WordPress is an amazing platform with an equally outstanding and generous community built up around it. There’s not a single other platform out there that matches WordPress for ease of use and extended functionality — the WordPress plugins and theme repositories are two of the biggest draws to the platform.
Plugins help you to extend your WordPress installation. You can use them to include functionality that’s useful to your business, the search engines and to your audience. You might want to use them to:
- Back up your WordPress installation
- Install analytics tracking
- Implement social sharing
- Turn your site into a multi-author blog with additional workflow functionality
- Assist with your SEO efforts
- Foster better engagement by making the commenting system more social media friendly and attractive to your visitors
- Set-up a store front to sell your products
It’s All Too Easy to Go Plugin Mad!
There’s no doubt that plugins are a useful addition but a word of caution is necessary. Nearly every WordPress or marketing expert publishes a list of their favourite plugins. These lists are usually great resources but there are issues with implementing every list of plugins published:
- Not all plugins play nicely with each other or with the theme you have installed. I’ve had to rescue more than my fair share of blogs that have become inaccessible to their owners because the mixture of theme/plugins has crashed the site.
- Not everyone needs the same plugins; you must tailor the plugins to the needs of your business and audience and then choose the best in class for your business purposes.
- Generally speaking, the more plugins you have, the slower your website speed will be. This is not good! Both visitors and search engines like sites that load quickly. See more about that [here].
Choose and Add the Right WordPress Plugins
- Think carefully about the functionality that you need and what your audience wants to do when they visit your site.
- Note down the categories that you need to implement — backup, social sharing, membership section, e-commerce, site optimization and so on.
- Carry out research into the different plugin options available for each category. Check the plugins’ support forums. Google to see if there are any issues with the plugin. Visit your theme’s support forum and see if there are any known compatibility issues. You should also ask people in your various networks to see what experience they have with a particular plugin.
- Draw up your preferred list of plugins from this research.
- Ideally, you want to test the plugins before adding them to your live site. Running a copy of your website on your local machine is always a good idea and allows you to play around with your settings without the danger of crashing your live website! It’s easy to do, and there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube to help you get it done.
- If you’re not testing locally, make sure that you can access your website via FTP or cPanel in order to disable the plugin, if needs be. Here‘s how to do that if you have problems.
- Add each plugin one at a time, activate and configure, and then test to see if your site is working as intended.
- Once you have everything installed and configured, give the site a thorough look to make sure everything is working as it should be.
- Once you’re satisfied that everything works the way it should, you can add the plugins to your live site.
Once you’ve got your website up and running with all the additional functionality you need, remember to be discriminating about what else you decide to add further down the road. You don’t need to be cutting edge; don’t jump on every bandwagon. Pick and choose the changes you make to serve your customer better — not just because you can or to keep up with the latest trends.
A final word: always make sure you update to the latest version of your WordPress plugins. Update them automatically, one by one, checking that your website is still working properly between each upgrade.
Are you plugin mad or do you manage to stay restrained? It can be quite hard to resist the latest releases. Share your WordPress plugin experience in the comments section.