Often we beginners ask ourselves what are WordPress plugins? How do they work? Plugins are a precious part of the WordPress ecosystem, and they are essential for building great websites using WordPress.
What are WordPress Plugins?
There are nearly more than 52,000 free plugins available right now on the “WordPress.org” plugin directory. Thousands more are available from third-party websites like ‘Github’.
In addition to that, there are also thousands of premium WordPress plugins that are sold by individual developers and companies.
In 2003, A simple tool was started by WordPress to help you start a blog. Over the years, it has evolved into a powerful application framework and content management system, thanks primarily to plugins.
What Can WordPress Plugins Do?
WordPress plugins are small software apps that run and integrate on top of the WordPress software. This allows you to create almost any kind of website with WordPress (not only blogs).
For example, you can:
- Create a job board with WordPress using the Job Manager plugin
- Build a business directory with the best directory plugins for WordPress
- Start a coupon website like RetainMeNot
- Build your photography website using the Envira Gallery Plugin
- Create a Wiki website using the Knowledgebase plugin
- Start your own podcast website using WordPress
- Start an online store with WordPress using the WooCommerce plugin
There is a very popular saying “There is a plugin for that” in the WordPress community.
No matter whatever you are trying to do on your WordPress site, it’s possible. There is certainly a plugin available if the feature is not available in default WordPress.
There are WordPress plugins to improve boost performance, SEO, add contact forms, social media buttons, create galleries, and so much more.
Plugins can be tiny and offer just one small little feature (like adding an image to the sidebar).
Or they can also be quite large and act as their own platform as well (Example: WordPress eCommerce plugins or WordPress membership plugins).
More rich feature plugins can have their own addon plugins in order to extend them just like you would extend WordPress.
How do WordPress Plugins work?
WordPress is written in such a way that other developers can add their own code into it.
The WordPress plugin API offers a robust set of filters and hooks which allow developers to modify existing WordPress functionality or add new functionality.
WordPress also permits developers to store data in the WordPress database. Plugins can utilize WordPress content types, custom fields, and taxonomies, which allow users to store different types of content, not just posts and pages.
Each and every WordPress plugin which is installed on your site is registered in your WordPress database. You can activate and deactivate them at any time you want.
Upon each visit, WordPress gets connected to the database, loads the main core software, and then loads your active plugins. All this code is processed on your server and then sent to the user’s browser.
With this in mind, here, I want to cover the key things to keep in mind when using WordPress plugins on your WordPress site so that you can enjoy all of the extra functionality and avoid the pitfalls.
- Update Your Plugins
This is a bit of a no-brainer but it bears mentioning in the interests of completeness: keeping your plugins updated is absolutely vital to the security and functionality of your blog. Out of date, plugins can break when newer versions of WordPress and other plugins are released so it is the prime target for those in search of security weaknesses.
Not only you should periodically check your plugins to make sure that they have been recently updated but you should regularly update your plugins. You should strongly consider removing plugins that haven’t been updated for an extended period of time (as a thumb rule says one year).
Ideally, you should be regularly updating your plugins (Remember: You could try the Easy Updates Manager to automate plugin, theme, and minor/major WordPress core updates).
● Keep Deactivated Plugins updated or Get Rid of Them
This follows my previous point: even if a plugin is not active on your site you must make sure that it is still updated. If a deactivated plugin is still “live” on your site so it can be a security weakness. Incidentally, the same can be considered for themes so my advice also applies there.
To be honest, if you have no intention of using a plugin which isn’t active in the near future and if that plugin isn’t active on your site and my advice would be to remove it. The last thing you want is for your site to become a graveyard of unused plugins — it pays to keep things tidy and clean.
● Deactivate the Backend Plugins when they’re not in use
Most plugins put a strain on your site’s resources, even if that strain is the only minor. As such it is my suggestion that you only activate backend plugins when they are required.
Consider for example the WordPress Database Reset plugin. This little plugin makes it simple to reset WordPress by returning portions or all of your WordPress database to their original, default state. However, the WordPress Database Reset plugin only needs to be active when you are running the reset – it can be deactivated at all other times.
In the end, every single active plugin which is on your site should be utilized by your site. If not, then deactivate it.
● The Number of Plugins isn’t important
To put it in Layman’s terms, “a plugin is simply an extra code that is implemented on your site”. To an extent, you could add the same code within your functions.php file and achieve the same effect.
Therefore, the number of plugins you have installed and activated on your site isn’t necessarily a major issue. The major issue is how resource intensive and well coded your plugins are.
Let me put it this way: it would be quiet better for you to have five immaculately and lightweight coded plugins installed on your site than one bloated, resource intensive and vulnerable plugin. In reality, you should be more worried about which plugins you are installing rather than how many you are installing.
● The Number of Plugins Is Important
Having said that, there is one reason why the number of plugins you have installed on your site can be an issue: conflicts.
Theoretically speaking, the more plugins you have on your site, the more likely you are to find one that conflicts with another. Having to deal with plugin conflicts is an issue developers constantly face as there are a near-infinite number of setup combinations across all WordPress installations. Most of the WordPress blogs are totally uncommon in terms of the combination of plugins installed.
So although you should keep in mind the quality of plugins you use, you should also keep an eye on the number with a view to keeping things as simple as possible. In this case, less is typically equal to more (so don’t be a plugin hoarder).
● Quality Always Beats Quantity
Along that same line of thinking, you should be very selective in deciding what plugins to install on your site. After all, every plugin you install may leave behind a footprint that is difficult to remove (especially if it is poorly coded). While it can be very tempting to test and install every plugin under the sun on your site, you should err on the side of caution and selectiveness.
When it reaches to installing plugins you should look at a few key items such as:
- Average rating
- The developer (are they well-established?)
- Evidence of active support
- Number of downloads
The main fact here is that you’re not just installing a plugin but you’re installing a piece of functionality that you would like to remain functional for the foreseeable future. If the plugin works now that’s a good start but you want to make sure it will work in the future too.
For me, the pretty important decision is to install a new plugin on my site. I am careful to ask myself whether or not I really need the functionality or if I am being drawn in by the proverbial shiny lights. It might be worth you asking yourself that same question.
● Premium Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Best
It’s a well-known fact of psychology that people’s perception of value is affected by cost. If I offer you the same thing at any cost, or free of charge your perception of value is likely to change under the separate circumstances.
This phenomenon can sometimes be observed in people’s attitudes towards premium plugins. The fact is this: there are plenty of unscrupulous premium plugin developers out there. Just because someone is charging you for a plugin does not make it worth. There are an awful lot of extremely good quality free plugins out there developed by people whom you can trust.
Having said that, arriving to this conclusion that, the well-made premium plugins typically are the best. If you pick a reputable premium plugin developer you’re likely to enjoy the best functionality, top-notch support top-notch stunt updates. The key is to make sure that you’re supporting the “right” developer. Don’t just go for a Google search and enter into whatever shows up – find out which of the people are satisfied and whom to personally recommend. Get involved in the WordPress community and make note of who is talked about in a positive light. Those are the people you should look to buy from.
Author: RUBY YADAV An analytical, Well Researched, People Oriented, Creative Thinker, Focused, Enthusiastic, an Optimist and a quick learner, I do believe in having a career that empowers me to bring the results that matter.