Things to consider before sellecting a new plugin for your WordPress Website

Plugins are to WordPress what apps are to a smartphone and in the world of Content Management Systems, and just how the iPhone was one of the first smartphones to offer virtually limitless possibilities thanks to the ubiquitous App Store, it isn’t a stretch to say that plugins have helped WordPress to a similar degree in making it the number 1 choice of Content Management System (CMS) across the world.

Of course, no good deed goes unpunished as it’s said and with all that popularity comes great security issues to be aware of and take into account before you decide on which plugin to install.

If you’re thinking about adding new features to your WordPress website, this short but useful guide from Diffusion Digital will help you decide on one that is fit for purpose and safe for use.

Ladies & gentlemen, start your plugins.

Your Needs

The first step is to understand what you need from a plugin before you even begin the search for one.

Take time to figure this out and note down the specific needs you would like it to address or any problems it should solve.

This is likely to save you resources in both time and money, and give you ideas on where to start your search.

The Developer’s Reputation

It makes sense to find out how preeminent a developer or the agency is in the world of WordPress plugins as well as how effective their plugins are.

The first step is to check the reviews, ratings, as well as the number of downloads their various modules have.

To state the obvious, a plugin which has had lots of good reviews and comments is a good one to go for.

However, don’t just take your decision based on reviews as you might miss out on identifying recently launched plugins simply because no one has downloaded it yet (there has to be a first one, right?).

A safe bet here is to look at plugins the developer might have released before and how they have performed. Even if they weren’t incredibly popular but has had mostly positive reviews and the developer has a good reputation, don’t hesitate to try a new one and help others by being one of the first to leave a review.

Security

It is estimated that the hacking of about 22% of WordPress websites is purely a result of some security issues within a plugin such as them being out of date or a vulnerability being discovered..

One of the most straightforward approaches to confirm the risk of security breaches is confirming when a particular software lastly got updated.

It is advisable to opt for packages that are often updated, at least within the past two months, and most preferably compatible with the latest version of one’s computer programme or website.

Software that is updated frequently has lower security risk; this is mainly because known issues on previous versions of itself are likely to have been rectified.

Look at the Changelog

A changelog is a record of all alterations done to a programme. By taking a look at the log, one can tell the security issues that have been resolved, if any, as well as what the application has to offer.

It helps one see the additional features that come with each update as well as how often the changes have been affected over its lifetime.

More modifications not only imply that the developers are keen to solve any issues detected but are also eager to tweak their add-on to satisfy client needs.

Client Support

Premium plug-ins have a dedicated team of personnel that works around the clock to ensure that customer experience is optimised. This means that any time a client makes an inquiry, they get a reasonably fast response.

Such a prompt response is critical especially when one is faced with a security risk. With a premium package, it is even possible for the developers to check for issues from their end by accessing your device or website.

Unfortunately, some of these features are not available for free packages usually so if the plugin has mission-critical to your business, spending the additional amount for tech support could be a wise investment. .

Recommendation
It is wise to consider acquiring plug-in bundles. Such a bundle comes with a few modules that work hand in hand. This can spare time and cash, as you don’t have to look for different applications from different companies.

Furthermore, all the applications in a group originate from a similar source, therefore, they are in sync with each other. On the off chance that for reasons unknown they don’t, you need to go to one source for assistance.

It is also more economical to acquire a bundle than purchasing individual modules.

Conclusion

It’s estimated that there are approx. 29k WordPress plugins to cover a wide range of functions and features so if you have an addition you’d like to make to the website, chances are that there’s a plugin for it.

However, taking the additional time to do some research before you make the choice can help make your WordPress site more secure and safer.

Of course, if all of this is simply too overwhelming for you, don’t hesitate to give Diffusion Digital a try, we’d love to help!

9 FAQs on WordPress.

There are thousands of searches on WordPress every day. In fact there are over 2.8 million on Google for the keyword ‘Wordpress’ every month.

What are the 5 best plugins for 2018?

Can my cat have a blog on WordPress?

What is a WordPress permalink?

It is easy to become weighed down by indigestible attempts to explain these common queries, particularly the ones about cats. In this weeks blog we are hoping to redress the balance and answer a selection of the most common questions about WordPress from all corners of the digital expanse.

Let me make it clear, we are not trumpet blowers here, this will be an honest view of some of the positives as well as – and arguably more importantly – the negatives associated with using WordPress as your springboard to a successful future online.

So, let’s kick off with an easy one….

1) What are Diffusion Digital’s top 5 plugins for 2018?

Tricky to narrow down but here are some that we use across most of our website builds.

WPERP logo

Any business owner, on or offline, needs to have exceptional organisational skills if they want to scale up their business, and they are going to need even greater skills to stay there.

WP ERP is a powerful plugin that aids hman resource management, customer relations management and accounting. These three pillars are key to supporting a scaling business and dramatically brighten up what is normally an incredibly mundane and time-consuming job.

Price: Free

best web soft logo

For those of you looking to cross borders and go global, having a Multilanguage option on your site is crucial to attracting and retaining new customers. Now, no translation software is perfect and even the best leave a little to be desired, but the Multilanguage plugin is up there with the best. The plugin works across pages, posts, widgets, menus, custom post types and taxonomies, allowing the user to easily switch to one of the 80+ languages the plugin offers.

Price: $32/mo or $320/lifetime

Yoast SEO Icon

It’s all very well have a beautiful site with unrivalled content, but if you don’t reach your target audience what’s the point? From shyest blogger to the multi national businesses, there will agree there’s very little point in having a website that doesn’t try to reach out to people.

Yoast SEO walks you through all of the steps you need to boost your search engine ranking. From keyword suggestions to content insights to internal linking suggestions to many many more; this powerful tool will dramatically increase your reach and in turn, will bring more quality leads to the site which ultimately will increase conversion.

Price: £69

Woo Commerce logo

As an eCommerce specialist it would be remiss of me not to one of the most powerful plugin that will transform your WordPress site into a fully functioning transactional platform.

The WooCommerce WordPress plugin is responsible for driving around 30% of online stores. Like in most things, when you pay peanuts, you get monkeys and whilst the free version of the plugin gives you basic functionality, the premium version comes with the really useful stuff including one-page checkout, cart abandonment emails amongst hundreds of others.

Price: $79/month, 5 sites – $129/month, 25 – $179/month

Advanced Custom Fields Pro Logo

Anything with ‘advanced’ and ‘pro’ in the title is either overcompensating or genuinely worth its weight in gold. In this case, the latter springs true.

Advanced Custom Fields Pro enables developers to build extra fields into the backend of your WordPress site that enhances repeatable blocks, page building layouts, intuitive galleries, custom settings and reusable fields. This will allow you to optimise the way your content can be consumed, as opposed to being constrained by an off the shelf template.

Price: $25AUD Personal, $100AUD Developer

With 55,000 other plugins out there, this list could ramble on longer than one of the Mad Hatter’s riddles, but it does bring me neatly onto my next point.

Wordpress.com vs Wordpress.org logo

2) What is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

There are substantial differences between the two and it is important that you kick off your online presence on the right foot. Fundamentally the main and most obvious difference is that WordPress.org is free. Whilst this might be useful for the hobby blogger, it leaves a lot to be desired if you are looking at taking a more professional approach.

On the one hand wordpress.org provides a free, open source, downloadable version of the software, which you must install yourself, choose a suitable hosting provider and between the two of you, you are responsible for your WordPress installation and management, including backups; upgrades and site security. If you are the person blogging about your cat (or one of the people – I hear this is quite a popular topic?) this might not be an issue as it is unlikely that anything too drastic will happen if for some reason the site goes down (I suspect I am in danger of treading on a few cat lovers’ toes here…. No offence intended!).

On the other hand, WordPress.com offers you a range of off-the-shelf, ready to use Software as a Service (SaaS), basic and premium plans. These versions are fully hosted, all backups are taken care of and security updates and upgrades are handled for you. Whilst it is free initially, premium services are obviously paid for and prices range from £36/year for a partially customised blogging platform, to £240/year for the business plan, which allows you to fully customise your site and install third-party plugins.

There are over 55,000 plugins available on WordPress and it can quickly feel like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole — I perhaps could have phrased that better, apologies Alice — into Wonderland when you start searching for the best plugins with which to optimise your site. But although it can be quite complicated, if you are really after a site that will reflect your brand or business online, these plugins are essential.

Sticking with the subject of plugins, here are some that would broaden the Cheshire cat’s already pretty broad grin…. (Tenuous link – I think Alice in Wonderland is this weeks theme – I couldn’t tell you why. How many references can you find?)

Computer with code, wordpress security

3) How do I secure my WordPress site from rogue plugins?

Fundamentally WordPress is a very secure platform. However, owing to the open source nature of the site, you take the risk of opening up your site to hackers who like to exploit poor coding or out of date software. However, the vorpal sword is always nearby to fight them off and there are many means by which you can mitigate risk. Here is a list of common issues with plugins.

  • Website Security Breaches.

Beware the hackers my son! The jaws that bite the claws that snatch… (hmmmmm, not sure if Carroll will be too happy with this one – or any of them for that matter.)

Hackers will use plugins as a means of gaining entryto your website with potentially catastrophic consequences in terms of your business or data security. The reality is not as dark as I make out here and there are several security plugins that you can install to put yourself in the strongest position in staving off attacks.

Furthermore, simply by backing up your website regularly you can ensure that should an attack take place you can quickly restore your website to working condition.

Keeping your plugins updated, or by removing them if they are not being used, will slam the door on hackers looking to exploit weaknesses in your site.

  • Site performance and page speed.

In terms of retaining and converting visitors to your site, page-loading times are critical. The more plugins you have installed could mean reduced website performance as each plugin requires more code to be read and understood by the browser. Installing a caching plugin like WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache can help prevent this problem by reducing the processing load on your server which can dramatically enhance performance by increasing your site speed.

A potential further issue is that some plugins are not compatible with one another which can cause problems with page loading times and as a worse case scenario entire website failure.

  • Reliability

The reliability of plugins can also be called into question. Reliability can be effected by poor code quality, discontinued products, slow or rare updates, poor support infrastructure and at the most basic level; the complexity of the plugin.

Ensuring all of your plugins are up to date or those that you are no longer using, removed altogether, can reduce reliability issues.

The following is a selection of recommendations that will help prevent you becoming as foul-mouthed as Alice’s nemesis; the Queen of Hearts:

  • ‘Too many plugins’ is not an issue; poorly coded ones are, so due-diligence is essential.
  • Research the developer – does the WordPress community respect them?
  • Look for plugins with 4/5 star reviews
  • What is the new plugin going to add to your website? Will it help or hinder UX?
  • Are there detailed tutorials/guidelines on how to use the plugin?
  • How often is the plugin updated? How many times has it been downloaded? A trustworthy plugin will be regularly updated.
stacks of money

4) Can a WordPress blog make money? 

The simple answer to this question is yes.

However, if you’re thinking of get rich quick then you should probably start looking elsewhere.

WordPress’s roots are deeply set in the blogging world, whilst it has developed into a different beast altogether, fundamentally it’s area where people can share ideas to an audience who cares.

As with many other digital platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn — one of the biggest opportunities to make money is through marketing. But this is not as easy as it seems and requires a huge amount of skill. Essentially, generating an income through blogging largely revolves around building a large following who companies can target.

How can I generate a large following I hear you ask. Well, again, the answer is simple but the reality is a little trickier. Ultimately you have to be able to write regular, quality and sharable content that retains a strong readership over a long period of time. Once you have this readership in place you can look to ways of monetising it.

The following is a list of a few ways to monetise a blog:

Affiliate marketing

  • Linking to other websites using tracking links (PPC/CPM)

Google Adsense

  • Allow Google to present ads on your site. (PPC/CPM)

WordPress Ad plugin

  • Allow people to directly place ads across your site.

Sponsored content/reviews

  • Be paid to write articles on behalf of a company or business

Restricted ‘Members Only’ content

  • Restrict access to special features – video, podcasts etc

Create a directory/job board

  • Find a niche and map it, making it a useful resource for companies/businesses.

Of course there are other ways like selling products through eCommerce, or becoming a WordPress developer – as WordPress developers ourselves we’d rather you chose something else though!

Sony Music home page screen grab

5) What big brands use WordPress as a platform?

 

Disney 

Tech Crunch 

Bloomberg

MTV News 

BBC America 

Alice-in-Wonderland 

Sony Music

Sweeden’s official website

Mercedez 

6) Can WordPress host my Domain?

When you sign up to WordPress you will be issued with a free address – for example; diffusiondigital.wordpress.com – however you can change this by signing up to a WordPress plan which will allow you to create a new address or import an existing one.

Essentially what you will be buying is a Domain Mapping Upgrade and whilst this sounds complicated, it isn’t. In layman’s terms, this upgrade means directing anyaddress.com to your anyaddress.wordpress.com site. Basically – your visitors will see your site hosted on wordpress.com although anyaddress.com continues to be the visible address.

Ultimately WordPress is like the Hatter’s tea party. It hosts all sorts of different businesses and brands and brings them together around a common platform. (Still tenuous?!)

7) How does a WordPress website work?

Many people look at a WordPress with fear as if it some kind of savage beast whiffling through the tulgey wood. They hear expressions like open-source or code or pluggin and terror strikes them down. But fear not. Boiled down to the bear essentials it is quite simple.

If you don’t like slightly technical stuff fear not because nor do I. I am going to attempt to translate this to the point that my grandmother will understand and she is still struggling with the electric telephone.

So, without further ado….

WordPress is what is known as an open source platform which means everyone has access to its code (essentially what any computer programme is written in) and can manipulate it in order to make new plugins or features.

Since its conception as a blogging platform in 2007, thanks to the army of developers who have been able to access and adapt the code, it has evolved into the world-leading platform that it is today.

Having access to the source code means that developers are able to make plugins (or…addins, add-ins, addons, add-ons or extensions), which are software components that add specific features to a webpage. For example if you want to have an image slider that enables the user to be able to slide through an image library across the screen, then there is a plugin for that. The same goes for drop down menus, accordion style FAQs, parallax scrolling. In fact there are over 55,000 plugins that will allow you to completely fit out your website so that it truly reflects your brand or business, as opposed to having to work to a template design.

Ultimately, WordPress is a beast worth taming and it will help organise and bring to life the brand or business that you care so deeply about.

8) Will WordPress Die and what happens if it does?

I admit this one surprised me a little bit as well but sure enough, ‘will WordPress die?’ is one of the most frequently asked questions in Google on WordPress. So it would be negligent of me no to give it a look in.

Well, put simply it would be a bit of a nightmare for the 19,500,00 or so websites that use it. But is it likely? well… no.

WordPress is a juggernaut and only some sort of herculean miracle will see it taken over and I suspect it will rule the digital CMS roost for decades to come.

permalinks settings page screen grab

9) How do WordPress permalinks work?

We’re in danger of slipping into the technical abyss with this one but I shall try and keep it simple.

Permalinks are the permanent URLs of your blog posts, service pages or product pages of your WordPress site. Essentially it is through these that the digital world can identify what is on the page in question, and allows them to share what ever it is you have been producing.

Put simply:

  • People use your permalink to point to content on your website
  • You’d use your permalink to share your content across social media
  • Google uses permalinks to help index your content
  • If you want to a webpage in an email you would drop in a permalink

So, as you can see they are quite important to the structure of your website and attention must be paid to them if you’re trying to increase your quality exposure.

The problem with WordPress is that the default permalinks are not very digestible for humans and Search Engine Spiders alike.

Fortunately you can change them (this needs to be done when you build your website as once you change these URLs, all pre-existing links will become defunct).

By going into the backend or ‘admin’ side of WordPress and going to ‘settings’ and then ‘permalinks’, you can select how to set your default permalinks using date/time, plain or the best as far as I’m concerned: ‘Post Name’.

10) Why is a raven like a writing desk?

Well if you can answer this then you know more than me about WordPress! But don’t worry if you can’t, find out more about how we design and build WordPress sites or talk to one of our team of WordPress specialists today and discover how we can help bring your brand to life online.

Front End Development and Back End Development. What is the Difference?

You’ve probably encountered both of these phrases online, often used interchangeably, but what is the difference between the two? And how do they relate to each other?

Well let’s find out by taking a closer look at exactly what’s involved, starting with front end development.

What is a Front End Developer?

A front end developer, often referred to as a web developer, is someone that implements the visual elements that users see and interact with on a website.

This is distinct from a web designer, who is responsible for the visual concept of a website, such as page layouts, grids, templates, typography and general ‘look and feel’.

So What Does Front End Development Involve?

Essentially a front end developer takes a mock-up of a website from a designer and develops this concept into a website using development languages such as HTML and CSS.

The result is what’s known as a static website – a website that doesn’t change, transform or rely on dynamic /interactive features, such as allowing a user to fill in a form and submit information.

How Does a Front End Developer Make a Website Dynamic?

In order to implement dynamic features, a front end developer will use a JavaScript framework such as Angular or a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress, to link the static website with a database.

In a nutshell, this allows information to be collected from the front end of the website and stored in the database. Or, conversely, it allows information to be retrieved from the database and displayed on the front end of the website.

A perfect example of this is process in action is Facebook. After registering for a Facebook account using the front end of the website your personal details will be stored in the Facebook database.

Then, when you log into Facebook your account details are retrieved from the database and a personalised version of Facebook is presented to you.

So What is a Back End Developer?

Back end development refers to the development of applications such as Content Management Systems which run on the server and are used to convey information between the database and the browser / front end.

Back end developers are often referred to as programmers or coders, since their work is very much focussed on building applications using server based coding languages such as PHP, Ruby, Python and .Net.

What does backend development involve?

Backend development takes place on the server, often referred to as the ‘server side. Essentially this means anything that happens ‘behind the scenes’ away from the front end of the website.

Essentially if a website requires any additional dynamic functionality, it’s the job of the backend developer to develop it, test it and ensure that it functions with speed and responsiveness in mind.

This could range from a comprehensive internal search system for the website, to simply ensuring that the drop down menu that the front end developer places on the website is populated with information pulled from the database.

So What is a Full Stack Developer?

A full stack developer is a developer that is familiar with both front end and back end development languages. These developers have an understanding of the individual layers that go into software development and can specialise in any area of that development process.

A Final Thought

The role of ‘developer’ is evolving almost as rapidly as the software and technology that developers use. It just isn’t as clear cut as front end or back end anymore, not when so many other disciplines are involved in the development process.

The days of a lone ‘web designer’ building an entire company website in a few hours before heading off to the slopes for a cheeky snowboarding session are over.

These days development requires the input of UI designers for the visuals, UX designers to ensure the right goals are achieved and QA testers to make sure that everyone has done their jobs correctly.

Who knows, the way things are going with recent advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence, will we even need web developers 10 years from now?

 

Do you want to learn how Diffusion Digital can help transform your website from something ordinary into something extraordinary. Read more about our WordPress development and Shopify services.

5 Great Examples of Shopify

Shopify is one of the most popular platforms available for ecommerce websites – and for good reason! Shopify is effectively the WordPress equivalent, but for e-commerce solutions. It is simple to use and has an intuitive UI (User Interface) that can be easily picked up. If your main business is selling online, then in many cases Shopify can act as both your storefront and your corporate front.

Although Shopify offer several customisable themes, we would recommend you develop your own as Shopify offer an abundance of different functionalities to suit different designs. Here we have picked 5 really slick, unique, and beautiful websites that show the best you can get out of custom built designs from the Shopify platform.

Master and Dynamic over ear heaedphones

First up is Master & Dynamic, who have one cool website – and really what you would be expecting when it comes to some of the more refined and expensive headphones around. The homepage doesn’t give too much away, but sets itself out as clean and structured. There is also a great user journey for customers to learn about the sound dynamics of each pair of headphones on the individual product pages.

What we really liked was how they integrated the video into the homepage design. (It is also one of the cooler product videos we have seen, so definitely check that out). The multi-currency option that Master & Dynamic have utilised on the site is one great example of a useful function that you can incorporate into your website when using a platform like Shopify.

Sofiyaa examples of accessories

Second, is Hardgraft. It’s quite a bold move to have the first page on your website as the product page, but then again the product is ultimately the focus of the site – and we think Hardgraft gets away with it. Whilst there are options to categorise the products more specifically in the fun menu popup to the side, they are already cleverly colour coordinated as you go down the page. What’s cool about this site is that whilst browsing through the shop you can buy any of the items without having to go into the specific product pages – something that makes online shopping a much more enjoyable experience.

For the more casual buyer – the product pages are really beautiful. Imagery from all angles allows you to see the product in action, and the very smartly laid out description gives off a slick look. What we like is when you add an item to the basket, a nice pop-down menu appears giving you a breakdown, and makes it easy to follow through with your order. The final checkout page also has a well-refined look – something that keeps in line with the rest of the site, and the Shopify allows you to do.

The Horse Shopify woman smiling with large watch

Third, is The Horse – a curated collection of leather lifestyle goods with a fresh and beautiful design. We particularly like the photography on this site showcasing all the products in stunning and bespoke compositions. The white background also helps to keep the site looking light.

The element of this site we feel needed mentioning is the subcategory options that appear when users choose from the ‘Time Tellers’ or ‘Leather Goods’ categories. A drop down menu is displayed that shows images of the various subcategory options rather than text to direct the user to the relevant page. This option allows users to easily see what subcategories are offered rather than waiting to be directed to that page.

Love Jules Leather Shopify homepage screenshot

Fourth, and something on the more hipster end of the scale with a design to follow suit, is Love Jules Leather, which really manages to give off that unique feel. Opening with a video that takes you on a journey through the process of making leather boots, the Homepage manages to get straight to the point by displaying some of its featured products, whilst also captivating you with the brands identity.

We liked this site because of the way in which they keep you engaged from start to finish. We especially like the functionality of both the Collection menu and the Cart menu/page being able to be accessed from both sides of the screen and moving the page to the side. This is a good space saver for many large page designs and allows the user to have the control to display or keep these hidden. The addition of the Instagram feed at the bottom of the homepage has also been added in a great way to make the images feel totally integrated to the site that we don’t often see.

 

 

Sofiyaa Shopify home page woman in a black dress

Lastly, and by no means the least, is one of our own – SAFiYAA. Biasness aside this site oozes style, something quite essential when it comes to the high-end of fashion. The homepage has a slider that takes you through some of the best of their most recent campaign – leaving all the other sections clearly laid out and accessible.

What we like about this site is the product page – they are displayed in a smart a well-ordered fashion, whilst also allowing the viewer to view two angles of the product by being responsive to your mouse – something that makes browsing the store a much more enjoyable experience, and highlights the versatility of Shopify as well.

Shopify and Diffusion Digital

Shopify is one of our favorite platforms to work with here at Diffusion Digital – first off it’s such a great platform for small to medium sized businesses to manage hands-on, but also the level of creativity that you can apply to your own designs is endless. If you like some of the things you’ve seen in the above examples, then please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us. Creating a bespoke Shopify design for you and your business, that is both beautiful and efficient, is the kind of thing that we take pride in!

Alternatively read more about our Shopify design and development services.