Choosing third party library, plugin, extension, service provider or deciding who are you going to cooperate with, defines the route you’re going to follow on your way to success (or fall).

Fact: If you buy junk, it won’t work. You’ll bin it and spend more money on something else.

After more than 20 years of web building experience, we’ve grown a third eye on our foreheads that’s telling us which third party library or plugin is right for us and which is wrong. Today, I’d like to share our experience with you and hand over to you our internal procedure for choosing 3rd party plugin or library.

I’ll explain to you in detail how we decide if certain solution is worth our trust and money.

You’re making similar choices every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big project at work, whether you’re about to refurbish your bathroom, fix your broken car, create a website for your business or build your personal blog. Chances are, you’re not able to do everything by yourself, so you must choose third party provider.

Let’s face it:

If 5 different handy men come to fix your bathroom — one after another, there’s 90% chance it will fall apart.

Likewise — if you glue up your website from 10 third party pieces, it will fall apart.

Even big companies are standing in front of a decision “who are we going to trust” when they’re choosing suppliers for their production.

Online world is no different. In fact, it is much more complicated to choose third party piece of your online jigsaw as the choice you have is endless.

We’re developing Pixenio. A brand new web-building solution for broad use by laic users, web agencies and professionals. Therefore, we too, are choosing carefully which third party elements are we going to use.

Here’s our internal Best Practices infographics for chosing the best third party component:

How to choose third party library / plugin

(Our Internal Best Practices)

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  1. Originality

To choose: The product that is original and high quality, written by experienced developer, with significant added value by it’s author.

To avoid: Anything that resemble another, perhaps bigger brand/author.

2. Compatibility

To choose: Code that is intuitive and easy to use. Workflow of the code must respect the general framework you’re using. It is compatible with other components and is well known to you.

To avoid: Anything too unique and unfamiliar that will take you ages to decrypt or won’t fit in your, already written, code. Some authors simply live in their own world…

3. Price — Remember: you’ll get what you paid for.

To choose: Products with free trials and fair price for the full version.

To avoid: Anything suspiciously cheap. Always compare various options before making your decision.

Remember that even free products have their price — additional costs you’ll pay in case something goes wrong after implementation.

4. Reputation & Reviews

To choose: Products recommended by influencers and with bad reviews only from people who clearly don’t understand coding.

To avoid: Products from individuals with lack of history and little to no reviews.

5. Complexity

To choose: Complex solution that takes care of the entire area you need to cover

To avoid: Incomplete components. Always avoid using too many little pieces from too many little “developers.”

6. Stability

To choose: Well renowned developer who offers reliable continuity, sustainable support and updates, and has very little risk of cutting-off the production all together. Look in the past to foresee the future.

To avoid: Anything with a history of too rough changes within updates and high risk of discontinuing production.

Golden rule: Choose team over individuals

To choose: Solution developed by a team or a company.

A team of people is more likely to have:

  • road map;
  • action plan for future development, improvements and updates;
  • procedure for testing, verifications and debugging;
  • better code compatibility and compliance with framework.

To avoid: Individuals who are coding today but might change their mind and do something else tomorrow.

Bigger your project is, more strict you need to be in following these Best Practices.

Imagine that you’re building your e-shop and you choose some shady, unknown plugin for online orders, just because it’s cheap. Your website will break down after every single update as it’ll lack compatibility with the plugin. Each time you’ll end up with no sales until it’s fixed.

In worst case scenario, the author of the plugin will disappear somewhere to Bahamas after a bug in his plugin had been found. You will have to rebuild your entire website finding another, more reliable plugin for online orders.

Conclusion

Open source web building solutions are amazing. Internet is flooded with either free or very affordable plugins you can install to extend the functionality of your website. They’re easily accessible, customisable, cheap… However you need to be very careful while picking the one that is right for you. Think twice, install once. Not the other way around.