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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.

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      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.

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      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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      IT Pros Pick the Household Pets Most Representative of Their Work Styles in New INAP Survey


      Millions of us who have shifted to work from home situations during this challenging time find ourselves adjusting to new “coworkers”—some of whom are of the four-legged variety. Are the personalities of your new office colleagues affecting your work style? Do your pets remind you of any of your actual coworkers?

      It just so happens that INAP polled 500 IT pros to determine which household pets best replicate their on-the-job personas. Respondents were asked to choose their primary from a list of household and exotic pets and corresponding characteristics. Since most people don’t fit perfectly in a box, participants were given the option to select a secondary persona, as well. The results aren’t very scientific but are revealing, nevertheless.

      Pet Personality Types

      It’s easy for those outside of IT to lump the entire profession into one persona. Pop culture tropes are likely to blame. (Thanks, Jimmy Fallon.) But we know, like any discipline, there’s a spectrum.

      Have you ever met a sysadmin whose go-it-alone attitude is suspiciously cat-like? Or a network engineer who is as loyal and enthusiastic as a golden retriever? How about a hot-aisle-loving D.C. tech who can camouflage their emotions with iguana-like deflection?

      Check out the descriptions for the eight pets featured in the survey below and consider where you and your coworkers might fall.

      • Dogs

        IT dogs always appear happy. They thrive off positive feedback and incentives. They are loyal, but oftentimes to a fault.

      • Cats

        IT cats need little direction and prefer to work independently. They often come across as aloof or standoffish, despite a hidden soft side.

      • IGUANAS

        IT iguanas are experts at adapting to whatever the work environment throws at them. However, they often camouflage their true opinions during conflict, making them tough to pin down.

      • Fish

        IT fish are experts at swimming through the backlog. However, they tend to always sleep with their eyes open in anticipation of the next problem at work.

      • TARANTULAS

        IT tarantulas, with eyes on everything, never miss a chance to seize an opportunity at work. They are respected, but often intimidate colleagues and subordinates.

      • PARROTS

        IT parrots are highly intelligent and absorb knowledge fast. But they’re also commonly viewed as arrogant and are prone to occasionally sh***ing all over colleagues.

      • TURTLES

        IT turtles work slow and steady, but often get the job done better than anyone at the office. However, they would rather hide in their shell than engage in a workplace conflict.

      • HEDGEHOGS

        IT hedgehogs work diligently through the night. However, they can become reclusive and prickly if not managed to their liking.

      Results: Pet Personas in the Workplace

      The IT pros participating in the survey reviewed the choices and selected their primary and secondary pet personality types.

      Pet Persona Primary Secondary Table

      Dog took the No. 1 spot, with 34 percent of survey takers choosing it as their primary persona. In fact, 31 pros selected this as their only pet persona. Interestingly, senior IT leaders are 17 percent more likely to be dogs than non-senior leaders. Perhaps that loyal streak took them a long way.

      Optimism also abounds with these IT pros. IT Dogs are 41 percent more likely than IT Cats to think their infrastructure strategy deserves an “A” grade.

      Cat finished second, with 26 percent of IT pros selecting it as a primary persona. With an ability to work independently with little direction, 14 percent of respondents selected cat as their secondary persona, a statistic that might be heartening to managers.

      With dogs and cats ranking as the No. 1 and No. 2 “most popular pets in America,” it shouldn’t be surprising that we identify their traits in ourselves.

      Iguana took the No. 3 spot, with 12 percent of IT professionals identifying with the ability to adapt to whatever their work environments throw at them. That’s a terrific trait to have in an ever-shifting tech landscape where it’s challenging to predict what might come next.

      IT iguanas tied for the most common secondary persona, with 16 percent of respondents selecting it. Interestingly, non-senior IT leaders are 70 percent more likely to be Iguana primaries than senior leaders.

      Fish claimed the No. 4 spot overall, with 9 percent of IT professionals selecting it as their primary persona. And as a secondary persona, fish tied for No. 1 with 16 percent. It was also the most common secondary persona for non-senior IT infrastructure pros. This is good news, as the field needs pros who are experts at swimming through the backlog in order to move forward.

      At No. 5 overall, tarantula was selected as a primary persona by 8 percent of IT pros, and it tied with fish for the No. 1 spot as a secondary persona. With eyes on everything, ready to seize opportunities, Senior IT leaders are twice as likely to be tarantulas than non-senior leaders.

      Parrot claimed the No. 6 spot, with 5 percent of IT pros willing to admit that, at times, and despite their high intelligence, they can have a tendency to s**t all over their colleagues. That’s some high-level introspection and honesty in our book. As secondary personas go, 12 percent of survey takers selected parrot. Parrots are equally likely to be leaders as non-leaders.

      Known for quality work output at a slow and steady pace, turtle was selected as a primary persona by 4 percent of IT professionals, bringing it to the No. 7 spot. Only 6 percent selected turtle as their secondary persona, which ranks 8 out of 8. Interestingly, non-senior leaders were twice as likely to be turtles as non-senior leaders, which begs the question: Is conflict required to lead? Based on these survey results, it seems likely.

      And finally, hedgehog secured the last spot, at No. 8, with 2 percent of IT professionals selecting it as their primary persona. Hedgehog came in 7 out of 8 for secondary personas. These IT third-shifters work diligently through the night.

      Top Animal Persona Pairings

      Below is a breakdown of the top pet persona pairings across the entire sample. The primary persona is listed first in each pairing.

      Pet Persona Pairing Table

      Laura Vietmeyer


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      How to Pick a WordPress Theme


      Choosing which theme to use for your WordPress website is one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make. In most cases, you’ll stick with the same template for a long time, so it’s not a choice you should take lightly.

      When it comes to WordPress themes, you have thousands of options. Whatever type of website you want to build, there’s likely a perfect theme for it out there. The right theme won’t only look amazing, but will also provide you with useful functionality.

      In this article, we’ll go over what types of questions you should ask when you’re checking out a new theme and explain what to look for when making your selection. Let’s get right to it!

      DreamHost Makes Finding a Theme Easy

      In addition to automatic backups, DreamPress Plus and Pro users get access to 200+ premium themes at no added cost!

      Why Your Choice of WordPress Theme Matters

      If you have any friends who use WordPress (and the numbers say you probably do), ask them how long they’ve been using their current theme. In most cases, the answer will number in years. Changing your WordPress theme can be tricky, as it will radically alter the appearance and even the functionality of your site.

      The WordPress theme directory.

      Therefore, it’s best to avoid doing it if you can. That means you’ll probably be using the theme you select for many years to come. Your mission: to choose a WordPress theme that has a classic design, suits your site’s goals, and makes upkeep easy. 

      Sound like a big undertaking? Let’s break down the process of selecting a theme into easy-to-handle steps.

      7 Questions to Ask When Looking for a WordPress Theme

      As you might expect, picking out a WordPress theme can take a while. You’ll need to ask yourself several key questions before you get started, so you’ll know exactly what to look for.

      1. What Is My Site’s Purpose?

      No two WordPress themes are the same. Additionally, most themes are built with very specific types of websites in mind. Therefore, you’ll need to have an idea of what goals you’re trying to accomplish with your site.

      What is the site for? To be honest with yourself, you’ll need to be clear on what you’re trying to do with the website. Is it a blog or a community site or a collection of news? You can’t pick the right theme if you don’t know what you want things to look like. Do you need a static front page? Do you need to show a featured post and then a slider? Do you really need that slider? 

      — Mika Epstein, DreamHost WordPress Expert

      2. Who Is My Audience?

      Knowing what type of site you want to build also helps you determine who its audience will be. The more you know about your audience, the easier it will be to design a website that gets their attention.

      Identifying your audience includes researching to find out what their interests are, what types of designs might appeal to them, what features they’ll expect from your website, and more. At this stage, it’s smart to put together a comprehensive target market profile.

      3. What Functions Does My Site Need?

      Every website requires different functionality. For a blog, you’ll need a way for visitors to find posts, comment on your publications, locate related content, and access your social media channels. With an online store, you’ll have to be able to showcase product descriptions and pictures, let customers leave reviews, and so on.

      An example of an e-commerce theme.

      With WordPress, you’ll rely on plugins to implement some of that functionality. However, choosing a theme that includes the features you need out of the box can be a significant timesaver.

      4. What Do I Want My Site To Look Like?

      Usually, the first thing you’ll notice about a theme is what it looks like, and if it fits with your idea of what you want for your website. In most cases, you’ll need to make some changes to any theme you choose, to get it looking just right.

      The WordPress Customizer.

       

      However, choosing a theme that’s as close to your vision as possible will make your job a lot easier. You’ll also want a style that’s thematically appropriate for your site and is likely to appeal to your target audience.

      5. How Fast Should My Site Load?

      If there’s one thing users hate, it’s a slow website. There are a lot of factors that can affect your site’s speed, but the theme you pick plays a significant role. Some themes are better optimized than others, so they tend to be faster across the board.

      It can be hard to gauge a theme’s level of optimization without taking it for a test drive. Usually, your best bet is to check user reviews and see if you can find any comments about loading times. This will give you some idea of what to expect.

      6. What Is My Budget?

      When it comes to WordPress themes, one of the most critical decisions you need to make is whether to go with a free or a premium option. Premium themes tend to pack in a lot more functionality to justify their price tags.

      Keep in mind, however, that premium themes aren’t always better. For most types of websites, you’ll find there are fantastic free options that provide everything you need to get started.

      7. What Do My Competitors’ Sites Look Like?

      Finally, it’s essential to have an idea of what your competitors are doing. That includes everything from the quality of their content to how they interact with visitors and what their websites look like.

      In many industries, you’ll find that websites tend to share very similar styles. If your audience expects a specific aesthetic, you’ll need to consider whether you want to provide what they’re looking for or try something unexpected.

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      9 Things to Look for When Picking a WordPress Theme

      Although every WordPress theme is unique, it’s not difficult to spot the best options if you know what to look for. Now, let’s go over some of the criteria you need to keep in mind when selecting your theme.

      1. Simple Layout

      Often, you’ll see WordPress themes that showcase an incredibly intricate layout to draw potential users in. Then, once you install the theme, you find out it looks nothing like the demo site. Personally, we’re fans of themes that feature clean lines and simple design. After all, you’ll know they can look great without the need to spend hours tweaking every setting.

      2. Responsive Design

      These days, mobile users outnumber all other types of browsers. This means that it is essential for your website to look and function well on all mobile devices and screens.

      A theme on multiple devices.

      Therefore, it’s worth looking for quality, responsive WordPress themes right out of the gate. If your theme includes a fully responsive layout, you don’t have to go to lengths to ensure that mobile users can enjoy the experience.

      3. Browser Compatibility

      Although most people use the same popular browsers — such as Chrome, Firefox, and Safari — they’re far from the only options. There are dozens of browsers you can choose from, and not all of them render content and images in the same way. Good developers will keep this in mind, and ensure that their themes play nicely with most browsers.

      4. Supported WordPress Plugins

      Plugin compatibility issues can manifest in many ways. If you are picky about the theme and plugins you use, these problems should be few and far between. However, if you have specific plugins in mind for powering key functionality on your website, it’s worth checking to make sure your top theme options are compatible with them.

      E-commerce is also a popular niche for WordPress users, and WooCommerce is the number one plugin for implementing that functionality. As such, WooCommerce integration via an e-commerce theme is a key consideration if you want to start an online store. You’re essentially looking for dedicated inner pages and templates to showcase your products seamlessly. Many developers promote that their e-commerce themes are ‘WooCommerce ready,’ so if you see this, you should be prepared to place the theme under further scrutiny. 

      5. Translation Ready

      There are a lot of tools you can use to translate your WordPress pages and create a multilingual website. However, for this to work, you’ll want to use a theme that’s translation-friendly.

      A translation-ready theme.

      That means looking for a theme you can use in conjunction with translation plugins, so you don’t have to go through the process manually.

      6. Page Builders & New Block Editor Compatibility

      These days, a large part of the WordPress community is embracing page builders. WordPress itself is moving in that direction with the new Block Editor. So it’s important that whichever theme you choose works well with drag-and-drop page builders. This can significantly simplify the process of customizing your website.

      7. Support Options

      If you run into any issues with your theme, it’s always nice to know that you can turn to its developers for advice on how to solve it. Ideally, your theme’s developers should provide you with multiple support channels, and should be active when it comes to helping their users.

      8. SEO Friendly

      If you want search engines to rank your site highly, then you’ll have to play by their rules. That means following Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices and using a theme that does so as well. An SEO-friendly theme should offer a mix of features including reliable performance, mobile responsiveness, support for Schema data, and more.

      9. Ratings and Reviews

      A theme’s reviews and ratings are a useful indicator of what to expect. When it comes to popular themes, you’d be surprised at how many user ratings you can find.

      Reviews of a WordPress theme.

      To get the full picture, we’d recommend looking beyond each theme’s website and doing some quick searches for third-party reviews, which tend to be more thorough and honest.

      Where to Find Quality Themes

      There are a lot of places to look for top-notch WordPress themes. However, these two sites are an excellent way to get started:

      • WordPress.org: The official WordPress website also doubles as the largest repository of free themes, with thousands of options to pick from. Moreover, WordPress.org maintains very high standards for the themes it publishes.
      • ThemeForest: There are a lot of premium theme marketplaces, but sites like ThemeForest have a clear lead when it comes to inventory. There are thousands of choices and most of the popular premium WordPress themes can be found there.

      Most premium theme developers also make sales through their own websites. There are a lot of smaller marketplaces that focus on specific types of themes as well. Other interesting options you might want to check out include CSSIgniter and StudioPress.

      Every single theme on WordPress.org is checked when it’s submitted. They’re exceptionally good about it. Most themes there are safe as houses to use. And they’re free! 

      — Mika Epstein

      How to Install a Theme in WordPress

      Once you finally settle on the perfect theme, it’s time to go ahead and set it up. Fortunately, WordPress makes that a very simple process.

      To install a theme, access your WordPress dashboard and navigate to the Theme > Appearance tab. Once there, select the Add New button at the top of the page.

      Installing a WordPress theme.

      WordPress will enable you to upload the .zip file you received after purchasing and/or downloading whichever theme you chose. When the file is uploaded, all you have to do is go to the Themes tab and hit the Activate button, and your new theme is ready to go.

      Ready to Pick a WordPress Theme?

      Themes are one of the key features that make WordPress an amazing platform. You have literally thousands of themes to choose from. Even better, many themes offer more than just aesthetics — they’ll also include features to improve your site.

      When it comes to themes, there’s no single option that’s perfect for every user or website. So we recommend that you keep an open mind, remember all the criteria we’ve discussed in this article, and test each theme you consider thoroughly before you decide which one to settle down with.

      Are you ready to start using your new theme? You’ll first need to pick a web host and then install WordPress. Fortunately, we have plenty of plans for WordPress users to choose from!



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