4 tips for managing plugins

This is a guest post from Kori Hill over at AddThis. AddThis are a keen WordPress community supporter and offer a wonderful free plugin that helps website owners with content sharing tools for their sites. AddThis offers quick-loading share buttons for over 200 social channels and is used on more than 15 million sites.

If you manage a WordPress website you’ve most likely come across the vast array of different plugins and add-ons on offer. These can range from social tools to commenting features, to a wide collection of applications that can boost your readers’ on-site experience or even enhance your blog management capacity.

Plugins are an essential part to any robust content management system and interacting with these tools is all a part of the blogging process. Do not be intimidated by the process and try to have fun with it! With all the plugin options, picking and choosing which to implement can be an overwhelming task. On top of all that is taking into account maintaining the plugins once they are set-up. To help calm your anxieties and make for the smoothest process possible, we’ve put together 4 tips for managing blog plugins:

Do your research

Before you select the plugin you’d like, ask yourself some questions and do a little research. Here are a few basic questions you should be answering before making any final decisions:

What are my goals for my site? If you are a hobbyist blogger who is mainly looking for a creative outlet, without any desire to monetize, it’s best to probably look for free plugins. If you are looking to make money from your blog, check out plugins that will assist in growing your traffic and helping you analyse your audience. This will set you on an early path towards promotions, partnerships, and possibly even ad revenue.

How much time do I want to spend on setting up? Again, if this is a side hobby, you should seek options that are simple and easy to install.

Does the plugin have a good rating? Many plugin stores on various platforms have a rating system. Make sure the plugin has a fair rating, and take some time to read through the comments. As any Amazon shopper knows, ratings aren’t the only window into a product’s capabilities. Sometimes an unhappy customer might be perturbed over something that doesn’t apply to you and the plugin would work perfectly fine for your situation.

Engage with customer support

The best services have customer support available to assist you with any questions you might have about their tools. Do not hesitate to use these resources as much as they are offered to you. While it is important to manage your expectations about the level of support you may receive, you might be pleasantly surprised with your experience. At AddThis, even though our tools are completely free, our support team has an average 3-hour response rate and a 98% approval rating.

Our biggest tip for engaging with support is to be patient and provide as many details as possible. This approach will most likely net the quickest and best results from the interaction, and who knows, you could end up with a new online friend.

Test your tools

Once you get your plugin up and running successfully, you might be so excited you forget to test it out. But it is wise to do your own dress rehearsal on the plugin to ensure that it is working and will give you the results you are seeking.

For example, if you have implemented a plugin that provides buttons that link to your social channels, click all the icons that are live on your site and make sure they take you to the proper place. And is behaviour acting as expected? E.g. is the link is opening in a new window or tab?

[34SP note: we always recommend testing new plugins using a staging site. Using a staging site you can test your new plugin and settings in a test environment, with no risk to your live site. Using our own tool you can then push the changes live with one click, and if needed roll them back with another.]

Check regularly for updates

As with anything technical, all plugins are going to be improved upon, updated for bug fixes, or require various other changes that may affect the functionality of them on your website. This means it is important to regularly check for any available upgrades.

Often your CMS will have a place that alerts you when a plugin is ready for updating, so pay attention to those areas. Or check to see if there is a way you can get push notifications to your email or elsewhere that will give you a heads up when it is time to upgrade.

[34SP note: if you use our WordPress hosting service we will take care of most plugin updates for you on an automated basis. If a plugin is listed in the public WordPress repository we can automatically update it for you.]