What are WordPress Plugins, and Why Do I Need Them?
Written by: Advantage IM
May 19, 2020
In the early days of website development, building a new website required hard-coding – a skillset that not just anyone possessed. Coding a website from the ground up was quite a chore. However, it was not nearly the chore it would be today, as successful websites include much greater detail and functionality in 2020 than they did two decades ago.
Today, many intricate features can be implemented on your website that offer a wide range of functionalities. The best part? It can all be achieved without having to create exhaustive amounts of code from scratch, thanks to WordPress.
As you may be familiar, WordPress is a popular content management system, or CMS, that allows you to create and manage the content that appears on your website. Developing a basic website in WordPress is relatively easy. However, if you want your business to excel in 2020, you’ll need a bit more than just the basics.
Luckily, WordPress offers programmable functions that are available in prepackaged bundles, called plugins. Plugins are downloadable and can be easily installed on WordPress websites. What WordPress does for website design, plugins do for website functionality.
WordPress: Opening the Virtual Front Door to Your Business
If you think of a website as a place of business, WordPress is the building the business resides in. Complete with plumbing and electricity, there is just enough in place that potential customers can come visit. The only problem is that the building doesn’t come with the tools that are needed for any business to actually be conducted. What value, at this stage, is provided to the visitor? Potential customers will likely leave the building just as quickly as they entered.
The same is true for your website. If potential customers visit your website with a specific need or goal in mind and your website doesn’t provide the functionality that is necessary to achieving that goal, they’ll quickly abandon your business’s website in search of another that will.
If WordPress is the building, plugins are the tools the business needs to serve and provide value to potential customers. Let’s take a look at two of the most popular types of WordPress plugins available to improve your business’s website.
Plugins for User Engagement
The majority of WordPress plugins are designed with the ultimate purpose of enhancing the user’s experience while visiting your website.
Some of these plugins allow and encourage visitors to engage with your content by way of:
- Contact Forms
- Newsletter Subscriptions
- Member Logins
- Videos On-Demand
- Live Chat
- Social Sharing
- Language Translators
- eCommerce (Online Store)
- Application Forms
In addition, there are plugins available that enable customization and enhancement of WordPress’s basic functions like template design and photo editing, which make it easier to create a unique and attractive website for your business.
Plugins for Website Performance
While most plugins are designed to enhance the user experience, not all plugins are built for the visitor to engage with directly. Some plugins are designed to improve the performance of a website.
Let’s say your website includes a significant amount of images and videos. These elements can increase the amount of time it takes for your website to load, and can end up negatively impacting the user experience (when they were actually included on your website to do the opposite). Fortunately, there are plugins that can be installed that will optimize your website’s performance and prevent visitors from experiencing extended load times and other performance errors.
It’s helpful to note that although this sort functionality runs in the ‘background’ of your website and is not evident to the visitor, it does directly impact the user experience because it improves the overall performance of your website.
Popular WordPress Plugins and their Functions
Take a look at some of the website plugins that are popular with web development professionals for building both basic and enhanced functionalities to their clients’ business websites:
Not All Plugins are Created Equal
Does it all sound too good to be true? Well, there is a catch: Plugins that can be quickly and easily implemented on a website by just about anyone often cost money to install, while ones that require some level of programming or configuration are typically free to download.
For example, Contact Form 7 is free, but it requires the website creator to have some knowledge of programming to configure it correctly. Gravity Forms, a plugin with comparable functionality to Contact Form 7, does come at a cost, but little to no programming knowledge is required to properly implement the plugin on your website.
Additionally, there is a bit of maintenance that is required with WordPress plugins. WordPress releases periodic updates to their content management system, and in turn, plugin developers must perform tests to ensure their plugins work properly with each new WordPress update. Similar to the way the apps on your phone require periodic updates to fix bugs and improve performance, you can expect the plugins you use to release updates that:
- Ensure compatibility with WordPress’s periodic updates.
- Fix errors or bugs.
- Enhance plugin functionality.
Unfortunately, some plugins – even those that have been used and maintained for many years – can fall to the wayside and become outdated or no longer supported. This can cause errors for the plugins you use on your website and can even stop them from functioning altogether. As such, it’s always good practice to keep an eye on the plugins your website uses and update them whenever a new version becomes available.
Using WordPress Plugins to Create the Perfect Business Website
At Advantage Internet Marketing, we specialize in building beautiful websites that best reflect the brands and values of our clients. Our programming expertise, WordPress knowledge, and plugin access enable us to implement the enhanced functionalities your business’ website needs to stand out and create the perfect user experience.
Whether you’re looking to sell your products online via your website, or you simply need a redesign to modernize your business’s appearance online, we’re here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our website development solutions.