Podcast Episode

285 – Selecting Great WordPress Themes and Plugins


Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.

Page Builder by MotoPress is a drag and drop frontend page builder for any theme. Build responsive sites visually without any code by using MotoPress website builder.

Selecting Great WordPress Themes and Plugins


Choosing the right plugin can be a daunting task, since there are thousands available. Today, we’ll dive in to see how to make this task a little less impossible.

Things to Consider:
– Price
– The features you need
– Reputable Developer?
– Not bloated with features
– Updated regularly
– Visuals meet your needs
– Customizable
– Responsive and tested
– Translation ready
– Is SEO included?
– Is there support?
– Import ready demo files


Again, with thousands of free plugins on the WordPress repository, it can be a bit tricky to find the perfect one.

Things to Consider:
– How old is the plugin?
– When was it last updated?
– Reviews / Support
– Is it a resource hog?
– Does it have cover art?

Thank You!

Thank you to those who use my affiliate links. As you know I make a small commission when someone uses my link and I want to say thank you to the following people. For all my recommended resources, go to my Resources Page

Call To Action

  • Take the time to find a great theme or plugin for your next project

Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

On today’s episode, we are going to talk about how to select great WordPress themes and plugins right here on Your Website Engineer Podcast Episode No. 285.

Hello, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Your Website Engineer podcast, or should I say, “Hola”? I am currently almost to Spain by the time this podcast is released. I’m almost to the summer vacation that my wife and I are taking along with our daughter. We are going to Spain for the next few weeks, about six weeks or so, and so the next few shows after this one will be recorded on the road. I’m actually like one hour from leaving the house right now, and I remembered that today my podcast needed to be recorded, so a little inside information for you. But I’m getting ready to get all packed up and go, and I’ll be recording from the road because we will be there. I will be working and continuing my normal work at Automatic and whatnot.

So, with that, let’s roll into the announcements. There’s only one real announcement that I want to share with you today, and that is, coming soon, of the new top-level domain called .blog, and that is hosted by, and it’s a secret that we at Automatic have been holding onto for quite a while. There was a big auction process that we went through, and we ending up winning the .blog.

And so, in the upcoming months – it’s gonna take a few more months, but we finally released the information – you will be able to register like Dustin.blog or ThisIsAnAwesome.blog or whatever. You can come up with great top-level domains that are shorter because you’ve got the .blog instead of .com or .net or .biz or whatever. So, that was the only real piece of news that I wanted to share with you this week.

The other thing that I wanna share with you in the “Is there a plugin for that?” section is one called Page Builder by Moto Press, and I think I’ve had the folks from Moto Press on before. We’ve talked a little bit about Page Builder, but this is the Moto Press content editor, and this is a drag-and-drop front-end page builder for any theme. You can use it to build responsive sites visually without any code using Moto Press website builder. It’s got more than 9,000 active installs, and it was just updated a few hours ago.

And so, if you just get frustrated with how WordPress handles all the things when it comes to just creating your content and making it look exactly like you like it, then Moto Press might be the perfect solution for you. So, I highly recommend checking out Moto Press content editor, and it’s called Page Builder by Moto Press, if you search for it in the WordPress repository.

All right, today, we are going to talk about how to select great WordPress themes and plugins because I try to do this all the time. We always, every week, highlight a good plugin and never really talk about themes too much, but there are so many things to think about when you’re going to either purchase or look for premium WordPress themes and plugins, and free themes, and free plugins, and whatnot. So, I wanted to kinda break them down just a little bit so that we can just take a little look at the steps, the processes, whatnot, to find a great WordPress theme and a great WordPress plugin. So, let’s go ahead and dive in.

The first thing we wanna talk about is price. You wanna look at the price. I don’t think that premium themes are any nicer than the free ones, and it’s a personal preference of what are you looking for in a theme. A lot of people will take price into consideration, like, “Oh, I don’t want to spend money on a theme,” or, “I’ll spend up to $100.00 on a theme.”

Generally, a premium theme runs around $50.00. $50.00 to $100.00, you can get a theme on most terms. And sometimes, there’s sites out there like Elegant Themes, where you purchase the entire subscription – or you can do the entire subscription – and then you can have access to every single theme. Genesis is another way like that. You can buy the individuals themes or you can buy all access, all-you-can-eat type thing to the themes.

So, you wanna think about the price, and sometimes, the WordPress themes on the WordPress repository are more simple. There’s no cost to them, obviously. Maybe they don’t have all the bells and whistles. They don’t have a lot of fancy features built in. You might not have a lot of customization options, and maybe what can be customized is only found in the customizer.

There’s usually not a lot of support, or if there is support, then it’s very limited. And the theme author may just stop updating the theme. They may have put this out there, and maybe they’ve completely fallen off the WordPress bandwagon – they don’t like WordPress any more – and they just won’t update their theme. So, there’s always things to think about that.

When it comes to premium themes, the prices can range, like I said, anywhere between $20.00 to $100.00, approximately. A lot of them have a lot of customization options inside, even their own Settings panel, a lot of times. Support’s always provided for these premium themes, and the themes are regularly maintained and updated because a developer is getting paid for a theme, and they’re more interested in making sure that that theme is updated. So, that’s another thing to think about as well.

So, that’s like the very first question. Do you go free? Do you go premium? But you wanna first look for – once you kinda decide which avenue you’re gonna go down – then you wanna look for a theme that has the right features that you’re looking for. I know that themes are inexpensive. I know that themes can be modified. I know that there’s a lot of things with themes like, “Oh, this is kinda what I’m looking for, and let’s just go with it.” Well, if you spend a little bit more time finding a theme that has a lot more features that you’re looking for, then there’s a lot less effort it takes to actually build up and add the features that you’re looking for or that you may be missing.

And so, for me, on my last website, I was essentially looking for a floating menu bar that, as I scrolled, it just stayed there. That was the main thing. I was like, “I don’t really want to figure out how to program this right now, but that’s what I’m looking for.” So, that’s what I looked for in a theme, and anything else was kind of – like visuals and whatnot – I could tweak those a little bit. But that was my big thing. I didn’t want to spend hours and hours and hours trying to figure out how to dock my menu to the top when there’s hundreds of themes out there that did that.

So, that’s one of the things you wanna look for. A lot of these premium themes, a lot of the free themes, they have like big laundry lists of things that you can do, like, “Oh, it’s translation-ready. It’s very helpful theme documentation. It’s responsive design for all devices. It’s got a sticky header. It’s retina-ready. It’s got Google Fonts included. It’s got Font Awesome icons.” It’s got all of this mumbo-jumbo in there, which are actually features of the theme, and so you wanna make sure that you’re looking through those and seeing if the things that you find important for your theme are actually in the theme and already installed.

Another thing you wanna think about is: Does it come from a reputable developer. Do you know the theme author? Have you ever heard of them before? Do they have more than one theme? Are there good customer ratings and reviews on their website? If you Google the name of the developer in WordPress, do you come up with good reviews? Do you have bad reviews? Just do a little due diligence and try to figure out who the author is and if they’re a reputable company or a reputable person or a reputable developer. That’s something to look at.

Another thing you want look at is you don’t want – we talked about features earlier, but we don’t want them overloaded with features. We don’t need that it’s got 9 zillion sliders and 4,200 shortcodes and a bunch of stuff that you don’t necessarily need. That may be nice to have, but you may not want to get the one with the most options, thinking it’s the most customizable, because sometimes that extra overload that’s in there causes bloated code and causes things to be just a little bit slower when your website runs. So, that’s something to think about as well.

Another thing you want to think about is: How often is a theme updated? Can you go and look at the change log? Is it updating once a month? Do you know are they doing it once a year? You wanna make sure that the theme is getting updated regular because there are vulnerabilities out there that theme authors have to patch for, and so you wanna make sure that your theme has been updated or does get updated regularly.

We wanna make sure that the theme – we talked about this – that it meets your needs. You wanna make sure that all of the visuals work, the functionality works. All of the things that you need in a website, this theme is ready to go without a lot of customizations.

You also want to, depending on your comfort level of WordPress, you wanna look at the level of customizations that you can do. Is it something like Genesis where it really takes a developer to do a lot of customizations? Or is it more like one of the Woo Themes that have a customize panel inside that you can go and you can customize different aspects and different areas of your website? So, that’s another thing to think about as well.

So, those are just some of the things that I thought of. I guess another one would be if the website is browser compatibility, like if it’s been tested in other browsers, and it’s responsive. You wanna make sure that all of that has been tested. You can even take the demo page, wherever they’re hosting their demo site, and put that into a mobile-friendly test page that Google has, and then you can see if it’s responsive. And it runs the test for you, so you don’t actually have to. That saves a lot of development time if somebody has made sure that it works in Internet Explorer and Firefox and Opera and Chrome and Safari, all of those different things. So, that’s something else to think about.

Another thing to think about is: Is the theme translation-ready? Do they support – they’re ready for translations because if that’s the case, as we talked a couple episodes ago about translations, all you have to do is translate the file, translate all the words, and your theme is in a native another tongue, which is really nice.

Another thing is: Is there SEO included in the theme? This could be good or bad. It’s good because it’s built in – you don’t need another plugin – but it could be bad when you go and you try to change themes someday, and now all of a sudden, you have to move all your SEO stuff to a brand-new theme. So, that’s something to think about as well.

The last thing that I always like to look for in themes when I’m buying them is: Does it come with import demo-ready content? Can we import an XML file and get the information to set up the site so it looks exactly like the site in the demo? That’s, sometimes, really, really handy so you can see exactly how the programmer has designed it and how the different pieces of the puzzle fit together when it comes to building your site. Then, you can just go and you can change your content. You can change your address, your phone number. You can update your About page, stuff like that. It makes it really, really easy.

So, those are all the things to think about when purchasing or finding a free theme. I’ve got those listed out there in the Show Notes for Episode No. 285. Just go ahead and check those out.

Now, when it comes to plugins, what makes a good plugin? And the number grows every week in the WordPress repository. I think we’re over 44,000 now, which is really, really crazy, and there’s a lot of good ones that are out there. And a lot of the factors that we talked about for themes actually go for plugins as well.

With the WordPress repository, you know it’s a reputable source if it’s in there. That means it’s been vetted. The code has been vetted. It’s been looked at by WordPress developers and volunteers that scan and look at how the code’s written. That also shows how many active installs it has, how many ratings and reviews it has, and when the last time it was updated, and what version of WordPress it’s compatible with. And so, that makes it really, really nice that you can get all of that information right from the plugin dashboard when you’re searching for plugins in the WordPress repository.

So, you wanna make sure it’s compatible with the right version and it’s been updated recently. Again, “recently” is an arbitrary term – three months, six months. If it’s a very basic plugin, it can be updated once a year, twice a year. But if it’s a very big plugin – it does a lot of things on your website – you wanna make sure that that’s getting updated regularly.

There’s not a lot of support when it comes to WordPress.org-hosted plugins, mainly because the developers just are usually stretched way too thin. They try to do their best to keep up with the support on the forums, but it’s not always the case. And so, if you want extra customizations, you might have to hire a developer or just wait a long time to get a response from the developer of the plugin.

Another thing to think about is: Is the plugin lightweight? And this is one that you actually have to run a test to see. There’s a plugin called P3. It’s Plugin Performance Profiler, and it basically goes in, and you can deactivate all your plugins except the one you’re testing, and then you can run it and you can see: Does it take up a lot of resources? Is it a memory hog? What is that plugin, and how does it work? So, that’s something to think about as well.

So, in a nutshell, what I always look for in a plugin, I’m looking for at least a four-star rating. I want to see a large number of sales or downloads. I like to see low number of unsolved topics in their support forum or whatnot. I like to see good reviews. If it’s on the WordPress repository, I like to see one of those cover images, those banner images that go across your website. I like to see those as well because that means that the plugin has been updated recently, and the plugin developer actually cares and wants to do a little branding, a little marketing for their plugin.

So, those are the things that I look for when it comes to picking a plugin. And sometimes, every week, when we talk about the plugins and the plugin for that section, I just take a little bit of time, and I’m just looking for interesting plugins. I’m not looking for the best plugin to do X. I’m just looking for interesting plugins just to try to stir up your ideas, like, “Oh, you can really do that with WordPress?” and, “Oh, I didn’t know there was a plugin to do that.” And so, that’s the main reason that I do those sorts of things.

So, that’s gonna be a wrap. I’d love to talk a little bit more about themes and plugins, but I’ve got a plane to catch in about an hour and a half or so, which I’m cutting it way too close for my comfort. I wish I would have recorded this yesterday. There’s still a few things around the house that I’ve got to get wrapped up, but it’s gonna take me a little while to settle back in. The episode will come out next Wednesday as normal. And so, until then, I will talk to you from Spain. Take care. Bye-bye.

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