Adding custom functionality to a website may be intimidating for marketers who haven’t developed or managed a website before. In fact, customization projects can either be easier or far more complex than anticipated—often dictated by the specificity of the desired outcome. WordPress sites most commonly use what are called “plugins” for specific features or functionality. This post aims to provide clarity to the scope and purposes of the different plugin options available.
WordPress Customization: Plugins
There is a WordPress plugin available for just about any goal that a marketer might have, whether it involves form or function. In fact, WordPress boasts a library of 58,000 plugins. Generally, they are cost-effective, quick to install and eliminate the need for custom coding on your website.
If that seems a bit vague, think about WordPress plugins like apps for the backend of your website. Your smartphone doesn’t automatically connect to an Outlook calendar: there’s an app for that.
Some of the most popular plugins you can use to customize your WordPress site include functionality for:
• Slider/carousel images on home pages
• Content archiving/sorting
• Search features
• Search Engine Optimization
• Text formatting and editing
• Language toggling, translating, and formatting
• Event managers
Plugin Pricing Considerations
Plugins are extremely cost-effective in comparison to a custom coding project for WordPress customization. They are typically purchased like a subscription or license. A huge range of plugins are free. Most paid plugins cost under $100/year.
Free vs. premium
WordPress plugins often have both a free and a premium product option. For example, Yoast is potentially the most popular search engine optimization (SEO) plugin, and it offers two options: free for half of the features or premium with many upgraded features at $89/year for one site. If your project goal is flexible, there is likely a free option out there. If the project is very specific in terms of style, size, or feature, then the range of options will be narrower and potentially fee-driven.
Number of sites
The number of sites using the license also impacts pricing. A site owner who owns multiple sites, microsites, mobile-specific sites, or affiliate sites can typically make one purchase at a higher bundled rate. To clarify, responsive websites (sites that change in appearance depending on the device the visitor uses) will not need to purchase multiple licenses.
Be aware of a few significant pitfalls before going plugin crazy. Installing a plugin for WordPress customization is not as simple as downloading an app. Every plugin you install should be considered an addition to your marketing technology stack.
Installation of a common plugin can be straightforward. However, sometimes, other technical knowledge is needed. Not all plugins play nice with one another or are optimized for the most updated version of WordPress. Installing a plugin only to find another part of the site broken is a normal complaint among web developers.
Common issues with plugins include:
• Incompatibility between two plugins
• Incompatibility between a plugin and a WordPress theme
• Adding too many plugins, significantly slowing the overall site speed
• No advanced notice on a plugin conflict due to a WordPress version update
How to Choose a Plugin
As with most tech solutions, there are some industry standards for plugins. Others you may want to use will require more research. Start by searching for plugins in the WordPress library. The listings include:
• User reviews
• How many other sites are actively using the plugin
• The version of WordPress with which the plugin is currently working, and
• Detailed specs
Many creators even publish YouTube tutorials demonstrating how to correctly install the plugin so that there are no surprises. Many popular plugins are reviewed by tech websites. Don’t forget to also do a quick search outside of the WordPress world.
A firm’s current web manager should also be consulted prior to installation. Be prepared for this work to result in additional fees. Plugin installation and configuration is not generally included in normal maintenance contracts. Ultimately, the execution of the project will depend on the contract in place, your firm’s budget, and the marketer’s comfort level with the backend of WordPress.
What has been your experience with WordPress plugins? What’s the most obscure or helpful feature they’ve helped you accomplish?
About Stephanie Chapa
Stephanie Chapa is the Director of Marketing at Wiebe Hinton Hambalek, LLP.