WordPress: 10 things to check before installing an extension

A small article on using WordPress, which is more than a list, it's been awhile, right? The idea came to me naturally installing, configuring or modifying several recent blogs and WordPress, for my part or that of partners or friends.

In fact, each system returns its attendant research and integration of plugins, which will respond to a specific request or complete a given feature that is not in the original script. But we know that with thousands of extensions available, it is feasible to do everything with WordPress, practically without touching the code, as long as it still has some knowledge about this CMS.

But we also know that it is better to avoid any-and that we must always be careful with extensions that are installed on a WordPress, because sometimes you can watch bizarre behavior or have surprises. This has happened to me, and you too, surely. So it is better to adopt a method and apply it systematically to each new installation of WordPress plugin.

Here are 10 things to check before every installation of WordPress plugin:

1. Look at the date of last update

Check if the plugin has been updated recently. A distant last update does not necessarily mean that the plugin is outdated or dangerous, but it is never a good sign. At best its author keeps most at worst it is not compatible with your version of WordPress. All this is not fatal nor playoff but if you have the choice between several plugins the same function, pick the one who has been updated more recently. Beyond the last update older than 100 days, I begin to distrust.

2. Check the number of downloads

An index that does not disappoint: the best plugins are often those who are most often downloaded and installed. Between several plugins providing similar functionality, do not take a chance and do not make sense, the underground it has a lot of charm in the music or film, not in the plugin: go direct most downloaded (except s' it does not meet criteria 1 and 3 of course, but this is rarely the case).

3. Check the number of stars

Another significant clue. Prefer plugins with at least 3 or 4 star who displayed zero, which are a little scared, you must admit. What you prefer, dark alleys or streets well lit? Well, here it is.

4. Check compatibility with your version

If you're running WordPress 3.5 (released a few days ago) and the plugin announces compatibility with WordPress 1.5, courage, fly! This is an extreme case, and it is precisely the subtlety - or difficulty - the year. Because there are more difficult cases, when a plugin displays compatibility with a previous version of one of your installation. Most of the time it will work, but nothing is guaranteed. Caution, therefore.

5. Browse related forum WordPress plugin

Other reflex to have: the plugin page on WordPress.org, click on the green button "View support forum" and go read the thread to see what is said about the plugin. Usually the main bugs and incompatibilities are raised, and sometimes even the author of the plugin responds directly. A good way to know the reliability of an extension.

6. Go to the website of the author

Still on the plugin page, check if there is a link to the website of the author (or authors) of the plugin. The link is called "Plugin homepage." If there is not is not very reassuring, unless the plug plugin itself is very complete, fully documented and updated. If there is a link, but it points to a 404 or a site that no longer exists, do not push and pull you politely but firmly (looking behind you). If the site exists, but nothing has been updated for several months (sometimes years), it smells musty, avoid too. See if there is a blog, and identify the date of the latest comments and responses of the author. If the last post dated 27 June 1997, also avoid, unless you like the atmosphere zombies, of course.

7. Are there screenshots?

The page / factsheet WordPress.org plugin, click the "Screenshots" at the top of the page. If it exists, is usually the third. It must show screenshots of the plugin, mainly its management interface or dashboard. It is reassuring to see what the thing looks like it will graft on his blog darling, is not it? If there is no tab Screenshots, see point 6 above and go check on the website of the author. If there has not, brrrr.

8. Is there a dashboard for easy editing?

Let's be clear: usually when installing a plugin is to avoid having to type code, especially if do not the slightest notion of beginning, otherwise why bother? Hence the important criterion. Make sure the plugin is installed and setting easily using a WYSIWYG editor or visual form, without having to tamper with the different files in PHP, a fortiori files "core", the heart functional WordPress. If we just add a shortcode or a piece of PHP finished well to put somewhere in the loop, it's okay. If we start to change files like settings.php or functions.php , it does not smell very good, and this means that the plugin lacks a bit of finishing. That this is not necessarily dangerous, but in this case why bother to install a plugin? Code as its function la mano, right?

9. Check that the plugin ... is not already installed

You laugh but this is serious indeed. Sometimes under certain installations or WordPress themes, some extensions are already present natively because they are part of a basic package. So check before the list of plugins in your WordPress installation, to avoid duplication history.

10. Check that the plugin is really necessary

The purpose of a plugin is to simplify the integration of functionality. But ideally you should avoid to install too, even install at all. Moreover, some plugins complicate or simplify more than they weigh down or thinning. This is why it is best to check before installation that the function you want to integrate is not already included in your chart, or if it can not be simply implemented by a simple piece of PHP ready to use that it just paste it somewhere in your code. It is more common than we imagine, and do without a plugin is always interesting for the operation and the lightness of its site.

That's it. Surely there are other points that you can add comments. Anyway, anyway you should always observe the rule must before installing any plugin: make a full backup of the site and its database. I confess I do not always do because I'm not an ideal, but it is wrong. Interesting alternative if you do not have a copy of your site on a local EasyPHP for example, install a blog test in a hidden address that allows you to try all sorts of things live, even the most shameful before adopting them on your production site.

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