How to Find the Right Plugin?

by Martin Malden

I’m often asked which is my favourite WordPress plugin.  A difficult question to answer since I have 20 plugins on this site and they’re all my favourites!

Each of those plugins is there for a specific (but different) reason.  And within each reason, the plugin I’ve activated is my favourite.  

So it would be better to ask which is your favourite anti-spam plugin.  Or your favourite SEO plugin.

Plugins extend the functionality of your WordPress blog enormously (and there are more than 4,000 of them available) but you need to be thoughtful about adding them.

Why?

Because plugins add overhead to your site.  They tend to slow down site load times, and sometimes they will clash with each other or even with WordPress itself.

For example the WP-Automatic-Upgrade plugin caused the Auto Update function available in WordPress 2.7 to fail.

So here are some thoughts about adding plugins:

  1. Understand that the base WordPress application is pretty bland.
  2. Analyse carefully, and understand thoroughly, which areas of your WordPress installation you want to strengthen.
  3. Research plugins that address those specific areas.  There are usually quite a few of them.
  4. Upload and test a few of the plugins you like the look of.  Only activate and test one at a time.  In fact, just to be doubly sure, only upload one plugin at a time that addresses the same area.
  5. Once you’ve found the plugin that meets your need the best, be sure to remove any others that may still be sitting on your site.  Not just deactivate, remove.
  6. Deactivate and remove any plugins that have been superceded by new WordPress functionality, or where your theme provides the same functionality

Remember (again) that plugins add overhead to your site, so you want to be getting the right balance between adding functionality that you need and keeping the site overhead as low as possible.

If it’s of any interest, I recently wrote an article on researching and activating a new search plugin for this site, which describes the process I went through.  You can see the article here.

Update 4th March, 2009:

I eventually took the plunge and set out a list of plugins I use on new WordPress sites. You can find it here.

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