Plugins »Plugin Best Practices

Table of Contents

What is a Plugin?
Before Installing a Plugin
Evaluating your Current Plugins
Incompatible Plugins
Other Savvy Tips

What is a Plugin?

A plugin is a piece of software that you can add to your WordPress website to extend functionality or to add new features.

Plugins can be incredibly useful tools. With that in mind, it is important to evaluate the value and risks of each plugin you add to your site. Installing the wrong plugin can be damaging, by breaking your site or opening it up to security risks. Let’s try to be savvy when deciding which plugins to use.

Plugins can only be added on the WordPress.com Business or eCommerce plans. For information on how to add a plugin, please look over our Adding Plugins guide.

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Before Installing a Plugin

Prior to installing a plugin you should ask:

  • Is the feature this plugin adds very important to me?
  • Does your site already have this feature built-in? If you are not sure, feel free to contact us.
  • Has this plugin been tested with the latest version of WordPress?
  • How active is the support forum (or other support method) for the plugin?
  • Is the developer of this plugin very responsive when an issue or bug is reported?
  • When was the last time this plugin was updated?
  • What do others think of this plugin? Look at the ratings, reviews, and amount of installs.
  • Is this plugin a “freemium” plugin? Is it worth the associated cost?
  • How many active installations does the plugin have? This gives you an idea of how popular and well-supported the plugin is.

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Evaluating your Current Plugins

It is important to think about the plugins you are installing onto your site. We suggest reviewing all of your plugins often to ensure that your site is safe, healthy, and free of any unnecessary additions. Here are some questions to ask to evaluate the plugins already added to your site:

  • All of the questions that you would ask prior to installing a plugin (see the questions above).
  • Am I still using this plugin? If not, get rid of it!
  • Is the plugin still being supported? Sometimes plugins get abandoned.

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Incompatible Plugins

While the vast majority of plugins will work with WordPress.com sites using the Business plan, there are some that are not compatible with our platform presently. We have come across a few types of plugins as well as a few specific plugins that do not work with WordPress.com hosted sites. Check out our support page for incompatible plugins for more information.

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Other Savvy Tips

  • Test plugins one by one with your current theme to see if there are any obvious conflicts. If you’re testing different plugins to try to get specific functionality, it’s a good idea to deactivate a plugin before moving on to another one to test. 
  • Before installing any plugins, it’s always good to read over the plugin’s documentation to make sure you know how to use it and what it will do for your site.
  • Check out the version history
  • Use as few plugins as possible
  • Avoid installing multiple plugins to perform the same task. Having two active plugins with the same/similar functionality can cause conflicts in your site or none of them will work correctly.
  • Only download plugins from reputable sites
  • Always keep your plugins up to date
  • While a feature may be possible with a plugin, it is important to evaluate your current plugins prior to installing new plugins. It is possible a new plugin will conflict with your current plugins.
  • Unless there are multiple plugins that need to be activated to work together, it is best to install one plugin at a time and test/set up each one individually. In the event that a plugin causes undesirable results on your site, you’ll be able to isolate the specific plugin that caused the issue.

If possible, limit plugin downloads to the official WordPress.org plugin directory. A great team of volunteers manages it, alongside a large community of users and security researchers helping out. Premium plugins found outside of the official WordPress.org plugin directory aren’t necessarily bad, the risks just need to be evaluated. Some do not allow you to update for free and others aren’t very well supported. Just keep in mind the questions above!

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The 500 Internal Server Error is a very general HTTP status code that is usually caused by a conflict between plugins and/or your theme.

If you find that after you install a plugin your site stops operating as intended, there are a few things you can do:

  • A good first troubleshooting step is to deactivate all possible plugins. Did that solve the problem? If it did, it’s most likely a plugin conflict! If the issue disappears then reactivate one plugin at a time. Refresh your page each time you reactivate a plugin to see what causes the issue to return.
  • Read the plugin FAQ and check out the plugin support forum. You can typically find the support form by navigating to https://wordpress.org/plugins/ and searching for the plugin:
WordPress.org plugin pages
Finding WordPress.org plugin support forums
  • Try switching to a different theme like Twenty Nineteen.
  • Contact us and a Happiness Engineer will be happy to take a look to point you in the right direction! Each plugin developer is responsible for its support. Once we’ve helped you narrow down the conflict, contact the plugin developer for additional information and support.


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