What are WordPress plugins? Importance and Managing Your Plugins

What are WordPress plugins? Importance and Managing Your Plugins

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Sometimes, website developers wish to make things easier for the user or implement new functionality to their website in order to enhance usability, improve website performance, or upgrade user experience. In order to implement these new functionalities, developers or website administrators can choose to install small pieces of software that we call plugins.

Mostly, WordPress plugins are free, although there are some premium options that provide loads of different features, premium support, and regular updates. Use wordpress plugin detector to find out what WP plugin using a website. 

What do plugins do and why do we need them

The same way we can add an app to our smartphone in order to turn it into a compass or a flashlight when we launch the app, we add plugins to add more value to our web presence. In essence, plugins are just pieces of code that we can implement in order to change a certain aspect of a website’s appearance or performance.

There are so many different types of plugins built for all sorts of purposes. WordPress plugin repository currently includes more than 55 thousand different plugins, some of which count millions of downloads by users that required improvements in the field of:

  • Safety
  • Performance
  • Visuals
  • SEO
  • Social Media Integration

Benefits of Using Plugins

User-Friendliness

The beauty of plugins lies in their simplicity. For many website owners, the technical aspects of running a site can be daunting. This is where plugins come to the rescue. With their drag-and-drop functionalities or straightforward settings options, plugins cater to a broad audience. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or someone just starting out, plugins provide a way to implement advanced site features without the need for extensive coding knowledge. This user-centric design approach means that every website, regardless of the owner’s technical expertise, can be feature-rich and functional.

Scalability

In the digital world, stagnation can mean obsolescence. Websites, just like businesses, need to evolve in response to user demands, technological advancements, or market trends. Plugins offer the perfect solution to this need for adaptability. They serve as modular enhancements that can be added or removed based on a site’s requirements. Want to integrate an e-commerce platform? There’s a plugin for that. Need a forum for increased user engagement? A plugin has you covered. This ability to grow and change, to scale up or down based on necessity, ensures that websites remain relevant, modern, and user-friendly over time. With plugins, the potential for growth is only limited by one’s imagination.

Let’s take a closer look through some examples:

Let’s say you wish to improve your website SEO performance so you install Yoast SEO plugin. The plugin provides you with the tools necessary to boost your search engine visibility while leaving all other functions intact. This plugin can optimize your keywords use, rate content readability; as well as optimize your images.

plug1

Loading speed is one of the major issues that influence the performance of your website, which is of utmost importance for the user experience. WP Super Cache is a plugin that creates a static HTML page which the web server distributes to visitors instead of loading the content live every time a user decides to visit your page.

plug2

If you are planning to create an online store to sell products, you can utilize WooCommerce plugin which is a great plugin to let you sell different types of products from your WordPress website. And, even to sell services from your website, there are add-ons for Selling services with WooCommerce.

Making your website look good is also an important aspect of great user experience, therefore it’s important to make sure the visuals are top notch. WordPress plugins such as Regenerate Thumbnails can help you improve the look of your thumbnails or images that can lose the initial size when you change existing WP theme with a new one that uses different image size for featured media content.

plug3

It doesn’t matter if you run a business or use WP as a blogging platform the security of your content is essential. There are different ways to keep your website protected; you can automatically backup your data, add login protection, or even install plugins that keep you safe from various forms of online attacks. Since backup is already available without the use of plugins, it’s best to avoid adding these types of software, simply to make your page lighter. On the other hand, plugins like All in One WP Security & Firewall provide comprehensive protection from all sorts of attacks and hassles.

plug4

Sharing your content across multiple social media platforms allows you to extend your reach and get more followers, which is what every site owner aims for. There are a series of plugins that allow us to install all sorts of social media share buttons. Easy Social Sharing is one of those plugins, allowing us to add share buttons, buttons that link to our social media profiles, or simply include mail subscription forms.

plug5

Some plugins can provide a series of different functions, usually correlated in some way, WordPress developers created the official WP Jetpack plugin, which carries all sorts of features that most basic users would require. Nevertheless, most plugins bring a single change to your website, thus preventing unnecessary waste of resources.

plug6

 How do WordPress plugins work

There are two ways in which a plugin can change your website:

Frontend changes

This includes changes that user can also visually notice and interact with, like a weather forecast plugin or google maps plugin.

Let’s say you want to allow your visitors to post content on your web page, or register to an event that you organize. Installing WP User Frontend Pro plugin allows your visitors to seamlessly interact with your page by displaying a customizable form that people can fill in depending on what the form allows them to do (post images, text files, submit event registration, etc.)

plug7

Backend changes

Plugins that change performance stats or improve SEO of your website but don’t display any visual effect that user could see or interact with, belong in this group.

One good example of backend change that we can introduce to our website through plugins is Featured Galleries. The plugin handles the administrative interface for creation of features galleries using a simple drag and drop functionality that allows you to insert multiple images instead of doing it one by one.

plug8

Since SEO is probably the most intriguing topic regarding plugin functionality, here is a table that shows how various types of SEO plugins differ.

 

YOAST SEO All in one SEO pack SEO Pressor Premium SEO pack SEO plugin by Squirrly
Page analysis and SEO suggestions Yes No No Yes Yes
On page SEO report and score Yes No No No No
Keyword recommendations Yes No Yes No Yes
LSI keyword research No No Yes No No
Optimize page titles Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Meta tag templates Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Create XML sitemaps Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Create image sitemaps Yes No No Yes No
Internal linking No No Yes No No
Canonical tag support Yes Yes No No Yes
Breadcrumbs Yes No No No No

Tips on how to use WordPress plugins

We already mentioned some of the plugins and what each of them can do for your website. However, it’s always good to know some useful ways in which you can utilize certain types of plugins.

nRelate

Keeping the visitor to your website is of utmost importance for your bounce rate. This plugin allows you to display related posts, which is a proven way of keeping the readers engaged. You can set the number of related posts to display, featured images, level of relevancy, even choose which categories you wish to exclude.

ClickDesk Live chat

Client support is integral to the success of any business. If you wish to allow your visitors Live chat support, ticket support, or voice chat then installing this plugin will help you in your endeavor.

Wassup

You can also use WordPress plugins in order to monitor your website traffic. Wassup is a plugin that allows you to do just that, in real-time. This way you have an insight into what the people are doing while browsing on your web page, what they read, how many of them subscribe to your newsletter, and much more.  

The amount of plugins that you use is rarely an issue. A more important question is how that piece of software is coded, and how much strain will it put on your website. Sometimes, a single poorly written plugin could cause more performance issues than five well-written solutions.

Potential Risks of Using Plugins

Compatibility Issues

The vast ecosystem of WordPress, with its myriad of themes and plugins, is both a strength and a potential pitfall. With countless developers contributing to this space, not all plugins are built to be universally compatible. Some may clash with specific themes, while others might conflict with different plugins. This incompatibility can result in broken functionalities, distorted website layouts, or even complete site crashes. It’s a delicate balance, and sometimes, despite the best intentions, certain plugin and theme combinations just don’t work well together.

Maintenance

Like any software, plugins need tender love and care. As WordPress continues to evolve, releasing new versions to enhance security and add features, plugins too must be updated to remain compatible. However, not all plugin developers stay updated with these changes, leading to potential mismatches. An outdated plugin isn’t just a functionality risk – it can be a security risk too. Cybercriminals often exploit vulnerabilities in outdated plugins, leading to potential breaches, data theft, or website defacement. Regularly updating and maintaining plugins is crucial, not just for the smooth running of a site but also for its security.

Performance Impact

The lure of plugins is undeniable. With each offering unique features, it’s tempting to keep adding more to boost a site’s functionality. However, this can come at a cost. Not all plugins are optimized for performance. Poorly coded or inefficient plugins can add unnecessary bulk to a site, slowing down its loading times. Every added second to a page’s load time can lead to decreased user satisfaction and potentially lost revenue. It’s essential to weigh the benefits of a plugin against its potential performance impact, ensuring a swift and seamless user experience.

Managing Your Plugins

Regular Updates

In the dynamic world of WordPress, change is constant. As core functionalities get enhanced and security vulnerabilities get patched, plugins need to keep pace. Keeping plugins updated is not just about availing the newest features; it’s about ensuring your website’s integrity. An outdated plugin can become a weak link in your site’s defense, making it susceptible to hacks and breaches. By regularly updating plugins, you safeguard your site, ensuring that all components function harmoniously and securely.

Audit Periodically

Over time, as the objectives and content of a website evolve, certain plugins may become redundant. Just as one might spring clean their home, periodic audits of the plugins you have installed can be beneficial. This process involves reviewing each plugin, assessing its utility, and determining if it still aligns with the site’s goals. Deactivating and deleting unused or unnecessary plugins can lead to a leaner, more efficient website, free from potential conflicts and unnecessary resource consumption.

Backup Before Updating

While updating plugins is essential, it’s not without its risks. There’s always a chance that a new version of a plugin might conflict with other components of a site. These conflicts can lead to broken functionalities or, in worst-case scenarios, bring down the entire site. Hence, it’s a best practice to backup your website before initiating any plugin updates. This way, if any issues arise post-update, you have a safety net to revert to, ensuring minimal disruption and downtime. Remember, prevention is always better than cure.

Alternative Solutions

Pre-integrated WordPress Themes

A popular trend in the WordPress ecosystem is the rise of themes packed with essential functionalities, eliminating the need for several plugins. These are known as feature-rich or multipurpose themes. Instead of hunting down individual plugins for SEO, contact forms, sliders, or e-commerce, many modern themes offer these functionalities out of the box.

While this approach simplifies the setup process, it’s essential to ensure that the in-built features align with your requirements. Such themes are ideal for users who prefer a more streamlined setup without the hassles of plugin compatibility and maintenance. However, a potential drawback is that, sometimes, these themes can be bulkier due to their all-in-one nature, which might slightly impact site performance.

Website Builders with In-built Features

Over the past few years, website builders like Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly have gained significant traction. Unlike traditional content management systems like WordPress, these platforms offer a more unified solution where hosting, design, and functionalities come bundled together.

The primary advantage of these builders is their user-friendliness. With drag-and-drop editors and in-built features, even those with zero technical expertise can craft beautiful websites. These platforms often come with a suite of integrated tools for e-commerce, SEO, email marketing, and more, thereby reducing the need to rely on external plugins or integrations.

However, while website builders offer convenience, they might not be as flexible as WordPress in terms of customization and scalability. They’re an excellent solution for small to medium-sized businesses or individual professionals looking for a hassle-free website setup. Still, larger enterprises or those requiring extensive custom functionalities might find them limiting.

WordPress Plugin Detector to Find Out What WordPress Plugins Does Specific Site Use

The WordPress Plugin Detector by Sitechecker is an indispensable tool for both website developers and curious minds. With a few simple steps, it delves deep into any WordPress website to uncover the plugins that power it, offering transparency and insights that can guide design, development, and optimization choices.

What WordPress Plugins Site Use

Beyond the primary function of identifying plugins, this tool boasts of several additional features. It’s particularly advantageous for competitive research, allowing users to discern what plugins top-ranking sites utilize. The intuitive interface makes navigation a breeze, and the results are presented clearly, aiding even those unfamiliar with WordPress plugins in understanding and leveraging the data.

Discover Plugins Behind Any WordPress Site!

Use our Plugin Detector for insights in seconds. Start exploring today!

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Final thoughts

Hopefully, this article delivered enough information to let you in on what is a plugin in all of its aspects. A simple piece of code that improves your website by adding the functionality you and your visitors find useful. On the other side, plugins can make all the difference, yet all it takes to implement it is a simple click-and that is the true power of WordPress plugins.

FAQ
Pre-integrated themes simplify setup by offering multiple functionalities within a single package, eliminating compatibility issues and reducing maintenance tasks. However, they may be bulkier than minimalistic themes.
Ideally, perform a plugin audit every 3-6 months. Regular audits help in deactivating unused plugins, ensuring optimal website performance, and maintaining security.
If you've taken a backup before updating, revert to that backup. Otherwise, deactivate the updated plugin and seek a fix or alternative. Always report issues to the plugin developer.
Yes, you can. However, ensure that the plugins don't duplicate functionalities already present in the theme to avoid potential conflicts and to ensure optimal performance.
Website builders generally provide optimized performance out-of-the-box. WordPress sites, due to their customizable nature, can vary in performance based on theme, plugins, and hosting. Both can be equally fast with proper optimization.
Yes, many website builders offer export features, allowing you to move your content. However, design elements might need to be recreated or adjusted when transitioning to WordPress.
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