No WordPress installation would be complete without plugins. They are the hidden force behind your website and act like a supercharger. They put your website on steroids. But what is a plugin, you may ask?
“Plugins are ways to extend and add to the functionality that already exists in WordPress.”
~ from the WordPress Codex, wordpress.org
So in a nutshell, a plugin is basically a nifty little program that extends the functionality of your WordPress website beyond the basic features.
And now that you know what a plugin is, it’s time to get some of those nifty little helpers onto your website, right, Damsel? But alas, there are more plugins available than stars in the sky. The WordPress Plugin Directory currently (September 2016) lists 46.653 different plugins alone. The temptation to add and use many plugins is surely high. But you should avoid plugin overload – it can slow down your website considerably.
Also do yourself a favor and update your plugins regularly! A recent study found out that outdated plugins are one of the main reasons hackers get easy access to WordPress sites. Updating regularly costs you just a few minutes and saves you a lot of headaches! I recommend checking at least weekly for updates.
Helpful tips and guidelines for selecting a plugin
So now you know what you need, but how to you find the perfect plugin out of all those choices? Here are some tips for you:
- Always check the source!
Do not download any plugins from sites that don’t seem to be “legal”. A safe space to browse plugins is the official WordPress Plugin Repository. You can find it here.
- Has the plugin been updated recently by the developer?
The WordPress core files are updated frequently for several reasons: to fix bugs, add new functionality and also to fix security issues. Old plugins may not be only incompatible with your current version of WordPress (and therefore could cause your site to crash) but are also very vulnerable to exploits, so hackers can get access to your site more easily.
- Read the reviews.
Don’t use plugins with a low rating. Although some descriptions may sound tempting, rather look for an alternative plugin with a similar functionality but a good rating. Believe me, it’s just not worth the hassle. I speak from experience.
- Install fast, delete faster.
Whenever you feel like it’s to annoying or troublesome to get a plugin going, don’t waste too much time on it. Sometimes I need three or four different plugins to find the one I love best. My general rule of thumb: If I don’t like it or it doesn’t work the way I expect it after 15 minutes, I uninstall it and try another one.
Want to know which plugins I love & use daily? Check out my article here.
With love, sparkles & pixiedust