How to Choose a WordPress Plugin or Theme
For small businesses wanting a website, WordPress is a cheap and easy to set up choice. With an open development language, it inspires themes and plugins that will do just about anything and look great straight out of the box. Please be aware this article is referencing the self-hosted WordPress, not WordPress.com. Unfortunately, this can create lots of problems too. Since there is no standard to adhere to, anyone can upload a theme or plugin and sometimes they don’t work. Or they don’t work like you imagine they will.
For this reason I don’t like to play around with WordPress very much. I can do a lot of coding, but I don’t do it enough for it not to be frustrating every time I try. This past week, I did get the chance and I discovered a pretty good way to find themes and plugins that work the first time.
I’ve been working on an idea for over a year. WordPress is great for startups to put together a workable prototype without having to sink a lot of funds into development. So I chose WordPress as my platform. I still don’t have a product. There are a lot of reasons for that, the biggest one being I didn’t find a workable theme.
Contrast that with another startup idea I had. I began work on it last week, finished a workable prototype last Sunday and am ready for a full launch now. The difference? I found a theme right away that did everything I wanted and was easy to use. I also found a plugin that provided the critical piece of functionality I wanted. Here’s how I did it.
Do a Google search for what you want the plugin to do. You’ll get names of plugins in your search results. What you want the plugin to do may have a widely accepted industry name you’re unaware of. Now do a search for that product and include “review.” What you’re hoping to get here is an article with a five to ten plugin comparison. (Be careful of affiliate review sites that don’t offer any real value in the comparison.) Read that article and you should come up with two or three that really interest you. Now, go to the WordPress plugin finder and search for those plugins.
You’ll see an option to install or to read more. Click on read more. Take a look at the description on the main page, then look at the FAQ page. If everything looks like what you want, check out the review tab. If it doesn’t get consistently good reviews, don’t install it. You’re welcome. I just saved you hours of torment.
There are a million themes available for WordPress. The screenshots you’ll see for them will show them in their best light. You may have to do custom coding in the CSS to get it to look like the screen shot. Again, I recommend searching for the type of theme you want (two column, three column, responsive) and reading the reviews on them. You’ll get a better idea of what the actual work will be like from previous users when you install it.
I did find a theme editor plug-in, on a review site, that looks like it will solve some of the issues with setting up themes. I haven’t used it, but I will definitely try it on my next project.
Some plugins conflict with some themes, so you may have your theme setup exactly the way you want it, install a plugin, and have the whole thing break. That’s why it’s important to know the names of your theme and plugins. Again, do a search for the issue and some kind soul will probably already have a solution.
Be sure to check the last time the plugin or theme was updated and how well the developer responds to questions. I found the more active the developer is, the better the product is.