WordPress is one of the most popular platforms companies use as a content management system (CMS), and for good reason. Since its initial release in 2003 as a blogging tool, it has evolved into one of the most powerful and versatile website builders available. Its capabilities combined with its ease of use makes it one of the most heavily used platforms available. Even though WordPress is impressive in its own right, there are WordPress plug-ins available that further enhance the functionality of the platform.
What is a WordPress Plug-in?
For those who are new to WordPress and still learning the ins and outs, let us review what a WordPress plug-in is. A plug-in is a piece of software that adds features to your WordPress website. The software is written in a PHP programming language, which means it works exceptionally well with WordPress. The idea is that users can add features to enhance their website via a plug-in without ever needing to write a single line of code. This makes building and maintaining a high-quality website very easy for those who have little to no experience with writing code or simply do not have the time. There are thousands of plug-ins available and new ones being developed on a regular basis. With so many plug-ins at your disposal, it can be difficult to know how to responsibly use WordPress plug-ins.
The Importance of Keeping Plug-ins Updated
Just as with all software, updates are released on a regular basis. While it is true that updates offer new features and functions to the platform, more often than not, these updates address security issues and vulnerabilities. The source code for WordPress is available to any and everyone. This makes it easy for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities. As soon as a vulnerability is discovered, an appropriate update is quickly developed and released to patch the problem.
When a plug-in is developed and released, it is made to work with the latest version of WordPress at the time of its release. This means if you update your WordPress website (which you should) and fail to update your plug-ins, they may not work with the newer versions of WordPress, which could then cause your entire website to crash or have glitches.
Another issue with failing to update plug-ins is that you could possibly leave your website vulnerable to hackers. This is a big deal in any capacity, but even more so if your website contains sensitive client information. If sensitive information is compromised, it could not only ruin your website but your company's reputation as well.
When Should You Choose to Use a Plug-in?
With so many plug-ins available it can seem overwhelming to know when you should use a plug-in and when you shouldn't. Before you aimlessly start looking for plug-ins, first assess your website. Make a list of the features and functions you need from your website. When you find a plug-in you think might be a great fit for your website, there are some things you need to look at before downloading. First, look at the specifications. The description should tell you how many times it has been downloaded, the last time it was updated, the PHP version, and the WordPress version it has been designed and tested for.
The next thing you should look for are the reviews. Now, this is an area you need to be careful with. Many users of a plug-in do not leave reviews or ratings. It is also true that often times, users only leave reviews when they are dissatisfied. Check out the reviews and ratings but it should not be your sole deciding factor as to whether or not you should use that particular plug-in.
The third thing you should look at is the support overview. Take a look at how many support threads are open and whether or not the developer has addressed these issues. A plug-in with many open support threads and lack of action taken by the developer is an indication that you should probably pass on that particular plug-in and look for a different one.
It is important that you choose plug-ins whose authors release timely and important updates. Otherwise, plug-ins will become obsolete and fail to work as you update your WordPress website.
When Should You Custom Develop For WordPress?
You can always use the themes and plug-ins offered by the WordPress community or custom develop your own. You may wonder why in the world you would take the time to develop your own custom theme or plug-in for WordPress. You may need to custom develop for your own site or to meet the needs of a client. You should consider custom developing when you are looking to make your website unique, need site-specific features, and to be able to change between two layouts quickly.
Developing your own software allows you to be creative, learn more about CSS, HTML, and PHP. If you decide to make your development available to the public, then you have bragging rights, not to mention you've contributed to the WordPress community!
Taking Your Website to the Next Level
The development of WordPress plug-ins allows users to enhance the features and functions of their website. It is important to understand that although plug-ins are beneficial, failure to update and maintain them could result in disastrous results for your website. Since the WordPress source code is open to the general public, you are able to custom develop your own themes and plug-ins to create a unique website with site-specific functions.
Beacon Digital Marketing understands what it takes to make your website and brand stand out in a sea full of competitors. We can help you develop and maintain a website that speaks for your brand and inspires your audience. You have visions, goals, and dreams for your company and website. Let us help you make those dreams a reality and bring your vision to life!
Do you have any questions about WordPress plug-ins on your site or blog? Let us know in the comments below!
Whitney is a highly sought-after B2B online marketing expert with more than 12 years of experience leading marketing and communications teams in a variety of organizations, including nonprofits, small businesses, tech startups, and large global corporations. She’s helped dozens of brands gain greater recognition for their causes and products in the digital world.