Many of our clients who are just starting to learn about WordPress often ask us “what is a WordPress plugin?” Being that our goal is to educate and answer all of our customer questions we get asked here at Presto Website Design, in this blog post I am going to break down what exactly a WordPress plugin is.
The Reality Of WordPress Functionality
WordPress is a standalone Content Management System, or CMS. It has a lot of features built in, but obviously the developers of WordPress couldn’t possibly imagine every type of website people would try to build with it. So naturally, they created the ability for anyone to create a WordPress plugin.
WordPress plugins are basically extended features in the form of grouped computer files that you can add to your WordPress website. There are tons of both free and paid plugins available that do all sorts of different things. Anyone can easily install a plugin in the matter of seconds using the Plugin section of the WordPress dashboard.
Want to turn your WordPress website into an eCommerce store? No problem, simply use plugins! Want to be able to have a locked down members only area on your website where users can login to access paid content? There’s a plugin for that too! Anything you can think of, there is most likely already a plugin for.
Obviously not all plugins are created equal. Paid plugins often have more functionality along with better support. But there are many free plugins out there that are absolutely fantastic.
How Many Plugins Can You Install…?
One of the common questions we often get asked is “is there a limit to the number of WordPress plugins that I can install on my website?” Hardcoded into WordPress, no. However you want to limit the number of plugins you have installed for several reasons.
First of all, every plugin you have is always running. This means that each plugin takes up resources and can drain performance with your host. The more plugins you have running the more resources they are going to take up. Most hosting accounts have a limited amount of RAM/memory that your website is allocated. This also means that your website will run slower with every plugin you have installed.
A general rule of thumb we tell our clients is not to have more than 20 plugins on any given WordPress website. Obviously this depends on how much resources you have with your web hosting account and other factors as well. Some plugins are more performance-heavy than others too.
What Plugins Do You Recommend…?
Here at Presto Website Design there are some plugins that we almost always install on our clients’ websites. These are some of the largest “must have” plugins that are out there available for WordPress at this time.
Really Simple SSL is one of the plugins we set up on almost all the websites we build. This plugin enables you to redirect all of your users to force HTTPS/SSL if you have a SSL certificate installed. This is super important because it redirects the users to the HTTPS version of your website thus making their browsing session more secure. Google really likes this because they want users to have a positive and secure experience on your website, so this can help with SEO as well.
Updraft Plus is another plugin we almost always end up installing. Updraft Plus is a backup plugin for WordPress that allows our clients to be able to back up their website at any time. Redundancy and backups are important in business, and you want to make sure you are making constant backups of your website. When something goes wrong, it is always good to have a handy backup available.
Contact Form 7 is one of the best contact form plugins for WordPress. Whenever we set up a contact form on the Contact page of one of our clients’ websites, we most likely will be using Contact Form 7. This nifty plugin allows users to easily make professional contact forms that send submitted messages right to your email.
WooCommerce is the plugin to use for eCommerce. That being said, we always install this on our eCommerce clients’ websites. WooCommerce adds digital store functionality to WordPress, allowing users to add products, order forms, a checkout, cart, and much more.
Just like with WordPress, plugins also occasionally need updating. Plugin developers release security patches, new features, etc. Conveniently, a notice will pop up next to the plugins that have an update available under the Plugins section of the WordPress dashboard. You can simply choose to update all plugins in one go. Just remember to check your Plugins section at least once a month and do your monthly maintenance.
How To Discover Plugins
You can discover plugins by going to the Plugins section of the WordPress dashboard, and by clicking on Add New. It’s literally that easy! This page lists plugins by featured, popular, and recommended. You can see what’s trending, and you can also search for a plugin by using the search box.
As you scroll through the list of plugins, it is important to pay attention to plugin reviews. The nice thing about WordPress is that they truly care about their users. We personally recommend treating plugins like online shopping. Look at the reviews and see what people are saying.
If a plugin has a review score of 3 out of 5 stars or lower, it may be best to skip that plugin. Most reputable, good plugins have a review score of 4 out of 5 stars or higher.
Hopefully by now you have a decent understanding of what a WordPress plugin is. Plugins are a critical part of any successful WordPress website. As long as you follow the best practices for plugins, you should have no issues when it comes to plugins.
Want A Professional WordPress Website Design?
Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation. We don’t take on every client that comes to our door though, and we also recognize that we aren’t a good fit for everyone. We do vet our clients here in Buffalo.