WordPress has literally thousands of plugins, some of which do similar tasks and deciding which one to use can be a tricky process. Find out how to find the right plugins for your website.
The majority of plugins will be found on wordpress.org. These include open source plugins and also some free versions of commercial plugins. In addition, there are also marketplace sites such as codecanyon which list commercial plugins from various owners, finally you can just use Google to find individual plugins listed on developer sites.
When selecting a free plugin on wordpress.org, I will often only check plugin features and review ratings, however before purchasing a commercial plugin, I would make a more informed choice based on the points listed below…
1. Features – it is common to see plugins which offer the same solution but using different approaches, so its important to be clear about how you want it to work and find the right plugin for your needs. For example some plugins offer a shortcode whereas others offer PHP functions which need to be added directly to your template code.
2. Reviews – check how satisfied customers are by looking at the star rating and reading any reviews on wordpress.org
3. Support – unresolved support issues can be seen in the support forums. These will generally appear as a common theme amongst issues raised and it will also give you an indication of how quickly issues are resolved based on when they were reported.
4. Compatibility - WordPress comes out with regular releases so to ensure that there are no compatibility issues, the plugin owner needs to test their plugin against the latest release.
When should you purchase a commerical plugin ?
With so many free plugins available you might wonder how commercial plugins ever make any money. Commercial plugins do well by offering additional features that are not offered by free plugins. In many cases commercial plugin owners offer a free version of the plugin on wordpress.org but then also offer a paid-for version separately which includes these additional features. For some free plugins (ie WooCommerce) the additional features are provided via separate bolt-on plugins which are paid-for.