Sometimes, things break. If your business has a website, odds are it’s a WordPress site, built with an easy-to-use platform and all kinds of customizable features.
However, when it comes to websites, odds are also that at one time or other features may break. This is likely due to custom WordPress plugins and when updates are made to them. It’s probably an easy fix, but it can wreak havoc.
A Little Background
WordPress initially began as a blogging tool, but today is one of the most popular website building platforms available. One of the reasons is because there are thousands of free and premium plugins business owners can add to enhance their website’s functionality. In fact, more than 45,000 free plugins exist, and thousands of premium (paid) plugins as well.
How a Plugin Works
A plugin is like an app running on your smartphone – it integrates with your smartphone’s operating system and adds layers of functionality your phone wouldn’t have without that app. Plugins do the same on your website – it powers a feature or function the website wouldn’t otherwise offer. The tool can be useful in the background, such as helping you boost your search engine optimization, or can be front-facing such as a form to help website visitor’s opt-in to your content and touchpoints. A plugin on a WordPress site might be small, such as an image slider in a sidebar, or a major part of the site, such as an eCommerce section. Plugins can be activated or deactivated at any time.
What Plugins Can Do
The choices may seem endless, so we’ve rounded up the major areas in which a plugin can help your business:
- Site Security – Many high-quality plugins exist to keep websites free from malware, protect from brute-force network attacks and keep your site safe from other digital threats. GRIT uses a combination of plugins and modifications to WordPress to accomplish this without adding too much extra load on a server, so your website won’t slow down.
- Image compression – Large images are a real problem for websites, causing slow load times or blank spaces on web pages. WordPress, on its own, allows users to upload extremely large images that are often far larger than they need to be, causing the website to use a lot of server bandwidth and data to load on mobile devices. GRIT always recommends users resize and optimize images before being uploaded, but sometimes it helps to also have a plugin on the website that can optimize the images for you in the background.
- SEO – Without question, GRIT loves Yoast for WordPress. The flexibility and automation are almost unmatched in the industry. Yoast is lightweight, doesn’t use bandwidth or tax the server and has solid technical support. The best part: it’s free.
- Forms and email marketing – Many plugins exist offering contact form functionality, as well as integration to opt-in to future email communications. It’s hard to go wrong with Contact Form 7, however, while its free, it can bring some configuration headaches and does not always play well with other plugins. GRIT recommends different forms and email marketing plugins based on what the client wants to accomplish, such as accepting donations. Our recommendations will always match a client’s goals.
- Caching – Many businesses use plugins to address site caching issues and speed up page load times; however, most of these plugins offer a function that can be made with minor programmatic updates behind the scenes of a WordPress site without adding the bulk of a plugin. Leveraging those settings, combined with a content delivery network (CDN), can help result in better site speeds. Site speed is a major ranking factor for SEO, and GRIT helps many clients optimize their websites with changes like this.
- Image sliders and other functions – WordPress doesn’t offer many visual functions as part of its native tools, so businesses often add plugins to create photo sliders. A good web developer can add slider functionality without a bulky plugin, but some flexibility may be lost as those are usually built into custom page templates. Many WordPress themes come pre-installed with slide functionality, so a business may not even need to add a slider plugin. However, this is a decision digital experts, such as GRIT, can advise on to get the best visual presentation balanced with the best performance.
- Backups – Good backups to websites begin with good hosting. Most hosting companies offer complete site backups as part of their hosting package, so a business does not need to install a WordPress plugin to create backups. However, if you use a shared hosting plan, backing up your website through your hosting company many not be an option. In this scenario, a backup plugin would be a good choice. GRIT recommends UpdraftPlus as a solid option because of its cloud storage and instant refreshes, which comes with a small cost.
- eCommerce – The biggest plugin available is WooCommerce for WordPress. Plus, there are many add-ons and other plugins available to help tailor the WooCommerce customer experience to perfection. GRIT has used WooCommerce on many sites needing small-to-medium eCommerce site capabilities. To run a large eCommerce site that has many SKUs as part of the business, GRIT recommends using a platform other than WordPress.
With all the great options available, WordPress plugins help make websites meet a company’s target audiences’ needs, brings in new prospective clients and showcases a company’s expertise to the world. But remember, it’s critical to have the right expertise to find the plugin that perfectly fits your site and the audience’s need.
Now that you understand how a WordPress plugin works, stay tuned for Part 2, when GRIT shares how sometimes, plugins don’t play nice with your website (and what to do if that happens).
For help understanding how to make your website function better, fix bugs on it or just make it a more effective tool to bring in leads, get in touch with us today!