One of the greatest features of WordPress is the extensive directory of 38,963 plugins readily available to help you extend and expand the functionality of your website. When searching for a plugin, it can be temping to pick one that sounds perfect when reading the title and description. But, before clicking that install button, you should ask yourself these 4 important questions:

1. Is the plugin actively maintained?

Below is the overview (plugin card) for Advanced Custom Fields by Elliot Condon. This is an example of a widely used plugin that is actively supported. When you find a plugin that looks to be a good fit for your needs, the first thing you should do is check out the “Last Updated” section. If it’s been a long while since the last update, that should be a red flag. Depending on the purpose of the plugin, one that has not been updated in a while could have compatibility issues with the current version of WordPress or even worse: expose your site to security vulnerabilities.

2. How frequent is it updated?

Once you found a plugin that looks like a fit and has been updated recently, the next thing you should do is view the plugin’s detail page and check the Changelog. The only thing we are looking for here is the frequency of updates. Just like a plugin that has not been updated recently is a red flag, so is a plugin that has been updated too often. This typically means the author is constantly putting out fires, which can mean the plugin author is not thoroughly testing their work.

3. What is the average rating?

Now, you’ll want to check out the ratings to see what other people saying about the plugin. The first thing I recommend doing is check the average rating. If it’s 4 or above, it means people are generally happy with the plugin. I’ve found that plugins rated within the 3’s probably do what they say, but not very well. Anything below a 3 should not be considered. As a rule, I always check the 1 and 2 star ratings, even if the plugin is highly rated. In these lower ratings, people usually have specific reasons why they are giving a poor review. Some times it’s frivolous, but you may find that someone had a specific issue that is relevant to why you need the plugin. The caveat to reviewing these lower ratings is the date of the review. If the plugin has been around for a while, an issue one had with the plugin a year ago may have been resolved in an update.

4. What are the total number of ratings?

If the plugin has a large number of ratings, you can feel pretty confident in the accuracy of the average rating. However, if the plugin only has a handful of reviews, the jury may be out on whether the plugin is really as good or bad as the average rating states.

Now you tell us: what other advice do you have when choosing plugins for your WordPress site? Let us know in the comments below!