Intro to Common Plugins

Description Description

In this lesson you will learn how plugins add functionality to your website. There are various plugins that can be used for: social media, backup, analytics, security, caching, etc. These plugins can benefit your WordPress site.

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Objective Objective

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Describe the benefits of installing the various Plugins on your site.
  • Install Plugins that will be beneficial to your WordPress site.

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Prerequisite Skills Prerequisite Skills

You will be better equipped to work through this lesson if you have experience in and are familiar with:

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Assets Assets

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Screening Questions Screening Questions

  • Do you know what plugins are commonly needed on WordPress sites?
  • Do you know what types of functionality can common plugins provide?

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Teacher Notes Teacher Notes

  • Plugins mentioned here are all free and available on the WordPress.org repository
  • Plugins do not have to be installed by either you or the student

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Hands-on Walkthrough Hands-on Walkthrough

Introduction Introduction

Plugins add functionality to WordPress sites, including things like contact forms, Search Engine Optimization, automatic backups, and pretty much anything you might need to add to your site. There are some plugins that most sites would benefit from installing. Common plugins add the following functionality to WordPress sites:

  • Contact Form
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Caching
  • Backup
  • Social Media
  • Analytics
  • Security

There is no limit to the number of plugins that can be installed on one website and having many active plugins does not have to slow your site down if they are well-built and play well with others. It is worth noting that while all of the plugins mentioned are free, they may have a “premium” version available at a cost. This is common for plugins to offer a free version and then sell a premium version that has more advanced functionality.

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Contact Form Contact Form

Contact forms provide a way for users to send messages without having to use an email client. In fact, you don’t have to make your email address public at all! There are many good contact form plugins available on wordpress.org/plugins/, including Contact Form 7, which is great for simple messaging, and Ninja Forms, which allows for more complex types of information to be added before sending.

Tip: Some of the advantages of using the contact form over e-mail address are:

  • Permits the user to stay on the same page.
  • Doesn’t require a user to log into their email account, which is common case if they are using a public or friend’s computer.
  • Can be set to send notifications to different emails addresses depending on the form’s subject.
  • May benefit of a browser’s autofill function.

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

WordPress plays well with search engines out of the box, but adding an SEO plugin can help focus your efforts and help make your site visible to search engine crawlers. Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack are two of the most popular. They include the ability to add keywords and meta data to help you control how your site is found, as well as rate SEO for specific posts and pages.

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Caching Caching

The speed at which your site loads is important to your visitors, and it’s even more important to search engines. Caching is a way to speed up your website by storing parts of it on a visitor’s computer, or creating lighter versions of the page to send to users. Some hosting providers include caching as part of their services, but if yours doesn’t you’ll want to include a caching plugin to help speed things up. W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache are two of the most popular plugins to help you do this.

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Backups Backups

Backing up a WordPress site involves two parts: backing up the files and backing up the database. You’ll need to have both covered to have a full backup of your site. Good practice and something to look for in a plugin is saving backup files to a location other than your web server. Duplicator provides full database and files backup capability while WP Migrate DB focuses on just the database which can be helpful when you want to keep site content up-to-date while redesigning a site.

It is a wise to practice backing up your site and restoring it from a backup. A backup is not useful if the restore process does not work or if you do not know how to restore it when needed. Planning ahead is key with backups.

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Social Media Social Media

Social Media icons and share is a common request for websites, and there are tons of plugins to help you get the job done. A plugin such as Social Icons or  Lightweight Social Icons allows you to add them to any widget area. A plugin such as ShareThis or the Floating Social Bar helps people share your content across social networks.

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Analytics Analytics

Tracking the traffic to your site is both fun and informative. Adding a plugin can display the information right on the dashboard. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP or Google Analyticator provide a wide range of information for analysis.

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Security Security

Providing security for all your websites is important. Security is a multi-faceted effort that may require more than one plugin. A plugin to combat comment spam (Akismet) is included in the default WordPress install. A plugin to prevent malware and hacks, such as Wordfence or Sucuri Security, should also be included.

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Exercises Exercises

Search wordpress.org/plugins for each of the categories listed

  • Go to https://wordpress.org/plugins/ and type contact form in the search bar to find contact form plugins.
  • Click on at least one of the plugins and read the different tabs (Description, Installation, FAQ, Screenshots, etc) to see the features available with this plugin.

Compare Contact Form 7 to Ninja Forms

  • Using the above exercise, find Contact Form 7 and then Ninja Forms and review the features of each.
  • Create a list of the features that each one has.
  • Compare and contrast the two lists.

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Quiz Quiz

Caching is included in all WordPress hosting packages.

  1. True
  2. False

Answer: 2. False

Is it possible to have people send you messages without putting your email on the website?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Answer: 1. Yes

Contact Form 7 allows for conditional logic forms.

  1. True
  2. False

Answer: 2. False

Where can you find plugins for your WordPress site?

  1. WordPress.com: https://wordpress.com
  2. Codex: https://codex.wordpress.org/
  3. WordPress.org plugin repository: https://wordpress.org/plugins/
  4. WordPress Support Forums: https://wordpress.org/support/

Answer: 3. the WordPress.org plugin repository: https://wordpress.org/plugins/

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Additional Resources Additional Resources

  1. Plugins @ Codex
  2. Plugin Resources @ Codex