WordPress is an amazing piece of software. Sometimes those of us that have been working with it for a few years forget that not everyone is as comfortable with it is as we are. I thought I’d put together a few posts highlighting some of the key parts of WordPress for those new to WordPress. Today, my topic is Plugins. I’ll dig into what they are, how they work and what they can do to improve your web site.
The Core of WordPress has a number of key features, all of which are considered to be of value to the majority of users of the software. Features that aren’t as likely to be used by every user of WordPress are added through a resource known as a plugin. There are over 31,000 plugins in the WordPress Plugin Directory. These give you the option to extend the functionality of WordPress in so many ways.
A few of the things I’ve used plugins to achieve include:
- Contact Forms
- Image Galleries
- Shopping Carts
- Social Media Links & Sharing
- Adding A Forum
- Protecting WordPress from Spammers
- Speeding Up A Web Site Through Caching
- Search Engine Optimization
- Site Maps
- and Much Much More!
Beyond the free plugins that are available in the WordPress Plugin Directory there are what’s known as premium plugins. These are plugins sold by companies that also add features to your web site. As these are actual products, they come with support and a company behind them that’s hopefully adding new features and fixing bugs as they arise.
Whether you’re using a free or a premium plugin, the concept is simple. Extend the capabilities of your web site so your job is easier.
One note of caution, before installing any plugin make sure to do your research on either the developer or the company behind the plugin. One of the most important things to check is the last time the plugin was updated. If you find an older plugin you’ll see a message like the one below. Be very careful using a plugin with this message. It hasn’t been updated in some time and could be unsafe or worse, break your web site.
Adding plugins is a breeze, simply go to the Plugins > Add New page and search for the plugin you want. You’ll be given the option to review the details of the plugins including features and reviews or install the plugin.
If you purchased a premium plugin, they’ll provide you with the plugin files and installation instructions. And that’s it! Now you know the basics of a plugin in WordPress!