WordPress Plugins 101, Those Special Purpose Website Helpers
If you’re wondering what WordPress plugins are, you will first need to understand WordPress. The platform has traveled a long way since it first launched. Today, it has created a market and opportunities never imagined before. It is a powerful platform allowing everyone to build their digital presence—from the smallest, simplest site to large, complex online behemoths.
However, right out of the box, WordPress isn’t the most functional package. While it is a popular Content Management System worldwide, its functionality relies on WordPress plugins to give its capabilities a good boost.
What Are WordPress Plugins?
When you create your WordPress website, you will generally start with a blank canvas to publish basic content. However, you will not receive stuff like page builders, contact forms, or two-factor authentication straight out of the box.
WordPress offers the freedom and ability to choose essential functionality, making it user-friendly and lightweight.
This is where PLUGINS come into play.
Plugins are special-purpose pieces of software that “plug in” to the WordPress core software. In simple words, plugins are add-ons installed to your WordPress site to offer specific functions the platform didn’t initially contain. Plugins add the necessary and extra functionality to enhance and scale up your website.
Top categories include:
- Contact Form
- Page Builder
- Search Engine Optimization
The installation process grabs the plugin’s zip files and establishes those on your website.
As of this writing in 2021, there were some 58,000 WordPress plugins, most of which are available on WordPress.org.
There’s minimal time and expenses involved with installing most plugins. They are often free, and many come with upgraded functionality available at a price—known as premium plugins.
As a side note: You can also find cracked or nulled (typically this means they were hacked) plugins online. But these typically contain annoying ads or install malware. These aren’t updated and could crash the site at any point in time as well as posing security issues.
How to Pick a Good WordPress Plugin?
Choosing the most useful plugin is crucial. But how do you go about the process of picking one from over 50,000 free plugins?
The most suitable plugin is the one that addresses your needs directly and without a lot of additional configuration. Read the documentation on the plugin site to learn more, including FAQs if available.
Another crucial determinant to help narrow your options is what people are saying about a plugin. It talks about the reputation of the developer and the plugin’s overall functionality. Look for the rating and review the comments. The negative reviews are sometimes the most helpful.
Look for the following when choosing a plugin:
- A responsive team
- Better customer support
- Issues resolved in the past
In short, how many people request support and how promptly the team responds makes it a better plugin.
How many eyes are looking at the plugin? The more the number, the better the plugin and the active its developers may be in fixing issues.
This refers to how many vulnerabilities the plugin encountered in the past. Also, it tells how soon the team remediated the threat. So, eliminate any option which reports more than five vulnerabilities in a year. It’s likely that team isn’t performing competently in developing, testing and debugging their product in the first place.
From a security standpoint, check whether the plugin is active or abandoned. It ensures there’s no safety issue and the plugin works with the latest WP update (or at least a recent version). A good rule is to look for a Last Update not more than six months ago.
How to Install WordPress Plugins?
How to install a plugin? Follow these steps to get started with free WordPress plugins:
- Navigate to the WordPress Dashboard, click the Plugins tab, and from there choose Add new.
- Search for your preferred plugin, and hit Install Now.
- Once the plugin installs, Activate it to add it to your site.
- Customize the specs of the plugin via plugin Dashboard.
- Review the enhancements and publish the plugin on your site.
- Then check your site to make sure the plugin hasn’t caused unintended effects on your site.
Also, to find your installed plugins, check out the left-hand side panel or in Tools or Settings.
Good Plugin Hygiene
First, actively maintain plugins by keeping them up to date. Or, check with us about WordPress Website Maintenance if you don’t want to learn to manage the intricacies of website plugins.
Second, don’t install something that you don’t need, increasing your risk of cyber-attacks. Next, uninstall plugins you aren’t using. Finally, use as many as you need but not more. All software on your site can add to bloat and possibly slow your site’s performance.
Understanding and choosing the right WordPress plugins require some consideration. Depending on the scope of your site, the decision can be crucial. Want to know more about website plugins? Contact the New Paradigm Marketing team for professional assistance.