What is a Plugin?
Inside WordPress, a plugin is a program, written in a language called PHP, that provides additional functionality to your website. Developers can program a plugin to do pretty much anything that you desire. There are free and paid plugins already created that will install the function that you need.
What Does a Plugin Do?
A plugin can do many things, it depends on what was programmed into it as to what function it has. A better question would be, where do you find the plugin that has the features you need.
WordPress has its own plugin repository where you can find many plugins. In general, the plugins in the WordPress repository are free. Many of them have I paid option as well. When a paid option is available there is typically additional functionality added to the plugin that you already have installed.
There are many options to get the functions you need for your site. Occasionally, these features won’t be available for free. Paid plugins are available that will provide more complex functions. Do you need to book appointments, want to embed a customized map? These functions and more can be added via affordable paid plugin options. There are entire marketplaces that will give you the additional WordPress features that you need.
Checking a Plugin
Before you add a plugin to your site you should know a few things about that plugin. When was the last time it was updated? What is the ranking for that plugin, do people like it or do they have problems with it ? is the plug-in developer actively working on solving problems with the plugin?
In most cases you can go to the WordPress repository and click on support to get the answers you seek.
Let’s take a closer look at the TinyMCE advanced plugin.
Here you’ll see that, while there are a million users, there are only 167 reviews. Most people seem to like the plugin but if you look down at the support section of this chart you’ll see that only one of 33 support threads has been resolved in the last 2 months. You also see that its most recent update was 3 months ago.
If I look at the one-star reviews, I noticed that most of the problems revolve around version 3.9. I know there was a significant problem with this plugin when WordPress updated to version 3.9. In fact, the plugin was down for several months while it was completely rewritten. Most plugins of this sort had similar problems at this time.
If I look at a similar plugin, WP Edit, I find a much more responsive developer.
This plugin has far fewer installs but the developer has responded to 6 of 9 threads in the last two months. The plugin it was updated less than 2 months ago. If you check the support forums you’ll see that the plugin developer is very responsive.
If you are interested in the functionality of these two plugins, I have created a tutorial that goes through enabling and disabling each plugin. You can find it at this link: Introduction to the navigation menu. I have also created a tutorial at Wealthy Affiliate that goes into setting up and configuring the WP Edit plugin. I find that the WP edit plugin has all the functionality that I need so I choose to use it on my websites.
I hope this gives you an idea what I look for before I install a plugin on my site. In the long run, it pays to verify that a plugin will have the functionality you need, as well as, have a good track record and a responsive developer. It’s also important that the plugin is kept current with the versions of WordPress as they change.
In my next post, I’ll go over how to install both a free plugin and a downloaded a plugin. Much of this information is available inside the Wealthy Affiliate site. There are tutorials on all aspects of Online Marketing.
If you’re just getting started with a website, this information can be very valuable. It will help you to configure your site to get traffic and teach you effective strategies to market your site.