Plugins and Other Tidbits
Today’s fun topic is all about WordPress plugins! Are you ready?
First, what exactly is a WordPress plugin? It’s a piece of software written to add functionality to your WordPress site. It’s like an app that you can install that will add some functionality to the core WordPress functions.
Why do you need plugins, you ask? Well, you didn’t ask, but I’m going to write about it anyway. WordPress was designed with minimum functionality to keep it lean and clean. The Core of WordPress is any file or part of the WordPress installation that is not inside of your WP-Content folder. These are all of the “core” files that you need to run WordPress on your site.
You should NEVER modify any of theses files! With one exception, of course. There always seems to be an exception. The only file you should modify is the wp-config.php file. You edit this file during the installation process, entering your custom database name, user name and password.
Anyhow, since WordPress is designed to run as fast and smoothly as possible, it may be lacking in some functionality that you may specifically want or need depending on the individual needs for your site. This is where the plugins come in to play.
At first it gets a little confusing as to the difference between a theme and a plugin. Mainly because there is some overlapping/gray area when it comes to what they do.
Themes manage the display of your content, like the layout and design elements. Some themes may add functionality, but essentially, a theme manages the way that your content is rendered on the page.
A Plugin, on the other hand, adds functionality to your page. Many Plugins can add elements to your layout, while other plugins may only appear on the back-end of your WordPress site.
It is probably a better idea to use a plugin rather than a theme to add the functionality that you want. This is in case down the road you decide that you want to change the look and feel of your site by changing your theme. If your new theme does not have the same functionality as the old theme, you will have problems. If you use plugins, you will not lose the functionality when you change themes.
So now that you understand why you should use themes, how do you know what themes you should use? There are nearly 40,000 plugins available for download at the WordPress.org plugin directory as of the time that I am writing this. That’s really overwhelming.
Once you decide what type of plugin you are looking for, you can so a search. You will probably find some options. You should vet your plugin choices by looking at the number of active installs and the ratings. Make sure to read both the good and bad reviews so you can get a good idea of what issues you may run into. If you do some research, you can get a pretty good idea of what the best choice is for you.
So far I have added a few plugins to this site. I have Akismet to help block spam comments. This plugin comes with WordPress by default, along with somethings silly called “Hello, Dolly.”
I have also installed JetPack. JetPack has a lot of different functions that you can turn on and off. I haven’t completely come to understand what they all are at this point, but a wise person told me to use WordPress.com stats, Sharing, Protect, VaultPress, ShortCode Embeds and the Carousel or Tiled Galleries function for images.
The other plugin I have installed is Ninja forms. I used this plugin to create a contact page for my portfolio site. I will probably enhance and change the contact form once I really start delving into my portfolio creation.
I’m not completely sure what other plugins I will be using. I am interested in integrating social media with my site, so I will be looking into some ways to have my blog posts automatically post to Twitter or Facebook. I also am interested in creating a resume page that will have an automated timeline, and it looks like there are a few plugins for that.
Overall, I’m learning more about how the different pieces of WordPress fit together and I’m excited to get started on creating my portfolio pages.