What Are WordPress Plugins? And How Do They Work?
WordPress has emerged out to be unbeatable leader when it comes to blogging platforms. There is nothing which a WordPress cannot do. The default WordPress does not offer this additional functionality, it just offers basic functionality. So, from where these extra functions appearing from? These are PLUGINS!!! Yes!!! You guessed it right; this is the topic for today.
What are plugins?
Don’t confuse them with themes. WordPress business themes are just to beautify front end of your website. They have nothing to do with the functionality of website. Talking in layman language, plugins are just like apps which enhance functionality of Smartphone. In the similar manner, plugins provide the necessary functionality and new features to the WordPress websites. Technically, they are just small piece ofdynamic code designed in such a manner so as to fulfill the requirements or the missing components of WordPress website. Approximately 48,500 free plugins are available on the official website of WordPress. There are thousands of paid plugins available from third party sites like Github, Clickbank. Price increases as you opt for the most popular and powerful plugin.
There are basically two types of plugins. One is just like drag and drop. Just download, install and activate them. Handling is done from admin panel. The second ones are when you have to mess around the code. You need to manually change the WordPress code so as to embed attain the desired feature.
Where plugins are needed?
There are unlimited features provided by WordPress plugins. I am providing a quick list of features which you can implement using WordPress plugins.
- Designing: you can change layouts, designs etc for your blog. Or, in other words you can do a complete makeover of your blog like adding calendars, navigation, highlighting text etc
- Admin Panel: customizing admin tools, posing restrictions, tweaking etc.
- Multimedia Integration: record audio, video files, lightbox effects to your images, integrating any video from famous tube channels.
- Formatting: change the default way of editing and formatting post, the way links are shown, linking process
- Social integration: these are the most popular ones. Be it Facebook integration or twitter profile linking. Everything is done in just one install of plugin.
- Miscellaneous: weather forecasting, Google maps integration, news, current affairs, improving SEO, boosting performance and many more things
Plugins vary in sizes. They can be small like for inserting of an image or they can be heavy as membership plugins or ecommerce plugins.
How do WordPress plugins work?
Lets first discuss how to install them but before that how to find them?
FINDING A PLUGIN
Visit WordPress.org plugin directory for free plugins. Just type the desired functionality or the name of plugin, if you know. It will display a handsome number of plugins. Choose the one which suits you best. There is another way out. You can also search them from the admin Panel of your site. Simply click Plugins and there you see Add New. Type the plugin name or desired functionality in brief. WordPress will list down the most suitable one according to your keywords. These may not be helpful sometimes as both of the options search within the free WordPress plugins. Another option is to search on Internet for third party plugins. But before downloading do check its reviews, ratings or testimonials and then download from a trusted site.
If you are downloading plugin from your admin area, you will directly see the option install know. In the other two cases, you just need to download first. Then extract it from the compressed folder if it is in that format, then go to the plugins folder. If the site is live then, you will need an FTP client with username and password to enter your website server area. Upload (if live site) or copy-paste the contents of the plugin to /wp-content/plugins folder. Now you should be able to see your plugin in your admin area. To turn on the plugin, click Activatedisplayed on the right side.
Whenever a plugin is installed, it gets registered in the WordPress database.Plugins are dynamic pieces of code. Code is checked for the desired functionality when the web page is loaded. Then plugin code is loaded into memory. It is then initialized and a new instance of plugin is created. When the plugin is in deactivation state, they don’t use any resource but only occupy disk space.
Things to consider before installing or choosing a plugin
Before downloading or installing any plugin, do check for it’s compatibly with the WordPress version you are choosing.
It may happen that your plugin is not working properly or not at all. This may be a case of conflict between any other plugin installed. Check for this by deactivating all the plugins and activating only this one. If now it works properly then its functionality is getting conflicted by some other plugin for sure.
It may happen that you are not able to see or install plugin. This is because you can install WordPress plugins on self hosted WordPress.org websites.
REDUCED WEBSITE SPEED
It is a misconception that if you install too many plugins, that will affect your website’s speed or in other words will make it slow. It has nothing to do with number of plugins but in fact it is about the coding. A badly coded plugin is surely going to hamper your website’s speed.
FREE OR PAID
It is absolutely your choice. If any free plugin offers similar kind of functionality as paid one, then go for a free plugin. But if you think you will need updates and support, then go for a paid one. As the paid ones offers warranty as well as are backed by full customer support. The coders of the free ones may stop working anytime, without caring of the problems it may give to the user.
It is not that all free ones are bad. Advisors from WordPress Forum are always available at your end to help you out. Just leave your query there and it will be answered in short span of time. It may happen that the problem you are facing is already been dealt in any of the threads. Look for it.
Google and other search engines are always available for your help.
REVIEWS AND RATINGS
Be very sure, to check for plugin’s overall rating and reviews it has received from the users before downloading the plugin. Checkout for how many downloads has been there for that particular plugin. But always you can try for as many plugins as you want till you have your perfect one.