5 Basic Things to Know about WordPress Plugins
Are you considering to have your very own WordPress website? WordPress is a terrific platform to showcase your unique offerings. Its software is free for you and everyone else to use. Many people love it! But despite its popularity, a number are still uncertain as to what plugins are and how they can be used. Here are the 5 basic things to know about WordPress plugins. Understand what they are, what they do, and how you can use them in the best possible way you can!
1. Plugins are software applications.
People ask…What are plugins?
They see the word “Plugins” on their admin dashboard with the plug icon beside it. They wonder, “Could it be an energy saver, or some kind of device I can attach to my computer perhaps?” Not at all.
WordPress defines it this way: Plugins are ways to extend and add to the functionality that already exists in WordPress.
After installing your core WordPress software, you’ll find it has 2 plugins available to use. These default plugins are Akismet and Hello Dolly. Akismet helps you fight spam, while Hello Dolly enables a friendly greeting at the top right corner of your dashboard.
The thing is…
WordPress acknowledges the need and desire for creative and ambitious individuals like you to do more with your website. There are definitely so many things you can do with a website.
To help you achieve your goals, plugins act like software applications. Each of them has its own functionality to use in your website.
You can have a plugin for security, another plugin for engagement, one other for the appearance of your website, and something else to help you out in your content. There are more than 50,000 plugins to choose from, and the number of plugins available is still growing.
50,000 plugins—wonder how you can choose the right plugins for your website?
It is not easy to browse through an ocean of possibilities. You may find it helpful to know first and be clear with what you want to have on your website. Think about what functions or features you want to provide.
You may be looking for a form builder, an events calendar, a reactions feature. It’s your pick.
Once you’ve decided on your goal, what you can do is type in a keyword in the search box. That will give you options to choose from.
Click on any plugin you like to check its details. You can check to see the following:
- Core software versions it has been tested with
- Rating and reviews from users
- Plugin description
- Installation guidelines
- Plugin FAQ
- Last time it was updated
In all these, you want to ensure that the plugin works well and that it is the latest version. Know what other items are available in that same keyword or functionality you desire. Be free to browse around and check.
2. Almost all WordPress plugins are free.
You may say…Wait. Aren’t all plugins for free?
WordPress has its own repository of plugins to use in your WordPress website. You may donate to their developers to fund them for more projects.
In the WP repo, you’ll find thousands of FREE plugins.
If you want something that is not in the repository, you know the good news—you can create your own plugin. Although that may not really be a very good thing to others, considering it’s pretty challenging to write code.
But, that’s okay.
There are other repositories outside of WordPress. Two of them are CreativeMinds and CodeCanyon. You may find, however, that some plugins outside of WP are not free.
Only be sure to check the source’s credibility. You don’t want to end up losing your money to some ill-conceived cause. It may harm your website as well.
3. Plugins are among the common causes of WordPress errors.
You may have heard of issues like the white screen of death and the internal server error. Many times, they are caused by plugin incompatibility.
What happens is…
The plugin you have on your website is not working well with either your core software or theme. This is why it’s useful to check which version of the core software the plugin has been tested with. And although you may want that specific plugin for your website, you can’t get them working due to incompatibility.
When the error comes up, what you can do is deactivate your plugins one by one. You may refresh the browser after each time you deactivate. You’ll know which one is causing the error when the error is no longer around after you refresh and check your website.
Aside from incompatibility, plugin maintenance may also come into play.
As time progresses, plugin developers may have more ideas to improve their plugins. They may have found some glitches, or simply want to improve the experience that they provide.
On your end, you can stay updated with their new releases to ensure your plugins are up-to-date. Outdated plugins can run incompatible with your core software version.
The good thing is…
Since version 3.7, WordPress has enabled automatic updates. According to them, there are special cases that enable automatic plugin updates as well. You can turn them off when you want to.
What’s important is you maintain your website regularly. Check for plugins that may already be outdated.
You don’t have to worry losing them on your website. With thousands of other plugins to choose from, you can look for another plugin of the same function or feature and install it. Otherwise, you can look for its latest version instead and replace your outdated plugin with it.
4. You can have as many plugins as you CAN.
Notice the emphasis on the word “can”.
The thing is…
You may have an unlimited list of plugins you want for your website, but you cannot possibly use them because they are either outdated or not well-written. (Yes, plugins are written with code.) If you choose to use them still, it can end up in incompatibility issues—which isn’t really a good idea.
But, here’s something you would totally love: there is no limit to how many plugins you can run on your website. How fun would it be if WordPress offers you a limited number of plugins?
Plugins help provide the fun and excitement that users can have from your website (frontend). They also help make things convenient for you from the backend or admin dashboard.
Many fear in having “too much” when in reality, it’s the poorly written plugins that can cause your website to crash or produce errors.
If you worry about slowing down your website, you can install a caching plugin like the W3 Total Cache. It will not only increase your website performance, but will also optimize your website for search engines.
How many plugins again? Just as much as you can maintain. 🙂
5. Plugins exist to enhance user experience.
…So, be deliberate and creative in using them. If you visit the WordPress plugin repository right now, you’ll find this:
WordPress acknowledges the experience you can provide for your users and yourself.
If you are running a website for your apparel business, for example, you don’t want to drive away potential customers with poor directions on where to go. Neither would you want them to be uninterested just because of the lack of features to help them respond positively.
A word on user experience…
There is this insightful article about crafting remarkable client experiences. Typically when people think about the word “experience”, it’s easy to relate it with the emotions or mood produced.
According to Brand Strategist Jared Angaza, the experience that users have on your website contribute to the total impact you have on them. That is your brand.
“A brand is the experience that you create either deliberately or unintentionally.” -Jared Angaza
Many business owners can get caught up with the tasks of managing their respective companies. They tend to think about how they can do more to earn more. But, not all facets of a business is about money.
There are other things to consider apart from simply running a business and ensuring it continues to run. There exists a need to strengthen the very core of that business, which is your brand. And, it’s very unlikely that you’ll reach higher levels of success without it.
The thing is…
How you service your target market with plugins also has an impact on that total experience you provide. So, it’s wise to be deliberate in choosing which plugins will work well for your website. And, you can be creative in using them.
If you’re not sure how to go about creating efficient brand strategies for your business, you can consult or work with Jared. He’ll be happy to help! You can connect with him here. 🙂
**Photo about plugin repository courtesy of WordPress.org
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