WordPress Plugins represent the interior walls of your new virtual house.
In your house, the walls help support the structure. They also separate different living areas and direct the flow of traffic within the space.
Plugins are little pieces of code that do different things within your site. Some of them are mostly decorative. Some help support the roof. Some of them direct your website’s visitors to different areas, or to take certain actions.
The good news is, you don’t have to know how they work, you only have to plug them in. (Hence the name “plugin.”)
They provide additional functionality, and help to dress up your site.
Here are just a few examples of plugins.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page. See where it says, “Recent Questions”? That’s a plugin. Or look to the right. Notice the “Latest Tweets” area? That’s a plugin that talks to my Twitter account and provides the most recent tweets here on the website.
Whenever you visit a site and a separate window pops up (usually asking you to sign up for something), that’s done with a plugin.
Some plugins work behind the scenes and your site visitors never see them. There’s one, which comes with every copy of WordPress, that flags spammy comments and holds them for your review. Then you decide whether to delete them or show them to your readers.
There are thousands of plugins available. Many are free, some of them require payment.
Here’s a basic list of the plugins I recommend for every WordPress website.
- Akismet cuts down on spam
- Bad Behavior helps against hackers
- Google Analytics for WordPress works with Google to provide information about your site’s visitors
- Google XML Sitemaps gives Google, Bing and other search engines the data they need to navigate your site and get you listed in the search engines
- WordPress Online Backup helps you back up your site on a regular schedule
After that, different sites will need different plugins.
Now, let’s take a look at finishing off the outside of your house. Are you ready for Building Block 6?