For most WordPress users, the basic WordPress installation doesn’t include all the features they want or need to create their website.
While themes often include many of these missing features, they don’t include everything. The answer to increasing the functionality of your website is simple – WordPress plugins.
Much like themes, plugins help you create a more user friendly site that’s also easier for you to administer.
What Are WordPress Plugins?
Plugins are a collection of scripts and assets that extend the functionality of an existing WordPress installation. Since WordPress is designed to be lightweight in order to improve page loading times, you only have the most essential and common features and functions by default. When you need added features or want to improve upon a feature you already have, you can either install a plugin or add code to your existing theme.
WordPress only includes two plugins by default. The first is Akismet which helps protect sites against spam comments. The second is Hello Dolly which randomly displays lyrics from “Hello Dolly.” While you’ll likely never use the latter, it’s actually the first official plugin designed for WordPress. The former is widely used to help cut down on useless, spammy comments.
From analytics and security to forms and page sliders, plugins can help a WordPress site do almost anything. The key is finding the right balance of plugins to maintain optimal page loading speeds and function.
When Should You Use Plugins?
The biggest question surround plugins is when should you use them. With thousands of free and premium plugins available, it’s tempting to load a site with hundreds of them. After all, more plugins should equal a better site, right? Wrong. The right plugins make a better site.
You should only install plugins if they’ll truly add something beneficial to your site or make administering the site easier. The more plugins you install, the slower your site loads. While higher quality plugins typically don’t affect site performance much, lower quality plugins will noticeably slow down your site and drive visitors away.
How To Install Plugins?
The installation method depends mainly on the plugins you choose. Some require you to copy and paste the code snippet into your current theme’s code. Some walk you step by step through the installation process. Others are included with your theme and only need to be activated to be used.
If you’re not comfortable editing code, it’s highly recommended to hire a WordPress developer to install plugins for you. They know exactly where to place the code so the plugin functions correctly. Pasting the code in the wrong place could cause problems with your site.
What’s The Difference In Free And Premium?
Free and premium WordPress plugins are available all over the Internet. A search for WordPress plugin along with the function you want to accomplish could easily yield hundreds of results. Odds are, you’ll see both free and premium options. The main difference of course is price.
The quality of the plugin is also a big difference depending on where you find the plugin. Free sources are sometimes questionable as some plugins could be dangerous. However, some sources are highly reputable, such as official plugins from WordPress.
Premium plugins often provide special functionality you won’t find elsewhere. These plugins may also combine several functions into one plugin. Plus, they tend not to affect site performance nearly as much as their free counterparts.
Where To Find Plugins?
You have two main options for finding plugins – search online or hire a WordPress developer to create a custom one for your site. Custom plugins are usually the best choice if you can’t find a reputable plugin online and don’t want to settle for something that doesn’t do exactly what you need it to do. It’s also a good idea if you have a custom theme.
The following sites offer a wide variety of plugin options:
- WordPress.org – With over 30,000 plugins, WordPress is the most reputable source of free plugins.
- MakeUseOf Plugin List – Find the best plugins (free and premium) divided into categories such as social and core functionality.
- WPPlugins – This premium plugin marketplace has over 100 plugins to choose from.
- WPMUDEV – The site has an easy to search premium plugin list.
- Code Canyon – Find exactly what you need from hundreds of premium plugins.
Besides searching for specific plugins, you can also install a WordPress theme that already has all the plugins you’re looking for built-in. In most cases, you’ll need to buy a premium or custom developed theme to get exactly what you need.
WordPress plugins are ideal for taking a WordPress site from basic to professional and highly functional quickly. They’re easy to install and a must have for any real WordPress powered site.
Image: Harsh Agrawal