What kind of opening do you need to block off? If you are blocking off the top of stairs, a hardware-mounted gate is a must. If you are blocking off a heavily trafficked area that you frequently have to navigate with your hands full, look for a gate that opens easily and can be kicked close or closes automatically. A wider opening may be helpful as well. If you are trying to block off a large area of a room or a room feature such as a hearth, look for a gate that is freestanding but can be wall mounted.
What size is the opening? Before you shop for a gate, measure all openings carefully both at the lower and the higher threshold, as openings in older homes or in earthquake-prone areas may not be the same. Write down the measurements and take them to the store with you. Some gates may include the extensions you need to fit the doorway, but you will have to purchase extensions separately for other gates.
Who will be using the gate? Families with older children who don't need to be gated will encounter multiple areas of potential frustration: Older children may forget to close the gates behind them, and some may also struggle to open the toddler-proof latch and end up climbing the gate, which isn't safe. In families with older children, consider a gate that automatically swings shut, and make sure older kids practice unlatching the gate without assistance.
Do you care about design? While most people buy baby gates with function in mind, manufacturers are increasingly recognizing that buyers want nicer-looking options, too. If you're purchasing a gate that will be used in a high-traffic, high-visibility area, consider whether you want something that better blends in with your home's décor. There are a number of more attractive options that blend wood and metal, incorporate design elements such as arches, or keep slats and latches sleek and streamlined for more modern homes.