The best WP plugins can provide a magical experience – add features and functions to your WordPress site with just the click of a button.

And the WordPress plugin repository offers a seemingly endless treasure trove of options to extend your WordPress website and create a better experience for your users. Need help setting up your SEO? There’s a plugin for that. Want to feed your latest Instagram posts into your footer? Just search for a plugins, install and activate, right? Well, not so fast.

Not all WP plugins are healthy for your WordPress site, and too many “junky” plugins can really slow things down (beware the yucky WP plugin bloat). It’s important to pick your WP plugins wisely, because some can really hurt your site. They’re snippets of code authored by strangers, after all. The open source community that created and grew WordPress is largely wonderful, but it does require a roadmap.

Here’s a handy checklist to help you pick the best plugin for your WordPress site:

  1. Has it been tested with the current version of WordPress? Or at least, the version your site is running? How to tell what WordPress version your site is running
  2. When was the plugin last updated? If it’s been more than 4 months or so, that might be a sign no one is manning the controls or keeping it up-to-date.
  3. How many support tickets are there? Has the plugin developer been replying? It’s always wisest to choose plugins that clearly have a team behind them, paying attention to the ever-changing security and code landscape.
  4. Does it have a good star rating? Plugins in the WordPress plugin repository are rated, just like restaurants on Yelp. Click through to read the issues reported by the best and worst reviewers just like you might before buying an Amazon mattress.
  5. Can it be accomplished without a plugin? The fastest sites are the leanest, and the web loves speed. Your site visitors are giving you 15 seconds, max. They don’t want to wait for a splashy graphics show with music – they just want you and what you have to offer.
  6. Will I remember to keep it up-to-date? Because nothing is more dangerous to the health of your WordPress website than an out-of-date plugin. Skipping updates leaves the back door open to hacks and other threats. Adopt a system or reach out for help, we’re here for you

upgrading to php 7.2If you’ve been working in  your WordPress dashboard recently (and I know you all have been), you might have seen red alerts and notices about upgrading to PHP 7.2 by the end of 2018. Upgrade, schmupgrade, amiright? Nope, not this time. Upgrading to PHP 7.2 is a must-do. Read on for why.

What is PHP, anyway?

PHP is the code that WordPress websites are built on, and its acronym origin story is actually entertaining: In the beginning it meant Personal Home Page Tools, but now stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, according to WhatIs.com. Personally, I think the original name made more sense. If you have a WordPress home page, your site starts and ends with PHP code.

Why do I need to update it?

Because the PHP your site is running may be dying, quite literally. And dead, unsupported software is like Swiss cheese for malware, hacks, link hijacking and worse. WordPress sites on PHP 5.6 run about half as fast as sites running PHP 7.2. And come Dec. 31, 2018, PHP 5.6 will enter End of Support. This is a tech term that literally means, “we’re not going to support that code anymore.” It get slapped on code languages when updates are so substantial, and patch such significant holes that running (and supporting) the former version becomes counterintuitive.

A faster site? Sweet!

While upgrading may be a pain you didn’t plan for this month, the good news is that if you’re in the need-to-do-it boat (i.e. if your site is running PHP 5.6 still), your WordPress site will enjoy significant speed improvements. According to my preferred host, WPEngine, most sites in testing “experienced up to 40% faster page speed, as well as greater memory efficiency, upon upgrade.” WPEngine feels so strongly about it that they’ll force upgrade or boot sites off of their server who don’t comply by March 2019.

Get serious about upgrading to PHP 7.2 today

Not sure which version of PHP your site is running right now? Ask your developer, ask your hosting company, or look in your hosting control panel. If it’s PHP 5.6 – act now, do not delay. If your WordPress site is running PHP 7 but not yet PHP 7.2, you have some time, but you need a plan. Reach out if you need help, don’t wait until it’s too late.