WordPress is the most popular a content management systems for websites. It serves not only as a way for non-technical people to add and edit website content, but serves as a framework on which every component of the website is built. This helps make WordPress sites easy to enhance and extend beyond its core software.
Two key components to WordPress are “themes,” which usually control the layout and design of the website, and “plugins” which are used to extend the capabilities of a site beyond the core WordPress software. While WordPress usually has only one active theme, it can have an unlimited number of plugins active at the same time.
“There is a Plugin for Everything”
Plugins can be used for just about any conceivable purpose within a WordPress website. Common plugins that Inforest Communications uses in our projects include tools to assist search engine optimization, ecommerce, security, contact forms and adding sliders or other interactive page elements. Well designed plugins are easy to activate and configure, even by WordPress novices.
Alas, Plugins aren’t all Free
While all plugins legally inherit an “open source” licensing model and are considered “free” both in terms of cost and ability to modify, the distribution of some plugins is controlled by a paid subscription model. These paid plugins be accompanied by freely distributed versions with limited capabilities that encourage users to upgrade to the “pro” version in order to enjoy all functions.
Great Plugins are Available
There are, however, a good number of truly free plugins that provide full functionality out of the box, or have base-level versions that are useful in and of themselves. Often one has to try several different plugins in order to find the right candidate for a particular project. Apart from cost and specific functionality we also look at two related key factors; the quality of the plugin’s user interface and how well the plugin integrates with the rest of WordPress.
Here are a few third-party plugins we recommend:
Contact Form 7 is one of the more popular contact form builders available. It provides an interface for building form templates that is easy to use, but flexible enough to support specific design elements.
Wordfence offers an surprisingly good, free version of their plugin for securing WordPress websites from active attacks and possible vulnerabilities. A paid version offers additional protection.
Yoast provides on-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and will provide specific evaluation of the quality and density of content as it relates to your target keywords.
WooCommerce provides a starting point for eCommerce on WordPress websites. Supports a wide range of additional paid and free plugins for specific selling scenarios. Good integration with WordPress as a whole.
Custom Field Suite makes it easy to add additional fields to pages, posts and any custom post types in WordPress. Requires programming knowledge to integrate into a theme, but provides excellent interfaces for administering and entering additional fields.
Plugins provide a means for extending the functionality of a WordPress in many different ways and are often indispensable in providing for a website’s effectiveness. However, not all plugins are truly free or useful and some due diligence is required to evaluate candidates for your project. Fortunately, there are a lot of good existing plugins available.
Do you need help figuring out plugins, or do you need a custom plugin built for your site? Reach out to Inforest Communications, we are happy to help you build a better WordPress site.
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About Dana Hutchins
Dana is founder of Inforest Communications and has over fifteen years of Web design and development experience. Dana is involved in all aspects of business development and marketing of the firm, including serving as primary consultant on Internet and Web strategy to Inforest clients. His Web development responsibilities are primarily focused on writing custom modules,themes and plugins to make Drupal and WordPress sites run and look better. He also writes custom Web applications that have been used in online calendaring, e-commerce and surveys.
Dana’s favorite programming acronyms are PHP, MySQL, CSS3, HTML5 and jQuery. However, what really gets him excited is the opportunity to use these tools to build Web sites that solve business needs and create new opportunities for his clients.