WordPress plugins are a really beneficial feature of a website and will help you get things achieved faster. They are used to create business boosting marketing platforms.
What actually is a WordPress plugin?
Well, look down at the extension cable that you may have attached to your computer and you will have a good idea – well, a metaphor anyway! WordPress is the main framework that your website has been built with. Even though WordPress is great, if you just do a default installation, your customers, or potential customers, aren’t going to be able to do anything very much on your website. Sometimes you want to engage with people beyond just using text and images. I am also very motivated by creating useful websites that are going to earn their keep so to speak and save me money.
A plugin will add some functionality to your website and you will not have to do any programming – yippee! The people behind WordPress have created virtual places in the code where plugins can be slotted into – like the hairdryer plug you insert into the electricity socket.
So a WordPress plugin is like an app for your website that you can integrate into your website. If you want an online booking system or you want to sell tickets for your events directly from your website you can with a plugin; if you want to capture email addresses you can with a plugin; if you want to sell your brilliant products or services online you can with a plugin. Sometimes configuring them can be a bit of a pain but that’s far better than not having the feature at all isn’t it.
Web designers use WordPress plugins too because there is no point in reinventing the wheel. And the benefit to customers is that using a good, reputable plugin reduces the costs. Just a few years ago a web developer would have had to make every feature from scratch so a website would have cost thousands and thousands – and they did. Now with the advent of plugins the costs of getting an impressive website up and running packed with features to help your win at your business have been reduced.
So, how do you decide if a WordPress plugin is any good?
You might want to add a form to your website for example. So you need to look for a good plugin that creates forms.
There are the rules I follow when deciding whether to use a plugin:
- When was the plugin last updated? – in most cases, if this is months or years ago then don’t use the plugin.
- Is it compatible with the latest, stable version of WordPress? – this is “almost” an unbreakable rule!
- How many times has it been downloaded and used on active websites? – if the plugin is good then people will spread the news.
- How many stars has it been awarded? – We recommend only using plugins that have a 4 star or above rating.
- Is there evidence of active technical support?
Free or Premium Plugins?
There is an adage that you get what you pay for – this is not always the case with WordPress plugins. If you attend any workshops that I run I only use free plugins. Most of the time a free plugin will give you what you need. But the people that make these plugins will offer a premium, paid for version. You normally get extras that the free version won’t give you. For instance, in a free contact form plugin you may not be able to add a street address. Whereas, if you pay for the premium upgrade you will get the option to ask for a street address.
Why would you pay for an upgrade?
You will get help and advice from the people that have made the plugin. And this is often worth the money alone.
The cost of premium upgrades can be anything from £2 to about £99 for most plugins, although we have paid much, much more. As a professional web designer I usually pay for premium plugins and at this stage I know which ones to stay clear off. If someone said to me that they want to do “X” on their website I would know which plugin to use. But I know that for some it can be a minefield.
If you have had any experiences with using WordPress plugins, good or bad, then I would love to hear from you. Leave your comments below this post and I will get back to you.