If you've been reading up on WordPress or if you already use it, chances are the term "plugin" has wiggled its way into your digital vocabulary. But what exactly are plugins? And what can they do for your WordPress site? Read along to find out.
WordPress's Humble Beginnings
According to W3Techs, a firm that specializes in web technology surveys, WordPress is the content management system (CMS) presently utilized by two out of every five websites. That's pretty impressive when you consider W3Techs monitors 737 other content management systems. If you use WordPress, you're in good company.
Launched in 2003 as a simple product for constructing websites for bloggers, WordPress has since morphed into an amazingly powerful and effective CMS for a wide range of applications. And plugins have played a huge role in making that possible.
So, What Are WordPress Plugins?
Plugins are like apps for a smartphone. Made up of small bits of pre-packaged code, they improve the functionality or add new features to WordPress.org sites. And just like themes, there are free and premium plugin options available for download. Presently, there are more than 58,000 free plugins to be found at the official WordPress plugin directory and many others that can be purchased from third-party companies.
What Sorts of Things Can WordPress Plugins Do? Examples, Please
WordPress plugins can enhance your WordPress.org website in small ways and large, and which plugins you download depends on what features and capabilities you want to have included on your site. Below are a few common categories of plugins.
Ever since the first hamburger and fries were sold through a fast-food drive-up window, the public has been placing a greater and greater demand on speed. According to research by Google, 53 percent of mobile users will abandon a website if it doesn't load in 3 seconds. Web optimization plugins are designed to specifically improve download performance so visitors can get to your site faster and hopefully spend more time there.
Many businesses such as restaurants and professional services require appointments or bookings to be made in advance, and having that feature taken care of online frees up employees from spending too much time on the phone. A plugin can also be integrated with payment providers to accept online payments as well as offer several payment options.
If you're going to invest time and money into a website, it's important to invest in a security plugin. Unfortunately, there are just too many people out there that will attempt to hack your site for sensitive personal and financial information, to install malicious programs or to take over your pages or blogs. Many WordPress plugins are designed to actively block and monitor malicious activity.
If you want your website to be seen online, good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is critical. WordPress SEO plugins can help you fix your content so search engines will notice your site more. They can provide you with useful data like visitor statistics and backlink information. And they can even analyze your competitor's rankings to inform you which keywords you should be using to improve yours.
Have you ever perused a site with online merchandise where a pop-up suddenly POPS UP with a countdown timer offering you a great deal if you lock in and buy the item in the next five minutes? Have you ever visited an insurance or realtor site where a pop-up appears with a friendly agent offering to answer your questions? Pop-up plugins are a great way to build a contact base and/or capitalize on impulse shoppers.
As mentioned earlier, there are literally thousands of plugins that can increase the functionality of a website. Listing all of them would be simply impossible!
One Caveat - Isn't There Always One?
The more plugins you use and the greater design functionality you require, the more complex it can become to properly manage a website. And while the selection of free WordPress plugins is certainly impressive, they also come with very limited customer support.
This is where having a professional working from the back end can help. An experienced WordPress web designer can help you determine the important functions you want for your website, select the best plugins - whether free or premium - and overall keep things humming.
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