WordPress plugins are necessary for WordPress to function seamlessly. More than 54,000 WordPress plugins exist today. WordPress is easy to use and very flexible with thousands of WordPress plugins (free and paid) that can add functionality and more features to your website. But with greater choice, comes complexity. Here’s your guide to WordPress plugins.
What is a WordPress plugin?
A plugin is simply software that adds functions to your website. A WordPress plugin is designed specifically to work with the WordPress content management system (CMS) and can be sourced from the dashboard area of your website, through a general online search or from the WordPress website.
Generally, plugins are free with paid options available usually for more complex plugins that provide a higher level of functionality.
Types of WordPress plugins
The best WordPress plugins work seamlessly with WordPress. They are regularly updated to improve their operation, address issues and work with new versions of WordPress after they are released.
Here are some of the types of plugins you will find useful for your business site:
Security is a top concern for any website, but especially those that have an eCommerce element and deal with customers sensitive information.
There are different elements that you can consider when looking at the security of your website and you may need more than one WordPress plugin to ensure you minimise risks.
Backup: Always have a backup option. You want to be able to create automatic backups as a strong security measure. Being able to reinstall a backup is a much smaller headache than being locked out of your site or worse losing it for good.
Login lockdown: this gives your site the ability to defend against from people trying brute force attacks. This is where someone tries to hack your site by trying different logins. You need a good plugin that blocks an IP address after a specified number of login attempts.
Malware: you must protect your data from malware and other cyber attacks. Source a plugin that monitors and quarantines suspect activity before it has a chance to cause havoc.
A good eCommerce plugin will allow you to list your products or services for sale online. One of the most common and widely used plugins for this is WooCommerce.
In addition to the eCommerce plugin, you will want to include:
Secure payment options: people know to look for secure sites before submitting credit card details and you will lose customers if this is not operating at the highest level. Consider well-known options like PayPal and Stripe. Some payment gateways may already be integrated with a plugin like WooCommerce.
Extensions: you may purchase other plugins to increase the features your website has to offer. This may be a plugin that allows you to create add-ons when people are shopping online.
Integrations: If you use Zoho books or something similar to control your inventory, leads or orders – you may need to purchase a plugin so that you can automate or sync the connection between your website and that current solution.
Digital marketing plugins
An effective marketing strategy helps ensure the success of your business. With your website being an essential online tool, you can increase its role in your overall exposure by using marketing plugins for:
SEO optimisation: maximise your on-page searchability with one of the available plugins. They will add things like image ALT tags, Title tags, XML sitemaps and more to increase your search ranking. A popular plugin is Yoast SEO.
Lead generation: build your database of email subscribers and expand the number of potential customers that you are reaching when you use plugins to help you generate leads. If you use Mailchimp, you can’t go past the Mailchimp plugin to connect your site.
Other WordPress plugins
These are just a few examples or WordPress plugins available. If you are trying to do something on your website, more than likely someone else has wanted the same thing and it has been solved with a plugin.
Go to the plugins section in your WordPress dashboard, click “add new” and explore a range of other plugins using key search terms.
What to look out for in WordPress plugins?
There is no limit to the types of WordPress plugins available, the trick is to find the ones that function the way that you want them to and work well within your site.
A WordPress plugin needs to solve your problem in such a way that your website is enhanced rather than compromised. Some plugins may slow down your website, break other sections of your site or even cause vulnerabilities.
It helps to review these factors before installing a WordPress plugin:
Look at download numbers: Before even installing a plugin to your website, check how many times it has been downloaded. If a lot of people have downloaded the plugin, this may be a good sign. If there’s not that many, it could mean the plugin is new or possibly not a safe option.
Read reviews: You can look at the star rating reviews of a WordPress plugin prior to downloading it. The reviews can give you a good indication of whether the plugin is useful. Look at what the bad reviews say. This may give you reasons not to use the plugin if you find that a common complaint is something you need.
Check when the plugin was last updated: If the plugin has not been updated for a while, it may not be compatible with your current WordPress install. Or worse, it could be vulnerable to security risks.
The two things that are most important overall with plugins are that they improve your website and help you offer a great user experience. Any plugin that doesn’t tick these two boxes is not worth considering. There are always plenty of well-designed options available.
How to install a WordPress plugin?
Once you’ve decided a plugin is suitable or safe to use, you can download it within your WordPress dashboard or upload a file (commonly a zip) to your website. Other technical methods like via an FTP/ file manager in CPanel also exist.
Before installing a plugin, remember to backup your website. After installation, check your website and backend to see if there are any issues which may have been caused by a plugin conflict. A debug plugin may also help with this.
How to maintain a WordPress plugin?
Once you’ve installed your plugin, your relationship with it and your website do not stop there. Plugins are often regularly updated. This may be due to a security vulnerability being found, fixes for errors found by the plugin developer or to ensure that the plugin does not conflict with WordPress recent versions.
When a plugin update is available it will appear as a number in your WordPress dashboard. Rather than update all plugins at once, it’s recommended you backup your site and update each plugin one by one. This is done because you may find after updating a plugin, your site may change with a code issue, break in some way or conflict with another plugin.
If you experience any issues, you should contact your web host or developer.
Remember, you should avoid having too many plugins to reduce the risk of plugin conflicts and a slow loading website.
If you are struggling to use an installed plugin, search for a WordPress tutorial online to help you configure the settings and learn more about its functions.
If you would like to know more about WordPress plugins or get help sourcing, installing and configuring them, contact us at LYF solutions. We can help you get started.