How to improve your site with plugins

WordPress

Learn how to find the right WordPress plugins for the right reasons.

If you’ve got a WordPress site, you’re hopefully familiar with the concept of plugins. Plugins give your WordPress site extra functionality. While themes usually affect how your site looks, plugins affect how your site works. There’s a seemingly endless supply of available WordPress plugins and features, which is why I’m giving you three steps for finding the right plugins for the right reasons so you can reach your audience.

Strategy before technology

Before installing a bunch of plugins, you need to start at the beginning and ask:

Who, what and why?

  • Who are you trying reach?
  • What do you want them to do?
  • Why are you trying to reach them?
  • Why do you need a new plugin to reach your who to do what?

By asking and answering these questions, you’re critiquing your current website strategy and getting to heart of why you’d want a new plugin anyway.

Exercise:

I need a plugin that [DOES WHAT] so that I can better reach [WHO] so they can [WHAT] because [WHY].

Examples:

  • I need a plugin that saves email addresses so that I can better reach urban farmers so they can get weekly email newsletters to raise happy chickens.
  • I need a plugin that tracks visitors so that I can better reach my mysterious audience so they can be better served by my content to enjoy life.

Why do I need to do all this “homework”?

  • You’ll save time by focusing on what you need.
  • You’ll keep your site from getting bloated with a lot of excess code and data. Plugins often add extra data tables to your WordPress database. If you install a bunch of plugins and even uninstall them later, those extra tables often remain, slowing down your site.
  • You may discover you don’t need a plugin at all. Maybe you need to just tweak your content.

Research before you install

Only after you’ve discovered your who, what and double-why, you’re ready to start researching plugins.

  • Look for good documentation, screenshots and recent updates. I’d avoid plugins that don’t clearly explain to me how to use it, don’t show me how it works and hasn’t been updated in over six months.
  • Freemium is sometimes better than free or premium. Freemium is where you get enough free features to try something out, but if you pay a little extra, you’ll get more.

Try it out on your test site.

If you don’t have a test site, here’s a short video that walks you through setting one up on your home computer.

Put what you learned to work

Now that you’ve read the simple steps for improving your site with WordPress plugins, it’s time to put it to use so you can confidently serve more people.