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Plugin 101

What is a plugin?

At Cyan we often use WordPress as the CMS (Content Management System) of a website as it is a powerful piece of software that creates the backbone of a website. WordPress comes with many features already included but to keep the ‘file size’ light it can’t include every possible function that people might want. Enter plugins, a smaller program written to do a specific feature once added to the WordPress install.

How do plugins work?

Plugins are basically code that hook into WordPress. They are stored in a separate directory (folder) which means even if you change themes for example the plugins will remain and continue to work.

Why do I need plugins?

You may or may not need plugins depending on the complexity of your website needs, however we generally recommend a few basic ones with every WordPress install such as one to create a form and one to help with SEO for each page – things that aren’t already built into WordPress.

How can I choose the right plugins?

Initially look for plugins that offer the features you require. However just like you would with software you are going to install on your home computer it is vital to download your plugins from a reputable source. Often this will mean choosing a so-called premium plugin and paying a fee to download – this is generally a good thing because it typically shows the developer takes their work seriously and is more likely to provide updates (for features and security) when needed.

WordPress also has a Plugin Directory that provide you with free or demoware plugins to use. Wherever you are getting your plugin from try to look for number of sales/installs/downloads, a high number of good reviews, details of a recent last update and whether the developer offers support for the plugin.

What if there isn’t what I need?

Whilst there are many plugins available due to the high number of websites that use WordPress there may be times when the plugin you have found doesn’t quite do what you need it to or you can’t find one that you need at all. If you come across this problem then your next step will be to hire a developer that can create a custom plugin for you required feature or functions.