WordPress Plugins and Updates

The nature and frequency of WordPress software updates is a much discussed issue in the WordPress world. With a new versions of WordPress now is a good time to summarize my approach to these updates.

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WordPress updates come quite often and sometimes really change the core program or its user interface. Because of this there have formed two camps of WordPress users. The first loves the frequent updates and changes, the second resists them. I think there are two main objections that those in the latter camp have. The number one concern I hear is that the update process is complicated, with too many critical steps for the average user of WordPress to be comfortable with. The second concern is that once a WordPress user gets familiar with the interface of the version they are using, they do not want to have to learn how to use a new version that has changed much of that user interface. The WordPress developers have a reputation for downplaying these two concerns, but I can sympathize and even have the concerns a bit myself.

To be fair to the developers of WordPress, I think the idea that they are unreceptive to these two concerns is a bit unfounded. The very fact that they are always working on updating and improving the WordPress software indicates they are working with the end user’s best interests at heart. In fact the most recent versions of WordPress have made the updating of plugins very easy and automatic.

So, what is my recommendation on updating? I think at this point you should be on the latest release of whatever version you are using. As I write this, I myself am on WordPress 2.6.5 which is the latest version available. This will change as new versions are released, but if you are using a release other than the latest, it should be at most one version back. Even though I have no trouble with the WordPress updating process, I still usually wait a few weeks or so after each new release before upgrading. With the extensive beta testing that goes on with the WordPress software, this waiting is probably unnecessary, but old habits sometimes die hard! (Update): WordPress version 2.7 incorporates an automated update process. This should be well received and loved by all users!

WordPress Plugins

One of the great things about having your own WordPress site is the huge number of plugins available to you. A WordPress plugin is a small software program written to either change or add to the way WordPress works by integrating or “plugging into” the main WordPress program. These plugins can do everything from add a small functionality to just one part of your blog to change the overall appearance and function of whole parts of your website. There really is no limit to what they can do and there are thousands of plugins that have been written for WordPress. The official WordPress.org repository has over 3,500 and growing and is located at this link. In addition there are many other plugins that are available outside of the official WordPress site.

Because of the open nature of the WordPress software, people can design WordPress plugins to do almost anything they need. Many of these plugins were designed by people who just wanted to have some additional feature that was not available with the core WordPress program. Others have drastically changed the way certain parts of WordPress function. After designing and implementing the plugin on their own sites, plugin authors often discover that hundreds or even thousands of other WordPress users want the same thing.

How can you navigate the wealth of WordPress plugins to decide which ones you might want to try? Generally the first plugins on a website are installed as a result of recommendations from other people, or installed as a part the initial WordPress installation by a website services provider like myself. Not surprisingly I am often asked which plugins I recommend to people. Of course there are as many answers to that as there are websites, but I do have a few that I recommend everyone at least try and that I include as part of my WordPress installation service.