If you’re new to WordPress or you’re a relative beginner, you might be bewildered by the number of WordPress plugins available, each of which promises to do something really important or to make your life easier in some way. So, before you install a WordPress plugin, make sure you read through this article first to know what plugin is and how you can use it to your advantage.
What Does A WordPress Plugin do?
Plugins make your blog better, faster, more secure, and better optimized for search engines, or they’ll provide some kind of feature or function that you just can’t live without.
While it’s true that there are indeed many plugins that do a tremendous job of enhancing a blog, you can have too much of a good thing.
Why should you install plugins on WordPress?
You’re probably familiar with the idea that the more complex something is, the more there is to go wrong, and this is undoubtedly true of WordPress websites. Plugins need to be compatible with the theme your site configures for and with each other.
Can you have too many WordPress Plugins?
The more plugins you have, the more chance there is that one won’t be compatible with another or a function within both plugins is a duplication i.e. they’re both trying to do the same thing for your site, and this can cause conflicts. Using plugins that duplicate effort can reduce the overall speed of your site and may cause more serious technical glitches.
Preventing Plugin Errors
Plugin developers are of course, well aware of this and they take precautions to prevent problems, but the best will in the world is no guarantee. Even if your chosen plugins are all up to date, they may not have been tested with the latest release of WordPress or the theme you’ve chosen to use.
5 WordPress Plugin Tips For Beginners
Here are my recommendations for using plugins. This is based on my personal experience so you can take it from me, some of what follows are the result of a lot of frustration generated when things went wrong!
1. Check the latest version of the plugin
As far as you can only those tested with the latest release of WordPress. If there is a plugin that you really do want but which hasn’t been tested with the latest version then a few other checks are required. For example, visit the plugin’s page on WordPress and review the support reaction times, the comments, the ratings, etc.
2. Don’t rush to install every new plugin
Generally speaking, less is more. Be precise in your choice of plugins and resist the temptation to use one ‘just in case. The promotion of plugins includes marketing techniques designed to make you believe your blog is weak without it. Don’t fall for the hard sell. This is exactly what one of our SEO Experts told us in our recent roundup post.
3. Start with the free version
Use the free version first and test it before paying for the Pro version. Sometimes everything you need is in the free version and upgrading might be a waste of money. On the other hand, upgrading can often be the guaranteed way of obtaining prompt support.
4. Read important reviews on forums
Check out the reviews, but look for honest reviews. Affiliate marketers often build pages that claim to be reviews of the ‘Ten Best XYZ’ but these pages can often be nothing more than lists designed to entice a purchase that generates some affiliate commission for the site owner. Look for genuine reviews on the plugin page on WordPress.org and in user forums. Check the forum or the community on the plugin’s homepage. You often see genuine feedback there.
5. Back up your WordPress Site
Back up your site. If there’s one plugin I would recommend above all others then it’s one that automatically backs up your site. Set the auto backup to run as often as you update your site. If you post to your blog daily then backup daily. If you only post once a week then backing weekly is fine.
Seeing your site offline for hours and perhaps even days because of a technical glitch can be frustrating at the very least. It can also be highly distressing if you’ve come to rely on your blog for any reason e.g. income, appointment leads, etc. When things go wrong you can learn how to fix things yourself or pay someone to get you out of a jam. Both come with risks. You may make a bad situation worse or fail in your attempts. If you outsource the task you may not find a trustworthy webmaster and you end up out of pocket.
Recently, a conflict between plugins and my theme took my site offline so I couldn’t fix it after hours of trying, but I had a full backup. I deleted the site completely and rebuilt it from the backup within two hours. It’s a huge sense of relief when the site you’ve been cultivating for so long appears once again as if back from the dead, and as I backup daily I hadn’t lost any data.
How to fix a WordPress Plugin Error?
If despite all these precautions, things go wrong, you can take several steps to minimize the disruption and get your site working perfectly again.
First, note what you were doing before the glitch occurred. This is very important if you end up with the white screen of death or any other type of blank page.
Next, take a screenshot of the error and/or write it down in a notepad.
Then search online using the error message you’re seeing. The chances are that the same error has occurred, and someone has found out how to resolve it. With a bit of luck, you’ll find step-by-step instructions.
If you can’t fix it yourself, go to the plugin’s website and give a clear description of the problem and what you were doing prior to it occurring either in the site’s community forum or in a support ticket. Don’t include any information that would compromise your site security in your post as it could be viewed publicly and if your site is now compromised it could be vulnerable to abuse by bad actors. Use a generic domain name e.g. mydomain.com to describe your site. Only include sensitive login information if the plugin site’s support area provides you with the means to do so privately and securely.
Do a little research, and don’t be in too much of a hurry. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll lower the risk of things going wrong, and you’ll be better prepared if they do.
Ben Lovegrove built his first website in 1998. He blogs about aviation, aircraft, airlines, air travel, and aerospace. When he’s not staring at the sky he might be working out the UK to Maldives flight time in a Boeing 777. Check out his latest posts at https://benlovegrove.com