Making Good Use of Plugins

By Patty J. Ayers

wordpress-pluginPlugins are central to working with WordPress, but it’s important to observe some best practices when using them:

Only use a plugin when it is really needed. Each plugin can potentially conflict with other code on the website, or otherwise cause problems. The shorter the list used, the better.

Only use plugins which have been vetted by and are available on that website. Always check the ratings and comments, and how recently the author has updated the plugin.

Always keep all plugins updated, but take care when updating

Deactivate and/or delete any plugin not currently being used so that it doesn’t slow down or otherwise affect the working of the site.

A crucial troubleshooting technique. If and when you run into problems with the functionality of a WordPress site, the first thing to try is disabling all plugins. If the problem goes away, you can be pretty sure it was caused by a plugin. You can then enable each plugin one-by-one and pin down the culprit.

There are a few plugins I install on almost every site. But the selection of plugins is always changing. Some are gradually abandoned by their authors, and new ones appear. So I don’t find that I can stick with exactly the same roster of plugins over time, but rather have to keep checking to see if there are better plugin solutions. Having said that, here is my list of current favorite WordPress plugins as of the date of this writing:

  • BackupBuddy
  • Restricted Site Access
  • Contact Form 7
  • WP Super Cache
  • Google Analyticator
  • Yoast WordPress SEO
  • Relevanssi
  • Defensio Anti-Spam

Worth a mention at this point in time is the plugin called Jetpack. It is the creation of the company Automattic, owned by Matt Mullenweb, founder of WordPress. Jetpack is actually a bundle of plugins. It is tempting, with its array of enticing-looking “modules” that can be activated to do a number of useful things. And it’s tempting because it comes from Automattic, and so must be trouble-free, right? Well, in a nutshell, I have found it to be useful for certain things, but not trouble-free. Essentially, it’s just another plugin, and should be treated with appropriate wariness.