For those of us who are using WordPress for our blogs and personal pages, WordPress Plugins are an essential part of our website. I have over a dozen Plugins installed on my site from the mundane Hello Dolly to the absolutely you can’t live without it Akismet Spam Blocker plugin. Unfortunately, there no standards as to how plugins should behave within WordPress. So, I’ve listed several criteria as to what constitutes a great plugin.
1. It should be easy to install.
This should be a given. Uploading a plugin file or folder into the plugins directory should do the trick. Ideally, there shouldn’t be any need to insert additional code inside a theme. If code is absolutely needed to be inserted, then it shouldn’t exceed one line and preferably should be calling a function.
2. It should not break the website when a plugin is turned off.
Occasionally, there will be a need to turn off a plugin whether for testing, upgrading, or simply just removing a particular function. A great plugin should not break the website when turned off. It should not generate errors or render a website unusable. This problem is usually related to point #1 when code is inserted and it’s calling a function that’s no longer available.
A great plugin should validate in both XHTML and CSS. Unfortunately, there are several plugins that do not follow these conventions. The plugins are causing errors if you run the W3C validation tests. A great plugin should adhere to XHTML and CSS standards.
4. Configuration should be consistent.
Occasionally, a plugin will come with a configuration page. The problem is, there is no consistent place where the configuration page is located within the Admin Panel. For example, the Akismet and WP Database Backup have their configuration pages under Manage, while other plugins have their configuration pages under Plugins or Options. The configuration pages should all be in one place.
5. Conflicts with other plugins should be avoided.
There are several plugins that do not work together. The conflict is attributable to having identical variables overstepping each other. Plugin authors should use a prefix as suggested in Codex. Finally, plugins should be tested against common and popular WordPress Plugins.
So there you have it, the five characteristics of a great WordPress Plugin.