WordPress is a great system for publishing, not the least because its open source nature means that anyone can code up a plugin that extends the functionality of the basic software. These plugins are perfect for helping you get more out of WordPress. For example, it is possible to get SEO plugins that give you tons of information and extra SEO tools for your blog. Some plugins are just cosmetic, while others give you a significant amount of extra options. Using plugins is one of the most rewarding aspects of WordPress.
However, it is important to make sure that the plugins will actually work before installing them. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with WordPress plugins, so you need to be careful about checking out the plugins before installing them.
The first thing to check is the description. Even if the name of the plugin is specific and descriptive, you need to check the description to make sure that the plugin does seem to do what you expect it to do. Often the description will list limitations or similar important information that you need to know.
If you think the plugin will be useful to you after reading the description, then the next step is to check out the online reviews for the plugin. If it doesn’t have any reviews, that could mean two things- either it is so new that nobody has used it, or the plugin is so obscure that nobody has used it. In either case, it is a bad sign, because you want a plugin that lots of people have used. A more popular plugin is more likely to have more updates, more attention from the developer, and more technical support. Of course, make sure that the reviews are positive and come from people using the plugin for the reasons you want to use it.
One of the more important technical aspects of a plugin is its compatibility with the current version of WordPress itself. Keeping WordPress up to date is critical for your security- most updates are to cover security flaws that appear in the software. However, some plugin developers fail to keep their plugins up to date with new versions of WordPress. This means that often they do not work correctly with WordPress, and on top of that they can also expose you to security threats. Check the plugin to ensure that it is compatible with the current version of WordPress and also that the developer is keeping it up to date. It is important to make sure that the developer is invested in the long-term health of the plugin.
After you verify that the plugin is in active development and compatible with WordPress’s updates, then you can download and install it. It is a simple matter- WordPress can handle most of that automatically. The next step after that is to set up the plugin the way you like it. Some plugins, although not all of them, have some kind of configuration to finish the setup. Like plugins themselves, these can be either cosmetic or functional. Make sure to set up the plugin according to your own needs. There might be special features that you need to turn on or off.
Working with plugins in WordPress is definitely one of the highlights of going with WordPress in the first place. The huge community and interest in WordPress means that the development community is similarly large and involved. However, just because there are a lot of developers does not mean that they are all functional. The open-sourced nature of WordPress is a two-edge sword, because there is no central authority that checks the quality of plugins. Pretty much anyone can write a plugin and put it up on the Web for downloads, so you need to do the research yourself in order to make sure that they are functional and legitimate. This puts a little more work into the process of downloading a WordPress plugin, but the payoff is really worth it. WordPress plugins really add a huge amount to the things that users can do with the platform, and that is especially useful for people who are using WordPress for business. Just make sure that you take the time to make sure that the plugins are in order before you use them.

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About the Author: Jennifer Mathews