What are plugins?
According to wikipedia, plugins are “a software component that adds a specific feature to an existing computer program. When a program supports plug-ins, it enables customisation”
Basically you can extend your websites features and functions by “plugging” in a new piece of software.
The concept of having a framework where you can add only the pieces you need is one of the reasons why WordPress is the worlds most used Content Management System (CMS).
Plugins for WordPress
WordPress.org provide access to a range of free and premium plugins that have been developed by the WP community. There are literally thousands to choose from.
From running payroll, integrating third party software, social media tools, analytics, selling products, split testing, if you can think it then there is likely to be a plugin available.
Installing a plugin
Installing a plugin is quite easy, whether you want to use FTP or the WordPress plugin installation process for many plugins it means fully coded and designed software can be integrated.
Plugins can then often be styled to suit your themes branding, colours and accents or further integration and customisation managed by you or your developers.
It’s worth noting that some plugins are free, while others are commercial and require a licence or user permission. Likewise, once a plugin has been installed it means that potentially software can be updated remotely. Be aware of what you choose to upload to your server.
Many software companies offer free plugins, these quite often allow you to trial the full software or provide a ‘light’ version at no risk, while some of the community plugins provide full functionality with zero cost.
Good examples of WP plugins are :
- Website contact forms
- Pop Ups
- Subscribers and Newsletters
Developers quickly understood that selling plugins could generate an ongoing passive income as webmasters would often leave plugins installed for months or years.
Large brands have established plugins for their services to help assist the usability and future proofing of their service or products.
If you have a good idea for function or feature for a website, you could design and code your own plugin or ask an agency or freelancer to design and code for you.
There’s even the possibility that you could design a plugin that could be re-sold, or white labelled.
WordPress plugins have opened a huge gateway of opportunity.
Amazing WP plugins from all time
There have been hundreds of thousands of plugins launched since the inception of the WordPress CMS, there are a few which truly do stand out!
SEOPressor was one of the first plugins that made it possible for webmasters to independently assess the quality of their page content for search engines. Still going strong today, the plugins helps you achieve better website rankings.
Ask any website developer for a free contact form and Contact Form 7 is likely to be in most replies.
Easy to use, well supported, been around for years and years; the Contact Form 7 plugin is a tried and tested webform that powers contact page’s for millions on websites around the world.
There are some very good plugins available. Unfortunately there are some very bad ones.
We’ve written a guide that can help steer you through the good, the bad and very ugly. It’s free and available here.
Plugins can reduce development costs
- Plugins reduce development costs
- Plugins provide fast access to pre developed code
- Plugins provide new functions that are outside the main code framework
- Plugins help connect to third party software
- Plugins can provide automations and scheduling
- Plugins can be easy and quick to update
- Plugins can be modified*
- Plugins can slow down development if the plugins are unreliable themselves
- Plugins need to be checked extensively in some situations
- Plugins can open your website to malicious acts or hacking
- Plugins can become out of sync with your website theme of conflict with other plugins
- The author of the plugin may choose to not update it in the future
- Plugins can be modified remotely*
Plugin code bloat
Not listed above but a concern for most webmasters and site owners, is ‘what will be the implications of using this plugin?’
There are instances where WordPress and/or the server will become slow due to the number of plugins being used and the demand they place on the resources available.
Basically, if you load to many plugins and have a server that is very basic you can expect web pages to load slowly at best or web pages to time out!
If in doubt it is well worth connecting with an agency or a freelancer for help to manage your website with maintenance, installations and / or plugin customisations.
GPL and licensed plugins
GPL or General Public License, sometimes is also called GNU GPL. Put simply, WordPress is released under the GPL license this means that WordPress is an open source software that can be used, modified, and extended by anyone.
However any person must consider that commercial software using WordPress framework modified to include a patent, copyright or other protection may limit a persons legal rights to take the code or process and pass it off as their own. Always check with your an IP lawyer or the WP community in the first instances.
Coding your own plugins
There are opportunities to re-use code to code or rebrand existing plugins, one way to do this is to use PLR, Private Label Rights. Be wary of what you buy, often quality in PLR is low or quite dated.
Coding your own plugins however presents a strong opportunity to launch a business or website that can cater to the 455,000,000 websites using WordPress right now. Imagine you create the next most popular plugin and this is adopted by just 1% of all WordPress webmasters that’d equate to 4,550,000 sales!
Using a freelancer is a good way to code a plugin allowing you to be the project manger, or consider learning by enrolling on Udemy with a learn to code plugins course.