What is a WordPress Plugin?

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When you start creating your own website you will want to start adding extra functionality. For example, you may want to add pop-ups, include a gallery with lazy loading, create a mailing list, create an e-commerce shop, create a custom form, insert social media icons and links, the list goes on and on. Now while this all sounds very daunting, it is actually very simple and can be done with just a few clicks.

All of this is possible due to plugins (just like an app on your phone). Plugins are a piece of software that has been developed to perform a specific task or function that you can add to your WordPress website. Now you may be thinking that what you want won’t be available or will be very expensive, well this is the great thing, at the time of writing WordPress was listing 55,800 (yes nearly 56,000) plugins on its site with the majority of these being available free! How cool is that?

How do I find the Plugins?

If you have already started creating your WordPress website, all plugins are available from your dashboard in the back office. In the image below plugins are found 4 up from the bottom.

Screenshot of the back office dashboard in WordPress

Hover your mouse over the plugins icon and you will see this. 

Clicking on installed plugins will show you which plugins you have installed and which are activated. In the screenshot below you can see that there are eight plugins installed with one plugin not activated (EWWW Image Optimizer)

Installed plugins

Clicking on ‘add new’ will take you to the ‘Add Plugins’ page of WordPress, see below.

Add plugins screen

You can search by ‘featured’ – ‘popular’ – ‘recommended’ – ‘favourites’ or by typing in a keyword. Each plugin is presented with the name of the plugin, a brief summary, the review score and number of reviews, the number of active installations, when it was last updated and if it is compatible with your version of WordPress. This information is important, please take note of it, a plugin that has not been updated recently may mean it is no longer supported and can increase security risks.

If a plugin sounds interesting to you, click on ‘more details’. This will bring you to an image similar to the one below where you can learn more about the plugin. If you think the plugin suits your needs, click on ‘install now’ and follow the instructions. Remember to activate once installed.

more details screenshot

How many Plugins should you have?

Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question. You will most probably hear stories about websites being slowed down by having too many plugins. The easiest way to answer is to explain a bit more about plugins. Firstly, plugins are written using PHP coding language and run from your hosts servers, so using a good web host company is the first important thing.

The second thing is to ensure any plugin is well coded. The reason for this is that you could have 20 well coded plugins and have a very fast website or have just one poorly coded plugin and have a very slow website. This is why it is important to ensure the plugin has been recently updated, is compatible with your version of WordPress and read a selection of the reviews.

So to answer the question, it is not the number of plugins that is important but the quality of the plugins. However, don’t just install plugins for the sake of it, only install a plugin if it meets a need of your website and improves the experience of your visitors.

Now you can start browsing available plugins and move your website to the next level.

I hope you have found this article useful and if you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Thank you, Justin.

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