Join Morten Rand-Hendriksen for an in-depth discussion in this video Finding plugins that meet your needs, part of WordPress DIY: Showcasing Photography.
- In the previous chapter, we focused on the content of the site, and I told you to add all the content in. That's what I've done now. I have all my basic contents, all my pages and all my blog posts added into my site. Now, I can go down two different paths, but in the end, land in the same place. I can either start by adding plugins to my site, and thereby extend the functionality of WordPress, or I can start by adding a new theme and change the appearances of my content. In the end, I will want to do both, add plugins and add a theme, and where I start is pretty arbitrary.
You can choose either or. However, in the case of our project, which is to create a site that has a portfolio. I think it's a good idea to start by adding the functionality, so plugins. That's because we need some functionality associated with our images, and we also need some functionality to capture our portfolio and stash that off in a different place from our pages and our blog posts. Were going to do all of this with plugins. Before we dive in, let me briefly talk about plugins. When you start using WordPress, you quickly discover that the WordPress ecosystem consist of a (mumbling) of extensions and tools you can use.
In particular, if you look for plugins, you'll discover that, for instance, in the WordPress.org/plugin directory, there are over 35,000 plugins available. Many of them do the same things. If you'll go in Google and search, you'll discover that outside the WordPress.org/plugin directory, they're even more plugins available. Some are free, some are for pay. This means as a WordPress user, you need to be pretty savvy about how you pick your plugins. There's so many to choose from. One of the first things people ask me when they start using WordPress is how do I find out which plugins I should use? What are the best plugins or the plugins you use all the time? In this course, I'll be covering some of the plugins we'll be using in this course.
I also have a whole series of courses in the Lynda.com library about different types of plugins, and how to use them. If you want to explore the plugin library on your own, I'll show you how to do so, and I'll also give you some tips on how to pick the right plugins. Like you can see here, if you go to WordPress.org and click on the plugins tab, you go to the plugins directory. This is not the only place you can see the plugins. In fact, it's actually easier to explore plugins directly from your own WordPress installation. If you go to your WordPress site, go to the WordPress toolbar, and go to the back end, you'll see here on the main menu, we have an option called plugins.
If you hover over it and click add new, you'll go to the add plugins page. Here, you get a list of all the available plugins from the WordPress.org plugin directory. Here we can quickly see a little icon for each plugin, the name, and a short description followed by who wrote it. Then, you see ratings and you can even see reviews. For example, as I said in the beginning of the course, one of the things I want is for my images to pop-out in sort of a lightbox if I click on them. If I go in here, and search for lightbox, and then hit enter, I get all the plugins that have lightbox either in the name, or in the description, or in the text.
Here, I can quickly scroll through and see the ratings of each of them, how many times they've been downloaded, and who wrote them. I could also see when they were last updated, because one of the things you'll notice is, this is open source, so many cases plugins are created, and then left and no one ever does anything more to them, so they might be very old. Based on this information, I can now install whatever plugin I want into my site, and then test to see if it works. Now, here's another tip. When you do that, when you install a new plugin, it's a good idea to install one plugin at a time, and check your whole site to see that things work they way they're suppose to.
In the vast majority of cases, when you add a new plugin, you just add functionality to your site and everything will work great. In some rare cases, when you add a plugin it might either conflict with another plugin, or cause general problems on your site. If you do this one-by-one, and you run proper test, you'll very quickly discover if there's a plugin that is a problem. Now, if you're careful, and you install one plugin at a time, this won't be a problem. You can always go and uninstall that plugin. However, if you go and just blanket and install a bunch of plugins right off the bat, then you might not know which one is interacting (which) other one, and you might end up having problems that you're even aware of.
When I install plugins, here's what I do. First, I figure out exactly what I want. I want a lightbox, so I search for lightbox. Then, I look at the plugins that are available, and I find one with a good rating, and a lot of downloads. There's no point with a good rating if you only have two or three downloads. Let's say for example, I want this one. Lightbox CSS3. It has 26,000 downloads, it was updated a month ago. It's compatible with my current version of WordPress. It has a really high star rating. Then, I can go and take a look at it.
I'll click on more details here. That opens the panel that shows me all the informaiton from WordPress.org. Here, I can see a short description, I can go and look at screen shots, look at the FAQ if I want to, and I can also see how many people have rated it, how they were rated, and I can go to the plugin homepage if I want to. If this is the plugin I want, I can click install now, and it'll get installed into my site. If I wanted to check out other plugins, I can simply close the window, and I can go scroll for some other plugins. Now, I know you probably wanted to ask me what about plugins that come from outside of the WordPress.org plugin directory? My tip to you is if you're new to WordPress, try to stay away from anything that doesn't come from WordPress.org.
Most of the functionality you'll need, you'll find right here in the plugin installer. If you want something from outside, you need to make sure you're getting it from a trusted source. They're a very few places where I would be willing to pay money for a plugin. Those plugins are plugins that are very well-known. In most cases, if there's a (for-pay) version of something, there will also be a free version that does the exact same job just as well. This is a lot of trial and error, and you just have to find what works for you. However, for this project, building a photography website, I will walk you through the process, show you which plugins you should install, and help you configure everything so it works perfectly.
Ready for the next stage? Find more courses in this series by searching for Wordpress DIY.
- Preparing to build a photography site
- Making a content inventory
- Choosing a theme and plugins
- Configuring theme settings
- Setting up menus and social media
- Adding custom styles
- Securing your site and managing spam