem to be pulling those off. My mom does too. Go mom.

Rejoice! You now know of 5 simple ways to choose and use plugins like a pro.

Tell me: what kinds of plugins would help your website be “fitter, happier, and more productive”? What plugin villains can you kick out right now?

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4 Responses to 5 ways to choose and use plugins like a pro

  1. I have been purging evil plugins for a while… Getting a good testimonial rotation thingie up was bad and I tried and deleted a ton… In the end I had to pay for a headway extension…

    • Hey Maria!

      Yes, it’s rough finding exactly what you need sometimes. I finally found one I like but it’s very bare bones and I will code some CSS into it when I get the time to make it look more attractive.

      How’s the Headway extension working out?

      xo

    • Hi Dot!

      No need to be fearful :) trudge on through and install that first plugin already; you’ll see it’s not so bad after all :) They all come with instructions, there’s often a FAQ and a forum, and if you get lost you can come back here and ask me what you want to know.

      xo

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