WordPress has become the world’s most popular content management system, with an estimated 33 per cent of all live websites working on this long-established platform. Beloved by entrepreneurs and web design agencies alike, this streamlined WordPress framework is augmented by over 55,000 standalone pieces of code. Each one performs a specific role or function and is designed to be bolted onto the main framework wherever it’s required. And this modular framework creates websites with no superfluous code – enhancing the user experience and improving page loading times to achieve SEO benefits.
WordPress was launched in 2003, and remarkably a couple of plugins which made their debuts in 2004 are still available today. The directory of WordPress plugins grew rapidly as people began to push the core framework’s boundaries, looking for solutions to problems or attempting to expand the platform’s functionality. Because it’s open source software, creating and modifying WordPress plugins can be attempted by anyone in possession of basic coding knowledge. Indeed, many plugins have evolved from older or obsolete ones. Newcomers should appreciate that WordPress plugins don’t come with lifetime guarantees – periodically, it’s going to be necessary to replace some of them.
Keeping with the times
Another important aspect of maintaining a WordPress website concerns updating plugins. Because it’s the world’s most popular CMS, hackers and malware developers are constantly probing for weaknesses and seeking ways to acquire sensitive data. And while some WordPress plugins are created by professional companies whose up-front purchase fees are justified by long-term technical support, others are thrown together by enthusiastic amateurs. In both scenarios, vulnerabilities are constantly being discovered which require patching or repairing. Logging into your WordPress portal should identify any plugins with updates available – these notifications should never be ignored to save time or effort.
Having established the principles of managing WordPress plugins, it’s time to consider the functionality these standalone code snippets provide. These are some of the main plugin categories, collectively demonstrating this platform’s unique flexibility and power:
Historically, WordPress websites were adapted from established templates, but the release of the block-based Gutenberg editor has given site developers complete artistic freedom. Nevertheless, there are numerous visual and design-based plugins. From image watermarking and infographics development to gallery layouts and customisable fonts, it’s possible to give any website a truly bespoke appearance, right down to contact forms.
As mentioned above, optimising security should be of paramount concern when developing a WordPress website. The core framework has some in-built protections, but standalone plugins will handle file and malware scanning. They’ll filter out spam comments, block brute force attacks on the host server, backup data to the cloud so it can’t be lost and protect customer data. The latter is especially important for commercial websites…
This is arguably WordPress’s greatest strength. A single plugin can be enough to handle ecommerce transactions from basket to order confirmation email. Others supervise shopping cart functionality, payment gateways (including international currencies), accounting and even email marketing. Product databases are especially important to companies where individual lines come in a variety of formats, such as different sizes or colours.
Performance and SEO
Because websites are all competing for an optimal position in search results pages (where 90 per cent of new site visits originate), factors like page loading times play a key role in SEO. A spectrum of plugins handles image compression and page display techniques, stripping out superfluous code and caching page elements to ensure faster subsequent visits. There are also plugins dedicated to helping users improve SEO in text, image and page layout elements.