Build Your WordPress Blog: Plugins

Beginning or advanced bloggers who are building their WordPress site rely on plugins to make their blog do what they want it to. How do you find the best ones and what are the potential problems?

Plugins Grow Powerful

It used to be that the theme brought special functions to a WordPress platform, but increasingly the power has shifted from both the core installation of the WordPress software and from the theme to an array of plugins.

Plugins are the preferred way to expand function. This pullquote is by way of a shortcode plugin.
A plugin makes it easy to add the code necessary to do something either very simple like make a list of recent posts, to something very complex like adding a community system (i.e. “Buddypress”).

The WP team has increasingly decided to make features reside in something outside the core.

Remember

Too many plugins can cause “bloat” and slow down your site. Try to limit to your “most needed and wanted”.

Almost everything needed to find the best plugins are right within the dashboard of the latest version of WordPress. Simply find the button for “Plugins”, Go to “add new”, and search. Helpful categories such as “popular” and ratings will guide you to beginning the addition of plugins which expand the power of your blog.

Problems With Plugins

Most of the problems that arise with plugins revolve around “conflicts” with other functions or plugins, and “vulnerabilities”, or ways that hackers can get into your site through the code of the plugin.

With all problems from this source it is important that the plugins be updated. If you have updates in your wordpress installation, don’t delay implementing them. WordPress platform has made that easy.

What is more difficult is when you don’t know something is vulnerable or it needs updating when bundled into a theme.

Best practices that are now advocated by developers is that plugins handle many functions and that they “stand alone” instead of being introduced on the inside of a theme.

Recently, a well known, much used photo slider had been compromised in a very dangerous way. It was inside many themes, and alerts were put out, but there are many, many sites that probably go on without correction of the problem. Read about this here.

This isn’t to strike fear into your heart, but to educate you. Be aware of what to watch out for in a WordPress installation.

Things To Watch

Watch for conflicts between plugins or with your theme. If something isn’t working turn off all and then turn on one at a time to see if that is the problem.

How To Add A WordPress Plugin To Your Blog

 

Which Choices Out Of Thousands?

There are the basics, the features, and those for specific tasks.

Akismet is one of the basics. It prevents spam.

Although I changed around a bit, I use Yarpp (Yet Another Related Post Plugin) which brings up related posts for further discovery of your posts. This is an example of a feature: something your blog will really benefit from, but not a basic concern.

The third example of plugins that I like are those which add a function or feature that I need for a specific purpose. an example of that is one for recipes, or reviews. Adding social icons, or my favorite, an editorial organizer like “WordPress Editorial Calendar”.

Specialty Purposes

For recipes I like “Easy Recipe“, although there are others that probably would work as well. If I were a food blogger, I would want to research what worked best for my needs, and possibly buy a premium version.

Book blogging also has a choice of a number of special plugins for reviews. I like “Book Review Library” by Chris Reynolds the best.

Book Review Library
New Plugin for Adsense
Adsense Publisher Plugin has worked well for me.

I’ve tried a number of Adsense ones, but they had issues, so I’m now using Google Publisher for Adsense. It sometimes has problems with my theme, but is better than other ones I used previously.

The amount of this type is huge, and the best way to find what you want is to read reviews and find the recommendations of the users who test them. I like reading WPTavern blog for ideas about new ones.

 

Plugin
Feature
Price
YARPP
adds a group of related posts to keep readers interested in your content
free
Yoasts SEO
Powerful functions to help your SEO
free
BruteProtect
Secures against security attack
free

Dealing With HTML And CSS

I know how to use these, but many don’t. But despite the fact that I can customize my site and add tables to pages does not mean I want to have the headache of doing all the work ( espeically when it comes to building tables.

Never mind, Beginner and Expert alike! There are plugins that prove very handy for these chores.

TABLES

WordPress posts benefit form visual aids like tables. They are an easy way to organize information. The trouble is that a complex table can be hard to get set up. “Tablepress” is the plugin I use, it is an improvement on an older plugin that I have used on my garden site , and it works like a dream.

Tablepress

HTML ELEMENTS

Shortcode is the name for easy additions of blocks of code that do specific things. It used to be mainly built into themes, but now you can have numerous plugins that create boxes, insert Facebook like buttons, make image sliders- all sorts of things.

There is no single plugin that does this, but I like Elegant Themes shortcode plugin, not the least because I use their themes.

My Experience

I’ve had some trouble with plugins over the years. Some cause conflicted- even breaking my theme. If you have trouble with your theme or even your whole site breaks after updates, go through your plugins to see if that is the culprit.

METHOD:

Turn off (deactivate) all the plugins. Turn each one back on,, individually and check to see if one was causing the problem. Unfortunately, you will probably have to delete that one until the developer fixes it.

Many developers provide support and answer questions or run a forum where problems acan be addressed and fixed.

SOMETIMES IT WORKS UNTIL IT DOESN’T

If it worked and then suddenly doesn’t do what it used to, it maybe that you will have to find a similar plugin to do that feature. Authors don’t always keep them updated.

Or sometimes you find the occasional one that does something (secretly) that you don’t like, monetizers that take some of your income without your permission. Though usually it is through defaults you were not aware that you needed to change. This happens less with the newer plugins, which tend to cost something upfront.

Be aware is all I can say about that.