Plugins – The WordPress Website Superpower

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We all visit websites every day without giving much thought to the technology behind them. But did you know that 1 in every 3 of those websites is powered by WordPress? Literally, ⅓ of the entire Internet is WordPress. But why is WordPress so wildly popular compared to the myriad other options that exist?

A Quick Look at How Websites Work

Websites are viewed in browsers, such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or our new favorite, the Brave Browser. These tools interpret HTML, CSS, Javascript, and various types of media (audio and video) files into what you see (and hear) on your screen. All browsers, if they want to be useful, need to understand these languages and file formats and consistently interpret them.

When you enter an address in your web browser (such as https://kmde.us), special servers called Domain Name Servers (DNS) direct you to the place where that site lives. The server then sends HTML, CSS, and (usually) Javascript back to your browser and you see a website.

(Did you know? You can take a peek behind any website and see what makes up a given page. In Chrome, right-click on any page and select “View Page Source”.)

In the early days of the web, most of us hand-coded HTML in tools like Notepad (a simple text editor included with Windows) and web pages were static; they showed you content (like text and images) but didn’t really do anything. A big step forward came when a young man named Rasmus Lerdorf began working on a language that would run on webservers and assemble the HTML on demand. This language – PHP – would go on to power most of the Internet (79% at the time of this writing) and it is the primary language of WordPress.

Power Up with Plugins

WordPress is powerful largely because of its plugins – add-on packages (also written mostly in PHP) – that you can easily install from inside of WordPress with just a couple of clicks. As of the day of this post, there are 54,886 plugins in the official WordPress repository. WordPress requires these plugins to be free, but a large number are “freemium,” meaning that the base functionality is free but extra features are available for a (usually small) price.

These plugins become a part of the WordPress program that gets executed whenever someone visits your website. With over 50 thousand from which to choose, there are plugins for just about everything imaginable… from robust calendaring and form data collection to forums and social to an onboard ERP system.

With so many options from which to choose, the plugin landscape can be a little overwhelming! When trying out new plugins, it’s always best to do so in a staging site; sometimes plugins conflict with one another and things can break. Also, not every plugin does a good job of cleaning up after you uninstall; testing out in a staging site means you won’t leave extra, unused debris in your main site.

At KMDE, we have favorite plugins for a wide variety of functional areas; an unmentioned part of our service to our customers is helping you find the right one to suit your needs.

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