The free WordPress plugins can help you to meet many of the needs that you present during the realization of a website.
At the time of writing this article in the repository of WordPress you count well 55,203 plugins, number that tends to increase day by day.
Sometimes, for special needs, you can not rely exclusively on free resources, but certainly, before investing money, and well look in the WordPress repository if there are free plugins that fit perfectly to our purpose.
Among the free plugins you can find excellent quality products, which are used by millions of users with great satisfaction.
The purpose of this article is to give you the basics to understand how to evaluate and check a free plugin, how to determine whether and really better than a paid that performs the same function.
Free WordPress Plugins
Before we start there to make a small distinction between free plugins (free) and freemium plugins.
The first ones are actually as they appear: completely free.
The seconds, are partly free, but not completely.
In addition to the free version are offered also the premium versions with additional functions, which are paid.
The extraordinary success of WordPress is also due to its community of developers. Programmers enthusiasts who, even for non-profit, have produced these magnificent tools that allow us to realize web projects with simplicity.
It must be said, however, that a marketing strategy and that of giving free something to try the product.
This road is frequently used when you are sure of your work, but not only.
All that and free attracts. The consequence and get in touch with a greater number of prospects (possible users who turn into customers).
With free plugins, they also have the paid version, and not said that to get the best need to do to force the purchase step. Depends on the needs of the user.
Let’s think for example at Yoast SEO. The free version has everything you need for most users who want to work on the SEO of their site. If you want to push over with the features proposed in the premium version, then you can switch to the one paid.
Yoast is an example of how to be useful to the community and at the same time create a successful business.
Pros and cons of free WordPress plugins
We go into the detail by browsing through the list of pros and cons of free plugins.
- They are free.
- There are so many to solve most needs.
- Quick to test (and useful to have a test site where to do tests).
- They are generally easy to set up.
- Anyone can write a plugin and insert it in the repository of WordPress, with the consequence of having some code “amateur” installed on the server.
- We have less guarantees than a product developed by World Software House.
- The support, in most cases, can not be compared with what you receive with a paid product.
- The regularity of the updates could happen without regularity or even not be there, causing security problems of a site in WordPress.
- In most cases they are less cared for, both from the aesthetic and functional point of view.
Is for the reasons just mentioned that, before installing a free plugin, you have to follow the steps that we are now going to explain.
How to determine the quality of free plugins
There are no special secrets to understand whether a plugin is valid or not, but the simple data to analyze.
We go to the official repository of WordPress and click on the first plugin: Akismet that, most likely, you’ve already heard because is included by default when installing WordPress.
We could choose others too, but this example is perfect to see the 10 features you need to pay attention to.
1. Last Updated
We talked about this a little while ago. WordPress is a software that is constantly updated, especially to solve problems related to security.
This is one of the most useful data you can find, because it indicates how diligent the developer is.
If you see that the plugin is not updated for a long time, you must activate a small alarm bell.
It is also true that if the code is well written and no functionalities are added (or no bugs are found for security), there is no need to update it continuously.
To check if the project is monitored, then, the next point is crucial.
2. Testing the latest Releases
Usually this entry follows the first step: at each new release of the CMS, should follow the test of compatibility.
Always check the version of WordPress that you have installed before making an operational plugin.
Tip: If you want to be always absolutely quiet you can create a copy of your site, which you use to do all kind of tests.
3. Number of active installations
The numbers are never wrong.
It is true that more recent plugins can exist (perhaps better) than older ones, but this type of data provides the social proof that a product is valid.
If millions of users use a plugin, it means they find the utility in having it installed on their site.
What do users think and a very important aspect, for any product or service, and not just for plugins.
In addition to the judgment in stars there is a handy bar diagram that shows how the ratings are divided.
Logically you have to check the number of evaluations and not just the average vote. Ten 5-star ratings are not worth as a score of 4.8 with 600 ratings.
It is also useful to evaluate the proportion between the number of installations and the number of evaluations.
Not to be confused with the previous point, which is the ratings. In This case you mean just what people write about the plugin.
Testimonials are one of the best clues to assess the goodness of a product.
Click on See all or go to the Review tab in the Plugin menu and browse through the reviews.
Look at the frequency with which they are inserted and perhaps paused on the negative ones to understand the reason for dissatisfaction.
6. Developers and contributors
At the bottom of the page you can go to through all the profiles of the developers.
Observe how much they are known, how many programmers they collaborate with. Try to get an idea of their level of experience, how active they are and how many plugins they have made: find two tabs on purpose.
Not all plugins need this feature, I think it’s obvious.
In case however intervene in some way on the frontend of your pages, a test is essential.
Usually you can trust the words of programmers and reviews, but since every website is different for configuration and well check in first person on your project.
Be clear, there are free WordPress plugins for which you will never need support, but and a thing always appreciated. In the case of similar plugins, but without support service, and always preferable to choose the first.
In the dedicated forum you can get an idea of the types of problems that users find and how much (and how) it takes the developer to solve them.
There is no Documentation tab, but you can find other items to check before downloading.
I’m talking about any installation instructions, preview screens, videos explaining the operation, the Development tab, the advanced statistics display, and so on.
The more exhaustive the documentation is, the more indexed care is taken by programmers.
Sometimes you will find more exhaustive information directly on the developer’s website or in the possible repository of Github.
10. Search on Engines
Doing a short search in Google, with the keywords inherent to your needs, does not hurt.
On the repository of WordPress you find virtually all the information you need, but a check in the search engines can be useful to find alternatives.