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Day 6 – Plugins

In day 6 of 7 days of WordPress we explain what plugins are, how you can use them to extend your site and some recommended plugins that you should use for your site.

What are plugins?

WordPress Plugins allow you to easily modify, customize, and enhance a WordPress site. Instead of changing the core code of WordPress, you can add functionality with WordPress Plugins. Here is a basic definition.

A WordPress Plugin is a program or a set of one or more functions written in the PHP scripting language, that adds a specific set of features or services to the WordPress site. You can seamlessly integrate a plugin with the site using access points and methods provided by the WordPress API.

Thinking about adding some new functionality to WordPress? The first thing you should do is to search various WordPress Plugin repositories to see if someone has already created a WordPress Plugin that suits your needs. There are 2 great resources for finding plugins for WordPress:

  1. The WordPress Plugin Repository – this is the official plugin repository for all WordPress plugins, you’ll find thousands of free plugins here to extend the functionality of your site.
  2. Code Canyon Premium Plugins – get plugins from trusted developers, with over 6000 plugins to choose from. The plugins from Code Canyon are paid and normally more extensive than the regular options via the WordPress plugin repository.

Recommended plugins

In the following section we review some of the most common plugins that you can use to improve your site.

Caching

Caching plug-ins are great for speeding up your website load times.

1. WP Super Cache – Out of the box this plug-in is great. See a guide on how to set up WP Super Cache correctly here.
NOTE: Some hosting providers do not allow caching plug-ins as they already provide caching, check with your hosting provider if its ok to add a caching plug-in before installation.

2. Better WordPress Minify – Allows you to combine and minify your CSS and JS files to improve page load time.
NOTE: – If after minifying you are getting javascript errors, then you may need manage enqueued files order manually.

Back up

We highly recommend investing in plug-ins for backing up your website, it can save you a lot of time, effort and money by keeping a back up of your website. You should keep your own back up as well as use the back up options from your hosting provider.

1. VaultPress – This is a paid plug-in however its one of the best on the market, it was created by one of the WordPress co-founders Matt Mullenweg, so you know its going to work. It is a subscription based plug-in starting from $5 a month.

2. BackUpBuddy – One of the most popular back up plug-ins on the market, offering daily, weekly and monthly backups. This is a paid plug-in also, but its pricing depends on the number of live sites you have.

3. BackWPup – This is a free plug-in. It allows you to create a full back up on the cloud for your site. See the following article on how to create a free back up here.

Contact Forms

Great for users looking to create custom contact forms for collecting information about their users and for inquiries.

1. Flo Forms – Get our free drag and drop form builder for your Flothemes website and enjoy creating Custom Contact forms with the form builder, viewing submissions and getting reminders about unread emails. We also offer Tave and ShootQ integration, if you’re using a CRM to manage all your clients and bookings. For more details and a tutorial on how to install and use it, go here and watch this video tutorial.

2. Gravity Forms – A premium paid plug-in. Use it to create simple contact and support forms, surveys, polling, and client evaluation. It also can be used for collecting payments, see the following article on how to collect payments with Gravity Forms.

SEO Plugins

When using SEO plug-ins simply just installing them is not enough, you should take some time to learn a little more about the capabilities of the plug-ins and setting them up correctly.

1. Yoast SEO – Yoast allows you to add SEO to pages, keywords and meta descriptions, an added bonus is the Facebook sharing feature allowing you to choose which images are used when sharing posts. As well as providing a great all round SEO plug-in, Yoast provide some great documentation how to create good WordPress SEO, read the article here.

2. All in One SEO – Another great SEO plug-in, allowing keywords, meta descriptions and also social sharing options. WP Beginner provides a good article on setting up All in One SEO which you can view here.

Website Translation

If you need to translate your WordPress site into another language, then look now further.

WPML – This is a premium translate plug-in, probably the most popular on the market, and they have a very good support team. The default install comes with more than 40 languages and you can also add language variants, such as local dialects, using the language editor. Great news is that our all our newest themes are compatible with WPML, and here’s a tutorial on how to translate your site with WPML.

Instagram

Adding Instagram has never been easier, just install our Flothemes Instagram plug-in.

1. Flo Instagram – Our own Instagram plug-in that works great with our themes. The plug-in allows you to add Instagram images to widget areas, pages and posts. A very good all round plug-in for those looking to add some Instagram images to WordPress and get users to your Instagram page.

Social Sharing

Adding social sharing options to your site can be a great way of obtaining free marketing when users share your work. If your theme does not have built in social sharing options (Flothemes does) then you’ll want to add one of the following plugins:

1. Jetpack – Jetpack is an all round amazing plug-in and offers a lot more than just social sharing options. Just remember to use it you are required to sign up for a WordPress.com account, that is separate to your self host WordPress account.

2. Floating Social Bar – Floating social bar adds a horizontal share bar on your blog posts, and pages. A great plug-in for adding social sharing options without slowing down your site.

3. WP Social Sharing – Allowing you to add the 6 most popular social networks to your site which can be displayed on your pages, posts and even custom post types.

NOTE: Be wary of using social sharing plug-ins as they are known to slow down loading times for webpages which can affect your user experience and Google Rankings.

Maintenance Mode / Coming Soon

Great for users who are working on their site whilst live on the web. Using a maintenance mode plug-in is particularly useful for those switching WordPress themes.

1. Take a look at our Flo Launch plugin, allowing you to test drive your site on your existing WordPress installation. The quickest and easiest way to switch WordPress themes.

2. Ultimate Coming Soon – Simple and flexible, the Ultimate Coming Soon Page plugin works with any WordPress theme you have installed on your site. Anyone who isn’t logged in to your site will see the coming soon page, while you or any other logged-in staffers can access the site as normal and do not not see the coming soon page which allows you to work on your changes or content.

3. WP Maintenance Mode – It’s a simple plugin that adds a splash-style page to your website that lets your visitors know you are either in maintenance mode or you have a launch of some kind coming up. Once installed it has three sections to its menu (which is tucked under Settings > WP Maintenance): General, Design, and Modules.

Pinterest Buttons

Useful for users who want the option to have their images pinned by users via Pinterest.

1. JQuery Pin it – A great plug-in allowing you to add a pin it button to your blog images. It also allows you to add a custom pin it button for that little bit extra customization. Once the user clicks the “Pin it” button, the plugin shows a pop-up window with the image and a description.

Everything is ready for pinning, although the user can alter the description. Here at Flothemes we use this plug-in regularly as its very effective and lightweight.

2. Pinterest Pin It Button for Images – this plug-in provides a large “Pin it” button on images on hover.. It also fades out/lightens the image itself when you hover so that attention is drawn to the image and the visitor knows something is going on.

There are a few different settings with this plugin. You can choose locations where the button doesn’t show up, such as on the home page or on category pages, etc. You can also choose what info will be sent along with the pin, such as the post title, the post title and the link, the website name, etc.

Security

Security is very important on the web and something that is often overlooked. Have a look at the following plug-ins that can help make your site more secure.

1. iThemes Security – With one click installation, you can stop automated attacks and protect your website. it also fixes various common security holes in your website. It tracks registered users’ activity and adds two-factor authentication, import/export settings, password expiration, malware scanning, and various other things.

2. WordFence – one of the most popular WordPress security plugins. It keeps on checking your website for malware infection. If scans all the files of your WordPress core, theme and plugins. If it finds any kind of infection, it will notify you. Its great from preventing brute force attacks and malware infections.

3. BulletProof Security – another plug-in with one-click installation. It adds firewall security, database security, login security and more. Another great all rounder for monitoring your site security.

Performance

Take a look at our article on improving website performance here.

JetPack

Jetpack by WordPress.com – one of the best all round plug-ins for WordPress, with social sharing options, various widget capabilities and spam protection. Sign up for a WordPress.com (this is separate from your private WordPress install) account and unlock the full benefits from this powerful plug-in.

You can see a quick article on using one of our favorite modules, Widget Visibility here.
NOTE: Be careful when activating this plug-in as it activates menu extensions by default. You should read more details on what each extension provides before activating them, you can read the documentation on extensions here.

Spam Protection

Great for stopping spam comments on your site, which can affect site performance.

1. Askimet – a great plug-in used to prevent spam comments on your site, this can help keep site performance at a maximum.

2. WP-reCaptcha – Recaptcha shows an image containing characters, users need to type those characters to prove that they are human. Although some users may find this annoying especially if your users are very active.

Scroll to Top

For users wanting to add a scroll to top option for their users:

1. Scroll Back to Top – Adding a scroll to top featured has never been easier with this plug-in, just install and activate, it also allows you to add custom scroll images, and change the animation.

2. WPFront Scroll – A basic scroll to top plug-in, with several built in scroll arrows to choose from, again its simple to use, just install and activate.

Thats all for today folks. Remember if you’re looking to extend the functionality of your WordPress site, make sure to check if there is a plugin available first, test and try it out, you may get what you need for free. NOTE: be careful with adding too many plugins to your site, especially those using external scripts, as this can affect the performance of your site.

eCommerce

The best eCommerce plugin on the market for WordPress is WooCommerce. With WooCommerce you can easily set up a store, sell physical and digital products all over the world. WooCommerce is free and offers payments from Stripe (credit card) and PayPal for free, no transaction costs (The payment provider will take a transaction cost).

Learn more about WooCommerce.

You should now have all the necessary items that you’ll need to get started with your new site. In the final day of 7 days of WordPress we cover the topic of SEO, and give some insights into how you can start ranking your new site with search engines, which will be important for getting your new site some traffic.

Flothemes Team,
Supporting You.

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