The lovely thing about WordPress is the amount of plugins and themes that are available to extend your website. There are tens of thousands of plugins available from wordpress.org and this excludes plugins available all around the net.
Some plugins are developed very well, using WordPress best practices. On the other hand there is also some very badly written plugins, that can easily bring down your website or even open it to malicious attack.
Backup your website
Always backup your site before attempting to install a plugin regardless of where it comes from, its great reviews. A good backup procedure is critical to every aspect of WordPress. So if something go’s wrong you can easily roll back your site to a before the plugin was installed.
When to install
Don’t try and install your plugin at peak site user usage. If your site goes down try and limit your downtime, or errors for people trying to surf to your site. Traditionally Mondays is the worst day to try and install a plugin and Sunday the best.
FTP Server Access
Sometimes a plugin can completely take down a website, and the only way is to delete the plugin from the WordPress install. This generally can only be done via a file browser. Warning: Don’t try this is you do not have good website experience.
Referrals and reviews
Asking someone you trust in the industry about Plugins they may suggest for your website. Maybe they have experience with a certain plugin before installing. Why go through the headaches.
Reviews are another way of gauging a plugin. For me it is the amount of people that have left a review on a plugin. A plugin with 2000 reviews with a start rating of 4, for me is better than a 5 star rating from 10 reviews.
Checking the plugin stats
Check the support pages for the plugin. Try not looking at all the questions but check if they are being answered. This shows an active interest from the develop teamr.
I like screen shots for a plugin. I generally choose plugins that have detailed screen shots it gives me an indication of the quality of the plugin development.
Try and compare similar plugins to the one you are interested in. Search Engines area great tools and there are many articles of users who have tried various different plugins and wrote up about their results.
“Compare WordPress security Plugins”
“What is the best WordPress Form Plugin”
Try the plugin on a more non-essential WordPress install and see if there are any issues. Learn any issues or tweaks on a site that is not essential to your business.
What if I follow all the best practices and something goes wrong? Don’t panic if you have a backup or FTP access it is very easy to roll back to a previous state of the website. Any developer would be able to help if you get stuck very quickly.
The most important things I have found in working with WordPress is to always have a recent backup and to do extensive research before installing any plugin.