If you have been navigating the WordPress plugin ecosystem for years, you may instinctively know how to examine and compare two or more plugins’ details pages to select the right solution for your needs. This task can be a big hurdle for newcomers to the platform. The prospect of narrowing down the right plugin from a directory of more than 59,000 can be daunting.
The team behind rtCamp, a 125-person agency and a WordPress VIP Gold agency partner, has launched a new tool called WordPress Plugin Compare Project (WPPC) to help users extend WordPress with the right plugins for their needs. WPPC lets users search for plugins to compare and customize each selection displayed on the chart:
The chart displays the age of the plugin, when it was last updated, author, current version, required WP version, required PHP version, and tested up to WP version. It also shows important stats for ratings, total downloads, active installs, support requests and support score. Plugin data is refreshed twice per day, so it’s always up to date.
Several major plugin categories where multiple plugins are competing against one another are good candidates for comparison using the WPPC tool, including e-commerce, SEO, analytics, social sharing, performance, block libraries, forms, and security, to name a few. Plug in a few of the top contenders and it’s easier to see at a glance how they compare in terms of popularity, maintenance, and support.
The comparisons can also be linked. For example, the block collection plugin comparison above and the forms plugin comparison below is available on the WPPC website. The comparison URL includes each of the four plugin slugs and the tool pulls up the chart on demand. That makes it easy to text or email someone who needs help selecting a plugin for a project.
rtCamp plans to expand the capabilities of the WPPC tool to include the following:
- Additional parameters in the comparison table (e.g. supported languages, performance data, code quality, etc.)
- Single plugin page with all the data laid out in a presentable manner
- “Other plugins by the same author” page
- A dedicated page with filters where one can filter across all 55K+ plugins
After testing the tool, I found the search to be a little buggy. Searching plugins by name or slug sometimes doesn’t work correctly. Overall, it’s very easy to use and amazing how it pulls in all the plugins’ details into the comparison table automatically. Additional columns could be helpful in certain categories where there are more than four decent plugin options.
One feature that would be useful is the ability to filter the search to only show plugins that offer blocks or support the block editor. This could also work as one of the parameters in the comparison table. One of the most frustrating things about searching the WordPress Plugin Directory is sorting through to see which results support blocks. While you can browse block-enabled plugins, there’s no easy way to search for block-enabled plugins only.
rtCamp is aiming to raise the bar for free plugins hosted on WordPress.org with the WPPC tool. If it becomes more popular, plugin authors may feel more pressure to compete in their listings by providing more active maintenance and support. It also quickly identifies which plugins have been around the longest. Since WordPress.org is the primary distribution channel for many plugin businesses, a tool like this can quickly highlight any glaring deficiency in a product if its creators are not consistent with updates and support. These are important considerations when selecting a mission-critical tool, like forms or e-commerce, in a business or non-profit’s suite of plugins.