The following steps will walk you through our recommended vetting process for requesting a theme or plugin not currently offered through Geneseo OpenLab using the WordPress theme Astra as an example.
Step 1: Start with a strong search
When you’ve come to the point where you’ve decided you absolutely need to find a new theme or plugin for your site to function the way you want, you’ve likely found what you want by one of two ways:
- You’ve heard or read about a theme/plugin “in the wild”.
- You’re actively looking for a new theme/plugin to serve your needs.
In either situation, you’ll find that you’re unable to search for a theme or plugin directly from your Geneseo OpenLab site’s dashboard due to our network limitations. So, you’ll want to head over to the themes or plugins sections of wordpress.org to find what you’re looking for.
In the first situation we’ve outlined, you’ll want to use the “Search themes[plugins]…” option on the themes/plugins page and type in the theme/plugin you’re looking for.
If you’re in the second situation and are actively searching for a new theme/plugin to serve your site’s needs, starting out with a strong search will save you a lot of time, as you’ll be less likely to find options you initially like, but will ultimately have to veto after going through the full vetting process.
A strong search involves utilizing the filters and sorting options that WordPress provides.
For example, looking under the “popular” label will provide a baseline of relatively reliable options. More popular themes or plugins are more likely to be legitimate and dependable, since that’s likely why they’re popular in the first place.
For theme searching, filters will help you target your search based on features that align closely with the needs you’ve identified for your theme. The plugin search doesn’t offer as robust of a filter option, so searching with a precise keyword like “contact” or “template” would be essential for narrowing the plugins you browse.
Step 2: Note the URL
Once you’ve selected the theme or plugin you want to request, note the URL that leads to its wordpress.org description page, as you’ll have to provide it to the Geneseo OpenLab administrators in the request form.
Step 3: Reliability check
Perhaps the most important step in this vetting process is checking a theme or plugins specs. From this section of the webpage, note down the following:
- When was this theme or plugin last updated?
- Has it been a while since this theme/plugin has been updated? “A while” would be considered more than a year. If a theme or plugin isn’t regularly updated, it could be susceptible to security vulnerabilities, or it could be the first sign that its developers are moving away from supporting it.
- How many active installations are there of this theme?
- This will give you a sense of how many WordPress users trust this theme or plugin.
- What is the most recent version of WordPress this theme is compatible with?
- As of spring 2021, the latest version of WordPress is 5.7. You’ll want to make sure that the theme or plugin you’re interested in is compatible with the latest version of WordPress.
Step 4: Support check
Check the “posts” and “comments” columns outlined here to get a sense of developer activity. Keep the “last post” time stamp in mind when looking at whether or not the developer has responded to the issue. If it’s only been a few hours and you don’t see any comments, as shown above, that’s understandable. If it’s been more than a day since the issue was posted and the developer has not commented, and that behavior is a consistent pattern throughout the forum, that could be an indicator that the theme is not well supported and, therefore, unreliable for significant or longterm use.