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One of the best things about using WordPress to build your website are the wonderful plugins at your disposal. Plugins are basically programs that can extend the functionality of your WordPress website either by providing one specific function or a series of different functions.
In this guide to WordPress plugins, I am going to do my best to discuss everything you need to know about WordPress plugins.
Where can I find Plugins?You can find most plugins in the official WordPress directory. You can download WordPress plugins from many other websites as well. WordPress developers who choose to sell their plugins have their own websites where you can buy them.
The Plugin Download PageOn every plugin download page, you can see the menu with 9 tabs that offer key information about the plugin. [tabs][tab title=”Description”]Provides the key facts about the plugin and what functionality it provides.[/tab] [tab title=”Installation”]You will find guidance on how to install and use the plugin.[/tab] [tab title=”FAQ”]A useful tab that provides answers to some of the most popular questions asked about the plugin.[/tab] [tab title=”Screenshots”]Some pictures that show some of the design and functionality that the plugin provides.[/tab] [tab title=”Changelog”] A page that describes some of the key updates that the developer has made to the plugin.[/tab] [tab title=”Stats”]This tab tells you how often the plugin is installed.[/tab] [tab title=”Support”]A very useful page where you could get help from the developer of the plugin if you are having any issues.[/tab] [tab title=”Reviews”]Hear from happy or angry users of the plugin.[/tab] [tab title=”Developers”]On this page, you will find previous versions of the plugin (if any) that you can download if the current version doesn’t work properly on your site.[/tab][/tabs] You will see the plugin sidebar to the right of the page. The first line tells you the earliest version of WordPress that is required to work with the plugin while the second tells you the latest version of WordPress that has been tested with the plugin. You can also view the ratings of the plugin just below the sidebar and more information about the developer(s) of the plugin.
What happens when a plugin is installed?When you install a WordPress plugin, a folder with the name of the plugin is created in your plugins directory that will contain its installation files. You can view the plugins folder by using any FTP software to access your web directory. The plugin is registered in your database and is loaded every time someone visits your website. Some plugins create their own widgets that can be used in your sidebars such as the contact form 7 plugin that creates its own contact form widget that you can use to display your contact form in a sidebar.
Types of WordPress PluginsWhen it comes to classifying plugins, there are 2 major ways of doing so. The first is by how much they cost and the second is by the amount of functionality they provide and how they affect the performance of your website when they are installed. In terms of cost, there are 2 different types of plugins – Free & Premium
Freemium WordPress PluginsThese are plugins that you can use for free on your site. Some of them may require that you first sign up or create an account before being able to use the plugin but you will not be required to pay to do so.
- They are free.
- There are many of them that are very useful and provide some impressive functionality to any website they are installed on.
- There is the tendency for the developers to stop maintaining the plugin by keeping it updated after a period of time
- Support is limited.
- Many free WordPress plugins are badly written and may even cause your website harm.
Premium WordPress PluginsThese are plugins that you can use for free on your site. Some of them may require that you first sign up or create an account before being able to use the plugin but you will not be required to pay to do so.
- They are well maintained.
- Support is provided.
- Premium plugins in most cases are superior to their free versions because they provide more functionality.
- There is the buyer’s remorse when you buy a premium plugin only to discover a short while later that there is a better and cheaper plugin with very similar functionality. However I should point out that there are premium plugins that come with a money back guarantee (usually 1-2 weeks) after purchase.
- Not every premium plugin is a good plugin. You must do your research properly before you buy one.