wordpress themesAs a person who has been producing websites and web content for a wide variety of clients, over an 18 year span, I have fulfilled many a request. Everything from live video chat rooms back in the mid-90s, to ecommerce solutions during the early 2000’s, right up to our smartphone driven destinations of today. But regardless of the diversity in any one project, the one thing they all had in common was custom coding, the pre-cursor to today’s ubiquitous plugins.

And the story behind the launch and growth of WordPress plugins is one of inevitability. And today’s WordPress plugins have become a powerful and much needed component of the contemporary website.

It didn’t matter how big or small the project was, nor the task the code performed, the planning and writing of that code took substantial time and considerable effort to both build and integrate into a client’s web site. Generally speaking, these coding sessions were one offs. That was unless you had several clients, all of whom required the same customization for their web businesses. Unfortunately, that scenario was a rarity, as clients don’t usually like it when their contractors provide the same services for their competitors.

Back in the day when search engine optimization was a much simpler task for the initiated SEO practitioner, I simply told our clients who complained about the work being done with their competition’s web rankings: “What’s the problem; you can only obtain 1 or 2 positions on the SERP (search engine rank position) and last time I looked there are 10 positions.”

I also added that as long as business rivals are lower than your website in the SERPs, what difference does it really make? Besides, I added, with our company doing the work, we are able to control your competition’s position more easily, than if a different SEO company was doing the work. This usually pacified them, as most do seem to enjoy being in the “know” of a conspiracy, no matter how small that conspiracy might be. But I digress.

WordPress Begins
In 2003 WordPress was launched by founders Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little. And this unassuming little project, one that took over from the abandoned b2/cafelog blogging tool, has made a huge impact, not only on the blogosphere, but also on website development and content management systems (CMS).

How big of an impact you might ask. Well, according to Wikipedia, as of 2013 this totally free content management system and blogging software, is now driving more than 23% of the top 10 million websites; as a blogging system, it serves more than 60 million websites. Those are pretty impressive numbers. And keep in mind, those numbers are more than 18 months outdated from the time of publishing this article.

So what makes WordPress so popular? Being free certainly doesn’t hurt. But I think that the turn key web development it represents is a huge part of their success. Not only does it take but minutes to install the CMS on your server, the simplicity of operating a WordPress based site or blog goes a long way in determining its success. If you can use word processors like Word or WordPerfect, you can manage a WordPress based website. But that’s only where the simplicity begins.

In a previous post, I wrote about WordPress Themes and how you could choose from thousands of Themes in dozens of different layouts, instantly developing a WordPress CMS based site or blog. These layouts ran the gamut from the most basic two-column blog layout, right through to the news magazine style layouts, offering half a dozen or more featured sections.

Following this was the use of the GPLv2 or the Free Software Foundation, and the Open Source Community, both of which really opened the door for a lot of designers to get behind the creation of themes, both free and commercially.

Plugins: Here to Stay
One year after the initial release of WordPress, the creators offered up version 1.2 that offered Plugin Architecture, which allowed advanced users and developers the ability to write their own Plugins for their sites. As well, they were able to share these same WordPress Plugins with the ever growing community of WordPress users.

As the community grew, so did the number of Plugins available, both free and commercially, to number in the tens of thousands in the Wordpres.org database. Some of these wonderful customizations’ functions and features ranged from search engine optimization and private information displays for logged-in members, to widgetized feature displays within the sidebar and fancy image galleries. The options for customized plugins are simply as limitless as the imagination of the programmer who writes the plugins.

Two of the most important WordPress plugins you can ever use on a web site are the security and anti-spam plugins. As an Open Source content management system, a number of vulnerabilities do exist, ones that are exploited by people wanting to take advantage of the Open Source system. Naturally because of this, WordPress updates its system on a regular basis to deal with these vulnerabilities. This is a much needed development because there are so many Plugin developers creating these custom programs, sometimes they are slow to catch up to the latest versions of WordPress. And this can happen quite a bit, especially if you use a lot of free plugins.

What to do if Plugins Fail?
Should you ever find your blog/website not functioning, more often than not you’ll find the issue can be traced back to one of your plugins not working; this happens because of the aforementioned WordPress updates, which these plugins are not in sync with. Your first clue that this has happened to your website/blog will be that problems happen right after you’ve updated to the latest version of WordPress. If this is the case, what you need to do is:

  1. Login to your WordPress installation Dashboard
  2. Click on the Plugins Tab
  3. Make note of all of the Activated Plugins
  4. Deactivate all of your Activated Plugins
  5. After all of the Plugins are deactivated, return to the site to see if the problem persists
  6. If the problem persists, you can reactivate your Plugins (because the Plugins are not the cause of your problem
  7. However, if the problem is no longer an issue, then one of Plugins IS the cause of your problem
  8. To find out which Plugin is the creating the issue, simply turn the Plugins back on one at a time, returning to the site after reactivating each Plugin to see when the issue returns
  9. If the newly reactivated Plugin does not cause the issue, leave that Plugin activated, then reactivate the next plugin until such a time as reactivating a Plugin replicates the issue; you then have found your culprit

When you find out which Plugin is causing the issue with your site, you can either contact the WordPress plugin developer to let them know that their plugin no longer works with the latest version of WordPress. Usually when you contact the developer, they respond by updating their plugin to work with the latest WordPress version; but sometimes, especially with the free plugins, the developer has quit working on the plugin due to lack of interest or financial support from those who use their plugins. If this is the case, you can usually find another developer to update the plugin for a fee. If this isn’t an option, you can always look for another plugin, one that addresses the same function as the Plugin that no longer works properly.

WordPress Plugins: a turnkey success
Regardless of the of the potential for SPAM, the security issues that can come about through lack of diligence, as well as neglectful plugin developers who abandon their creations in spite of the fact that web sites use their plugins, WordPress is still one of the most affordable web development solutions available today. The diversity of plugins that address a wide variety of functions and provide some turnkey solutions to many common opportunities faced by webmasters helps to make WordPress the success that it is.

Top WordPress Plugins
Below is a list of some good and well supported Plugins that you should consider using on your WordPress content management system based web presence.

Google XML Sitemaps
This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines to better index your blog.

iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security)
The easiest, most effective way to secure WordPress in seconds.

WordPress SEO by Yoast
Improve your WordPress SEO: Write better content and have a fully optimized WordPress site using Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin.

Wordfence Security
Wordfence Security is a free enterprise class security and performance plugin that makes your site up to 50 times faster and more secure.

Contact Form 7
Just another contact form plugin. Simple but flexible.

Shortcodes Ultimate
Supercharge your WordPress theme with mega pack of shortcodes

Embed beautiful and feature-rich tables into your posts and pages, without having to write code.

NextGEN Gallery
The most popular WordPress gallery plugin and one of the most popular plugins of all time with over 10 million downloads.

UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration
Backup and restoration made easy. Complete backups; manual or scheduled (backup to S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace, FTP, SFTP, email + others).

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Jetpack by WordPress.com
Your WordPress, Streamlined.

WordPress and Plugin Consultation
The above list is a great place to start with your WordPress Plugins but they do not represent all of the plugins you may need or want. I am available for consultation if you are having a hard time matching a plugin to your particular needs.

Also, we here at Blackchip.net are available to custom build a plugin to specifically address your website’s specific needs.

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Search Engines are now one of the biggest lead generators for any online company, and Les Romhanyi is passionate about Google and Bing and everything ‘SERP.’ Truly an SEO expert in organic search optimization, Les has optimized websites for search engines before it was even called Search Engine Optimization, going back to 1995 while working on the Net Sheppard project. In the nearly two decades since, Les has provided SEO services to some of the most competitive and difficult business verticals, such as online gambling, pharmaceuticals, and real estate.