Building my business website: Which plugins do I need?
Plugins are a great way to make WordPress do what you want, but which should you choose and why? This guide will help you get started.
New plugins are created all the time and old ones fall into decay. So it takes a bit of work to keep on top of them.
Your website is a living thing and so regular maintenance is all part of the game. This is especially true for plugins. Don't worry, WordPress will alert you when a new plugin update is available.
I will recommend a basic set of plugins to get you started and answer some of the most common questions on the subject.
Let's do a bit of knowledge building to expand your understanding of plugins
Here are some of the questions you may want to ask:
- What is a WordPress plugin
- What is a short code
- How many plugins should I use
- How do I choose and install a plugin
- Which plugins do I really need for my website
- How do I keep my plugins updated
A plugin is a piece of software that extends the ability of WordPress to do things that are not included in the basic installation. For example there is a plugin to perform regular backups and another to display a gallery of your images.
Plugins make it easy for site builders like yourself to include some really professional elements to your website. There are literally hundreds of plugins and most are free. Some of the free plugins have extra features that can be added at a cost. Other plugins are Premium which means there is no free version. Because of the amount of plugins available it is likely at least one has been written that that will fit your needs perfectly.
The vast majority of the plugins that I use are free. I only use paid for plugins or premium upgrades if it is really necessary.
Plugins fall into two categories:
- Front-end plugins - These affect what your reader will see when he visits your website
- Back-end plugins - These are behind the scenes plugins that help with the administration of your website
Over time you will come to love plugins for their usefulness and efficiency
You will enjoy searching for just the right one to make your website even more special
Here are a couple of examples of plugins:
This plugin allows you to place a very manageable image gallery on your site
Before selecting the plugin read the panel and check out the following.
- Star rating ***** is an indication of what users think of the plugin
- Number of active installs - a large number means that this plugin is popular and is thoroughly user tested
- Last updated - regularly maintained plugins will show a recent date, beware of plugins that have not been updated for some time
- Compatible with your version of WordPress - always the best way to go
- More details - a full description of the plugin with a record of updates
Some plugins offer a really nice control panel to configure your plugin, others just provide a short code.
A short code is a block of code that has been written to perform a specific function. Drop the shortcode into your page, and that's it. It is an easy and lightweight way of doing things.
Some plugins add a shortcode feature to your editor which makes it even easier.
Personally I don't use shortcodes. I could be missing out on lots of great plugins but I think that if the developer has not gone the extra mile to make things easy then I don't want the plugin.
Here is a nice but somewhat techy explanation of shortcodes from wordpress.org
There is a lot of advice about which are the best plugins for your website, the problem is that those giving the advice do not know your website and what you are trying to achieve.
You may be advised that a lot of plugins will slow your site down. I read one advice website with a forum member who has in excess of 600 plugins, another advised not more than 6 should be used. The answer must lie somewhere in between.
Do not be be afraid of adding plugins but keep your site tight. Only add plugins that you need, and replace/remove those that are out of date.
Keep your website tidy!
Don't install plugins without a good reason and weed out the ones you don't need.
Currently this site is using 43 plugins, must be time for some weeding!
Choosing a plugin
Always choose a plugin that has a substantial number of downloads and has been tested with the latest version of WordPress. These plugins have been thoroughly tested by thousands of users.
Do a search through the WordPress plugin directory to find what suits you best.
There are two ways of installing a plugin.
- The hard way
Go to the WordPress.org site, search for a plugin and download it to your computer. Then go to the backend of your website then upload it to your WordPress plugins directory.
- The easy Way
Login to the back end of your site and add the plugin from the plugin directory.
We are going to choose the easy way and here are the steps
- Login to the back end of your website
- Select Plugins from the menu
- Select Add New
- Browse through Featured, Popular, Recommended and Favourites or use the search bar to find what you want
Select the plugin and read the details
Click Install Now
The plugin will be installed and the button will change to Activate
Your plugin is now ready for use
Before launching your search for wonderful plugins to enhance your website let's do a few of the basics first.
Here is a list of the types of plugins that you should install right now to get your website sites up and running safely and efficiently. I have included my choices of plugin for each type together with a description. Of course you will add more as your site develops but if you include these you are getting off to a great start.
SEO means search engine optimisation. These plugins prepare your pages and posts in the best way to be found by internet search engines such as Google and Bing.
- Yoast SEO - The first true all-in-one SEO solution for WordPress, including on-page content analysis, XML sitemaps and much more
- All In One SEO Pack - Out-of-the-box SEO for your WordPress blog. Features like XML Sitemaps, SEO for custom post types, SEO for blogs or business sites, SEO for ecommerce sites, and much more. Almost 30 million downloads since 2007
Both of these are excellent but I prefer Yoast SEO.
Web caching is the temporary storage of of pages and posts so that they can be loaded quickly.
- WP Super Cache - Very fast caching plugin for WordPress
- W3 Total Cache - Search Engine & Performance Optimization (WPO) via caching. Integrated: CDN, Minify, Page, Object, Fragment, Database support
My choice is WP Super Cache due to its speed and simplicity.
Page & Post Editor plugins
Good as the default WordPress editor is many people including myself opt for one of the many tried and tested alternative editors that are available as plugins.
- WP Editor - A plugin for WordPress that replaces the default plugin and theme editors as well as the page/post editor
- WP Edit - Take complete control over the WordPress content editor
My choice is WP Edit.
Backup and Restore
- UpdraftPlus - Backup/Restore - Backs up your website files on your computer or on your chosen online storage such as Dropbox or Google Drive
- Backup & Restore Dropbox - Creates full backup of your website files to Dropbox and allows you to Restore, Duplicate, Clone or Migrate your Website
My choice is Backup and Restore Dropbox but both are really good.
Spam is junk messages sent to your website
- WP-SpamShield - An extremely powerful and user-friendly all-in-one anti-spam plugin that helps to eliminate all type of spam
- Akismet - Checks your comments against the Akismet Web service to see if they look like spam or not
My choice is WP-Spamshield
Whenever there is an update available for your website it will be indicated on your dashboard.
If updates is for a plugin it will be indicated on the Plugin menu.
Click on either to go to the updates the plugin(s).
Please remember that plugins can fall out of use if the developer fails to update regularly. I recommend keeping the number of plugins down so you can keep an eye on them. If they were last updated over a year ago consider replacing them with another newer plugin that does the same job. Newer plugins will probably be more efficient.
a piece of software containing useful functions for your WordPress website
add content and features to the widgetised areas of your site (such as sidebars and cells)
temporary storage (caching) of web documents, to improve performance
code that lets you achieve great things with very little effort. Effectively a one line plugin written in html
unsolicited messages (not always commercial)
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
methods used to increase the amount of visitors to your in order to increase your page ranking