What Are WordPress Plugins?
Plugins are a powerful way to add functionality and uniqueness to your website. They range from Free, to free with premium (Freemium), or a paid model.
Most plugins are created by solo plugin developers, but a few are created by large theme and plugin houses. Because of this, expect a wide variety of support models
Some common front-end uses for plugins include calendars, contact forms, social media displays, content display like videos, image galleries and sound, sliders, and much more
But did you know there were quite a few administrative plugins for things like user management, security, SSL migration, analytics, database management, caching and a ton more.
What are the benefits?
- Plugins are easy to install – Search the WordPress plugin repository, or just click “Add New” in the plugins menu, install, activate and configure. The entire process can take as little as two minutes.
- Big cost savings on custom development or programming – With just a few clicks something that can take days, or even weeks to develop can be added to a site.
- Plugins are powerful – CDN plugins can add speed to a website. Contact forms can add lead generation to a site. Calendars can increase engagement and make it easy to distribute events. Social media plugins can bring in posts from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media platforms, and can make it easy to share on these networks. All of this functionality would take a much greater amount of time to develop by hand instead of using WordPress plugins.
- WordPress security – WordPress by itself is fairly secure. If you use a good password, have it installed on a decent host with a good username/password there, and take a few other precautions your site will be protected. However, if you really want to lock down admin access, make secure & frequent backups, or really shore up your security, plugins are a great way to do so.
- Good backups and great passwords are still the best thing you can do, in my opinion.
But what are the possible issues with WordPress plugins?
- Malware – There are some plugins that have been developed by some programmers with less-than-positive intentions. Backdooors and even malware programmed right into the software do happen.
- Must be maintained – As you add plugins to the website it’s important to know maintenance becomes more important. Keeping the plugins, the theme and the WordPress core is valuable to keeping the site secure and running as it should. However, sometimes and update to one plugins and conflict with others, so running backups is very important.
- Can be exploited – If a plugin is “abandoned,” meaning no longer updated, or even if a plugin is poorly programmed it can open a hole to bad actors. Keep you plugins updated to make sure you are as protected as possible and if a plugin has been abandoned for a significant amount of time, try to find a similar solution, or even try to find a developer to fix or edit the current plugin.
- Unused or Deactivated Plugins are Still Vulnerable – Just because you’re not using a plugin, or even if you deactivated it, the code is still vulnerable and could be exploited. Once you stop using a plugin, deactivate it in your Plugin directory, then delete it from the server to avoid potential issues.
Tips on selecting good plugins
- Research the best plugin options – Google has tons of articles on the “Best WordPress Plugins for …” often with the most current year attached. You don’t want a list from 2012, as things have changed quite a bit in the last six or seven years. See what everyone else is using and what the pros and cons are of using each plugin.
- Review WordPress Plugin repository Information – Each plugin has a page in the repository. They will have a 1-5 star rating, when it was last updates, how many times it’s been installed, what version of WordPress it’s been test on, reviews, how to install, and links to support. If any of this information causes concern proceed with caution or find a different solution.
- Be Prepared to Retreat – Sometimes installing a new plugin causes unforeseen issues with your theme or other installed plugins on the website, so be prepared to deactivate the plugins, or in the event of a catastrophic issue, restore a backup. It’s recommended to install in test environments if possible, or on the live site when the site it’s being used at its peak.
- Try several plugins – Since most plugins are free, it’s ok to try several until you find one that meets your needs. Just remember to deactivate and delete the ones you aren’t using to keep the site safe.
Plugins are a great way to make WordPress a powerful, secure environment. With just a little bit of care, and some selective processes in finding the best plugin you can make your WordPress as good as it can possibly be.