What Is a Website Plugin?
If you’re not immersed in the world of website development, you may not know what a website plugin is. That’s okay! Maybe you’ve heard your IT person talk about them, but you don’t really understand what a website plugin is and how it works? This blog post will give a brief overview of what a plugin is and some of the most important plugins to have for your website.
A plugin is a program usually developed by third-party to augment the “hardware” of your website. Another way to think about it: a plugin is to a website what software is to your computer. Remember back in the 90s when you’d buy new software at Best Buy, insert a CD-ROM and install the program? The same concept applies to website plugins. Rather than going to a brick and mortar store, however, website plugins come straight from the internet. There are millions of website plugins available for free that improve your website in myriad ways. From speed optimization to social media integration, each plugin serves a very specific purpose.
“What Plugins Do I Need?”
The answer to that depends on the functionality you’re looking for. Perhaps you want a way to easily embed your twitter feed on your homepage- there’s a plugin for that. Maybe you’re looking to make your site multilingual- there’s a plugin for that! A huge part of working as a WordPress website developer is understanding how plugins work and which plugins are most helpful to clients. Here are the top 5 plugins I recommend regardless of your business type:
- Yoast SEO– Yoast is a Search Engine Optimization plugin that lets you optimize every page and blog post on your website. Having SEO is essential for helping clients find your website.
- Jetpack– JetPack is an all-around champion. This plugin has several helpful features including: spell check for your posts, image optimization, anti-spam functionality, and can even block suspicious login attempts.
- Hummingbird– If your website doesn’t load quickly, search engines (like Google) can penalize you. This plugin is a comprehensive site speed optimizer. It will test your site speed, set up caching methods, and compress some of your code files.
- Smush– When you add a lot of images to your website, they can slow it down. Smush is an image optimization plugin that compresses the file size of your images without affecting the quality.
- Slider Revolution– Beef up your website’s design by adding scrolling “hero shots” to your homepage. This is a great way to modernize your site and showcase stunning photography.
Once you understand the vast range of opportunity that plugins provide, you may be tempted to go wild. Please, don’t. Theoretically, anyone could develop a website plugin. While WordPress has a set of “best practices” for website plugin development, no one enforces bad plugins. That means many plugins on the market are poorly constructed and have the potential to harm your website. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard clients say “I updated XYZ plugin and it broke my website!” It’s true that updating plugins can lead to incompatibilities with your framework or theme.
The best way to tell if a plugin is “good” before installing it is by 1) looking at the plugin reviews, and 2) checking when the plugin was last updated. If the plugin has 800 5-star reviews, but hasn’t been updated in two years, that’s a huge red flag. Look for plugins that have been updated within the last 2 months or so.
Need help installing a website plugin? Check out this tutorial >
If you’re still not sure how plugins work, give me a call at (651) 295-7333 or email me and I’d be glad to chat more. Plugins can take a website form mediocre to phenomenal, so don’t be scared to explore!