Choosing the perfect plugins for your WordPress Website

Wordpress Plugins

Do you have a WordPress website that is turning into a pain to manage? It may be because your plugin management strategy needs improvement. Plugins in WordPress are meant to make your life easier but if they incorrectly managed they can create the opposite result.

This is not a hard situation for a WordPress site owner to find themselves in. plugins are a major help when you don’t have the time or expertise to extend your WordPress website functionality yourself but the temptation to keep downloading the next cool plugin can be strong and it can be tricky to evaluate a plugin for quality.

WordPress plugin problems

Essentially plugins are tools of your website and like any tool it can take practice to use them correctly or to identify when something has gone wrong  like these common plugin problems:

Unfocused plugins – sometimes a plugin just tries to do too much. As it tries to do everything (like trying to handle both SEO and Security) more often that not it is not doing a good job of any of the tasks.

Bloated plugins – inefficient code by well-meaning web developers might add functionality but the final product is structured in a way that is slowing down your website.

Repeated plugins – too many plugins doing the same job caused by trigger happy WordPress site owners unsure what to download (I’m guilty too).

Poor support – When you’re having difficulty using a plugin having the original developer supporting you can be invaluable. Getting an answer does not always need to be possible 24/7 but you should not be made to wait weeks or even months to get this support.

Forgotten plugins – If it’s a security plugin it’s not going to be any use if the last update was last year. What worked at the time may now even be obsolete.

Useful tips to keep plugins under control

The plugin is going to be responsible for serving your website with functionality hopefully for a long time so it is a good idea to take an in-depth look at the plugin.

Before you start looking for the right kind of plugin have a list of criteria of what you need and what you don’t want from the plugin. This can be really helpful to keep you focused amongst the choice.

While talking about focus this is something to look for in a plugin, all singing all dancing plugins are tempting but try to stick to plugins that do one thing really well.

Take notice of the comments and feedback other users have given, are there any common themes in the problems and how frequently do the comments get responded to.

It’s also important to remember to check on your plugins from time to time. Plugin updates are the responsibility of both the creator and the user. It’s up to the creator to fix any bugs or security weaknesses of the plugin but this is not good if the plugin is not maintained by the user. Thankfully WordPress makes this very easy by showing a notification if there are any plugins to update and even letting you filter all the plugins you have that require updating.

Before installing your plugin be sure to check how often they are updated as it’s as you could end up installing a dead plugin, that is something that has not been updated and possibly even forgotten by the creator.

Favourite tried and tested plugins

Whatever your problem there is almost certainly a plugin to help you solve it. I have worked with several WordPress sites for myself and for clients and the plugins I’m about to share with you are ones that I know to fulfil the criteria for typical WordPress user needs and I almost always include them.

Security

WORDFENCE SECURITY

With WordPress being so popular it a big target for hackers so your security needs to be tight. With this plugin installed and managing tasks like password strength, monitoring the firewall and automatic security checks I know I am safe as I can be – although I don’t believe anything is hack proof I certainly believe in saving time and that is what this plugin has achieved for me.

SEO

YOAST

Yoast helps you manage your SEO and prevent you from making mistakes as there is a lot of conflicting advice out there. Again I have seen good results by installing this plugin and you will find it in many of my projects. A key feature of this plugin is identifying the correct use of keywords on a page and another key feature is that Yoast can analyze the architecture of the website as a whole highlighting what is structured correctly. What’s more the creation of breadcrumbs and sitemaps are part of what Yoast does for your SEO.

Image Gallery

PHOTO GALLERY

This is a plugin that offers a solution to a when you need to make heavy use of picture-based content in WordPress. The reason I like this plugin so much is that it offers both an attractive user interface with a wide range of image management tools as well as an attractive presentation of images to the website visitors that is easy to customise to fit your design.

Other WordPress plugins I also love and recommend

WP FASTEST CACHE -Build a cached HTML version of your website
SMUSH – Lower file sizes of images
COMPACT WP AUDIO PLAYER – Host audio content like music and podcasts
GRAVITY FORMS – Manage forms on your website (premium)
FLOW-FLOW – Publish social networks to WordPress

Unless noted as premium I have used the free version of all plugins available to get results.

Take your knowledge further

WordPress comes with a really cool and useful resource, the WordPress Codex. In this resource, WordPress users can find information about installing and managing plugins and how to keep them updated. Click here to see the WordPress codex.

For some WordPress users, browsing plugins may leave you inspired to create something yourself. WordPress makes this easy to do and you can learn how to do build a plugin here.