At the risk of sounding like a scratched CD, I want to expand a bit more on the use of WordPress plugins.
We love plugins, but do they love us back?
The reason we use plugins is to add more functionality to our sites than the WordPress core can offer.
Sometimes, it seems that plugins are evil little gremlins that we allow into our sites, who reek havoc while we sleep at night.
But like gremlins, plugins come with instructions for use and wavering from the rules can be dangerous indeed.
Here is how to work in harmony with WordPress plugins.
Choose good plugins
Plugins are created by developers around the world, some of whom also create themes and templates. All of them want to distribute their plugin through the free WordPress repository, for obvious reasons. In order to do so, their plugins must conform to WordPress standards, so when you download a plugin from the repository, you know it has the WordPress stamp of approval.
If you download a plugin that is not in the WordPress repository, know that you are on your own.
Not that using non-WordPress-related plugins are necessarily a bad thing. You can get what you pay for, but since the repository plugins are all free or freemium, you won’t find a good plugin like Optin Monster there.
In general, look at the date of creation, date of most recent update, compatible WordPress versions, number of downloads, quality and quantity of ratings to determine the reliability of a plugin. Also go the developer’s support forum to see what problems people have with it as well as the swiftness of the developer’s replies.
The upshot is, if you are going to go through the work of configuring a plugin and possibly populating the plugin with data, you want to know the plugin will continue to be maintained and updated. In other words, future proofed.
Configure plugins correctly
Sometimes, plugins will get to work right out of the zip file. Others need configuration, often extensive configuration, to meet your site’s needs. If you don’t configure the plugin correctly, you’re wasting your time.
Fortunately, plugins are usually pre-set with the default settings set by the developer. Those are meant to get the plugin working fast. But default settings don’t always meet your needs, so you have to muck with them.
For the longest time I couldn’t use W3 Total Cache since every time I uploaded it and configured it, the plugin would break my site. I recently learned from the theme’s developer which settings to enable, and it’s all good now!
[Tweet “When something goes wrong with your #WordPress site, plugins are usually the culprit.”]
I hate to scapegoat, but the hard truth is that when something goes wrong with your site, plugins are usually the culprit. You know it’s a plugin problem when you see:
Other plugins breaking
You just uploaded a new plugin, but now another plugin is not working. Disable the new one and see what happens. Delete if its guilt becomes evident.
Social media dis-connections
Why isn’t Linkedin presenting my linked posts correctly? Why are my shortened links on Twitter returning an error? I asked myself these questions until I disabled all my plugins and one by one enabled them. Turns out All-in-One Security was interfering with my social connections.
I had to disable it to find that out. Fortunately, an update came along and fixed it.
White screen of death
You uploaded and activated a plugin and suddenly you get the white screen of death, which means you broke your theme. The only way to revive your site is to undo what you just did. If you can go back to the plugins page, disable or delete the plugin there. If not, go to your hosting Cpanel and force delete the plugin.
More Tips for using WordPress plugins
Always update your plugins. If one little security hole is left exposed, a hacker could take advantage.
If you are unfamiliar with a plugin, test drive it in a sandbox environment first.
If you don’t have time for a sandbox experiment, be sure to back up the site before installing unfamiliar plugins.
So that’s all I’m saying about WordPress plugins for a while. If you have any tips or suggestions about how to use plugins, please do add them to the comments below. The more the better!