Previously, we talked about widgets. If you missed that you can check it out again here: WordPress Widgets
You might think you're done. No one would fault you for stopping here. But the real convenience or power for flexibility is its plug-ability. It is easy to add a plugin to do almost anything you need to make your site more functional or provide some added value.
WordPress Plugin Cautions
Plugins rock the world of WordPress by adding functionality, tools, calculators, store fronts, galleries, the list is endless but there are some considerations to keep in mind.
Reputation tops the list. First, anyone can build a plugin. You could just meander over to https://developer.wordpress.org/plugins/ and start building your own plugin. I know that might be a stretch but I want it to hit home who might be building the plugin you are putting on your website. Just because the instructions are there it doesn't mean the developer followed them. I know the first few plugins I built scraped by with the minimum to get the effect I was looking for. I didn't go through to insure I followed the best practices and security guidelines--nothing bad happened because those plugins were innocuous.
Worse than that, a developer might be a hacker that stuck in a line of code that sends all your information and passwords to some shady guy in another country. . . Do your due diligence when searching for plugins and know in the back of your mind, like the stock market, past performance doesn't predict future performance. Look for companies you've heard of that make plugins or recommendations from experts like EvoDynamic or WPEngine. Look at the number of downloads in combination with the ratings of a plugin. Assure yourself that the plugin has been recently updated. Check with colleagues and peers in your industry to see what they are using. With intentional plugin selection and a solid backup strategy you can keep your site up and running.
Performance of a WordPress site decreases with the number and complexity of plugins installed on a site. At least one line of code (but usually multiple or many lines) run for EACH plugin while loading each and every page on your WordPress site. Basically, it is a little conversation that goes a little like this between WordPress and the plugins:
"Are you ready Mr. Plugin?"
"Yup, I'm ready."
"OK, do you need to do anything right now?"
"Nope, not now."
"How about now?"
"Nope, not yet."
You get the idea. That represents one conversation with one plugin. Multiply that by the number of plugins you put on a site. Be intentional about selecting plugins that provide a value and only install those. We migrated a site recently that had over 30 plugins. We discovered most of them were not being used at all. Just something the site owner had "tried out" at some point. If you are not using a plugin, remove it from your site.
Security - the day WordPress or a plugin author releases a new update is the same day that security is being tested by others. The beauty of WordPress is that it is open source meaning anybody can have and see all of the code and everybody is working on it to make it more secure and to function better. Plugins on the other hand have a smaller development team footprint in most cases. That is why we considered when the plugin was updated last in our Reputation considerations. After considering the reputation, and if you really want the plugin, you've got to pay attention and update all your plugins on a regular basis. Failing to do so leaves a door open for someone to do bad things to your site.
Installing and Activating WordPress Plugins
Alrighty, you've found a plugin you want to add to your site because it does something really cool like adds a new widget or shortcode. What next? Navigate to your WordPress back end on the left menu select Plugins. At the top next to the title click the button Add New. A search screen shows up where you can search for the plugin you're looking for and if you already have a plugin downloaded, there is an Upload Plugin button. Either search for and click Install Now your plugin or upload it. Then click the Activate button. Now you have a new plugin
Yeah, it really is that simple.
Using WordPress Plugins
Most plugins have settings of some form or another. Some embed their settings in the main WordPress admin sidebar menu. The most direct way to a plugin's settings is from the Plugins admin page. Find the plugin you want to setup or change and find the little Settings link under it's title. Beyond that using and modifying a plugin's settings will be different for each one. On this page just below the plugin description is a link to Visit plugin site or better yet Documentation (for some) where you can find further instructions or documentation on how to use that plugin.
Updating WordPress Plugins
When a plugin needs an update, it will show up on the Plugins admin page highlighted in red. It is simple enough to update them by FIRST CHECKING IF YOU HAVE A RECENT BACKUP then clicking the checkbox by the plugin and then using the Bulk Actions menu at the top or bottom of the list and selecting Update. It will go out to the web and grab and install an update for the plugin. After it finishes, go check your site and see if the plugin still seems to be functioning correctly.
Our product Freedom WordPress service keeps your entire site updated from plugins all the way up to WordPress and PHP so you never have to think about it. If your site ever gets messed up, we'll install your backups for you. If a plugin goes bad, we'll guide you in the next steps to take. Anything dealing with hosting or keeping WordPress up to date and updating your plugins we take care of with Freedom WordPress.
If you want to go a step further and not touch WordPress at all, sign up for our White Glove Ninja Freedom WordPress. This service include the entire Freedom WordPress plus we'll post and update all your content according to your directions. Want to swap out a picture? Just send it to us and we'll get it done. Want to make a new post or page? Just send the content and images and we'll get it done. Want to tweak some content? Just give us the instructions and we'll keep tweaking until you get it just the way you want.
What a journey:
- Deciding if WordPress fits
- WordPress Launched
- Theme added
- Pages and Posts created
- Backups implemented
- Menus customized
- Widgets widgeting
- and Plugins enhancing
You are now well on your way to being a WordPress Ninja just like us.
There is one thing left to do, GRADUATE