WHAT ARE WORDPRESS PLUGINS?
WordPress plugins are individual pieces of software that you can download and install to your WordPress website. You can think of them a little like apps for your smartphone. Just as you can download an app to add a new feature to your phone, you can use a plugin to add new functionality to your WordPress site. Want to collect a mailing list from interested users? Get a plugin. Want to sell an audiofile? A plugin can do that too. WordPress plugins can be created by anyone, and can be designed to do just about anything. Most are free, but finding one that fits exactly what you want is often worth the money.
WHERE CAN I GET SOME?
WordPress Plugin Directory
Go to the “plugins” tab on your WP dashboard, it will take you to the WordPress Plugin directory that has plugins curated by WordPress. This and a premium market (such as Envato’s CodeCanyon) are the best places to get plugins. Installing a plugin from a Google search could be introducing a security risk to your site.
Don’t just install the first plugin you find that looks like it will do what you want it to do! Try each one that you install, and if it doesn’t work for any reason (user error included)- DELETE IT! Too many plugins will majorly slow down your site- and can even break it.
HOW DO I CHOOSE?
HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN SINCE THIS PLUGIN HAS BEEN UPDATED?
If it’s over a year (and it’s a complicated plugin) -keep searching.
SHOULD I READ THE REVIEWS?
If you have had any contact with the public, you know that people only leave reviews when they are unhappy.That being said, reviews that say “This sucks” or “This broke my site” are probably accurate warning flags.
IT HAS A LOT OF ACTIVE INSTALLS
That’s good! Active installs are a great way to determine the quality of a plugin. If it has 10,000+ active installs and it’s been updated recently ( like within 3 months) it’s probably great.
A word about updates.
The reason it’s SO important that you only install recently updated plugins is twofold.
1. The main WordPress installation is updated about every 6 weeks to prevent security breaches. If your plugin gets broken by these updates, well, not good.
2. Security! The number ONE way to hack into your site is thru outdated plugins.
HOW TO INSTALL WORDPRESS PLUGINS
When you find a plugin you need or like on the WordPress Plugin Directory, look of the ” Add New” button at the top of the page then click on Install Now. Soon, a new Activate button should appear Select this button, and the plugin will be ready to go!
If you did purchase or downloaded a plugin from somewhere else like Envato’s CodeCanyon, the process of installing it is very similar. You’ll also want to visit the Plugins tab and select Add New, but this time click on Upload Plugin.
Then click on Choose File, and find the downloaded plugin on your computer. It should have been provided as a zipped folder. Once you’ve selected the plugin, click on Install Now then click on Activate, and the plugin will be ready to go.
UPDATING WORDPRESS PLUGINS
I mentioned it before but it is really crucial that you make sure your site is always running the latest version.
Older versions of plugins can be less secure, and can cause compatibility issues with newer versions of WordPress or your other plugins and themes. Plugins can get their code conflicted, so if you add a new plugin and your site breaks, start by deactivating that plugin to see if it fixes the problem. It usually does.
Navigate to the Plugins tab in your dashboard, and you’ll see a list of your current plugins. If any need to be updated, there will be a pink notification that says “Update”.You can just hit the Update Now button, and the plugin will update automatically.
If you have a lot of plugins to update, you can update them all at once using the Bulk Actions drop-down menu.
WORDPRESS PLUGIN SECURITY
A reputable directory such as CodeCanyon is the perfect place to buy premium plugins.
The world of plugins is the Wild West- there is no curation and you could be getting code that will access things on your site (or your computer) or worse yet, your user’s computers. I had a client whose site was hacked and shut down by google because it was trying to pull credit card info from user’s browsers. Getting un-blacklisted by Google is pretty important and mind-bendingly stressful. Truthfully, anyone can create a plugin and list it online. Even if they aren’t malicious, they can leave security holes in your site, which makes it easier for hackers and spammers to get in, and even break other features of your site.
Only get plugins from the WordPress Plugin Directory, premium directory sites such as CodeCanyon, and the websites of reliable plugin developers.