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WordPress Plugins

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WordPress Plugins

Choosing the right plugin

When we’re developing themes or working with designs on WordPress, plugins are frequently used in order to add a certain functionality.  

As most of our readers probably know by now, plugins play a crucial role when it comes to designing a website in WordPress. You don’t have to become an expert in programming languages to understand what plugins can do for you, all that is required is a few simple clicks and a basic understanding of what you are looking to achieve. 

However, hold on for a moment... we're probably getting too ahead of ourselves.   

Let's stop for a second, and get an understanding of what plugins are first!  

As these statistics suggest, there are many websites using WordPress CMS, so understanding what plugins are is crucial. Hopefully this little insight might help you to consider using WordPress in the future.  As a web design company based in Newcastle, we do appreciate the importance of having an easy to use content management system available for businesses that don't require a custom development project. 

Some of our readers may be new to the whole plugin experience, and some may be aware of it, but not too sure of the drawbacks that come with using the platform. We'll be covering those and some other you probably may not have thought of yet.  

So, before you leave today – our aim is to make you an expert on identifying plugins!  

Let's begin with the term 'plugins'... what are they?   

A plugin is a piece of software that holds a set of functions. These are used within WordPress and can be implemented with a few simple clicks. They are built by developers within the community and can be used to help speed up the development process as some features have already been designed and distributed to a mass audience for use.  

There are millions of plugins out there and a simple search can bring you a whole host of features you may be in need of. 

There's a saying that goes around the WordPress community – If you're thinking of a way to implement a new feature "there's a plugin for that".   

To give you an idea of how plugin searches work, it's as simple as this.  

Once you click on the search, you'll receive pages with several plugins that provide different levels of functionality to one and other.  

However, the most common website many people tend to look at is https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/

How do I know which plugin to download?  

This is one of the most crucial questions to ask yourself when searching for plugins.  

Here are a few further questions you would need to ask yourself to answer the question above.  

  • How long has the plugin been released for? (Check whether it's new or old)  
  • If it has been released for a while now, let's say 5 years or so, ensure that it is compatible with the latest version of WordPress. 
  • Check the changelog on recent updates to find out if they are still improving/working on the plugin. Some developers may state on the plugin description 'this plugin has been discontinued' to tell their audience they will no longer work on it, however, some do not and so it's important to have a quick look at the changelog.  
  • If a plugin that has been released a few years back, it is vital for it to be updated frequently as there could be security flaws that need to be addressed.  
  • How popular is the plugin? 
  • We'd also look to favour a plugin with thousands downloads, over one that has just come to the market so hasn't been tested by the community yet.
  • A plugin that is popular would give you an indication that the developer is maintaining the plugin for any potential threats or security issues.  
  • Popular plugins may currently have good security, however, no plugin in comlpletely safe from hackers so always download from reliable sources.  
  • How is the support service?  
  • This isn't always necessary, but having an active support group can be quite helpful. If you have any queries or questions you'll get an instant reply.  
  • Contacting the developer for an issue regarding the security of the plugin is also made easier.  

Installing a plugin  

When it comes to adding the plugin into your WordPress website, for some it's as simple as 1,2,3 – just a click of a button.   

If the size of the plugin is large or sometimes it does not appear within the plugin options within the dashboard, some may wonder, how else are we supposed to install the plugin?  

To save you the hassle of researching ways of installing plugins, here are 3 effective ways you can install them. 

WordPress Dashboard Plugin search  

This is probably the most common way most users install a plugin. Once you've clicked on the plugin option from the dashboard panel on the left, you'll see an 'add new' button.   

The 'add new' button does exactly 'what it says on the tin' as the saying goes, after you click on it, it gives you 2 options. The 2 options are upload (which we will go through in the next section) and a search field with a list of plugins to download and install.   

If you’re looking for a specific plugin, the search would be handy to use, and when it comes to installing – just click on install and the rest is automatically done for you.  

WordPress Upload Zip in dashboard  

This is quite rare, but sometimes the plugin you're looking for may not display within the built-in search filter. This requires you to download the actual plugin rather than have the built-in automated feature do it all for you.  

Downloading and uploading the zip on the dashboard is simple. Once you click on the upload button, the rest is just locating your plugin zip folder on your computer and submitting it to the admin panel.  

However, since WordPress has a limit on how large the file must be, if it goes over a certain file size, WordPress would reject it.  

Manual Installation  

If all else fails, this is probably the best option to go with.   

So, you're probably wondering why manually install a plugin if there's an automated way to do so, right?  

Sometimes when you've either developed your own plugin or found a plugin via WordPress library, they may be too large for it to upload within your WordPress panel and therefore this step comes into the limelight.  

So to cut to the chase, to install a plugin manually here are the steps.  

For this, you'll need an FTP client such as Filezilla .Once you've downloaded a plugin, move it across to this folder (wp-content > plugins) and paste it there, then unzip the file. Sometimes the plugin may be contained within multiple unnecessary subfolders so make sure to get the correct folder holding the files out. And then that's all to it!   

The last step is to activate the plugin within the admin panel and you're good to go.  

A quick side note, you don't want to overload your plugin section with features you don't really need and have workarounds for them as your websites becomes more difficult to manage. Steps like this would help prevent that and keep your plugin listings with the ones you are actually using rather than leaving deactivated plugins in the directory.

Benefits of using plugins  

  • Saves you time for working with features that are possibly out of scope of the project so are now easy to implement  
  • Makes it easier for clients to use without having to know how to code  
  • Security Plugins – to give you the option on how to protect your website than solely relying on the default system. 
  • SEO tools for better ranking within Google and other search engines, through the use of plugins such as Yoast plugin, Google Analytics

Potential issues regarding plugins  

  • Plugin security vulnerability – Plugins that have been developed and released recently can fall into this category, however, if you research into the plugin you're after and it has great feedback, there are no reasons why you shouldn't give it a try. 
  • Installing too many plugins can be an issue due to a plugin being compromised making your website open to get attacked. Sometimes you end up with a large amount of plugins installed, and it becomes difficult to pinpoint which plugin would be the source of the breach. 
  • Plugins that are not compatible with the latest version of WordPress should be avoided at all cost. This is due to it not having the required requirement in order for it to work with the latest WordPress release. 
  • Some plugins can be costly – As much as we'd love them all to be free, not all of them are! Many plugins do follow a common step of having a 'Lite – free version' and a 'Pro – premium version'. As straightforward as it may be, the professional versions outweigh the lite versions due to having more features available. However, if you only need the features from the smaller versions, or free versions then we'd recommend you try these first! 

So, what did you get out of this? 

When it comes to plugins, hopefully we cleared any issues you had regarding what they are, and how to install them.   

If you're running a WordPress website, then you most likely are aware of how important plugins are, whether it be for a feature of the website, SEO optimisation to security, whatever you can think of most likely has been developed as a plugin already.  

Hold on, here's something you'd probably want to stick around for... 

We use a range of custom management systems and WordPress certainly is one of them. From our experience, many clients like using Wordpress due to it being simple and easy to use. 

We work with Wordpress on a daily basis for clients, so if you need some assistance with a project or website, we can do it for you. We work from the users point of view of testing the website ensuring it is visually appealing as well as simple at the backend to use. So you don’t really need to know any coding whatsoever in order to implement/alter features or content. 

So, if you have an idea or looking to a project going, give us a call or simply just contact us from here and also have a look at what we do.

 

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