One of the biggest advantages of choosing a website that makes use of WordPress as a content management system is the fact that thanks to the over 25,000 easy to install plugins (most call only for two or three clicks) a website owner can use to expand the functionality of their site in an almost endless number of ways quickly, easily and without ever having to wait three days for a web developer to call them back. Or learn a single line of code either.
That having been said, if you are the proud owner of a brand new WordPress powered website there are some things you should know and understand about plugin use in general to make sure that everything continues to run as smoothly as possible. Here are some of the most important points.
Keep Your Plugins Up to Date
Just like the WordPress platform itself, plugins do need to be regularly updated by their creators to ensure that they are still functioning as they should and that they are secure. This is something that most developers do and you will be notified by a dashboard notification when an update is available. Do not ignore those updates, take the few minutes it takes to update as soon as you are given the option. Outdated plugins are a common target for hackers and there is always a reason for a plugin update for functionality’s sake as well.
Delete Unwanted Plugins
Many website owners end up having WordPress plugins that they no longer use (or never did) and so they deactivate them. However, the plug in is still there, even if it is not live, creating a possible security risk. Therefore don’t just stop at deactivating a plugin, delete it altogether. Should you decide you need it back at a later time it should still be available in the plugin directory and can be installed in minutes.
Paid is Not Always Best
It is a simple matter of marketing logic that people will naturally assume that a plugin they have to pay for will always be superior to one that is free. That is not always the case in the world of WordPress however. As it is an open platform for developers there are some truly great plugins that were created as a ‘labour of love’ rather than a for profit item and there are some paid plugins that are not worth a penny let alone the amounts that are being charged for them.
The best way to decide whether or not to use a certain plugin, or which to opt for if there are several different options that seem to do the same thing, is to get involved in the lively WordPress community a little and do a bit of homework before you make a decision.
When you first come across a plugin that interests you should look at all of the following information, which is readily available in the WordPress plugin directory:
The number of downloads – Obviously, more is usually better. If it’s a brand new plugin give it a chance in this category though.
Ratings and reviews – WordPress users are an active lot and many people do leave accurate reviews and ratings for plugins they either liked a lot or had a problem with. You should also read any comments, as that is likely to give you a good indication whether or not active support is being provided by the developer.
Who is the developer? – Many developers create a number of plugins and become well known in the WordPress community in that way while others have created just one or two plugins that have become hugely successful. For example, Joost de Valk is ‘only’ the creator of the Yoast SEO plugins set but he created a plugin so useful and popular his reputation for creating a great, useful product precedes him.
If you are still undecided, ask for recommendations in one of the many WordPress forums. The users there are for the most part very helpful and you can usually find out rather quickly what the general opinion of a certain offering is.
Adding plugins is not a must. Your WordPress website will come with many of the most important ‘built in’. However, a plugin can be very useful in some circumstances, just make sure you use them responsibly.