Before we start a website project, we look at the goals of the business, the target audience and who we are trying to reach. We explore ways to create tools, resources and options within a website to make the visitor experience enjoyable and fun. We create a website to provide helpful and useful resources, solve a problem and provide a solution to customers online.
A WordPress website is made up of many elements including the core WordPress files, a theme (which is normally your design and layout), PHP files, photos, pages, posts and so much more. We can custom code programs and tools within a WordPress website but most of the time use plugins as the software pieces and elements that make up the interactive parts of the website. Adding plugins to a WordPress website helps us effectively and efficiently meet our website project goals.
What is a Plugin?
A WordPress plugin is a piece of software installed by an Administrator account and set up on your WordPress website.
A WordPress Plugin is a program or a set of one or more functions written in the PHP scripting language, that adds a specific set of features or services to the WordPress site. You can seamlessly integrate a plugin with the site using access points and methods provided by the WordPress Plugin Application Program Interface (API).
Think of plugins like a specific app, program, or tool that you can add to your website to have additional features. Similar to the apps you would add to your smartphone, tablet, or computer, adding plugins to your website can give you new experiences, capabilities, and insights. We like to think of a plugin as a pre-built piece of code that gives you a way to add a software program to your website, without having to take the time to write code.
Plugins can do many different things. No matter what you’re looking to add to your website or what additional feature you feel like you need, there is likely a plugin out there that can help you add that capability to your website.
Some plugins are very easy to use and others can be complex and require more than just an installation. Unfortunately, many plugins do not come with free tech support beyond the basics of using the plugin. Because you simply download them from the WordPress Plugin Repository and add them to your website, you need to understand how to set up and configure your plugin to work with the rest of the software and plugins that make up your entire website.
Plugins offer updates to the software provided by developer, which should be manually executed by the website manager. Updates will help the plugin stay up to date and compatible with the latest version of the core WordPress software and normally helps avoid any security threats.
Tip: We always make a good backup of a website and database before any plugin updates are completed, just in case there is an issue with an installation.
Because of this, you need to be smart about the plugins you add to your website. While it is exciting to add new capabilities and functions to your site, if you use an outdated plugin or just too many plugins, you could make your website sluggish and slow or it could even “break”. Think carefully about what plugins will actually bring a benefit to your visitors before you start adding features.
Where to Plugins Come From?
Plugins are created by Plugin Developers who write the software for others to use. Because WordPress is an open source platform, anyone can write code for the program. Many developers create free versions of their plugin and also offer an upgraded premium version for a cost. You can learn more about writing and plugin and the process to submit a plugin through the WordPress Plugin repository on the WordPress Codex website.
Are All Plugins Free?
Developers of WordPress plugins do offer a number of free plugins for you to choose from. However, not all plugins are free. If you’re looking for more extensive capabilities, you may need to pay to license a plugin for use. Whether or not you need to pay for a plugin will depend on the exact features you’re looking to add. Some paid or premium plugins offer a one time fee and others charge annual fees to renew updates and for support of the plugin.
For the most part, you should be able to equip an awesome website with entirely free plugins. With the use of free plugins, you can add everything from a contact form to your website to backend SEO scoring. Free plugins just take your time to install, setup and configure it for use.
Before you install a plugin, whether it is premium or paid, check the support section of the plugin and see if issues or incompatibilities are a problem for others who use the plugin. And always make sure the plugin you are interested in using is compatible with your version of WordPress.
Can I Add My Own Plugins?
While adding your own plugins to your website isn’t difficult, they can potentially change the entire structure of your site and pages. If you add too many plugins without fully understanding how they will influence your website, you may find yourself with a mess on your hands. If you find a plugin isn’t compatible with another, certain areas of your website may no longer work. When trying to add functions and features to your website, it’s always best to try and determine compatibility before adding the plugin. We follow a set process that includes backups of files and database, research and testing before installing a plugin as well as after. It is not uncommon for a plugin to have conflicts with other areas of your website.
With that said, plugins are like having your own programmer at your fingertips and they are an amazing resource for WordPress website owners. Plugins can be a great way to add new features and functions to your website. When used appropriately, WordPress plugins can help you create an awesome website that is entirely your own and unique to your brand.
Before you add any plugins to your WordPress website, don’t hesitate to connect with the RV Tech Solutions team. We can help you identify whether or not that plugin is right for your website. We’ll also help ensure the installation and setup is a smooth and successful process. Our Care Plan clients can request new plugins, tools and options as part of your plan. Not on a care plan? Join today and we’ll help get your website up to date and add the plugins and tools your website needs to achieve new goals or promote new services.
If you have any questions about plugins or feel like something is missing from your website, don’t hesitate to reach out! We’re excited to help you find the perfect plugin to help make your website even better!