How to Pick Safe WordPress Plugins

There are tens of thousands of WordPress plugins and themes available for anyone to use. But not all of them are trustworthy, and a special few were even written by their authors to spread malware and infect the websites or computers of other users. But not everyone who uses WordPress is a competent coder or can read jquery or javascript. So how do you know which themes or plugins are safe and written to a high coding standard?

WordPress website safety isn’t as straightforward as simply maintaining safe browsing habits or keeping your computer malware-free. It’s not enough to install antivirus software and be done: you need to do some actual legwork and investigation. So here are our best tips for picking safe WordPress plugins and themes for your website!

Always Use the WordPress Directory

It’s not hard to find WordPress plugins and themes on other websites, where you need to download the files and upload them manually. But the WordPress Directory is much safer than simply downloading code from other websites! The files in the WordPress Directory are policed by volunteer contributors who have a serious investment in ensuring that any content which isn’t up to snuff or is untrustworthy is weeded out. They’re quick to remove malicious items and review almost everything that’s uploaded. So using this directory for your plugin can do half the work for you!

Research Reviews & Previous Downloads

It might sound silly to say, but if thousands or tens of thousands of individuals have downloaded a plugin, chances are that it’s been rigorously tested not just by other developers, but users just like you! A high download count is also likely to indicate that a plugin or theme is more likely to be regularly updated and maintained by its author. But download count isn’t all you should look at! Research the reviews these individuals have given. WordPress rates plugins and themes on a 5 star system, and the closer to a 5 star review a plugin or theme has, the better the community has rated it. WordPress officials regularly comb through and validate reviews to ensure they’re authentic.

Look For Different Versions

A plugin or theme which logs its different versions is a great sign! Having evidence of multiple versions is a sign that the author maintains, edits, and updates the plugin they’ve released to the public, and care about the quality and security of the product they’ve built. This is especially important if you intend to use a plugin over the lifespan of your website, as most plugins need to be updated whenever there’s a major update to the WordPress framework.

Never Download Anything Off Of the WordPress Database

Plugins and themes which are admitted into the WordPress database have met a minimum level of coding proficiency. Most of the plugins and themes which are downloaded from elsewhere won’t meet these specifications, and if you begin to make even minor edits, it’s likely that malfunctions will begin to occur and pile up. So even if a plugin or theme looks beautiful, avoid it if it’s not in the database!

The Takeaway

So as you can see, it’s not too much of a time sink or a headache to double-check plugins or themes on WordPress for security! It just takes a few minutes of research and looking into the background of a plugin. And there are almost always indicators which can denote a poorly-coded third-party plugin. In general, you should use the support of the WordPress community wherever possible. WordPress developers police what’s posted to the WordPress community, and other users can indicate strongly-built and secure plugins with their downloads and votes.

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