In this post, I’ll cover what you need to know about WordPress plugins and things to be cautious of when adding them to your website.
A plugin is a piece of software (free or paid) that you install on your WordPress-based website to add to the functionality that already exists in WordPress. Basic WordPress themes (especially free themes) come with limited functionality, and plugins help to bridge the gap of what the theme is capable of, and what you’d like your website to do. Plugins allow you to customise your website to add any combination of functions to suit the website’s purpose.
Where do I find Plugins?
One of the main places to find a plugin for your site is to search the Official WordPress Plugin Repository. If you have WordPress.org installed on your website’s hosting server, you can also search for one via the “Plugins” option on the left-hand side menu in your site’s dashboard. If a plugin makes it into the WordPress repository, you can be sure it’s of high quality. WordPress.org has a strict screening process in place to protect website owners from installing poorly coded software on their website.
Not every plugin created for WordPress is available through the repository. Often, developers who wish to distribute their plugins will upload them to their own website as a free-to-download .zip file, or they’ll sell them through their online store, or upload them to a marketplace. Exercise caution when sourcing plugins from third-party sites. Do research on the developer and only buy/download from vendors who run well-known WordPress websites with evidence of social proof (reviews/ratings).
Free Plugins vs Paid Plugins
Free plugins are a great resource if you’re just starting your website and would like to add functionality for little financial outlay. There are many free plugins in the repository that are high-quality and can help you to add a few extra features to your site without much effort on your part.
Paid plugins can sometimes offer more advanced options than their free counterparts. Some of them offer basic functionality for free, and give you the option to pay to gain the extended (and often more advanced) features. A paid plugin is often a signal of commitment by the developer to continue to update the plugin and to provide support for its users.
Having said this, it’s also important to note that a paid plugin isn’t always the best solution. There are plenty of free options available that are updated frequently and could also be viable for your website.
A Word of Caution on Plugins
Be careful when installing plugins on your website.
Loading up your website with too many plugins can make your website slow, which leads to a frustrating user experience for your visitors. This could cause people to leave your site (or “bounce”) before the page content loads.
Plugins are not a “set and forget” solution. Just like everything else on your website, they need to be looked after, maintained and updated regularly. A plugin that malfunctions and causes an area of your website not to work damages the professional brand you’ve worked so hard to create.
Look carefully at the plugins that you’re choosing to install. Look for plugins that were updated recently, and opt to install those over a plugin that was last updated 3 months ago. Plugins that are not regularly updated can cause vulnerabilities in your website and can cause more problems down the line.
There are a lot of plugins that offer similar features, and it’s up to you to do your research to determine which plugin is the best one for your needs and your website’s purpose.
Struggling with your site’s bells and whistles? I can help!
If you’re battling with the design of your site, or you’d like to add extra features and don’t know where to start, I can help you. Website “stuff” can be overwhelming and intimidating, I totally get it!
I offer mini packages that help with your plugins, or your SEO, or your copy, or your design. This is great for business owners as you can invest smaller sums of money to solve your immediate concerns.
If you’d like me to help you, head on over to my Contact Page and fill in the form. I’ll be in touch in no time.
This is the fourth post in my “Website 101” series.
Melissa De Klerk
Writer, Web Designer, Digital Media Strategist, Typophile, Inspiration Junkie, Yogi
Melissa is the owner and creative brain behind Fox & Owl Media. She loves creating content strategies and has considerable experience with Website Design and Brand Management.
You can contact her here, and find her on social media by clicking the links below.