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      How to Pick the Right Plugins for Your WordPress Website (In 4 Steps)


      One of the advantages of WordPress is its customization potential. With an ever-growing number of plugins available, you have the opportunity to build the website of your dreams. However, having so many options to choose from can make it hard to pick your site’s best fit.

      Fortunately, there are ways to narrow down your decision. By prioritizing your specific needs and learning how to evaluate a tool’s quality, you can find solid plugins to optimize your site.

      In this article, we’ll introduce you to WordPress plugins. We’ll also take you through four easy steps to pick the perfect candidates for your page. Then we’ll wrap up by giving you some potential plugins to consider. Let’s get to it!

      An Introduction to WordPress Plugins

      A WordPress plugin is a third-party program that adds functionality to your site. While themes can adjust the look and feel of a page, plugins provide the actual features. They can thus have a sizable impact on the visitor’s experience.

      Given that plugins tend to be specialized, they enable you to curate a full-site experience with several different programs. For example, let’s say you want to set up a secure online store with ease. You might use the Jetpack plugin for security, WooCommerce for the store, and Elementor to build and customize the storefront.

      Plugins can also affect your back-end experience. For example, you may find that you prefer tools with a user-friendly focus. The sheer amount of software available means that you’re likely to find one that suits your needs.

      Nevertheless, you can have too much of a good thing. Using plugins in excess can slow your website down. As such, you’ll want to consider your choices carefully to help maximize performance while minimizing potential issues.

      A methodical approach can also help you find the highest-quality candidates, especially if you’re searching in a popular category and need to compare tools. Doing a small amount of research can make it easier for you to pick the right plugins on the first try.

      How to Pick the Right Plugins for Your WordPress Website (In 4 Steps)

      A little bit of structure can help expedite the selection process. Below are four easy steps that you can follow to pick the right plugins for your WordPress website.

      Step 1: Identify Your Plugin Requirements

      The first step is to decide what you need from a plugin. While this may seem obvious, assessing your exact needs can be surprisingly helpful. After you’ve created a list of features you’d like, you can also try prioritizing them. This can help you focus on finding a plugin that matches your primary requirements.

      Many plugins have multiple uses. These tools can be time-savers, especially if you have several related needs. However, you may want to consider mixing and matching plugins, as this flexible outlook can expand your options.

      It’s also important to understand that some plugins come at a cost. A premium plugin typically offers benefits such as extra features or priority support. Therefore, you may want to decide what functionality you’d be willing to pay for. If you’re on a tight budget, though, don’t stress. You’ll likely be able to find a free plugin (or a combination of similar plugins) that’ll help you achieve your goals even if you miss out on some of the premium features.

      If you’re unfamiliar with WordPress extensions as a whole, we recommend browsing a few popular WordPress plugins to get an idea of what’s available.

      The WordPress.org plugin directory displaying popular options.

      With so many options, it can be easy to get turned around. We recommend keeping your particular needs in mind throughout the process to help you focus on your key features and establish some structure for your search.

      Step 2: Search for a Plugin

      After you’ve laid out your must-have features, you can start the process of searching for a plugin. Many developers offer downloads from their official sites. However, if you’re looking for a more centralized marketplace, it’s hard to go wrong with the WordPress Plugin Directory.

      The WordPress Plugin Directory.

      The WordPress Plugin Directory is the official place to find WordPress-approved software. Staff members check each submission for quality and security, so you’re likely to find a wide variety of top-notch programs.

      As we mentioned earlier, some premium plugins require payment. However, you may also encounter tools that offer a free version alongside their premium options. Jetpack is an example of this “freemium” model.

      An excerpt of Jetpack’s plugin description.

      You might also come across free versions of premium plugins through unofficial channels. While these may seem appealing, we recommend avoiding them at all costs. They are often stolen versions that can put your site at risk for malware.

      To ensure that your search circumvents pirated material, you stick to reputable websites. You might also want to steer clear of any scenarios that seem “too good to be true,” as these are often illegitimate products designed to trick users.

      Once you’ve decided on a place to search for your plugin, you can start actively looking for a tool. Don’t be afraid to spend some time shopping around and exploring your options. After you’ve found a plugin that catches your eye, you can proceed to the next step.

      We Make WordPress Easier

      Our automatic updates and strong security defenses take server management off your hands so you can focus on what really matters: growing your website.

      Step 3: Review Information About the Plugin

      Next, you can focus on a single plugin. There are a variety of factors you’ll want to consider at this stage. In the WordPress Plugin Directory, most of the important information is accessible by scrolling down on the plugin’s page.

      The WooCommerce main page in the WordPress Plugin Directory.

      Using WooCommerce as an example, let’s start with ratings and reviews. You can find this section on the right-hand side.

      A portion of WooCommerce’s information page showing the “Ratings” section.

      WordPress ratings work on a star system, with one being the lowest and five being the highest. You can also access reviews by clicking on See all. These often include more specific information regarding the program. It’s important to peruse both positive and negative reviews for a balanced picture.

      Next up, consider a plugin’s active installations and update schedule. This section is located directly above the ratings.

      A close-up of WooCommerce’s installation statistics.

      Last updated displays the most recent update, a crucial part of site security for any program. A large number of Active installations can also indicate a high-quality plugin. You can even check to see if the plugin is compatible with your version of WordPress to avoid breaking your site.

      Let’s move on to the Support section, typically located under the ratings.

      The support section of the WooCommerce plugin.

      A high number of resolved issues is a positive sign, as it indicates that the developers are responsive. Reading through some support questions can also give you an idea of potential challenges you may face when using the software.

      Finally, there’s plenty of other information on this page that might be helpful. For instance, scrolling down to the section marked Screenshots can show you the User Interface (UI). You might also want to check the FAQ section to learn more about common issues.

      We recommend focusing on the factors that you find most important. Then you can use that personalized metric to easily compare different plugins. After you’ve narrowed your choice down to one tool, you can move on to the last step.

      Step 4: Download and Test the Plugin

      Finally, you can download the plugin and test it on your site. We encourage you to consult a plugin’s installation instructions before downloading it because they may contain important information to help you avoid software-specific issues.

      Once you’ve checked any instructions, you can navigate to your WordPress dashboard. Select Plugins > Add New from the right-hand menu. Next, enter the name of the plugin you want to install in the Search plugins box. Here’s the WooCommerce result as an example.

      The WooCommerce plugin as viewed from the dashboard.

      Click on the Install Now button to start the process. After it’s done, the button will change colors and read as Activate.

      The WooCommerce plugin button labeled “Activate.”

      You must activate the plugin to use it on your site. Click it as soon as you’re ready to move on. Similar to installation instructions, some tools may come with an introductory message or setup tips. You may want to read these over in case they contain useful information.

      After you’ve set up the plugin, you can start testing its performance. An important issue is how it impacts your site’s speed. To test this, we recommend using a tool such as GTmetrix.

      The GTmetrix test tool.

      Before you activate the plugin, we recommend testing your site’s baseline speed. You can write the results down and re-test once the plugin is up and running. If the plugin has a considerably negative effect on your speed, you may want to reconsider using it.

      There are other ways that you can test a plugin. For instance, you may want to send a basic question to support to see how responsive the developers are. Alternatively, you might use a staging site to determine usability and front-end functionality.

      WordPress Plugins to Consider for Your Site

      Armed with the above four steps, you’re ready to find the perfect plugin. However, perhaps you’re still unsure where to begin. If that’s the case, we’ve put together some recommendations for you to kickstart your search.

      If you’re setting up your first site, you may be seeking the essentials. It’s hard to go wrong with plugins that help you improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or site security. Even seasoned WordPress professionals make frequent use of such tools.

      Alternatively, maybe you’re a content creator. If you’re launching a podcast website, for example, you probably have different needs than the average blogger. In that scenario, it’s important to consider specialty plugins that are designed with your niche in mind.

      Finally, you might be curious about ways to improve your workflow. Plenty of developers have answered the call, providing plugins to help you work more efficiently and communicate without friction. This kind of technology can be especially helpful if you’re working with a team.

      There are countless quality plugins to explore. Applying our four-step method and prioritizing your needs can help you discover the ones that will fit your site the best. Our team has also put together several guides to help you find great add-ons for your WordPress site.

      Once you’ve found the right plugin, be sure to check out our WordPress plugin installation tutorial to learn how to set it up in your WordPress dashboard.

      Take Your WordPress Website to the Next Level

      Whether you need help selecting a caching plugin, adding a contact form, or installing a premium theme, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly newsletter so you never miss an article.

      The WordPress Plugin Directory Awaits

      WordPress’ flexibility is wonderful. However, too many options can overwhelm you and make deciding difficult. Fortunately, you can find a well-fitting plugin by approaching the search systematically and focusing on your site’s needs.

      In this article, we covered four steps to help you pick the right plugins for your WordPress website:

      1. Identify and prioritize what you need from a plugin.
      2. Search for your options in legitimate, quality marketplaces.
      3. Review the available information on each plugin’s page.
      4. Download the software and test it against your expectations.

      Even with the perfect plugins, putting together a website can be tough. Let us do the heavy lifting with our DreamPress managed WordPress hosting!



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      GratITude: Keeping Customers Online In the Face of Disaster


      Today, we’re kicking off our GratITude Series, highlighting the hard-working members of our data center and IT teams in essential roles powering a connected world. Their dedication enables our thousands of global customers to successfully operate their businesses in good times and in times of immense challenge. None of us could do what we do without them, and here we’ll share their stories.

      When Texas was hit with a winter storm this February, nobody imagined it would lead to a regional disaster. But as the power grids failed, pipes froze and burst and gas deliveries ground to a halt, thousands were left scrambling to fulfill their most basic needs. In the aftermath, officials are looking to figure out why the situation escalated to a crisis so rapidly, but for those on the ground during the storm and its aftereffects, what mattered in the moment was finding the way forward. In our Dallas flagship data center, the INAP team put in the hours to keep our customers online. What did it take to get through this crisis without one failure?

      The Dallas Data Center Team

      INAP data centers offer full redundancy and reliable network connectively, among other benefits, to guarantee uptime to our customers. To meet this guarantee, Dallas Data Center Operations Supervisor Billy Boland and Regional Infrastructure Engineer David Thornton were on-site 24/7 for several days through the storm and the aftermath to keep the Dallas flagship data center up and running. Both men credit the tenure of the majority of the Dallas team and years of cross training as two factors that saw them through the disaster without dropping a single customer.

       

      Boyd and Thornton
      Billy Boland, Data Center Operations Supervisor, and David Thornton, Regional Infrastructure Engineer, were on-site 24/7 through the storm and the aftermath to keep customers online.

      “I’m the only facility guy here in Dallas,” said Thornton. “Billy and his team, they’re the data center engineers. They work primarily with the customer, but they support me. Then on top of that, I’ve been cross training them on multiple things for years.”

      That cross training would prove key in getting through the long hours it took to weather the storm. Cross training, and years of experience that gave Boland and Thornton the problem-solving skills to get through an unthinkable crisis.

      Boland has been with INAP since 2011 and will be celebrating his 10-year-anniversary in September this year. He’s been working at the Dallas facility since it opened, starting out as a data center engineer and progressing to his current position as the data center operations supervisor. Thornton has been with INAP nearly as long, joining the Dallas team in 2012. Although he self-effacingly calls himself a “glorified maintenance man,” in his role as regional infrastructure engineer the facility is his responsibility—anything to do with the building itself, including the power, cooling, plumbing, paint, carpet, light bulbs and more.

      Prior to joining the INAP team, both men picked up expertise via differing avenues. Boland started out in telecommunications installation, which could have taken him down any number of routes in his career. As luck would have it for INAP, he went the data center engineer route and has been able stick around and move up in the company.

      Thornton began his career as an electrician in the local Dallas market before going overseas with the military. In Iraq, he learned all about critical infrastructure—how to maintain bases, how to keep equipment running and how to “MacGyver” it when needed. After traveling the world with the military for 10 years, moving through various disciplines into construction management, he settled back down in the states at the behest of his wife and started his position with INAP.

      “I wanted a nice, simple job,” he said with a laugh.

      Of course, the job became anything but simple in February.

      The Disaster, Problem Solving and All the Right Decisions

      Texas has seen its fair share of winter weather over the years. And like any data center, the Dallas team has a backup plan in place for failures, utility outages and cold weather. What was different in this case was that the power grid began to collapse at the outset of the storm. Rolling outages were the biggest issue for Thornton and Boland. Typically, they could run backup generators that function on diesel fuel, but the power outages also affected the refineries and fuel vendors. And because the cold was so unexpected, the fuel vendors didn’t have the antifreeze additive in their fuel.

      The issues compounded with gas stations running out of fuel, hotels filling up because homes didn’t have power (and then half of the hotels not having power) and food and water shortages. Once the storm passed, the region was still dealing with the aftermath for days.

      Boland surveys the exterior of the data center in the days following the storm. Despite clear skies in the aftermath, infrastructure failures impeded gas deliveries and other essential services.

      Fortunately, INAP leadership had the foresight to have Thornton and Boland book hotel rooms ahead of the storm, before space filled up. This allowed them a respite from the data center to rest, dry off and warm up from working outside in the snow and cold.

      “The hotel didn’t lose power,” Boland said. “Insanely, it didn’t lose power.”

      “Having the hotel paid off,” added Thornton. “When the winter storm hit, it was 24/7 for us for two or three days. We were dealing with one issue after the other. The power going on and off didn’t have a major impact to our critical systems because our facility is designed for that, but little things were occurring that we had to deal with.”

      Both their experience and the cross-training Thornton has done with the Dallas team also helped them overcome the difficulties they were facing. Not only was Boland able to back Thornton up in the 24/7 facility work, but they were able to make the right decisions in the moment to keep the data center running. In a rolling blackout scenario, the logical choice would be to switch to the generator full-time to keep the power flow consistent. However, with the fuel vendor issues, this was not a viable option. They realized this early on and worked to conserve the fuel they did have, rather than go on an extended generator run. Several data centers in the area did make the choice to do an extended run, however, and ended up dropping customers.

      “If we had done an extended run, we wouldn’t have made it,” Thornton said.

      Their decision kept the data center up and running. “We never dropped anybody,” Boland added.

      Dallas Flagship Snow
      The exterior of INAP’s Dallas Flagship data center in the days following in the storm.

      It’s easy to quip that “teamwork makes the dream work,” but in this case, when the going got really rough, the team was able to see things through.

      “The team being what they were, we were able to lean on each other for different things,” said Thornton, “And we were able to identify upcoming issues and adapt.”

      INAP is endlessly grateful for the Dallas team members and their resilience and problem solving in the face of this unforeseeable situation. They are an asset to the company and our customers who rely on our services to power their infrastructures.

      Laura Vietmeyer


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      Using Prisma With PostgreSQL


      How to Join

      This Tech Talk is free and open to everyone. Register below to get a link to join the live stream or receive the video recording after it airs.

      Date Time RSVP
      May 19, 2021 11:00–12:00 p.m. ET / 3:00–4:00 p.m. GMT

      About the Talk

      Connecting and grabbing data from our databases is always a difficult task. We will use Prisma (which just came out of beta) to model, connect to, grab data, and view our database contents.

      What You’ll Learn

      • How to model a database schema
      • How to CRUD on a database
      • How to view contents of a database

      This Talk Is Designed For

      Developers that want to connect to their database more easily. Prisma will make database connections easy.

      Prerequisites

      • Knowledge of connecting to databases
      • Basic knowledge of databases

      Resources

      Prisma.io [Docs]
      Set up Prisma [Quickstart]
      DigitalOcean Managed Databases [Docs]

      To join the live Tech Talk, register here.



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