Plugins are add-on components that provide extra functions to WordPress. Plugins provide a huge amount possibilities for WordPress from simply creating duplicate pages to an entire E commerce system. Many of these come under the heading of ‘Open Source’ meaning that they’re maintained by a group of developers that are not charging for their usage.
It’s possible to use WordPress for a website using no Plugins but you’ll probably find you’ll need more from your website. Plugins can provide all the features you’re used to seeing like image slideshows, contact forms, mobile menus and countless other things. It’s not just user view features either, Plugins also provide some really useful functions for the WordPress dashboard like security, extra widgets, statistics and variations for content management. Often a plugin will provide enhancements in both the dashboard and user views.
What to look out for when choosing a Plugin
There are probably thousands of different plugins available and almost as many authors. When choosing a plugin, it’s really important to check a few different things. Is it current? Check that it’s compatible with the latest version of WordPress. Sometimes plugins are abandoned by their developers and become obsolete. Has anyone else used it? In the WordPress dashboard, it tells you how many others have installed it and there’ll often be ratings. If something is new, hasn’t been installed by many and doesn’t have a rating, proceed with caution. Maybe Google the developer name to check credibility to make a more informed decision.
Adding and removing plugins
From the main dashboard go to Plugins from the main menu to the left then ‘Add New’. Here you can search Plugins that developers have made available on wordpress.org/plugins then install and activate them in a couple of clicks.
If you don’t want a plugin any more, it can be removed via the admin system. Check first that it’s not providing an essential task of your site as you’ll need cater for this if it does. If it’s a plugin that you know you you’re using to enter content, seek advice before removing. It’s possible to deactivate a plugin without removing it. This way you can deactivate, check to see what’s changed then reactive or delete depending on the outcome.
Will there be any compatibility issues?
Occasionally one Plugin can cause problems with another. It’s difficult to know unless an author specifically states any known issues. If you discover that something is clashing with another, you can simply deactivate then delete it. Quite often there are other Plugins available that offer the same options or a solution for a final outcome. Trial and error is often the quickest way to find out.
Plugins and security
It’s possible that a shady plugin can let the forces of evil into your site. It may be that it was actually designed by someone wrongful intentions. Occasionally something with a practical purpose can have a concealed other use. I once saw something for a footer Widget post hidden links to Casinos. As I mentioned earlier, check the credibility of what you’re installing first.
The other danger is that plugins need the updates provided by their developers. If you’re not familiar, updates are signalled in your plugins list and can easily be updated through the admin system (like you would with an app on your phone). It’s really important to do the updates whenever they’re available in case something in the Plugin has become vulnerable to hackers. This isn’t a drawback of WordPress, it’s the same for many other types of software including Windows and IOS.