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A Guide to WordPress Plugins

Although WordPress is already one of the best platforms available, there are a number of things you can do to make it even better. One of the best ways to improve the functionality of your WordPress website and create a unique user experience is by installing WordPress plugins.

Here we will provide a complete guide to WordPress plugins, explaining the different types available and where to find them.

wordpress plugins directory

Use the WordPress Plugin Directory to find plugins for your website

What are WordPress plugins?

WordPress plugins are similar to website extensions, in that they have been developed to improve the functionality of WordPress websites and enable them to do things that out-of-the-box WordPress websites cannot do. Thanks to the wide range of WordPress plugins available, you can get WordPress to do pretty much anything you want it to.

Different types of WordPress plugins

Whilst the core WordPress code is maintained by a restricted group of developers, anyone anywhere can develop a WordPress plugin (providing they have the knowledge and skills to do so).

As it currently stands there are over thirty three thousand WordPress plugins available, with over seven hundred and thirty eight thousand downloads to date. With so many fantastic plugins to choose from, selecting the right ones for your WordPress website can be a difficult choice. To make it a little easier for you, we have provided information about the different types of WordPress plugins available.

SEO Plugins

Most WordPress users find it beneficial to download and install WordPress SEO plugins. These are plugins that are designed to optimise your WordPress website to make it more visible in relevant searches. There are a number of different SEO plugins available that can do everything from caching your website to optimising keywords and creating canonical URLs.

If you are new to SEO and could benefit from a little guidance when it comes to optimising your website, you will find it incredibly useful to install an SEO plugin, as it will do a lot of the hard work for you.

sharethis for wordpress

Improve your WordPress website with social media plugins.

Social Media Plugins

Unless you have been living under a rock for a good few years now, you should know the role social media has to play in the success of your website. Social media plugins for WordPress are extremely popular, which is why there are so many different ones available.

We recommend that all WordPress users make use of social media plugins that allow users to share their content with a click of a button. The easier and quicker it is for people to share your content, the more likely to do so! You should also use social media plugins that make it easy for users to switch between your website and brand social media pages so they can follow and engage with you.

It is worth keeping in mind that the majority of users look for social media buttons and feeds when they visit a business website and may click off a website if they can’t find them. Boost your credibility and improve your website’s user experience by installing social media plugins for WordPress.

Interface Plugins

Interface plugins may go by various different names, but there purpose is to alter the look of your website and improve its user experience. Plugins that allow you to create menus, sliders, table and buttons are all considered to be interface plugins. Whatever feature you require your WordPress interface to have, it’s likely that there is already a plugin out there that can provide it.

Data Analytics Plugins

How do you know how your WordPress site is performing if you do not have data to tell you? Using data analytics plugins is the best way to see what is working well for your WordPress website and where improvements need to be made. There are a number of different data analytics plugins available, and whilst you don’t need to download them all, one or two will certainly come in use.

Viewing your data analytics will allow you to get a better insight to how visitors interact with your website. Knowing this information may influence design and development decisions you make in the future, showing just how valuable data analytics plugins are to the success of your website.

Photo and Video Plugins

The majority of WordPress websites are not just text based, they feature photos and videos too. If you are looking for a way to improve your photos and videos or present them in a unique way to users, you may want to consider installing image and video plugins.

There are many different image and video plugins available that allow you to do a number of different things with your media content such as creating galleries, building image sliders and offering 360 degree views of your products.

Admin Plugins

WordPress Admin plugins are extensions that have been designed to improve the functionality of your website for you, the webmaster. They can be used to customise your WordPress admin panel, making it even easier for you to create, edit and optimise content.

make wordpress ecommerce with plugins like woocommerce

Transform your WordPress website into an online store with ecommerce plugins.

Ecommerce Plugins

Thanks to WordPress’ ecommerce plugins, you can now extend the functionality of your WordPress website by transforming it into an online store. From your WordPress ecommerce store you will be able to sell your products and services directly to customers.

The great thing about using an ecommerce plugin for WordPress is that it will prevent you from having to build a separate ecommerce website on a different platform. You already know how to use WordPress and have already experienced how great it is, so it makes sense to keep running all of your business ventures from the single platform.

Thousands of other WordPress plugins

Although we have mentioned some of the most popular types of WordPress plugins above, they are not the only WordPress plugins out there. As we mentioned before, there are already plugins to do everything you can imagine, from building forums, to installing live chat and advertising your website, it’s just about knowing where to look for them.

Where to find WordPress plugins

One of the best places to find WordPress plugins is in the official WordPress directory. There you will be able to find, download, rate and review the plugins offered by the WordPress community. Before downloading and installing a plugin for your WordPress website, we highly recommend checking out the ratings and reviews to see if the plugin is as good as the developers are claiming. You should also check out the support provided with the plugin download and ensure it is compatible with the version of WordPress you are running (which should be the most up to date version for security reasons).

Another way you can find and download WordPress plugins is by going to WordPress developers’ own websites. There you will be able to find all of the plugins they have developed along with in-depth explanations of their features and benefits. So if you have heard that a particular developer makes excellent plugins e.g. Yoast, you can head straight to their website to download some of their plugins, rather than having to search through the thousands of plugins featured in the WordPress directory.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 16.01.15

Find plugins by searching for them on Google.

It is worth bearing in mind that the WordPress directory is not the only plugin directory out there. There are a number of websites like Code Canyon, which you can use to browse and download WordPress plugins from a wide range of developers. Like the WordPress website, they tend to feature reviews and ratings, as well as a list of the plugins’ features and benefits.

We suggest being extra careful if you download plugins from websites other than WordPress. Always do a Google search of the plugins listed to look for reviews to ensure they are of a high standard and will not cause any damage to your WordPress website.

Free and paid for WordPress plugins

One of the great things about choosing WordPress as your website platform is that you will be privy to thousands of free plugins. Yes, that’s right, we said free! Some of the free plugins for WordPress end up in lists of the most popular and best plugins for the platform; so do not assume that they are of poor quality just because they are free.

What we will say is that just because a WordPress plugin is free, it doesn’t mean you should necessarily download it. Although it won’t cost you anything, if it can’t benefit your website in anyway, don’t download it as it will simply slow down your site speed.

Premium WordPress plugins

As well as there being thousands of free WordPress plugins available, there are also a large volume of paid for plugins too. These are often referred to as ‘premium WordPress plugins.’

Although it’s wrong to assume that because a plugin costs money, it means it will be of a higher quality than free alternatives, paying for a plugin does give you some rights. For example, if the plugin does not do what the developer claims it should do, you will be entitled to your money back.

Many premium WordPress plugins also come with better customer support. If a developer is being paid for their plugin, they are going to be more motivated to keep it updated and supported.

Whether you choose free or paid for WordPress plugins is completely up to you. Either way you should still research plugins before installing them to check they are compatible with your website and safe to download.

How to choose a WordPress plugin

When looking for a plugin for your WordPress website, the first thin you should do is write down what you want the plugin to do. Creating a checklist of the features you are looking for will help you to narrow down your search. It is worth keeping in mind that sometimes you will not find all of the desired features in a single plugin and will instead have to download and install two plugins.

You should also set yourself a budget for your WordPress plugin. Decide whether or not you are willing to pay for a plugin and how much you are willing to spend. Again, this will help you to narrow down your choice and make it easier for you to find the right plugin for your website.

Before downloading and installing a plugin for WordPress, always read the reviews and checkout the ratings to make sure it is of a good quality. If others users are complaining about bugs and limited patches, take your business elsewhere! You only want to choose high quality plugins that are going to improve your WordPress site without any consequences.

Whilst downloading multiple plugins is fine, you should bear in mind that the more WordPress plugins you integrate with your website, the slower it’s pages will load. Only use a WordPress plugin if it will add value to your site’s user experience.

For more tips on choosing plugins for your WordPress site, watch the video below.

Bespoke WordPress plugins

Even though there are over thirty thousand WordPress plugins available, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will find one that does exactly as you want it to. If this is the case, rather than compromising on a less-then-satisfactory plugin, why not have a bespoke WordPress plugin created by an expert web developer instead?

One of the best things about building a bespoke WordPress plugin is that no other business out there will be using the same one. This gives your business website a competitive edge and allows you to offer a completely unique experience through your WordPress website.

Here at Online Media Direct we specialise in developing bespoke plugins at affordable prices for WordPress users. Our experienced WordPress developers work closely with clients to ensure they are provided with a plugin that offers the features and benefits they require to improve their websites. For a no obligation quote, please contact our web development team.

contact us for help

Can’t find quite the right plugin for your website? Get in touch with one of our WordPress web developers about a custom build.

Contact us

For more information about WordPress plugins or for help choosing the right plugin for your website, feel free to give us a call . We look forward to hearing from you!

Image credits: mj0310, FindYourSearch, alles-schlumpf, mj0310 and luca.sartoni

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