Save time and headaches with having to find another theme or plugin soon down the road with these seven tips.
When selecting a theme and plugins (products) you need to choose wisely to avoid headaches and revisions later. Use the following criteria to help you decide. Some of the issues involved in not choosing wisely are that a popular but generally unsupported product can introduce incompatibility and security problems causing you to have to invest a lot of time in finding and switching to a new product.
Using the WordPress Repository
The first criteria should be to review and select themes and plugins from the WordPress repository on wordpress.org. For one thing these are all free and allow you to try them before upgrading to a paid version if one is available. You also need to be cautious about and stay away from free themes and plugins from developers on other websites with no presence in the repository because when there is no oversight, often they can contain malware and malicious code.
Features and Benefits / Ease of Use / Documentation
Of course this is the first thing you will be looking at to see if the theme or plugin is something you want to use. If everything is to your liking then before you install it, you should go on to check the following criteria.
How Often Is It Updated?
Even if something is offered for free it still needs to be updated periodically to keep up with new versions of WordPress and if there are any security issues or bug fixes and enhancements. You will want to find and use plugins and themes that are updated on a regular basis, at least at the time of the last update to WordPress.
The number of active installations will tell you how popular a theme or plugin is but it’s a minor factor in the list of criteria in determining whether or not to use it. Even if it is new, as long as it is maintained and supported, then it may be considered. Conventional wisdom would seem to indicate that a lot installations (thousands or hundreds of thousands) would mean that the product is supported but in the wild world of open source and often free software that may not always be the case.
Reviews are actually integrated into the support model because if for example a user leaves a negative review and/or complains of a problem (which should have been reported in the Support section instead), the developer can respond as if the review was a support request. You can look at the number of reviews, the percentage of ratings from 5 to 1, and what people are actually saying. You should look at the number of reviews compared to the number of active installations. If there are only 20 reviews for a product which has thousands of installations then it may or may not reflect the views of the majority of people out there using it. Sometimes you just have to try it and see for yourself.
Support and Support Models
This is one of the biggest considerations you will need to look at in your criteria for evaluating products. The first thing to look at in the support area is, of the support requests that people post, how many have responses and how many have been resolved. This will indicate if the product is actively being supported. The next thing to look at is are there any pinned topics from the developer explaining their support strategy or model. If they have not posted anything on that then you can look at the support topics to see if they answer topics, which ones, and how frequently. A good support model will be one where the developers (or a representative) will respond and support their product(s) even if they are free.
Free vs Premium and combinations of both
The advantage of using free products which have premium versions is that the developers/company that produces it has more incentive to maintain the free version as a gateway to their revenue stream. There are many products in this area for which the free features will be enough for you. But in the event you need more features then you will want to look at the cost of upgrading and the support model for premium users.
(This article is a short version of a larger one which appears on . . . . TBD)
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