WordPress is arguably the most successful and influential blogging and website platform there is, and is estimated to power 14% of the world wide web today. A large part of its success is due to its rich set of features and its highly adaptable and powerful plugins.
For those of us who are still getting to grips with the mysterious digital realm of building blogs or websites, plugins are basically bits of software that can be added onto your page by uploading them.
Plugins tend to either extend or expand how your page functions and in many cases, provide a complete solution for the user, i.e. most of the background work is done by the plugin builders.
Plug me IN
‘Which WordPress Plugins should I be using?” has to be the most existential and googled WordPress user question out there.
So before jumping head first into frenzied google searches for Top 5 WordPress Plugins to use, the most logical thing to consider before setting off is whether you actually need one in the first place.
To answer this, ask yourself the following 4 things –
- Can the issue be solved without a plugin?
- Does the theme I’ve chosen have a built-in solution?
- Do I want to find a plugin to perform a specific task?
- Is what I’m trying to change or improve actually necessary?
If you’ve brushed the first two off with a no and answered the last two with a firm nod of the head, you are on the right path and do in fact need a WordPress plugin. Next step on the road to your plugin holy grail is to decide whether to use free or premium plugins.
To pay or not to pay
A large part of the WordPress community actually believe all plugins should be free. There are a lot of free WordPress plugins already out there which are great because they do what they say on the tin and, if you are strapped for cash or don’t believe in paying for plugins, are a more than viable option to solve your WordPress building woes. Some popular free plugins include: Contact Form 7, WordPress SEO, Google Analytics and WP Super Cache.
So then why part with your hard-earned coin when you can just upload something for sweet nothing? The two main reasons to air out your wallet when it comes to choosing the right WordPress plugin are –
- Range – in some cases the issue you are trying to solve hasn’t been developed by charitable plugin builders and premium can be your only option.
- Reliability – support teams from premium plugins actually work on issues reported by users, maintain security and compatibility with the latest WordPress version and ensure the plugin is compatible with other plugins you might also want to use on your site. This can also happen with free plugins but isn’t as widespread.
- Saves time and effort – the support team works on issues flagged by users which saves time and effort trying to work them out yourself and means you don’t even need to manually monitor your plugins for vulnerabilities.
Don’t forget that after you pay for your initial premium plugin you usually need to pay extra for any major upgrades!
The final hurdle
In the end choosing between free or paid WordPress plugins depends on your budget, whether there is a free plugin for what you need, the complexity of your issue, your knowledge of plugin set up procedures and how much time and energy you are prepared to invest.
Now all that’s left for you to do is to find the specific plugin for your issue. If you know your stuff, go straight to the WordPress directory and have a good, long search. If you are a little bit wary of making the wrong decision and love expert advice then there are plenty of great bloggers out there that can help you choose the right one for you. Type in your specific issue and let the magic of the internet guide you to the right plugin for you.
PSST! The team @Bamboo Digital Manchester might be the genie to your lamp. We also create our own WordPress plugins!
Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.